Study: Porn Scores Big With Cellphone Users

Study: Porn Scores Big With Cellphone Users
By Michael Hayes
From XBiz

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Whether porn crosses the mobile divide has always been a question of human behavior rather than technology. A recent study by two computer science professors affiliated with Google suggests that users could be more likely to search for porn on their mobile phones than on PCs or PDAs.

Maryam Kamvar and Shumeet Baluja looked at 1 million search queries made to Google mobile. Dividing the queries into those made at Google’s XHTML and the company’s PDA site, the researchers came up with some surprising results.

One of the team’s more unanticipated findings was that searches for porn on cellphones exceeded similar PC-based searches by percentage. According to the study, 20 percent of the searches on cellphones were for porn, whereas only 10 percent of PC searches sought the same material.

The gap means that mobile porn is bucking the overall trend for online porn searches. According to the study, the total number of porn searches has dropped 50 percent since 1997 due mostly to the fact that additional users come online daily and don’t search for porn. By contrast, mobile doesn’t suffer from the same drop-off rate.

While the study notes that the disparity, given the smaller screen size and quality of mobile, seems counterintuitive, the researchers pose an interesting hypothesis.

“We speculate that people may feel more comfortable querying adult terms on private devices,” the study suggested. “Anecdotally, we have observed that users often consider their cellphone as a very personal and private device; perhaps even more so than their computer — the probability of others discovering their search behavior (through cached pages, auto-completion of query terms or URLs) is smaller.”

Translation: quality has nothing on privacy.

But privacy alone doesn’t account for demand for mobile porn, according to the study. Youth is another factor.

The researchers noted that PDA searches for porn only accounted for five percent of all searches. The study chalked up the difference between PDAs and cellphones to the fact that PDAs are more popular with businessmen, whereas cellphones are common mobile devices for teenagers.

While the findings of the Google study present a possible treasure trove of data to porn companies looking to launch mobile platforms, industry predictions on mobile porn still remain mixed.

“There’s a lot of hype about it, but it’s not likely to be all that big a revenue source,” Bengt Nordstrom, VP at inCode Wireless, said. “If you go to the magazine rack in a bookstore, there’ll be a certain shelf for adult magazines, but it’s a small percentage of all the magazines for sale. It’ll be the same for mobile content. It’s difficult to believe that it’s a must-have for operators.”