The Fabulous Mobile Market

Alex Henderson

The phrase “content is king” has often been used in connection with erotica that is created with desktop computers in mind, and the phrase is still applicable.

But as the summer of 2014 heats up, more and more adult content is being designed specifically for smartphones and other mobile/wireless devices. And providers of mobile adult content have much to consider, from the demand for niche erotica to international trends to the types of content that a mobile carrier/operator may or may not accept.

When it comes to marketing mobile adult content around the world, webmasters are having to be imaginative in order to meet the carriers’ mobile guidelines. -Joey Gabra, Affil4You

According to Joey Gabra (managing director for Affil4You.com), mobile adult content not only continues to diversify — it also continues to improve in quality. “I think, in some ways, we are seeing a fairly similar evolution to what we saw happen with Web content: more HD, better streaming quality and better localization,” Gabra observed.

Alex Lecomte, marketing manager for StarEdition, asserted that companies need to think globally when it comes to marketing adult mobile content—and mobile content trends can vary quite a bit from one country to another. “As always, we can see that content is a simple answer to users’ demand,” Lecomte explained. “It’s still worthy to dig some basic axes such as sexy bimbos for the U.S., big-bottom girls for Brazil, natural and powerful women for Germany, mature for the UK, the girl next door for Australia and Canada, etc.”

Lecomte quickly added that an adequate analysis of mobile content trends must include some discussion of adult billing trends — and webmasters need to know what types of content carriers/operators are willing to accept if they offer mobile billing. “The big thing about mobile in general is that we need to take into account the payment for the final user even more than for desktop performances,” Lecomte said.

“Mobile marketing is closely linked to direct operator billing, when available — and this is the main drawing line for all the trends. Even if powerful and profitable countries like the U.S. don’t offer this kind of payment, a lot of other geos accept it. And that’s what most of the companies are looking for.”

Lecomte continued: “This close relationship between the product and the operator itself is something that we didn’t have to care about with desktop marketing, and that’s how mobile content is influenced. To be able to perform in a non-U.S. mobile market, you will need phone carriers’ good will. And for that, you will have to match their content rules.”

Gabra said that when it comes to marketing mobile adult content around the world, webmasters are having to be imaginative in order to meet the carriers’ mobile guidelines.

“Unfortunately,” Gabra asserted, “the mobile sector is so heavily governed by the mobile operators that, in many cases, we are not even allowed to promote or sell certain types of content on mobile devices. With limitations like these, we tend to try and find more creative ways to edit content so that the users still can take some sort of satisfaction from it.”

Julia Dimambro, CEO of Cherry Media, observed: “Trends are directly tied to how explicit the content is allowed to be. Of course, you can offer hardcore content anywhere with credit card billing, but working only with credit cards will greatly limit your total potential reach. Obviously, if hardcore content is sold, the themes will differ greatly from the bikini or topless content — hardcore could be BDSM, for example, glamour content would be clothed secretaries stripping down to underwear but no further. Australia allows topless content, but nothing more. Asia is strictly bikini-only with no sexual suggestion in the content, and the U.S. is the same.”

Dimambro pointed out that in countries where mobile operators don’t accept explicit adult content, she is seeing a trend of “hardcore themes at what we call bikini or topless grading levels.” Dimambro explained: “It has basically evolved from the need of adult mobile affiliate programs to provide similar themes for targeted affiliate traffic. For example, you own a transvestite niche site and have mobile traffic you want to monetize. You want to push this traffic to a similar content in mobile, as this is clearly what the enduser was looking for. A problem arises because most mobile carriers won’t allow you to show genitalia if you want to use their billing — and carrier billing is by far the most effective billing method to convert people to a mobile sale. This means that Cherry receives requests for transvestite content with trousers or pants on. Kinda loses the context, no?”

