Net porn's in rude health

Research analysts are rather coy about the size of the online adult-content market. In fact, they have barely mentioned it for years. Adult content was the bread and butter of the Internet's early days and it brought about all sorts of technological advances, from shopping carts to streaming video. It is estimated that in the early to mid-1990s, up to 80 percent of all traffic was adult related.

The "latest" figures from Forrester Research Inc. were in 1998, when it estimated the US adult entertainment market was worth US$1 billion (€1.07 billion), accounting for around a tenth of all e-commerce - about the same amount spent online for books and far more than on plane tickets. In the following year Forbes estimated online porn at $1.5 billion (€1.6 billion). Datamonitor also reported that in 1998 some 70 percent of paid online content was adult oriented - around $1.4 billion (€1.5 billion) worth - outpacing video games and sports.

In 1999, a Jupiter/NFO consumer survey found that, on average, men spent 33 percent of their total time on the Internet viewing adult content. In addition, a recent study by researchers at Stanford and Duquesne universities claims that there are at least 200,000 Americans clinically addicted to Internet porn.

In Europe there are no estimates of market size despite adult sites reaching up to 35 percent of Net users each month in individual countries. A profile of users shows the vast majority are male (79 percent) and are in the 15-49 age group. It also highlights clear regional differences in usage patterns.

How do adult sites make money? Business models vary and information is thin on the ground. In 1999, well-known brand Playboy.com derived the majority of its $13 million (€13.9 million) revenue from e-commerce, followed by advertising/sponsorship. Subscriptions accounted for less than a fifth of revenue (from its Cyber Club). But the site has evolved from its launch in 1994 to hosting advertising (1995), selling branded products online (1996), launching its subscription-based service (1997), developing auctions (1999), and acquiring Cyberspice (1999) and Rouze Media (2000). IPOs Incidentally, adult sites are not just an "at home" activity. According to US SexTracker.com, 70 percent of all e-porn traffic occurs during the nine-to-five working day.

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