There have been plenty of people, err… pumping up the mobile porn market, not the least of which the mobile porn sellers themselves, billing the content as the ever-elusive “killer app” for mobile. The numbers have been a little suspect all along, whether it’s saying half of Korea has accessed mobile porn, or the supposed billions mobile porn will pull in. But a piece in the Guardian does some calculations, and comes to the conclusion that maybe things aren’t as big as they’re made out to be (no pun intended).
If you buy in to the analyst prediction that mobile porn will be worth $2.3 billion in 2010, there’s a few takeaways: first, that’s not tremendous growth in dollar terms from the $1 billion market they say mobile porn will be this year. Second, there should be well over 3 billion mobile users by 2010, compared with 1 billion today — so porn spending per subscriber won’t even hold steady. Finally, that $2.3 billion would represent just 5% of the overall mobile content market, hardly making it a killer app.
There will always be porn consumers. But it’s hard to believe there are that many dedicated enough to want porn on their mobile phones, as opposed to the TV or internet. As Mike points out at Techdirt, porn helped cable and satellite TV, VCRs, DVD players and the net thrive, mainly because each successive technology offered an improvement in the viewing experience. The only benefit mobile porn offers (alongside a few drawback) is portability, but how many people want to watch porn when they’re on the go, out in public?
But the most interesting comments come from one Julia Dimambro, the MD of mobile porn purveyor Cherry Media, who alleges operators are playing down porn because they don’t want to be seen as promoting it. While carriers do have a love-hate affair with porn, their restraint appears to have more to do with reality about the level of demand setting in than any puritanical leadings, and Ms. Dimambro’s numbers about the popularity of her company’s site seem to prove this.
She said back in February it was getting 1 million hits per month. Now, the Guardian says it gets 300,000 hits a month. The fact that hits are a useless metric aside, the figures raise two possibilities. Either the company’s playing fast and loose with its numbers to try and make the market look bigger than it really is, or it’s seen a dramatic drop over the last six months. Whichever is true, neither one reflects too well on the company or the mobile porn industry.
The real problem here is too much focus on immediate revenues. IMHO the smart play currently for mobile is to worry about building your audience first and cashing in later.