Diversity For Dollars

Stephen Yagielowicz

While their mainstream media viewing may be more closely related, there is often an understandably vast divide between the preferred adult entertainment choices of straight and gay audiences. But beyond the obvious differences in their content choices, are there underlying, identifiable trends in viewing habits that can assist Internet marketers, and are there ways to effectively provide relevant content to each market segment?

Although proprietary data garnered from internal studies by websites serving both audiences (such as a large tube site, search engine, or directory) may be hard to come by, studying the practices of large mainstream marketers reveals a few interesting tidbits on the topic that may help guide your efforts.

There are myriad ways to incorporate “alternative” content into any site, such as having a “straight” link on gay sites to rescue any stunned surfers that fell in by mistake, as well as those with diverse tastes.

Consider the practice of “techno profiling,” wherein intelligent media devices, such as your cable or satellite box; DVR or TiVo; web browsing software and music services, all seek to collect as much demo- and psychographic information on viewers as possible — revealing many personal details about users, including the possibility that you’re gay.

Search engines, advanced advertising networks and all sorts of media services make use of this type of information as well, delivering content and advertising tailored to what it thinks you want to see. For example, if your DVR thinks that you’re the kind of girl that likes her sausage in a patty instead of a link, then you might see the latest shows on “Logo” highlighted in the “You might also like…” section.

The phenomenon was brought to the public’s attention a decade ago in an article by Jeffrey Zaslow in The Wall Street Journal, entitled, “Oh no! My TiVo thinks I’m gay.”

The article describes the efforts of TiVo users to skew the device’s perceptions by recording shows they really had no interest in, such as selecting sports and war shows to avoid the “gay” label.

“The problem was, I overcompensated,” Basil Iwanyk, one of the affected, told WSJ. “It started giving me documentaries on Joseph Goebbels and Adolf Eichmann. It stopped thinking I was gay and decided I was a crazy guy reminiscing about the Third Reich.”

Of course, the technology isn’t always wrong (even when you don’t like the results).

Dino Leon told The Wall Street Journal that TiVo was right on when telling him and his lover that “You’re definitely gay. And you’re watching too much TV.”

Amazon has been doing the same thing online with its book sales for years.

On the adult Internet front, relational content and ad displays, “recommendations” and other tools of influence, are easy enough to incorporate when you have one site, serving one type of viewer.

But what if you don’t have YouTube-class needs or a budget to match?

There are myriad ways to incorporate “alternative” content into any site, such as having a “straight” link on gay sites to rescue any stunned surfers that fell in by mistake, as well as those with diverse tastes. Likewise, straight sites shouldn’t abandon their gay surfers without a thought — and this catering can be as easy as adding a link or two.

For example, the popular program features a default top navigation bar on its straight sites, the last entry of which is “Gay Porn” — a simple yet unobtrusive method of speeding gay surfers to the content they desire. I assume there is a similar link to straight content on the gay version of HostedTube.

Adding white label video-ondemand theaters or other content in a special section of your site, or simply integrating both content types together into one website, may all pay dividends, depending upon your traffic mix.

But is the effort worth it?

According to Dr. Julie Albright’s article, “Sex in America Online: Sex, gender, sexual identity, marital status and sex-seeking on the Internet,” gays and lesbians are more likely to view porn and seek sex online, than are straight consumers.

Typically a more affluent market segment, gays and lesbians may also have enough money to pay for their desires, making it a great group to target. On the other hand, there are many more straight surfers than gay, so gay sites can cater to their straight visitors in very similar ways: via affiliate offers and white labels, VOD theaters and more.

For a final bit of insight on the subject with a global flair, you might want to check out the following PDF (, which provides a Chinese academic look at gay website regulations in China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan — if you’re a straight website operator thinking that marketing to gays is a waste of time, this report might change your mind.

At the end of the day, savvy marketers know that all audiences are good audiences, even if different groups require different handling.