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U.K. porn consumption nearly

matches the BBC…

In any academic discussion about the Internet, the “elephant in the room” that nobody mentions is pornography.  As soon as the Internet became publicly available it was immediately used to view and store pornographic material.  In the mid-1990s I remember seeing British Telecom data that showed that around 30% of all U.K. Web traffic was pornography.  At the time I discussed this with a Russian friend, a man who was technically in charge of Russia’s Internet, who pointed out that 50% of their internal Web data traffic was viewing pornography.  The official prevailing notion then was that people would gradually find better uses for the Internet and these ratios would eventually fall.  So, whether you like it or not, pornography has always been big business on the Internet and naturally enough, with so much money at stake, it’s often been at the forefront of exploiting new technology.  I was reminded about this when I viewed a rough cut of a TV program called Sex Box  on which one of my daughters was production manager.  I’m sure the format will be very popular in many countries: basically a couple are interviewed about their sexual habits before entering a totally private room containing a bed but no windows, in the centre of a set in front of a studio audience.  They have sex (hidden from view) before emerging to discuss their sexual preferences with a panel of “sexperts.”  Any market researcher would understand this as nothing special, just another variation of contextual inquiry.  But what struck me about some of the studio discussions was the extent of the influence of pornography on some of the couples, especially the younger ones. This triggered my search for some quantitative data to assess the current extent of pornographic consumption.  One of the few sources that quantifies global Web pornography data is the Israeli company SimilarWeb.  They use a global panel of people, combined with spidering technology, to provide companies with a view about what is happening on the websites of their competitors.  For the data in the chart above I have isolated figures to give you some idea of the popularity of Web pornography in the U.K in June 2013.  Looking at the pie chart, you can see that traffic volume to pornography sites accounted for 8.50% of Web traffic.  This is second only to all visits to search engines, and is a mere 1.20% greater than visits to all social network websites.  You are probably surprised that I haven’t called this article “Porn greater than Facebook use” or some such title, but that may not be the case.  In order to track Web behaviour SimilarWeb has developed browser plugins and apps which they claim capture over one billion data points per day.  There are always biases in any Web data collection, so I wouldn’t go so far as to say definitively that pornography is more popular than Facebook, although you could certainly claim that if you relied totally on SimilarWeb’s data.  But, on reflection, I think it’s probably much safer to say that pornography is undoubtedly more popular than online shopping.  Just think about how much trade Amazon, eBay and ASOS do in the U.K. and you start to begin to get a true picture of the size and scope of pornography usage.  By any measure it’s significant and it obviously consumes vast amounts of some of the population’s time. To give this data some context, using the same collection techniques, SimilarWeb measures the global pornographic Web traffic volume at 7.65%, which positions the U.K. as an above average consumer.  Interestingly, Germany has the best economy in Europe, and is home to many world beating industries, and they also happen to be world leaders in consuming pornography.  It makes up 12.47% of their Web traffic volume.  For the bar chart I’ve taken SimilarWeb’s top 20 Google U.K. search destinations and aggregated the searches that arrived at adult websites.  Five pornographic websites make the top 20 and, added together, their popularity comes close to matching that of the BBC, which is surprising when you consider how much BBC television and radio promote the option to hear and view its programs online.  It is also very sad when you realise that the most popular pornographic content being viewed depicts sex devoid of any caring and responsibility, usually in the context of an anonymous stranger and a one-off encounter, although this was the case long before the Internet came along.  It’s just that there so much more of this type of content available online. Although the Web has greatly increased the ease of access and availability to pornography, paradoxically it has also contributed to its commercial decline.  Chauntelle Tibbals, who studies the pornographic industry in southern California where much of the professional content is produced, suggests that the availability of pirated and free content via the Web has caused the money generated by pornography to decline steeply since 2005.  This has mirrored very closely what has happened in the newspaper industry.  Masses of free Web content has increased visits to newspaper websites yet at the same time this has also caused the sharp decline of revenues from subscriptions and printed newspapers.  Undoubtedly, the decline in revenue from pornography has been matched by the growth of increased availability, and free access, creating ever more consumption.  Unfortunately and depressingly, a side effect of all this is that younger and younger children are now able to freely access hard core pornography on their laptops and tablets.  If you are concerned and want to see the effect all this is having on teenage culture then, for qualitative research, I suggest you read this article and, or, alternatively watch Beeban Kidron’s recently released film InRealLife. The pornography industry also mirrors what is happening in the wider Web of media.  