How Does Today’s Porn Industry Make Money With Free Porn Tube Sites?

As the popularity of free porn tubes grew, it begged the question, “How does anyone make money when everything is free?” Truthfully, not everything is free.

Hardcore porn is simply a one-second search away, no matter what device you’re using to read this post on. But pornography wasn’t always so easy to find, and it wasn’t always free. Now, it appears that finding porn is more difficult than avoiding it, and the most extreme, hardcore stuff can be found using basic search terms in your favourite search engine. It wasn’t always like this, so let’s go over the fundamentals.

Pornographic products are projected to be valued $97 billion worldwide.  However, given the industry’s shift in power and the new business model focused on free content for consumers, I believe it’s critical to grasp the economics of the situation to be better prepared.

How do people generate money today in the industry? Especially those in charge of the large websites that host millions of free videos while also charging for subscriptions? Let’s take a look back at the history of pornography for a few decades to better understand this subject.

Before the internet, the pornographic sector operated similarly to the rest of the media-entertainment industry. Print publications made money, and movie companies made money selling VHS and DVD movies and pay-per-view services through hotels and adult cable channels. Traditional content creators made a lot of money, but the internet transformed the whole media industry, including the financial model for pornography.

The Internet’s Early Years

Unlike other media sources, such as newspapers, who were hesitant to recognise the web as a means for survival, the pornographic sector spotted an opportunity and jumped online quickly.

Because pornography was formerly a paid service, the bulk of sites in the early 2000s were subscription-based. And, as it turns out, making money from online porn was not difficult. There were just a few thousand sites, and they were very basic: a vast image gallery (obscene, of course) and billing software linked to the founders’ continually expanding money accounts.

However, as more and more new sites were launched, each one began to feel the pressure to reach out to a larger audience in order to remain competitive. The problem is that pornography isn’t advertised in the same way that a new pair of shoes is advertised in a sidebar ad on any website (I think that’s a good metaphor); instead, it’s a convoluted system of paid advertising and carefully selected websites. Paid posts, on the other hand, are strictly regulated on major social media platforms, and Google has rightfully outlawed paid search results that lead to adult content. Rather of depending solely on sidebar advertisements, early pornographic websites distributed ‘teasers,’ little amounts of free, carefully picked content that served as a breadcrumb trail prompting customers to pay for a subscription.

Indeed, we’ve heard stories from our friends  about encountering pop-up adverts on their PCs and coming upon these “teasers” when they were younger. For many, this is their first (but certainly not last) encounter with porn.

Then, in a huge way, videos took over.

The video uploading and sharing concept was immediately imitated for porn and the “tube” sites were established after the launch of Youtube. In today’s porn industry, it’s the tubes that draw the most attention. MindGeek, whose subsidiaries include Pornhub, RedTube, and YouPorn (don’t act like you’ve never heard of these sites), is the most powerful player (among other huge players in the industry like Playboy).

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These tubes are vast video databases that are, as we all know, extremely popular. They began by encouraging the manufacture of amateur porn videos using pirated copies from traditional content creators—film studios that have dwindled in quantity and profitability, leaving performers more pressured to perform extreme stuff for more money.

While the term “porn industry” was once used to refer to large adult film companies, it is now mostly used to refer to MindGeek and its multiple tube sites.

The Tube Sites Take Control

As the popularity of free tubes grew, it begged the question, “How does anyone make money when everything is free?” There is nothing in life that is totally free. There are still plenty of subscription-based websites, but they’re finding it difficult to compete with free material.

They specialise on fetish porn, so-called “ethical porn,” higher-quality films with no commercials or pop-ups, live video performances, and the beginnings of virtual reality experiences to stay relevant. To put it another way, more intense and edgy content is needed to maintain the edge and keep customers coming back.

So, how about those unrestricted tubes? Clicks are king in the online world. MindGeek’s big sites get a lot of traffic—like Pornhub, which had 42 billion visitors in 2019—and that’s potential customers for premium content sites looking for additional members. Advertisements are how any other website that provides free content to readers makes money, but as many customers have discovered, many of the adverts on free tubes are to other porn sites. Isn’t that the same as diverting the customer’s attention to a competitor?

Because traditional advertising agencies sometimes block pornographic sites, the tubes are the best venue to sell your hardcore, explicit site. A subscription-based website pays a tube to put an ad that refers to their homepage. When a customer signs up for a subscription, the tube gets a piece of the commission. And, because MindGeek owns a lot of tube and subscription sites, it’s like a two-fold marketing opportunity for them in terms of advertising and earnings.

What Does All This Mean For Everyone Else?

While MindGeek started with pirated videos from content creators, it has recently started to buy those videos. While this appears to be a helpful step against piracy, their model has been dubbed a “vampire ecosystem” because it benefits the tubes.

The producers generate movies only for the purpose of uploading them to free sites, and MindGeek gets a significantly bigger profit from the adverts that don’t go to anyone engaged in the video’s creation. It’s a circumstance where the producer’s rates are maintained low, but they’d shrivel if they didn’t have the tube.

Every day, MindGeek appears to be approaching monopoly status. This isn’t a good thing in any profession, but it feels even scary in porn. Pornhub has already launched a number of campaigns to normalise porn in order to attract more customers, and as the competition between a behemoth like MindGeek and smaller subscription sites heats up, there’ll be more pressure on performers to perform extreme sex acts that put them at risk of injury or disease—but the demand won’t stop there. It’s all about how far the content will go in a world where “violent gang bang,” “anal sex,” and “teen punishment” are the MILDEST of genres.

Pornography that was once shocking has become routine, and audiences have come to accept and even crave it.

Why Is This Important?

One of the first ways we can speak out against it and fight is to understand the basics of the industry. In the fight for true love and against exploitation, knowledge and understanding are crucial.

The truth is that the pornographic industry’s modern economics are pushing it in a dangerous and extreme path, but it’s not something that legislation or “fixing” can totally cure. The biggest problem is that, as the biggest facilitator of pornography, MindGeek, continues to deliver increasingly extreme content, the desire for ever more extreme content will only grow. As severe or abusive sex becomes more acceptable, the next steps will be taken to push it even further, and so on, in order to stay on the cutting edge.

It’s a never-ending loop of creating stuff that normalises violence, abuse, and degradation. What part of that is healthy? Pornography is already the most severely humiliating kind of entertainment, focusing on humiliation, agony, and extreme abuse. Where will we be in 5 years if demand continues to rise?

It is up to us to battle to stifle demand at the source, which is the consumer. And we can do it by educating them about the demonstrated negative impacts of pornography.

Pornography continues to be shown to be harmful to customers, their personal relationships, and now society. Sexual exploitation is unhealthy for both performers and viewers, regardless of how it is created or packaged—by studio, screen, or in-person services.

This is why we fight to end sexual exploitation and to promote true, healthy partnerships.

More articles like this here.

Sarmilan Gaijandren
Sarmilan Gaijandren
Just an English Major from UTAR who is a part time rapper

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