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May 05, 2017

Brand Value: Pornhub Tops 10 Years

This article originally ran in the May 2017 issue of AVN magazine. Click here to see the digital edition. In the magazine era of adult entertainment, brand names like Playboy, Hustler and Penthouse dominated the zeitgeist and forever changed the way humans view their own sexuality. What’s perhaps even more important is that those brands still remain relevant in the minds of millions of people decades further along their trajectory. That’s because they harnessed the power of their brand and reached beyond monthly distribution numbers or balance sheet metrics with a keen eye toward carving out an indelible place in the market. The last decade has been the tube site era, beginning in 2006 with the launch of such sites as PornoTube and YouPorn and followed quickly in 2007 by xHamster and Pornhub. But in the Porn 2.0 landscape, no company has managed to fuel greater brand growth than Pornhub. Now that the brand is celebrating its tenth anniversary, AVN is taking a look back at its past and its present, with an eye also on its future. If you haven’t seen it before, you should definitely take a long look at the published information Pornhub included in its recent 2016 year in review at Pornhub.com/insights/2016-year-in-review. The site has grown so popular that its own demographic data is now seen by many as a key signal of what all adult sites should expect in terms of niche popularities, user behavior, regional traffic trends and more. To put things in perspective, Pornhub now has more than 70 million daily visits, which equates to over 27 billion visits per year. Those visitors can now choose from more than 5 million videos, which is a large part of the reason the site has now attracted an active community of well over 10 million members. With that kind of size and global impact, it’s surprising how little is known by many about the way the site actually started. “We aren’t sure of the exact date to be honest, but it was in May of 2007 that Pornhub went live and changed the face of the adult entertainment industry as we know it,” said Corey Price VP of Pornhub. “Since then, we’ve helped deliver adult entertainment to millions of fans around the world and look forward to what the future holds.” Some in the adult industry will be quick to point out numerous lawsuits and other actions that alleged Pornhub was working with stolen content, or hiding behind flaws in modern DMCA laws. Others will want to talk about the way the original site was funded, and how large acquisitions by the brand have turned out. Whether you are for or against the way things have been done will largely depend on how your own finances have been affected. Those who profited from the modern digital climate tend to be huge fans of Pornhub’s success, and those who have seen their own site revenue dwindle tend to hate the site with all their might. There are two things, however, that remain completely and universally true… First, there is the fact that thousands of tube sites have come and gone since Pornhub started, with only a few ever coming close to the level of financial success that Pornhub has attained. The sustained growth of the brand wasn’t a matter of blind luck, or every other tube site would have seen similar results. Second, and this is perhaps the most important point of the entire analysis, is the fact that Pornhub has proven it is here to stay. When the tube era began many thought it would fall apart. Some said it would be sued out of existence, others thought content providers would band together to block it. Many producers believed fans would want a premium paysite experience or would demonstrate some level of loyalty to their own products. The simple fact is, ten years later, we can all see that Pornhub tapped into something significant and navigated all the obstacles along the way to outpace the objectors and its rivals at many milestones along the way. Keep in mind, this isn’t to say Pornhub is right or wrong. It’s simply to remind people of the wise words of Winston Churchill (or was it George Orwell?): “History is written by the victors.” Over the last ten years it’s easy to see that Pornhub has ended up on the winning side of history … regardless of who is for or against that outcome. So rather than focusing on who was right, let’s take a look at why Pornhub succeeded where so many other tube attempts did not. “High-quality video streaming has always been the core component of Pornhub’s DNA,” Price explained. “It’s what the entire platform is built on, and something we are always looking to continually refine and make faster and crisper. The most important part of video streaming is ensuring the pages our users are perusing load quickly and are serving up fast video across all parts of the world. After all, we receive 70 million visitors each and every day, and want to make sure that our users keep coming … back for more.” Take a look around the internet at the litter of failed tubes in Pornhub’s wake and honestly assess the quality gap among them. Did you build your own tube site on a script like Mechbunny’s tube script and throw a few thousand low-resolution videos up on it to cut your monthly bandwidth bill? Did you add a few videos each day or grind user-uploaded content to a halt due to legal concerns or ethical dilemmas? Did you go with a cheaper hosting company or decide to grab quick cash by annoying your users with countless pop-ups, popunders, interstitial video player ads and other nonsense? How about your traffic sources—were you pushing junk through the system just to inflate your numbers to ad buyers? Well … Pornhub didn’t do any of that. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why fans love the Pornhub brand (even though there were so many other full-length-video free porn options available at that time). “As for the culture here at Pornhub, quite simply, we are constantly striving to be the best that we can be,” Price explained. “We want to continue to solidify our reputation as being best in class and one of the companies people look to for cutting-edge technological offerings and innovative campaigns. For example, we were the first tube site to launch virtual reality, something that made waves across the industry recently. At the end of the day, we have an incredibly skilled staff that is extremely passionate for the brand and product. That’s allowed us to be where we are now and will enable us to continue to go above and beyond in serving our loyal fans.” It’s no secret that in the early days of the tube era the entire genre of sites was grown largely on the backs of content producers. Whether videos were being genuinely uploaded by individual fans passionate about sharing their favorite full-length scenes from paysites or any number of other possible dynamics, the simple fact is that content creators got hosed. A horrifically structured DMCA law and complete misunderstanding