Holding the top position in the U.K. is the Canadian website pornhub.com which is rated number three globally.  Just like Google, they do not produce content themselves, they only aggregate it and live off the advertising and affiliate fees, which ensures their overheads remain very low.  Ironically, there is now so much free pornography available to access at pornhub.com that they have just introduced a recommendation engine they call PornIQ.  Just like Amazon or YouTube this monitors your preferences and suggests content for you to view - too much choice creates a quandary and results in indecision for many people.  As Pornhub’s Vice President Corey Price said to the industry’s news source “If you know exactly what you’re looking for, just search, but if you don’t know exactly what you want, this is a great way to deliver a different kind of experience.”  Regrettably, watching pornography is exactly the experience that far too many people want today.  In the month of September this year SimilarWeb estimates that there were 436.5 million visits to Pornhub.  Whilst almost exactly one third of all visitors were from the U.S., nearly 6% were from the U.K., spending an average of nearly seven minutes each time they visited the website. Don’t be misled by all this free content into thinking that pornography still isn’t a huge business, pornhub.com is just one of the properties owned by Manwin the world’s largest online adult entertainment operator.  Manwin also just happens to own Brazzers, Twistys, YouPorn, Spankwire, RedTube, Webcams Tube8, ExtremeTube, KeezMovies, Mofos and JuicyBoys, as well as Playboy Plus, Digital Playground and Reality Kings.  And, just like Amazon and Google, they are also officially based in Luxembourg with offices in California, as well as other offices in Montreal, London, Dublin, Hamburg and Nicosia.  Manwin is a real Web business success story.  It was founded in 2005 by the highly secretive German geek and entrepreneur Fabian Thylmann and it now employs over 1,000 people.  Today the really interesting question to ask is - are pornography’s golden days of revenue really over?  Thylmann, a shy and secretive computer programmer, has just made a decision that was “one of the hardest in our lives for both my wife and myself” by selling his Manwin empire to his management team - and exiting the business.   He now lives quietly with his wife and two children at a country estate outside Brussels, just over the border from where he was born in Germany.  There is much conjecture in the trade about why Thylmann has sold Manwin, although he says his exit is because he “can longer add value to the operation.”  But could it really be due to the paradox that the rivers of gold flowing from Web pornography are finally starting to dry up in the face of so much free content?  Content created and published using Thylmann’s own digital platforms?  Time will tell. November 2013
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U.K. porn consumption

nearly matches the BBC…

In any academic discussion about the Internet, the “elephant in the room” that nobody mentions is pornography.  As soon as the Internet became publicly available it was immediately used to view and store pornographic material.  In the mid-1990s I remember seeing British Telecom data that showed that around 30% of all U.K. Web traffic was pornography.  At the time I discussed this with a Russian friend, a man who was technically in charge of Russia’s Internet, who pointed out that 50% of their internal Web data traffic was viewing pornography.  The official prevailing notion then was that people would gradually find better uses for the Internet and these ratios would eventually fall.  So, whether you like it or not, pornography has always been big business on the Internet and naturally enough, with so much money at stake, it’s often been at the forefront of exploiting new technology.  I was reminded about this when I viewed a rough cut of a TV program called Sex Box on which one of my daughters was production manager.  I’m sure the format will be very popular in many countries: basically a couple are interviewed about their sexual habits before entering a totally private room containing a bed but no windows, in the centre of a set in front of a studio audience.  They have sex (hidden from view) before emerging to discuss their sexual preferences with a panel of “sexperts.”  Any market researcher would understand this as nothing special, just another variation of contextual inquiry.  But what struck me about some of the studio discussions was the extent of the influence of pornography on some of the couples, especially the younger ones. This triggered my search for some quantitative data to assess the current extent of pornographic consumption.  One of the few sources that quantifies global Web pornography data is the Israeli company SimilarWeb.  They use a global panel of people, combined with spidering technology, to provide companies with a view about what is happening on the websites of their competitors.  For the data in the chart above I have isolated figures to give you some idea of the popularity of Web pornography in the U.K in June 2013.  Looking at the pie chart, you can see that traffic volume to pornography sites accounted for 8.50% of Web traffic.  This is second only to all visits to search engines, and is a mere 1.20% greater than visits to all social network websites.  You are probably surprised that I haven’t called this article “Porn greater than Facebook use” or some such title, but that may not be the case.  In order to track Web behaviour SimilarWeb has developed browser plugins and apps which they claim capture over one billion data points per day.  There are always biases in any Web data collection, so I wouldn’t go so far as to say definitively that pornography is more popular than Facebook, although you could certainly claim that if you relied totally on SimilarWeb’s data.  