A study of online pornography
Photo: © 2009 Jupiterimages Corporation
My online research career has taken some interesting turns, like my fascination with our visits to porn sites and what those visits tell us about ourselves. Temperature, time of year, political affiliation, day of the week and your gender are but a few of the factors that influence how often and what type of online adult entertainment you're most likely to gravitate toward.

Based on the Experian Hitwise sample of 10 million U.S. Internet visitors, porn ranks as one of the most popular categories of online content. As of last week, the porn category accounted for 7 percent of all online traffic. To put that in perspective, online porn sites two times as popular as educational sites, three times as popular as sports content and six times as popular as health and medical content.

While the volume of online adult entertainment is impressive, the category is steadily declining, down from 10 percent of all visits in November 2008. While the volume of visits are down, the amount of time we spend on those sites is steadily increasing, averaging seven minutes and 35 seconds as of the first week of November 2009, compared to seven minutes and six seconds a year ago. The advent of free online adult videos is most likely responsible for this trend.
Analyzing the ebb and flow of traffic to skin sites over the past five years, I've arrived at some interesting truisms regarding our prurient online behavior. For example, when looking at porn visits by day of week, without fail, Fridays rank as the most popular day to visit porn sites, while Sunday, traditionally the day of rest or Christian Sabbath, is the least busy day of the week. As we pull our winter coats out of the closet, temperature also affects visits to porn sites. The colder the region, the more adult entertainment visits per capita.

When we think porn, we often jump to the conclusion that this is a male-dominated category. One of the more interesting trends is the increase in female visits to the category. As of the first week of November 2009, more than 30 percent of all porn visitors in the United States were female. But when we look at habits of women versus men, the difference between the sexes couldn't be clearer.

While men visit free adult video or "tube" sites—sites that provide something visual in the form of entertainment—women have an entirely different interest. One of the persistent differences between men and women (both online, as well offline) is that men tend to have stronger interest in visual content, while women are more likely to consume content in text.
When we sort more than 20,000 porn sites by those that have the greatest composition of female visitors, "tube" sites and those containing graphic pictures tend to rank toward the bottom of the list. At the top of the list are literary erotica or sites that specialize in written erotic stories.

One of the most popular categories of literary erotic sites is adult fan fiction—think trashy novel meets Web 2.0. These sites, which run the gamut from straight sex to more kinky, fetish stories, are entirely populated by stories written by visitors to the website. The leading site in this category is AdultFanFiction.net, with visitors that are predominately 18- to 24-year-old women.

On visiting the site, you'll notice that content ranges from complete erotic novels written by users to sexed-up versions of existing stories, such as Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. There is even erotic fiction based on J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series.

In writing this post, I may have spent too much time reviewing content for this article. But with the surge in popularity in the written form of online adult content, if my wife asks, I can honestly say that I've been visiting these sites for the articles.

Bill Tancer is an Internet trend analyst, columnist and author of the New York Times best-seller Click—What Millions Do Online and Why It Matters.


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