Big Data is illuminating the murky world of porn

24 Jan
Lisa Ann is apparently the most popular porn store in the world, according Pornhub searches.

Lisa Ann is apparently the most popular porn star in the world, according to Pornhub searches.

We hear a lot about Big Data, but we don’t usually get many easy-to-relate-to examples of it. Well, look no further: it’s the porn world to the rescue.

Montreal-based Pornhub recently released some thoroughly engrossing statistics about online porn consumption in a number of countries, including Canada. As one of the biggest websites in the world – it generally ranks around the 75th most trafficked according to Alexa, which is more than the Huffington Post, Netflix or even the Pirate Bay – Pornhub is privy to a lot of revealing information, and we’re not even talking about the thousands of free sex videos it hosts.

The folks behind the site have insights on things like what days and months are most popular for porn consumption, who is searching for what, and how… er, long certain people last. According to the site’s blog – which, unlike its main site, is perfectly safe to view at work – Americans and Canadians apparently last the longest, spending about 10 minutes on the site, versus people in Brazil and Japan, who typically tap out around seven minutes.

Both the Canadian and global posts are full of amusing and logical tidbits, like how Pornhub visits are highest on Mondays and in January and tend to be lowest on Sundays and in August. Holidays and big sporting events also usually turn people off looking at porn, go figure.

I found the stats thoroughly illuminating, mainly because I have first-hand experience in just how difficult this sort of information used to be to come by as recently as a few years ago. One of the constant challenges I had while working on my book Sex, Bombs and Burgers was finding detailed, reliable stats like these from which to draw conclusions. Prior to the internet, porn purveyors were either terrible at keeping stats, or they were highly secretive about them.

Now, stats are their main business so of course they want to be more open about them. Pornhub makes money on advertising – just like Google, the value of those ads goes up when the site can show how fine-grained its data is.

Whatever your opinion on porn is, there is an emerging socially-benevolent side to the business – or at least there is for those companies that share such information. Such “Big Data” can be used to deepen understanding and answer key questions, such as why do people watch porn, or even why do people in certain geographies watch more porn than in others, and why certain search terms perform better in certain places.

It’s only when such things are known that conclusions can be reached and actions can be taken, if warranted. Some people would like to see porn stamped out entirely, but before anyone tries to do that – as the UK is trying to with internet filters – it might be more worthwhile to try and gain an understanding of the very phenomenon first.

Porn is a really old industry – it’s literally as old as technology, with pornographic applications always popping up as one of the first uses of each new communications media – yet it’s been a largely unknown one for most of its history. It’s only now that we’re finally starting to get some real information on why it is so enduring and popular.

(Thanks to for initially bringing the stats to my attention – and what’s with Montreal? The city produces the world’s best circuses, video games and porn sites…)

1 Comment

Posted by on January 24, 2014 in internet, sex


One response to “Big Data is illuminating the murky world of porn

  1. raincoaster

    January 28, 2014 at 7:29 am

    Reblogged this on raincoaster media and commented:
    A rare, and excellent, article about how one of the world’s biggest sites is keeping tabs on its users…who happen to be porn aficionados.

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