Sunny success: How adult websites make money

New Delhi:  Adult film star Sunny Leone was the most searched personality in India this year, according to Google’s annual Zeitgeist list.

Leone rose to fame after appearing in the reality show Bigg Boss in 2011, and made her Bollywood debut with Jism 2, drawing a lot of attention because of the steamy stills released online.

Leone, who runs her own entertainment company and adult websites, had said earlier this year in an interview that 80 per cent of the traffic on her website and 60 per cent of her revenue came from India.

So how does a porn site, which offers tonnes of free content, make money?

While free pornography is widely available across the Web, it forms only a tiny part of the smut universe. Beyond free porn is “premium content”, which includes high-definition videos, full-length DVDs, the promise of no ads, no pop-ups, unlimited downloads, etc. A paid subscriber may even get porn delivered in his email every day.

Subscriptions also open up doors to other services the website’s parent company may be offering, such as brand new DVDs that won’t be available free for weeks to come, and maybe sex toys and dating services. All this comes at a cost.

Websites offer different “packages” that come with different payment options. The most common type of payment is a daily, weekly or monthly subscription, which could be anything between $1 to $15 a day, depending on the website, the type of content you are subscribing to and the number of hours you will be spending online.

While a popular website earns a significant amount of money from its subscribers, it also makes money from the other websites and services to which it redirects traffic. Websites of companies offering dating services, sex toys, leather or latex clothing, accessories, online adult stores, performance enhancement drugs, adult gaming websites, cartoon porn, etc, depend heavily on mainstream porn websites for traffic.

These websites pay a percentage of their earnings to the porn site that gives them the traffic.

Both sides are at an advantage here. While the porn site may be getting its cut from 20 other affiliates, these affiliates may in turn be getting traffic from 20 other websites, considerably boosting the number of visitors they have.

One of the latest attractions sites are offering is 3D porn. With most companies coming out with 3D TVs and other forms of smart TVs that allow Internet access, adult entertainment companies are offering 3D porn to add that extra dimension to pornography. This, too, comes at a price. Most full-length 3D videos cost upwards of $10. Often, 2D videos are shown as a free trailer to the 3D versions, and help boost sales.

Just like the mainstream movie industry, the porn industry has several grades of actors and actresses.

There are the lead stars, who do the main roles in the film and get paid the most, and then there are the side artists, who complement the lead stars. Most free porn available on the Internet comprises videos of the side artists, and only toned-down clips of lead artists are available. Full clips of lead artists are paid.

Such clips of lead artists are available in the pay-per-view format, where the user pays for only that particular video clip. In most cases, a pay-per-view video ends with another teaser.

Lead actors often run their own websites, which offer their videos in different genres and with different artistes. The major attractions here are the unseen clips and the behind-the-scenes videos that are not available in public domain. New movies are often released on the website first before they hit the DVD store. The websites even include adult games with the star, sex chat, etc. with the actor. Again, such services are not free.

While some viewers may be content with free porn, it is this diversity of paid porn that keeps the dough coming in.

Some interesting stats:

  1. There are close to 24 billion porn sites
  2. The online porn industry makes over $3,000 per second, and each second nearly 28,000 people are watching porn on the Internet
  3. One in three porn viewers is a woman
  4. Eight per cent of all email is pornographic
  5. Thirty-five per cent of all Internet download is porn

Disclaimer: The author did not watch porn while researching for this article.


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