Online Sex Ads Market to Reach $63 Million

Sep 16, 2010 6:00 AM PST
WASHINGTON — Online sex advertising is expected to reach $63 million this year, with Craigslist still accounting for about 70 percent of that revenue, according to a report by research firm Advanced Interactive Media Group (AIM).

The Washington Post said that the 24-page AIM report — “Sex Ads: Where the Money Is” — reviewed a dozen new players in the sector and, according to its projections, the ads are and will continue to be big moneymakers.

AIM has been tracking Craigslist’s revenue since 2003 and has researched prostitution ads on 12 websites in the U.S. at the request of a private nonprofit foundation that fights trafficking in children and women as one of its key initiatives.

The AIM Group projected that nine of the sites will generate almost $33 million this year in ads for “body rubs,” “escort services” and "similar thinly disguised prostitution services."

“While Craigslist has apparently pulled out of the business of prostitution ads, it’s still a lucrative field,” said Peter M. Zollman, AIM founding principal.

He added, “There are hundreds of websites where prostitutes advertise and many of them are likely to grow as the effects of the Craigslist decision play out.”

The report was released just prior to a hearing on domestic-minor sex trafficking scheduled by the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security on Wednesday. Craigslist was forced to shut down its adult services section earlier this month amid pressure by attorneys general.

"When Craigslist eliminated its adult services advertising on Sept. 3, it was on track to generate almost $45 million in prostitution advertising in 2010. By dropping the category, the company gave up $12 million to $15 million in revenue this year, although it had already generated $30 million on sex ads during 2010," the AIM Group estimated.

The online classified company faced more troubles when four human rights groups advocating against trafficking and prostitution of children including the Polaris Project demanded that it also close its international sex ads areas.

According to AIM, sites such as Village Voice Media-run have tried to pick up ads shut down by Craigslist to take advantage of the void. will generate an estimated $17.5 million in online and print prostitution advertising in 2010, the AIM Group projected although it was still No. 2 behind Craigslist. Two other sites generated estimated listings revenue of $5.4 million and $2.6 million, with still more revenue from banner ads and other “erotic” services.

“A search for sex ads on Google will easily turn up results. On BackPage, a site called advertised that Craigslist closed its adults services section and that ‘posting is easy’ on its site,” the report said.

But the Polaris Project's program director Andrea Austin hopes that the pressure on Craigslist will stop wannabes and supporters from jumping into the market.

“I do think people on Craigslist are already aware of these other sites, but the message is that it won’t be tolerated,” Austin said.

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