Pornhub reports bump in traffic amid government shutdown

The federal government has been shut down for nearly a month. So how are furloughed workers spending their free time? 

Many are, of course, dealing with the very serious consequences of going without pay for an extended period. But in terms of what they’re doing to unwind during these tense times, Pornhub offers one possible answer.

In data released Thursday, the adult video platform reports that traffic showed an average daily increase of 5.94% during the week of Jan. 7th (the shutdown’s third week) over traffic in the weeks before the shutdown, which started on Dec. 22

pornhub government shutdown traffic

Now, it’s important to note here that correlation doesn’t equal causation. After all, it’s winter and people are spending more times indoors instead of out and about and, well, people have to stay entertained somehow. No judgment here! 

That said, Pornhub notes a shift with heavy increases in traffic late at night with lower traffic than usual during the morning followed by another traffic spike in the early afternoon. These patterns are similar to other events like winter storms, situations in which people might stay up later because they don’t have to go to work the next day. 

Additionally, Pornhub traffic in the Washington, D.C. area showed a similar spike over the same time period with an average daily increase of 6.32 percent versus pre-shutdown traffic. 

Pornhub also notes the following categories showed the biggest increase in traffic during that measured time:

  • Outdoor +71%

  • Threesome +66%

  • Old/Young +60%

Make of that what you will.

As for methodology, the week of Jan. 7th was selected by Pornhub for measurement as it was likely to no longer be affected by holiday vacations while the pre-shutdown traffic averages were taken from the weeks of December 3rd through 7th and December 10th through 17th. 

Whether the spike in traffic continues remains to be seen, but for now there’s no real end in sight for the shutdown.

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America’s most stunning jerks are flocking to your national parks

Like an unlocked museum, national parks have been left largely defenseless during the most recent government shutdown, allowing scoundrels and cheats to tramp over unstaffed lands.

While much of the federal government is funded during the longest-ever shutdown, the national parks aren’t. Yet in 2018, the Trump administration made the unusual — and possibly illegal — decision to keep many of the nation’s crown jewels operating with skeleton crews.

Destruction, mounds of litter, and vandalism have ensued. This unsavory form of recreation has been especially stark in Joshua Tree National Park, where people cut through locked gates, created roads on protected wild land, and may have committed a bona fide desert sin: chopping down a Joshua tree.

“If they really are a full-fledged asshole, there’s not too much hope.”

But why would anyone exploit such vulnerable national resources for selfish motives, faux perceptions of power, or bizarre satisfaction? 

“It’s not only that they knew they wouldn’t get caught, but they take delight in the destruction of the place,” says Aaron James, a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Irvine and author of the book Assholes: A Theory.

James does note that it’s unknown who exactly drove into Joshua Tree, chose to deface the park and plop their tents down on long-protected land. But there’s potential, he says, that some of the culprits were younger.

“Maybe they’re just teenagers going through an asshole phase,” said James.”You don’t know if they’re proper assholes.”

What makes an asshole? From James’ studies on the topic, they are rational adults who allow themselves to “enjoy special advantages in social relations out of an entrenched sense of entitlement that immunizes [them] against the complaints of other people.”

This stubborn subset of people may be resistant to changing their ingrained, entitled behavior.

“If they really are a full-fledged asshole, there’s not too much hope,” says James.

“It’s a fundamental split in the philosophy of people,” says Christoph Adami, a professor of microbiology and molecular genetics at Michigan State University who conducted research illustrating that selfish behavior among humans is not evolutionarily sustainable, but rather a long-term detriment. 

Despite that, people act selfishly.  This is because, in the short term, selfishness can be a valuable tactic. It could mean getting to off-road and camp in forbidden places or the visceral anti-regulation joy of “sticking it to the government.” Beyond parks, it could mean reaping big financial gain, at the expense of others

“The selfish strategy will win over the short-term,” said Adami. “Absent certain forms of punishment, this is the rational and correct strategy.” 

Selfish behavior eventually loses out to longer-term cooperation, emphasizes Adami. Yet, punishment is the only thing that will stop a certain subset of people who cheat the system.

“If cheaters aren’t being punished, they ruin it for everybody,” says Adami.

But in shutdown-vulnerable national parks with few rangers, people recognize that they either won’t be punished for acting selfishly, or they won’t be caught. 

And in today’s polarized-America, this behavior is further stoked by political passions. 

“A larger political environment can encourage assholery,” notes James.

Take the anti-government sentiment that’s wafting through the country. “The mistreating, exploiting, and vandalizing of national parks during the government shutdown is of a piece with the anti-government sentiment that helped propel the election of Donald Trump as president,” says Richard Grusin, the director of the Center for 21st Century Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“It seems like they are attacking nature, but they are attacking an ideology of government,” adds Grusin, the author of Culture, Technology, and the Creation of America’s National Parks.

National parks, places for all Americans, “grew out of an expression of socialism, or democratic socialism,” explains Grusin. These were grand parks for everyone. “Public use and recreation was more important than private profit and development.”

