The Demographics of Online Porn Access

It is an open secret: some Americans do visit pornographic Web sites as part of their use of the Internet. However, it is not well known whether there are differing degrees of online porn consumption based on U.S. geographic regions. A recent study titled "Red Light States: Who Buys Online Adult Entertainment?," by Harvard Business School Professor Benjamin Edelman, digs in an attempt to find answers.

Professor Edelman's methodology behind the study was to analyze credit card data from 2006 to 2008 regarding payment for online adult entertainment based on the postal codes of the purchasers. After adjusting for relative populations and accounting for broadband Internet access between states, the study does not reveal a remarkable difference between the states with the most and least online pornography purchases.

There nevertheless were some interesting findings. For example, the largest relative online porn purchasing state was Utah, which averaged 5.47 adult content subscriptions per 1,000 home Internet broadband users. Montana, on the other hand, came in last as an adult entertainment purchasing state, with 1.92 adult content subscriptions per 1,000 home Internet broadband users.

What are the reasons for these differences in terms of apparent consumption? Well, there could be other unaccounted for factors at play. For example, it has been reported that hard copy pornography tends to be more difficult to obtain in Utah than other states, and that many adult entertainment companies will not ship materials to Utah based on tough state and local laws. As a result, it is possible that a greater percentage of people in Utah than other states who seek adult content will turn to the Internet, because other sources are less available.

Perhaps of greater macro interest is that the study documents that 36% of Internet users visit at least one adult Web site each month, as of June, 2008. An average visit to an adult site goes for 11.6 minutes, and of people who access at least one such site a month, they actually visit adult Web sites an average of 7.7 times per month.

Bottom line, while there may be some minor differences between states in terms of online porn consumption that may be caused by differing variables, Americans generally have a fairly large appetite for Internet adult entertainment and that industry, even though subject to certain legal regulations, likely will not disappear any time soon.

Eric Sinrod is a partner in the San Francisco office of Duane Morris LLP where he focuses on litigation matters of various types, including information technology and intellectual property disputes. His Web site is http://www.sinrodlaw.com and he can be reached at ejsinrod@duanemorris.com. To receive a weekly email link to Mr. Sinrod's columns, please send an email to him with Subscribe in the Subject line.

This column is prepared and published for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author's law firm or its individual partners.