Here at PornHelp, we have our worries about the potentially harmful effects of prolonged porn use among young people. We recently heard a statistic from a credible source that only served to heighten that concern: online porn platforms estimate that 25% of their users are underage. Considering the truly massive use and visitor statistics touted by the likes of PornHub, that would suggest the porn platforms know they have millions upon millions of kids accessing their content.
That’s a huge number, but it’s probably not all that surprising. What did surprise us, though, is what our source told us next. Apparently, porn companies are also saying that they do not want young users on their platforms.
Now, you might think porn platforms would say that because, well, it’s the right thing to say. After all, across political, idealogical, and methodological spectra, there is nearly universal agreement that it’s not a good thing for children to have unfettered access to pornography. But, that isn’t what we heard from our source. Instead, porn platforms make a business case for why they don’t want young users.
As readers of this blog know, today’s internet porn sites are principally advertising platforms. The argument from the porn platforms apparently goes that underage users are not good sales leads. Advertisers trying to appeal to an audience with ready access to a credit card to purchase “premium” content will pay less per ad click if they know that roughly a quarter of those clicks are by users too young to have a credit card.
Fair enough. We’ve seen Glengarry Glen Ross. Bad leads are the cancer of any sales operation.
But, we have our doubts about the sincerity of the “kids are bad leads” argument. After all, we used to watch Saturday morning cartoons. Our parents weren’t watching Power Rangers. They weren’t seeing the ads for Go-Gurt. They weren’t digging on the newest My Little Pony accessory.
If advertising to children wasn’t profitable, Saturday cartoons wouldn’t exist.
Now, we acknowledge that the mode of advertising during Sponge Bob was different than what we’d expect from a porn platform. Sponge Bob’s advertisers were hoping we’d badger our parents into buying fruit snacks and G.I. Joes. Obviously, kids aren’t going to be asking their parents to please buy them a subscription to Brazzers. But still, there are plenty of advertising relationships that could be profitable for an online business with a captive audience of millions of under-18s. Video game and app producers. Social media platforms. Energy drinks. Etc.
So, when we hear that porn platforms say they don’t want the 25% of their users who are underage, we’re skeptical. Call us cynics, but we suspect porn platforms are monetizing young users just like any other advertising cohort. If you know a quarter of your audience is between the ages of 8 and 17, you’ll sell access on your site to advertisers who want to target that audience. Not only that, assuming you can reliably identify underage users on your platform, you’ll track their behaviors on your site and collect behavioral data that you can further turn into dollars. If you are vertically integrated, you will produce more of the porn content that your data tells you those users like.
In short, you’ll treat that 25% of your audience as an asset, just like the other 75%.
Longer-form writing from the PornHelp team on current topics relating to problem porn use and recovery.