November revenue from prostitution advertising in 23 U.S. cities increased 18.7 percent to $3 million compared with the same month in 2010, but the total was down 3.1 percent compared with the previous month.
Even Backpage.com, owned by Village Voice Media, saw a dip in escort and body-rub advertising in November to $2.1 million, down 1.6 percent from a record high $2.14 million in October, according to estimates by the AIM Group. The revenue in November was still 16.7 percent more than what Backpage generated in November 2010.
In the last 12 months, five sites tracked by the AIM Group have sold an estimated $36.1 million in ads for escorts and body-rubs, euphemisms for prostitution. Backpage, the leading U.S. site for prostitution advertising, accounted for about two-thirds of that total, $24.3 million.
Total listings on seven tracked sites were up 26.9 percent to 240,000 in November 2011, from 189,361 in November 2010. Unique visitors to 22 sites that promote prostitution listings increased 13.4 percent to 5.3 million, compared to the same month last year, according to Compete.com. However, compared to October 2011, listings were even and unique visitors declined 5.8 percent.
In general, November 2010 also was a down month for prostitution advertising. After two months of heavy migration from Craigslist, which closed its adult services advertising sections in September 2010, revenue and other indicators all declined on tracked sites before resuming steady, but more moderate, increases last December.
When it pulled the plug on prostitution ads, Craigslist was on track to generate $44.6 million from escort-service advertising in 2010. That’s still $8 million more than what has been generated in the last 12 months by the remaining publishers of prostitution ads.
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.
Village 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 Backpage.com 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 2.9 million unique visitors to Backpage in November, according to Compete.com, a 5.2 percent decrease from the previous month, but 11.1 percent higher than the same month a year ago.
The number of unique visitors to 22 tracked sites that publish listings or reviews of escort services decreased to 5.3 million, down 5.8 percent from October but a 13.4 percent increase compared with November 2010, according to Compete.com.
For comparison, Craigslist, the largest classified advertising site, had 60.3 million U.S. unique visitors in all categories November, according to Compete.
This chart shows the change in unique visitors since November 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 – Eros.com, CityVibe.com, MyRedbook.com and AdultSearch.com. (Escorts.com was tracked until it closed June 1.)
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 Eros.com and Eros-Guide.com are separate URLs, they both resolve to the same website, and the unique visitors for each have been combined.
The 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 – Backpage.com, Eros.com, CityVible.com, MyRedbook.com, Escorts.com (which closed June 1) and AdultSearch.com. We can also count listings on three additional sites – NaughtyReviews.com, Eccie.com, and A1List.net (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 TheEroticReview.com, Sipsap.com, Preferred411.com, SexyEscortAds.com, BigDoggie.net, LocalEscortPages.com, HotLocalEscorts.com, MyProviderGuide.com, TNABoard.com, FindHotEscorts.com, EscortGuide.com, EroticServicesGuide.com, EpicDreams.com, Escortme.com, and BarebackEscorts.com.
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 http://AIMGroup.com.
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 AIMGroup.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org; Zollman is available at 407-788-2780 or email@example.com.