First, it is important to note that Alexa rankings are far from accurate depictions of actual traffic patterns. However, the inaccuracies tend to be far greater as the traffic decreases in size. For example, the margin of error among sites listed in the 500,000 to 1,000,000 Rank ranges is infinitely wider than the margin of error regarding sites that make up the Alexa top 100. It is also worth noting that similar traffic patterns are noticeable when the 'major tube sites' are examined using Quantcast and other traffic metric systems.
Using the most recent Alexa numbers we find that since June of 2008, PornoTube has fallen 125 Alexa ranking places and is now listed as number 503. RedTube is down 4 slots to number 50, YouPorn is down another 10 slots to number 52 and Yuvutu has slid 125 slots to number 795. While each of these high-traffic sites is still solidly in the top tier of traffic entities globally and each holds a rank that most any webmaster would be ecstatic to possess, the explosive growth and uncapped potential of these sites now seems to be starting to wane. As we all know, in online marketing your site is either growing or it's shrinking; and it may surprise many to see the widespread pattern of sliding traffic numbers across the vast majority of large scale tube sites these days. So if major Tubes are indeed shrinking, what's the cause and what will be the effect?
EuroRevenue CEO Todd Glider chalked up the apparent decline as a case of increased competition dividing the traffic pie into somewhat smaller pieces. "Does it mean there's less interest in tube sites?" Glider asked. "I think that's reaching. Why would there be? It's free porn, and why would demand for it diminish."
"After all, what drives one to pay for porn when there is so much available for free?" Glider continued. "If the answer to that question is, 'Convenience' — the hassle-free experience one gets from paysite membership — then ok. But in an economy like this one, I'd be inclined to say that more people are willing to endure that hassle than fewer.
"There are simply more tube sites vying for a piece of the pie," he added.
While that analysis does make some sense when one looks at the seemingly unending list of new tube sites being brought to market by webmasters, it doesn't explain why some of these tube sites have not developed a greater sense of brand loyalty among their viewers. "I would think people are pretty loyal to a single tube site to be honest" said Charles 'WiredGuy' of Wired2000.com "With mainstream content, if I want to lookup a specific video, I always YouTube it. I never think to go to a different tube site to see if they have it, and I would imagine porn is much the same."
So if the traffic numbers are decreasing and we make the assumption that it is not for lack of brand loyalty or proliferation of the tube site model to many more competitors, what else might be causing the shift? Could it be that the Tube owners themselves are starting to turn away traffic they deem to be less valuable?
"Why they are losing traffic is anyone's guess. It may be competition or saturation that's hard to say," said Mark 'DrinkingHard' of GalleryTrafficService.com. "Maybe they are blocking traffic from certain countries. Many Tube sites I know re-direct foreign un-billable traffic; I just don't like to speculate."
"As for GTS, we always go where the traffic is and right now we still see a ton of it going through the tubes," Mark added.
Having looked at the Tubes myself and discussed them at length with many traffic experts it seemed the best way to get to a more meaningful answer would be to speak with someone who had their own money and time invested in the tube market directly. Many industry insiders know Vee from his work on numerous successful adult review sites including MyAdultReviews.com and from the affiliate program STFUCash.com which he recently sold. What you may not know is that Vee is now unveiling a new adult tube site at SexBot.com.
"I can see that the top tube sites are declining somewhat but keep mind, once Redtube or YouPorn gets up into the top 100 they start having to compete with a whole different class of sites for rankings. Even so, they are still holding on in the top 100 and the smaller tube sites are also starting to gain traction as well. I'm seeing midsize tubes actually growing fairly quickly," said Vee. "Yeah, it's leveled off just like anything else and the big boom may be done, there are a lot more tubes out there now, but like any other market segment it's really the crappy ones that will die out."
The strange question that begins to emerge since so many tubes are so similar to each other and each of them are free, is other than offering more content illegally or being first to market, what really differentiates all the tubes qualitatively.
"Our pre-launch research for Sexbot.com has shown that tube site traffic actually does go from tube site to tube site more than some might think. They are seeking more than just free porn," Vee said. "The navigation, organization and video quality all play a role — but if you ask me, it's the tube site that can create a shared sense of community which will end up the traffic winner in the end."
"Lots of webmasters try to compare Tubes to TGPs and MGPs but we feel that our experience specifically in the adult review site segment gives us an edge in going after tube traffic as well," Vee added.
One thing is certain; the notion that the major tube sites will be entrenched as permanent traffic nodes on the net is far from true. With an increasing number of new tubes, a very small set of site parameters that can be competed over and downward pressure on the largest tube sites from legal actions and industry insiders; the tube wars over traffic may just be beginning.
There was a time when people believed only one massive paysite would eventually be left standing after all of the others faded away. That hysteria died down long ago. It seems that when people try to predict the future of tubes they are much too quick to ignore the online adult entertainment industry's past.