Tom Daley
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Porn Panic!

Porn Panic!

1026 PORN PANIC O3 X390 (JEREMY LUCIDO) | ADVOCATE.COM

Giving It AwayI recently asked a group of college students how they felt about pornography, and they unanimously agreed that porn is terrific -- and that it is and should be free. In a Wall Street Journal article titled “The Economics of Giving It Away,” Chris Anderson noted that members of the Google generation are “saving their money and playing free online games, listening to free music on Pandora, canceling basic cable and watching free video on Hulu, and killing their landlines in favor of Skype. It’s a consumer’s paradise: The Web has become the biggest store in history and everything is 100% off.”

That’s where tube sites come in. Essentially YouTube for porn, tube sites are largely composed of user-generated content provided to other users for free. Whereas traditional porn studios’ revenue comes from the sale of DVDs, and websites make money from monthly memberships, tube sites sell ad space and make revenue by generating as much traffic as possible. “Picture a bug zapper you put in your backyard,” Steele says. “Bugs from all over the neighborhood fly in. That’s all a tube site is, a bug zapper.”

Lights attract bugs; free porn attracts people -- lots and lots and lots of people. Roughly 15% of the 100 most-visited websites offer free porn. XTube, which features approximately 75% gay content, receives more than 5 million hits a day and has 7 million members -- up from 4 million a year ago. “We changed the whole adult industry,” says XTube operations director Kurtis Potec. “We took what was an analog world based around a physical product and changed it to a digital world. We understand a lot of people wouldn’t be happy with that.”

Cash-strapped consumers, however, are very happy with the site. Dean Berkeley, who sells online porn memberships for a living, says bluntly, “I don’t have any friends who would subscribe to a porn site now. Not one. They all say, ‘Why would I buy porn when I have XTube?’ ”

Still, major studios insist that high quality will always ensure a loyal consumer base, regardless of free alternatives. Titan founder Bruce Cam, who classifies XTube’s content as “faceless jerk-offs and mystery holes,” says, “The problem is not tube sites. The problem is when someone steals our copyrighted content and posts it on a tube site. Then, all of a sudden, we’re competing against our own stuff.” That’s when a tube site becomes an illegal tube site.

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