In examining the tube phenomena I contacted the owners of several tube sites: some well established ones like Yuvutu.com, some rapidly growing tubes like Sex2ube.com, as well as SexBot.com and some of the other more promising new editions to the field. With so many tubes sharing a largely similar layout, content that would be hard for anyone to clearly differentiate from other tube sites, and the omnipresent content-for-free business model, the real question that emerges quickly is: What makes one tube different or better than another and where will they each find room to carve out a lasting niche?
The success of Yuvutu.com at generating traffic is beyond dispute. The tube site has enjoyed a ranking in the Alexa Top 1000 for quite some time and currently the site is listed at No. 797. While Yuvutu founder Steve Jacobs was careful to point out that he had no intention of divulging strategies that might be copied by would-be competitors, he did provide some interesting general insights into the tube market which may surprise some readers.
"I think given the ever increasing amount of competition, sites will need to continuously innovate and introduce new features in order to retain and attract traffic. The market is getting increasingly crowded and visitors are spoiled for choice," said Jacobs. "We have already done many things to stay ahead like translating the site into five languages, offering video chat room and video IM services, allowing users to create their own playlists, providing photos as well as videos, generating custom blogs with embedded pictures and videos, and we even distribute high definition video content."
Many paysite owners view tubes as an enormous threat because they view them as havens for stolen content and as competitors with little or no overhead costs. "Hosting costs for tube sites are enormous and with increased competition, marketing costs are rising fast. Tube sites will need multiple revenue streams, including advertising, to survive," said Jacobs. However he was also quick to point out that content piracy is not necessary to the success of a tube site owner.
"Pirated content is not necessary and is in fact harmful to the industry in the long term. Tube sites can be viable without pirated content. Many producers seem happy to give three minute clips for free and according to our research for videos that are longer than three minutes, people don't watch till the end 80 percent of the time," said Jacobs. "I think a lot more can be done to stop piracy. Since the day we launched in May 2006 our strategy was to have zero tolerance for pirated content. Tube sites should be proactive in blocking pirated videos and not just reactive. I estimate that 95 percent of the time it is obvious if a video is pirated, just from the description given by the uploader or the uploader's email address. The more responsible webmasters screen all uploads for inappropriate content anyway, they therefore have the capability of blocking pirated videos as well. If 95 percent of piracy was blocked, then the problem would be immaterial. Naming and shaming the websites with high percentages of pirated content, pressure could be exercised on the main advertisers and advertising networks (AFF, Blacklabelads, etology, Cliksor, etc.) not to work with the blacklisted sites. Strangled from an income stream, the worse sites will rapidly wither away or clean up their acts."
As for the monetization of tube traffic, Mr. Jacobs suggests that Yuvutu.com is banking on a combination of revenue streams from advertising, affiliate programs, sponsored videos and subscription service upsells. He also seems convinced that the eventual main source of income will be via a system of in-video advertising: before, during and after 'free porn' tube videos are displayed.
For its part, Sex2ube.com is seeking to profit from the practice of blurring the lines between social networking sites and adult tube sites. "We have created some social networking and tube convergent services for adult sites to promote themselves to surfers on Sex2ube.com," said Allen Ingram, founder and president of Sex2ube.com. "We call them GASP pages, which stands for 'Group and Social Profile,' and each is essentially a one page advertisement with current media embedded — videos and pictures, RSS feeds and banners — all leading to the adult site paid for. We are trying to bridge the social networking environment into a tube model and have enjoyed some critical success in the area."
An example of the kind of social-styled advertising Sex2ube.com is banking on can be found here: http://sex2ube.com/groups/clubredlight. The familiarity with the social site format that many users are accustomed to is already yielding positive results according to Mr. Ingram. "We have had 100 percent organic traffic growth, with 40 percent of our traffic being bookmarked, 30 percent from search engines and 30 percent from referring sites. We enjoy a steady stream of rich traffic that converts to many revenue generating zones such as video-on-demand, dating, live cams, as well as advertisers and paysite referrals through GASP pages." The entire system is designed to evolve based on continuous user feedback elicited from viewers via online surveys. "We have undertaken a groundbreaking study of our traffic through Sex2ubeSurveys that asks a series of revealing questions about the industry, surfing habits, and user likes or dislikes about paysites and tube sites regarding the adult industry in general," said Ingram.
As I surveyed hundreds of adult tube sites, I discovered what I believe will eventually be the key difference between those that succeed and those that fail. Many of the innovations being discussed by insiders are already being implemented on the next wave of tube sites coming to market. Take a look at some of the top ranking tube sites on the market; after browsing for a while, see if you can tell which one is which without looking at your browser URL.
With so many new competitors entering the fray daily and such a wide range of attitudes from ethical business owners to aggressive — even lawless — clone makers, it seems the tube site owner's greatest future problem will be the same problem many paysite owners face currently: other tube site owners.
Securing an identity within the tube market is nearly impossible. Sure, being first to market like YouPorn or RedTube is a huge advantage — and largely explains their top 100 Alexa rankings — but without some kind of copyrightable technology or exclusive content, one tube quickly looks no different than another. The best ideas are cannibalized by the masses of usurping tube sites that launch each week. While the aggregate traffic available may endure or even grow, grabbing some of it for your own new tube may prove to be much more challenging than simply throwing up a domain with the letters T, U, B and E in its name while waiting for millions of surfers to arrive.