prostitution-ad revenue hits monthly high

Posted by on Dec 2, 2011 in Craigslist, Personals

Print Friendly, the classified advertising site owned by Village Voice Media, set new records in October for revenue from online prostitution advertising and for the number of prostitution ads on its site.

Ads on Backpage for escort services and body rubs -– both euphemisms for prostitution — generated at least $2.1 million in October, according to the AIM Group. That’s 3.8 percent higher than September and 23.3 percent higher than the $1.7 million generated in October 2010. The revenue counted by the AIM Group in October was about $40,000 more than the previous record, also $2.1 million, set in January 2011.

(The AIM Group has tracked prostitution revenue on Backpage and other sites for 14 months; it has grown substantially since Craigslist got out of the prostitution-advertising business in 2010.)

The number of October ads for escorts and body rubs on Backpage increased 10.3 percent to nearly 109,000, compared with the previous month. That’s up 7.3 percent from the 101,600 listings counted in October 2010 and and increase of more than 1,000 from the previous record in January 2011. is the leading U.S. site for prostitution advertising. Overall revenue from online prostitution ads in the United States increased 5.5 percent to $3.1 million in October, up from $2.9 million the previous month, based on analysis of five websites that sell ads for escort services and body rubs.

The October overall revenue number is almost 20 percent higher than the $2.6 million estimated for October 2010. During the last 12 months, online advertising for prostitution has generated $35.7 million in the United States, the AIM Group estimates.

Backpage revenue from prostitution ads 12 monthsBackpage prostitution listings last 12 monthsThe number of listings for prostitution services on seven tracked sites increased 7.1 percent in October to 240,419. That’s a 30.6 percent increase over the 184,107 listings counted in October 2010.

Of the sites tracked by AIM Group, has been the biggest revenue winner since Craigslist discontinued its “adult services” section in September 2010. When it pulled the plug on prostitution ads, Craigslist was on track to generate $44.6 million from escort-service advertising in 2010.
Backpage gained the most revenue after Craigslist left the market. In the last 12 months it has generated, conservatively, $23.9 million in revenue from online escort and body-rub listings. That’s about one-third more than the AIM Group projected Backpage would generate while it was still competing with Craigslist.

Craigslist pulled adult services ads due to pressure from law enforcement officials and anti-sex-trafficking groups who complained the ads promoted both prostitution and sex slavery involving girls under 18.

Backpage unique visitors last 12 monthsVillage Voice Media, which is also facing pressure from law enforcement officials, anti-trafficking groups and clergy has changed the adult advertising sections of Backpage but continues to carry paid ads for escort services and body rubs. Backpage is the online classified site for VVM’s 13 alternative weekly newspapers, the five weeklies published by Creative Loafing, and a number of other publications, mostly alternative weeklies.

The U.S. Communications Decency Act protects publishers of online advertising posted directly by advertisers if the ads have not been reviewed before they appear online – even if they promote prostitution or include illegal references to discrimination in housing, for example.

Village Voice Media also publishes escort advertising in its print publications, but the AIM Group revenue estimates include only online advertising in 23 of the 394 markets where offers localized sites in the U.S. (The company also offers Backpage sites in Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, the U.K., the Caribbean and Mexico.)

There were 3.1 million unique visitors to Backpage in October, according to, a 0.1 percent increase from the previous month, but 11.9 percent higher than the same month a year ago.

Along with the increase in revenue and listings, the number of unique visitors to 22 tracked sites that publish listings or reviews of escort services also increased. Total unique visitors in October were 5.6 million, according to That’s up 1 percent from the previous month and 11.4 percent from October 2010, when the total was 5.1 million unique visitors.

For comparison, Craigslist, the largest classified advertising site, had 63.1 million U.S. unique visitors in October, according to Compete.

Unique visits to sites with prostutition ads Oct. 2011This chart shows the change in unique visitors since October 2010. (The AIM Group counted 24 sites through June 2011. Two sites have closed since.)

The AIM Group, an interactive-media consultancy based in Altamonte Springs, Fla., has been tracking prostitution advertising since August 2010.

The AIM Group counts the number of Backpage ads for female escorts and body rubs in 23 U.S. cities over a 30-day period. Revenue is estimated by multiplying the number of ads by the advertising rates in each city, plus an assumed additional charge to republish the ads four times. The research does not count ads published outside the primary cities, so it is likely revenue has been substantially underestimated.

The AIM Group has also tracked revenue for four other sites that sell prostitution advertising –,, and ( was tracked until it closed June 1.)

Online prostitution ad monthly revenue chart

The consulting group also tracks the number of unique visitors to 22 sites that promote prostitution either with listings or by allowing “reviews” of prostitution services.

Although and are separate URLs, they both resolve to the same website, and the unique visitors for each have been combined.

Top 10 prostitution ad sites by unique visitorsThe AIM Group tracked prostitution ads and, where possible, calculated the revenue they generate in these 23 cities: Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, N.C., Chicago, Dallas / Fort Worth, Denver, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York City, Orlando, Fla., Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego, San Francisco, Sarasota, Fla., Seattle, St. Louis, Tampa and Washington, D.C.

Overall, the AIM Group studies 24 websites that either sell listings or promote prostitution in other ways. Of those 24, we are able to compute revenue based on the number of listings and published advertising rates for six –,,,, (which closed June 1) and We can also count listings on three additional sites –,, and (which stopped publishing ads in July). For the remaining 15, we track only unique visitors because the other data is not publicly available or because the sites have so little traffic that their revenues or listings would be insignificant. Those sites are,,,,,,,,,,,,,, and

The unique-visitors metric counts a user – a computer or IP address – only once no matter how many times the site is visited from that same location. It does not account for more than one person using the same computer, or one person visiting the same site from two or more different computers (one at work and one at home, for example).

About the AIM Group: The AIM Group, formally known as the Advanced Interactive Media Group LLC, is the world’s leading consultancy in interactive media and classified advertising. It publishes Classified Intelligence Report, a continuous advisory service often called “the bible of the classified advertising industry.” The AIM Group works with leading media companies, broadcasters, dot-coms, yellow-page publishers and technology companies. It provides strategic and tactical consulting; sales training; proprietary and published research about interactive media, and other services. Founded in 1998, it is based in Altamonte Springs, Fla. For more information call (407) 788-2780 or see

This monthly update report has been funded by a foundation that has asked not to be identified, in part because it does not want to seem to be taking credit for the Craigslist change in practice, nor promoting other adult-services advertising media.

The AIM Group’s most recent report about Craigslist and free classified advertising sites is available through

Note: Mark A. Whittaker, senior consultant for the AIM Group, and Peter M. Zollman, founding principal of the AIM Group, are available for comment on the research. Whittaker is available at 724-553-8428 or; Zollman is available at 407-788-2780 or

Written by Mark Whittaker

Mark Whittaker joined the AIM Group as sales director in March 2009. His career in newspapers spans 30 years as a reporter, editor and online manager. He spent seven years as online managing editor and online director for and the Tribune-Review Publishing Co. in Pittsburgh, and later worked as interactive media director for Beaver Newspapers Inc. in suburban Pittsburgh. At Beaver Newspapers, he was responsible for day-to-day advertising, design and operation of the company’s Web sites, supervising a staff of eight. At Tribune-Review, he oversaw about 20 Web sites, including ad sales, coordination between the Web sites and affiliated newspapers, and negotiating partnership agreements. He is based near Pittsburgh.