Dimambro said that the smartphone explosion is expanding the market for erotic digital content in developing countries that have had low desktop penetration compared to North America or Europe. “Mobile is bringing a whole new customer base into the playing field,” Dimambro noted. “Emerging territories, where personal computers were never an option, are seeing a massive uptake of mobile devices — territories ideal for Freemium or ad-funded business models.”

Christoph H. Hermes, managing director of GoldKiwi Media, cited “interactivity” as an important trend in the mobile space. “Since last year,” Hermes said, “the content production companies have seen that going in the direction of interactivity could be a way to success. 3D, animated and interactive content seem to be part of those activities. These trends are, in my eyes, growing in 2014.”

Asked to cite other adult niches that are performing well in the mobile space, Hermes replied: “Teens, tits and amateurs are the most performing niches. Every niche has its markets, depending on the countries and also, the operator or laws and rules. If MILF content is performing well in the U.S., it might not (be performing well) in Asia because there, other niches are preferred.”

Mark Bower, vice president of global gay markets for Reporo, described the gay market as one of the most important growth areas for mobile adult content. “Gay adult mobile is developing at an increasing pace, and that will continue during the next few years,” Bower predicted. “With recent forecasts predicting that 90 percent of users will access social media via their mobile device by 2018, the dominance of mobile is inevitable. I see that there are three trends evolving in the gay adult mobile market this year. First, gay adult content providers are making mobile a priority. Second, ad spending on mobile as a percentage of total gay adult media buying is growing. Third, both gay adult advertisers and publishers are looking to extract more value from mobile advertising.”

Bower stressed that providers of gay content who aren’t mobile-optimized are at a disadvantage in 2014.

“For a long time, there was a belief that gay men would be reluctant to consume adult content on a mobile device,” Bower recalled. “The thinking was that the screen was too small, too slow, too inconvenient and too expensive. Of course, the mobile web and apps eliminated all of those barriers — and gay men have embraced the mobile experience faster than any other market. Think about the success of Grindr, Scruff and Mister for dating and hooking up. Think about Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for sharing. Think about Men.com, BaitBus and Badoink for gay porn. Think about Flirt4Free, Cam4 and CameraBoys for live gay content. They are all proving successful on mobile. It will only continue to grow in the months and years ahead.”

Bower continued: “Gay men’s lives are centered around their smartphones for dating, social media and consuming adult content.”

The Internet revolution made adult content more diverse than ever in the 1990s and 2000s, and many webmasters prospered by focusing on specific niches and sub-niches. Now, with smartphones being so ubiquitous, mobile content providers are catering to a variety of niches whether they are BDSM niches (whipping and flogging, tickle torture), gay niches (bears and daddies, twinks), alt-porn niches (goth porn, women with tattoos), hentai (erotic Japanese animation) or MILFs and cougars. And according to Gabra, a rule that has applied on desktops also applies on mobile devices: a very specific niche might have a smaller audience, but that audience is likely to have above-average enthusiasm.

“Adult niche sites tend to perform better than the generic adult sites, but the volume also tends to be lower with niche sites, obviously,” Gabra said. “The niche also depends strongly on the country. So in some parts of Europe there are some niches — BDSM, gay, hentai, etc. — that seem to really have a much more significant user subscription base than most other countries.”

As bullish as he is on mobile adult content, Lecomte acknowledged that there is a learning curve when it comes to becoming mobile-optimized—and he fears that some content providers are missing the boat where mobile sales are concerned. “Even if we have been talking a lot about mobile marketing for the past two years, it’s still something new,” Lecomte explained.

Porn has often been described as an “impulse purchase,” and Dimambro said that mobile devices are even more likely to encourage impulse buying than desktops. “If arousal is impulsive — which it normally is when prompted by marketing or visual stimulus — mobile devices are the perfect media channel to allow the potential customer to act on that impulse the moment it happens,” Dimambro asserted. “No more waiting until they get home and in front of the computer, or for the Mrs. to go to bed. Everything you might ever desire online is right there with you, any time and anywhere. For the first time, clever marketers can really cash in on selling to impulse.”