by legislators and regulators about the way digital content works opened a massive hole in intellectual property protection. A hole that could not be closed quickly enough, and one that many companies exploited to their benefit. Some blame content producers who sold off their catalog for pennies in a panic, while others look at fans with disdain and even tried suing them for their actions. Many blame the tubes that monetized the situation. In recent years, however, the climate does seem to be changing quite a bit. There is no doubt the relationship between content creators and tubes continues to change. “Our relationships with content providers has changed dramatically over the years, with the biggest change occurring with the introduction of various partnership programs with content partners,” said Price. “We are fortunate to work with many talented and creative content creators through both our content partner program and model program. We recently renamed our amateur program to the model program to be more encompassing of all our amazing content creators uploading their self-made content for ad revenue and promotion to cam shows and paid clip sites.” Some will note that the average length of videos on major tubes is steadily declining, with many videos now only a few minutes long rather than full length, as they once were. Others will point to the fact that major tubes have now taken a stake in producing their own content with brands being launched by tube site owners for their own fans. Still, it is amazing that the void in affiliate marketing traffic created by tubes when most smaller affiliates were pushed out of the business has largely been filled by those same tube sites becoming the largest affiliates of many paysites via partner programs and premium tube creations. “Our content partner program continues to grow and we send over one hundred thousand joins a year to our paysite partners” Price said proudly. “We continue to work with brands and individuals alike to give them the maximum exposure with ads and data to make the best content for paying users. Our Viewshare program also gives content partners a great way to monetize their full-length scenes to a restricted subscriber base in Pornhub Premium. Viewshare pays out some of the highest rates per view in the industry.” Today there are about 50 people making up the Pornhub team, according to Price, ranging from account coordinators to designers and engineers He counts every team member as a large player in Pornhub’s continued success and was effusively grateful for each and every one of them. It’s a fact recognized by external experts in the field as well. “From a purely social media perspective, Pornhub has done an incredible job of expanding beyond their core business,” said social media strategist Lauren MacEwen of 7Veils.com. “They have an awareness and understanding of their user community. You see this mirrored in their creative advertising and social strategy. Expanding into sex education is just another step in how they have been going above and beyond what is expected from a tube site.” Another well-known industry professional who asked not to be named in this article stated plainly that Pornhub is “a genuinely great crew to work with. Not sure I can comment on PH in any way publicly since our brands are supposed to be quasi underground and anti-everything in a way, but personally I love the people there. It’s also one of the few companies that try to run a professional business on a large scale in this industry. Who else gives you performance charts, nicely collated, bound, and branded?” Still the stigma remains, and it’s very real. Several others who are normally very outspoken on industry topics were contacted about this article and asked to weigh in … but virtually every one of them either refused to comment at all or would only comment if they were allowed to do so completely off the record. That silence gives you a better idea of Pornhub’s dominance and the undercurrent of distrust many still harbor toward it than anything any one of them could have said in a published quote. In the face of resentment, legal battles, ever-changing trends and every other conceivable obstacle, Pornhub continues to press forward the way it always has. “Our most recent announcement was switching to Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS),” Price said. “This is a part of an ongoing effort to continue to ensure the confidentiality and privacy of users, while also offering enhanced security against hackers and malware. In the next several months, we will be working with some partners on integrating content that works with interactive devices. I can’t provide too many details on that just yet, but it will be a first for tube sites. We also have plans to continue to build out our partnership with Streamate for integrated and seamless cam shows on Pornhub where models can share content directly into our burgeoning model program.” ModelCentro also recently announced deals with Pornhub that will allow the giant tube to leverage its new SnapCentro platform in ways that should generate more sales for both companies and the models they support. “We also have a larger integration with ModelCentro and our model program in the works,” Price added. Many continue to wait for the demise of the entire tube era, and who can blame them? The rise of tubes definitely contributed to the downfall of the industry as a whole from the glory days of 2004 and earlier. “What will be the next site after PH is done?” That’s the question according to Chris Rodger of Payze. “Perhaps not soon, but it will be overtaken eventually like everything. When something white-hot and popular hits, it’ll spread very fast and PH will see their traffic drop just as fast. I just wish I had a clue about what’s to come after PH is worn out. The only sure things right now are Google and Facebook, in my opinion.” Still, for those who are focused on this month and this year, revenue remains largely consolidated in the hands of a small few, and much of it in one way or another travels through one of only a handful of major tube sites. Convincing yourself that they just got lucky, or that they had some kind of unique opportunity, is shortsighted and closed minded at best. The fact is, anyone could have done what Pornhub did—and thousands of brands actually tried. Yet only one managed to become Pornhub, and thirty years from now—even if the tube era ever does come to an end—it’s Pornhub that is most likely to retain the luster of a historic brand the same way the Playboy and Penthouse brands have managed to remain premium names in the minds of consumers long after paper magazines fell out of favor. To keep tabs on what Pornhub is up to and make use of the information they now provide about the adult consumer market, read through the year-in-review document mentioned at the start of this article and bookmark Pornhub.com/press.

 
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