Bing It

07.12.14

Too Hot for Google: Why The Internet Giant Is Scared of Porn

Why did Google ban porn advertisements? From the rise of the rosebud niche to headlines about STDs outbreaks, the XXX industry may be commercially icky.

Porn has gone from being that dirty little secret you kept to hushed chats to mainstream entertainment acceptable in social conversations. Yet thanks to recent scandals, that acceptance of the adult industry seems to be wavering. Now Google has banned porn advertising. From the rise of the rosebud niche, to the latest round of STDs decorating the headlines, has porn become commercially icky?

Porn producers have seen a shift in tolerance. Wicked director Brad Armstrong says that porn acceptance has declined in the last two years. Locations he's rented in his eight-year career suddenly don't want his business. “I don't know whether it's to do with the couple of HIV scares or the AHF propaganda but I've also found that home owners and bigger locations studios are no longer accepting porn. So it's a bigger problem than just Google.”

He’s right. The corporate shift away from the adult industry is in full effect. PayPal and Chase have shut down porn star accounts. Amazon deleted adult entertainer Wish Lists.

So coming from Google, the information champion, this ban is shocking.

“At Google, we have a bias in favor of free expression—not just because it’s a key tenet of free societies, but also because more information generally means more choice, more power, more economic opportunity and more freedom for people.”

You see, for a monster company, Google’s blog statements leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling. “At Google, we have a bias in favor of free expression—not just because it’s a key tenet of free societies, but also because more information generally means more choice, more power, more economic opportunity and more freedom for people." Google is the popular cool kid you can't help but like. I mean, even their Code of Conduct is impressive, prefacing with a “don’t be evil" motto.

So why’d they dump adult advertising?

Google makes an estimated $100 million a day in search advertising. Scott Rabinowitz, Partner and Media Buyer at CyberStampede.com, estimates the adult industry has provided at least one percent of that revenue collectively contributing over $350 million a year to the AdWords campaign. That's a big chunk of change to lose. "One of the accounts I work with has literally spent over $1 million in the last ten years," says Rabinowitz. "They've had their account since the day AdWords opened before Google was a publicly traded company and literally were shut down abruptly without the ability to respond." Rabinowitz adds that Google is, in some ways, creating opportunity in the marketplace—there’s plenty of money to be lapped up by mid-tier search engines who actually believe in free speech.

According to a Google representative, notices were sent out in March warning clients about the impending changes effective in June. That was meant to give people plenty of notice to change their advertising campaigns. Not the case. “When they first notified, they gave the false pretense that there was an opportunity to step up and comply with more aggressive compliance standards," Rabinowitz says. Because letters such as these are standard fare for XXX companies, no one was worried. Jumping through hoops to maintain status as a legitimate business is nothing really new.

No one saw the red flags until June when the ban took effect with what the adult companies feel was little warning. They've come to rely on the consistency of AdWords, spending a large percentage of their advertising budget to generate steady sales. But adult advertising campaigns came to a screeching halt.

"Everyone is wondering why now?" says XBIZ president and publisher Alec Helmy. "Maybe the profitability on a market aggregate level has dropped to a level where it is no longer worth it to associate with the industry. Maybe the risk to reward ratio is no longer what it used to be." No longer swimming in the dough, means less money for the adult industry to grease the partnership wheels.

Affiliates have been known to pressure big companies into dropping XXX clients. No organization has been more vocal than Morality in Media. While they're quick to claim credit for Google's recent decision (they blogged a meeting in May that yielded these results), the Internet giant had sent announced the news months earlier.

"There is this trend towards ghettoization of the industry," says Helmy. "It's already happening in the UK where they started filtering out porn websites as well as sexually explicit sites that contain health related information."

So Google isn't alone in their new disdain for porn profits. Despite its new policies, a Google representative assured me that search results will still yield organic results. Whew. Unless Google changes its mind, that should be one less worry for the adult industry. I doubt the company wants to risk millions of people taking their search engine relationship elsewhere. You know, like the porn-friendly Bing.