Porn is literally a single click away. It seems like it’s harder to avoid than to find, and you can access the most extreme, hardcore material with simple search terms in your favorite search engine. It wasn’t always that way, but let’s break down the basics.

The porn industry is worth an estimated massive $97 billion dollars, globally. But since the shift of power within the industry, and the new business model based on free content for viewers, we think it’s important to understand the economics of it all so our Fighters are better equipped.

In the industry today, how do people make money? Especially those behind the massive sites that only post free videos?

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To understand this question, let’s recap a couple of decades. The porn industry used to function similarly to the rest of the media entertainment world before the internet. There was money to be made from print magazines, and film studios made bank selling VHS and DVD movies and pay-per-view services via hotels and adult cable channels. These traditional content producers made a lot of money, but when the internet came along, the whole media industry changed—including porn’s business model.

Early Days Of The Internet

Unlike other media outlets, like newspapers who were slow to see the web as a tool to be utilized for survival, the porn industry saw opportunity and was quick to jump online. Since porn was previously a service the viewer only paid for, the majority of sites in the early 2000’s were subscription-based. And as it turns out, it wasn’t hard to make money from online porn. There were only a couple thousand sites and they were pretty basic: a large image gallery (explicit, of course) and billing software attached to the steadily rising bank accounts of this harmful material’s creators.

But as more and more new sites were created, each site started to feel the pressure to reach more viewers, to be competitive. The thing is, porn isn’t advertised in the same way as a new pair of shoes in a sidebar ad on any website, it’s a complicated system of paid advertising and selected sites. But paid posts are regulated on main social media outlets, and even Google rightly banned paid search results that lead to adult content. So instead of relying on sidebar ads alone, early porn websites gave away ‘teasers,’ bits of free carefully curated content to act as a breadcrumb trail leading viewers to pay for a subscription.

And in fact, we’ve heard stories around the world from Fighters, from when they were younger, getting pop-up ads on their computers and stumbling across these ‘teasers.’ For many, this is often their first (but definitely not their last) exposure to porn.

And then, videos took over in a big way.

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After the launch of Youtube, the video uploading and sharing model was quickly mimicked for porn and the ‘tube’ sites were born. Today, it’s the tubes that attract the largest audience in the porn industry. The biggest player is MindGeek, whose branches include PornHub, RedTube and YouPorn (among other huge players in the industry like Playboy).

These tubes are massive databases of free videos, and as we know, are hugely popular. They began with pirated copies from the traditional content creators—the film studios who have now shrunk in number and profits, leaving performers more pressured to perform extreme content for more money—and began to encourage the creation of amateur porn videos.

So while the ‘porn industry’ used to refer to film studios, it’s now predominately MindGeek.

The Tubes Take Over

As the free tubes increased in popularity, it begs the question, how does anyone make money when everything is free?  One simple answer to that is that not everything is free. There are still plenty of sites that function off subscription fees, but they’re struggling to compete with free content.

To stay relevant, they specialize in offering fetish porn, so-called ‘ethical porn’, higher quality videos with no ads or pop-ups, live video performances, and the beginnings of virtual reality experiences. In other words, more extreme and more hardcore stuff, just to keep the edge.

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So what about those free tubes? In the online business, clicks are king. Huge sites owned by MindGeek command a massive amount of traffic— like PornHub that received 23 billion visitors in 2016—and that’s potential viewers for those paid content guys who want more subscribers. On any other website that offers free content to readers, they make money through advertisements, but as many viewers have noticed, a lot of the ads on free tubes are to other porn sites. That’s like driving the customer’s attention away to another competitor, isn’t it?

Since porn sites are often blocked from traditional advertising outlets, the tubes are the place to go to sell your hardcore, explicit site. A tube accepts payment from a subscription-based site to post an ad that redirects to their homepage. When a viewer subscribes, the tube also takes a cut of the commission. And since many of the tube sites, and subscription sites, are owned by MindGeek, it’s like double advertising opportunity for them and double profit.

What Does This Mean For Us?

While MindGeek began with pirated videos from content creators, within the past few years it’s begun to purchase those videos. While that sounds like a positive move against piracy, their model has been called a ‘vampire ecosystem’ because the tubes are the ones who benefit.

The producers create videos for the sole purpose of being uploaded to free sites and MindGeek makes a much higher return off of the ads that don’t direct to anyone involved in the video’s production. It’s a situation where the producer’s rates are kept low, but at the same time, they’d shrivel without the help of a tube.

Every day, MindGeek is looking more like a monopoly. In any industry, this isn’t a good thing, but in porn, it feels scarier. PornHub has already launched numerous campaigns to normalize porn to attract more viewers, and as the competition between a mammoth like MindGeek and smaller subscription sites continues, there’s more pressure for performers to do extreme sex acts that put them at a higher risk of injury or disease—but the demand won’t stop there. In a world where “brutal gang bang,” “painal,” and “teen punishment” are the tamest of genres, it’s all about how extreme the content will go.

Porn that was once intense becomes commonplace and audience appetites grow to accept and even crave it.

Why This Matters

Knowing the basics of the industry is one of the first ways we can speak out against it and fight. Knowledge and awareness are huge in this fight for real love and against exploitation.

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The fact is, the modern economics of the porn industry are pushing in an extreme and dangerous direction, but it’s not necessarily something that regulation nor “fixing” can completely solve. The biggest issue is that because of the continually extreme content that’s being offered by the biggest facilitator of pornography, MindGeek, the demand will only grow for even more extreme stuff. And as extreme or abusive sex is normalized, the next steps will be taken to take it further, and then the next, all to keep on the cutting edge.

It’s a never-ending cycle of producing content that normalizes abuse, violence, and degradation. How is any of that healthy? The porn that exists today is already the most violently degrading stuff that focuses on humiliation, pain, and extreme abuse. Where will we be in 5 years if the demand keeps growing?

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It’s up to us to fight to stop the demand at the source—the viewer. And we can do that through education and awareness on the proven harmful effects of porn.

Research is continually showing how much porn is damaging to viewers, their personal relationships, and now, society. Sexual exploitation, no matter how it’s produced or packaged—by studio, by screen, by in-person services—is unhealthy for both performers and viewers. This is why we fight to stop the demand for sexual exploitation, and fight for real, healthy relationships.

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Shine a light on the real harms of the porn industry and let society know that pornography is far from harmless entertainment. SHARE this article and spread the facts.

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This movement is all about changing the conversation about pornography and stopping the demand for sexual exploitation. When you rep a tee, you can spark meaningful conversation on porn’s harms and inspire lasting change in individuals’ lives, and our world. Are you in? Check out all our styles in our online store, or click below to shop:

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