But, on reflection, I think it’s probably much safer to say that pornography is undoubtedly more popular than online shopping.  Just think about how much trade Amazon, eBay and ASOS do in the U.K. and you start to begin to get a true picture of the size and scope of pornography usage.  By any measure it’s significant and it obviously consumes vast amounts of some of the population’s time. To give this data some context, using the same collection techniques, SimilarWeb measures the global pornographic Web traffic volume at 7.65%, which positions the U.K. as an above average consumer.  Interestingly, Germany has the best economy in Europe, and is home to many world beating industries, and they also happen to be world leaders in consuming pornography.  It makes up 12.47% of their Web traffic volume.  For the bar chart I’ve taken SimilarWeb’s top 20 Google U.K. search destinations and aggregated the searches that arrived at adult websites.  Five pornographic websites make the top 20 and, added together, their popularity comes close to matching that of the BBC, which is surprising when you consider how much BBC television and radio promote the option to hear and view its programs online.  It is also very sad when you realise that the most popular pornographic content being viewed depicts sex devoid of any caring and responsibility, usually in the context of an anonymous stranger and a one-off encounter, although this was the case long before the Internet came along.  It’s just that there so much more of this type of content available online. Although the Web has greatly increased the ease of access and availability to pornography, paradoxically it has also contributed to its commercial decline.  Chauntelle Tibbals, who studies the pornographic industry in southern California where much of the professional content is produced, suggests that the availability of pirated and free content via the Web has caused the money generated by pornography to decline steeply since 2005.  This has mirrored very closely what has happened in the newspaper industry.  Masses of free Web content has increased visits to newspaper websites yet at the same time this has also caused the sharp decline of revenues from subscriptions and printed newspapers.  Undoubtedly, the decline in revenue from pornography has been matched by the growth of increased availability, and free access, creating ever more consumption.  Unfortunately and depressingly, a side effect of all this is that younger and younger children are now able to freely access hard core pornography on their laptops and tablets.  If you are concerned and want to see the effect all this is having on teenage culture then, for qualitative research, I suggest you read this article and, or, alternatively watch Beeban Kidron’s recently released film InRealLife. The pornography industry also mirrors what is happening in the wider Web of media.  Holding the top position in the U.K. is the Canadian website pornhub.com which is rated number three globally.  Just like Google, they do not produce content themselves, they only aggregate it and live off the advertising and affiliate fees, which ensures their overheads remain very low.  Ironically, there is now so much free pornography available to access at pornhub.com that they have just introduced a recommendation engine they call PornIQ.  Just like Amazon or YouTube this monitors your preferences and suggests content for you to view - too much choice creates a quandary and results in indecision for many people.  As Pornhub’s Vice President Corey Price said to the industry’s news source “If you know exactly what you’re looking for, just search, but if you don’t know exactly what you want, this is a great way to deliver a different kind of experience.”  Regrettably, watching pornography is exactly the experience that far too many people want today.  In the month of September this year SimilarWeb estimates that there were 436.5 million visits to Pornhub.  Whilst almost exactly one third of all visitors were from the U.S., nearly 6% were from the U.K., spending an average of nearly seven minutes each time they visited the website. Don’t be misled by all this free content into thinking that pornography still isn’t a huge business, pornhub.com is just one of the properties owned by Manwin the world’s largest online adult entertainment operator.  Manwin also just happens to own Brazzers, Twistys, YouPorn, Spankwire, RedTube, Webcams Tube8, ExtremeTube, KeezMovies, Mofos and JuicyBoys, as well as Playboy Plus, Digital Playground and Reality Kings.  And, just like Amazon and Google, they are also officially based in Luxembourg with offices in California, as well as other offices in Montreal, London, Dublin, Hamburg and Nicosia.  Manwin is a real Web business success story.  It was founded in 2005 by the highly secretive German geek and entrepreneur Fabian Thylmann and it now employs over 1,000 people.  Today the really interesting question to ask is - are pornography’s golden days of revenue really over?  Thylmann, a shy and secretive computer programmer, has just made a decision that was “one of the hardest in our lives for both my wife and myself” by selling his Manwin empire to his management team - and exiting the business.   He now lives quietly with his wife and two children at a country estate outside Brussels, just over the border from where he was born in Germany.  There is much conjecture in the trade about why Thylmann has sold Manwin, although he says his exit is because he “can longer add value to the operation.”  But could it really be due to the paradox that the rivers of gold flowing from Web pornography are finally starting to dry up in the face of so much free content?  Content created and published using Thylmann’s own digital platforms?  Time will tell. November 2013
Click here to download the PowerPoint chart: Click here to download the PowerPoint chart: