Did the Economic Stimulus Plan Overstimulate Some? A Guest Post

Bill Tancer is the general manager of research at Hitwise, which analyzes Internet trends and data ranging from American Idol predictions to which days of the week are most popular for porn searching. He has appeared on this blog quite a few times. He is the author of a new book, Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why it Matters, and he has agreed to write some guest posts here on the subject. This is the first of three.

AIMRco, the Adult Internet Market Research Company issued a press release earlier this month claiming that, based on a survey of an unspecified number of adult entertainment websites, “many sites have experienced between a 20 to 30 percent growth in membership rates since mid-May when the [stimulus] checks were first sent out, and typically the summer is a slow period for this market.”

The release goes on to quote the spokeswoman for an adult website which fielded a survey of new members, revealing that 32 percent of respondents “referenced the recent stimulus package as part of their decision to either become a new member, or renew an existing membership.”

Utilizing the Hitwise sample of ten million anonomized U.S. Internet users, I blogged my initial reaction here. By grouping together the top 37,706 websites in our adult category — which when combined account for over 10 percent of Internet traffic on any given day — we can chart the daily patterns of visits to those sites.

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As a side note, the daily peaks (Fridays) and troughs (Sundays) of visits to adult sites do not vary over the last three years of data.

Examining the trend since January, there does appear to be an increase in visits that begins late April into mid June. But is that increase remarkable?

Looking at a weekly comparison of visits to those same sites in 2006, 2007, and 2008 reveals that although there has been a steady drop in adult visits over the years, in mid May 2008 visits to the category continued to remain stable despite seasonal declines the previous two years.

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While there isn’t enough data to establish correlation let alone causation, another dataset provides additional clues as to the change in summer prurient interests. When comparing the average household incomes of visitors to the adult category for May 2007 versus May 2008, one segment stands out.

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Households earning between $30,000 and $60,000 per year increased from 28.3 percent in May 2007 to 31.3 percent in May 2008 (the <$30,000 group, while interesting, likely contains a significant number of college students). This particular income bracket is both likely to feel the impact of the economic downturn, as well as benefit from the stimulus package (single earner households with incomes over $75,000 receive only $600 checks versus $1,200 paid to those earning less).

An alternate hypothesis as to the stabilization of adult visits this summer is that when economic times get tough certain online activities become more popular. In my next post, I’ll address what our Internet habits reveal about our reactions to tougher times.

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  1. Boston says:

    It is possible that the stimulus package allowed people to either sign up for Broadband (making porn more worth viewing) or perhaps allowing them to buy/upgrade their computer entirely, adding new customers for porn in general?

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  2. billy says:

    Have you considered another, perhaps more likely, factor? Drastically higher gas prices lead to less driving to “entertainment” venues and more stay-at-home time, which results in more time spent on the Internet and more visits to porn sites.

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  3. Valpey says:

    I believe that there was an actual call-to-arms on the part of the sizeable anti-Bush camp to specifically use stimulus checks subversively. To the degree that the Bush Administration is equated to the “values voters” set this isn’t surprising. …Certainly amusing though.

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  4. Ted says:

    There was a similar observation with video game sales, that the games retained their shelf price far longer than usual after the stimulus checks went out. However, I also believe the price of gas is just as large of influence as a bit of extra pocket cash given the subject matter in each case.

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  5. Mark Davis says:

    Makes sense. It’s also likely that as the unemployment numbers go up, people (men) have more private time on their hands. Laid-off, spouse is at work, kids are at school: the opportunity is suddenly there.

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  6. Darklady says:

    The strangest part of all of this is that I do not know a single adult internet professional who has heard of the Adult Internet Market Research Company, nor do I know any adult webmasters who’ve experienced what this company claims. Given that I’m on the Free Speech Coalition board of directors, editor for YNOT.com and have been a contributor for AVN for nearly a decade, you’d think someone would have mentioned it to me or someone I know…

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  7. Chet P says:

    I think there is a pretty good joke in here somewhere, stimulus check, porn sites, hmmm.

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  8. Boston says:

    re #3

    Of course, it was the “Pelosi Administration” that put out the Stimulus checks. The president doesn’t have any money to spend. Still, I like it.

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