Despite calls from 21 attorney generals across the nation and child sex trafficking advocates like the Rebecca Project, Village Voice Media (parent company of the LA Weekly) and its online classified site Backpage.com is steamrolling ahead with its decision to keep accepting escort ads–months after the government forced Craigslist to shutter its popular “erotic services” section. That decision, though ethically questionable, is reaping huge financial dividends according to the New York Observer.
Backpage, which is a fraction of the size of Craigslist, is the only popular classifieds site left willing to host the paid escort and body-rub ads that are often thinly veiled fronts for prostitution. In the month after Craigslist closed its erotic services sections under pressure from Congress and state attorneys general, Backpage enjoyed a half-million-visitor bump in traffic, according to Quantcast, and became the No. 1 publisher of escort ads on the Internet. The Aim Group, a media consulting firm, estimated that in January, Backpage brought in $2.1 million in revenue from erotic services ads alone.
That’s big cash for a company that just settled its presumably multi-million dollar lawsuit (the terms of the deal were never disclosed) with the San Francisco Bay Guardian. And VVM is more than a bit touchy about holding on to that revenue. Last month this article ran in print or on the websites of all VVM papers, criticizing a Women’s Funding Network study which shows child prostitution is a booming business–aided by online ads.
Conflict of interest much VVM?
But just because the study may or may not be flawed doesn’t mean Backpage isn’t involved in shady business. As the Observer notes, so far in April alone crime blogger Trench Reynolds has caught three cases of underaged prostitutes being auctioned off on the site. Another former child prostitute sued VVM last September for publishing ads of her.
Jeez VVM. Take your dirty money and run if you must. But don’t use your editorial staff to try to convince us the whole endeavor is on the up and up.
Previously on Fishbowl LA: The Rebecca Project Goes After Village Voice Media On Sex Ads