But the Trump administration has successfully reversed course. They are actively promoting development at the expense of protected lands. And Grusin suspects Trump’s base is feeding off the same anti-government, anti-regulation sentiments. He cites the Bundy ranchers armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge visitor center in 2016. 

“You have a kind of radical antigovernment individualism,” says Grusin.

Adami, who suspects that most of the national park vandals are Trump supporters, likens the issue to the public’s perception of global warming: One in three Americans don’t accept government scientists’ repeated warnings about the detrimental societal consequences of a globally disrupted climate.

“They don’t really care,” Adami says, noting that they take a purposefully contrarian attitude.  “This type of ‘I don’t care about others’ attitude is the type being promulgated by this [Trumpian] politics.”

It’s unknown what percentage of the U.S. population fits James’ “asshole” designation, or Adami’s natural born “cheater” classification. Regardless, the largely unwatched national parks have enabled them. 

“This opens the floodgates for a small percentage of people,” says Josh Klapow, a clinical psychologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s School of Public Health.

This selfish or destructive behavior is a release from their primal instincts, the “Id” or impulsive, biological parts of our personality, as Freud described it, notes Klapow. In the case of national parks, it’s allowed this unpleasant, illegal behavior to emerge even though the perpetrators know it’s wrong.

“A larger political environment can encourage assholery.”

It’s animalistic. 

“It’s our less civilized selves,” says Klapow. 

To guard against uncivil behavior or persons, the future of the parks is heavily dependent upon the the continued watchful eyes of the people who are invested in conservation, like park rangers and staff. Jon Jarvis, the former chief of the Park Service, has emphasized that the parks shouldn’t be open at all during a shutdown — in part because of bad actors.

“The existence of a punishing body is absolutely essential,” says Adami. 

But there hasn’t been enough park staff around to stop them. 

“They feel licensed to do it,” says James. 

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Kit Harington kept Jon Snow statue from crypt in ‘Game of Thrones’ trailer

Every sentimental franchise actor has to keep a token from their time on set. Who among us wouldn’t snag a lightsaber, wand, or other iconic prop if we were part of the films and shows that made them legend? 

So it was for Game of Thrones‘ Kit Harington, who revealed on BBC Radio that kept, not his sword or man bun or IKEA furs, but the statue of his character we just saw in the crypts.

Harington told morning show host Zoe Ball that he and only he of the Starks (or Targaryens) kept his crypt statue – for emotional reasons, of course.

“They sent it to my house,” he said with a laugh. “Got it in my shed, how sad is that? I was the only one who kept the statue, that’s how narcissistic I am. I’m gonna turn it into a water feature.”

Harington recently described himself and his costars as being “broken” by the end of filming the final six episodes, but they remain bonded by the experience and by being the only ones who know how this massive story all ends.

“It’s weird…I think for all of us, walking around with this big kind of secret, cause we know how it all wraps up,” he told Ball.

Harington said he was “maybe not happy, but very satisfied” by the end, likening it to the bittersweet feeling of finishing a book (cough cough, George R.R. Martin).

“You don’t finish a good book and say, ‘I’m happy I finished that,'” Harington said. “But you have this grief that it’s over, and it’s exactly same with nine years doing this show. No matter how it ended, or how it does end, there’s always this bit of you that’s like, ‘oh’; there’s this loss around it.”

“I’m so excited for people to see it,” he added. “I think it’s going to be extraordinary, hopefully it’ll change TV again like it did originally, and break boundaries. I think it might.”

Game of Thrones Season 8 premieres April 14 on HBO.

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Houseparty taps ‘Heads Up’ to make money without ads

Can a social network make money without relying on advertising?

Houseparty, the video chat app so popular with teens Facebook copied it, is about to find out. The app, which bills itself as a “face to face social network,” just took its first step toward actually making money.

The app is teaming up with Warner Brothers to put a version of Heads Up, the charades-like game popularized by Ellen DeGeneres, inside of its app. Beginning today, Houseparty users can access a lightweight version of Heads Up from within their group video chats.

Unlike the standalone app, Houseparty’s Heads Up feature lets users play without plunking down cash up front. There will be three free decks to choose from, and users can purchase additional decks for an in-app purchase. (If you’ve previously purchased decks in the standalone app, they won’t carry over to Houseparty.)

Houseparty will get a cut of all in-app purchases made via its Heads Up feature,. The company declined to share specifics of its agreement with Warner Brothers.

But partnering with Heads Up is a potentially lucrative deal for the three-year-old startup, which has yet to bring in any revenue of its own. The $0.99 game, launched as a standalone app in 2013 as a spinoff of a game DeGeneres played with guests on her show, has been the most popular paid game in Apple’s App Store for four straight years. It’s also incredibly profitable: Heads Up grossed more than $26 million in both app stores over the last five years, and took in $5 million in 2018 alone, according to data from app analytics firm Sensor Tower. 

If Houseparty can claim a piece of that, then it would be a significant win for the company, which made a conscious decision long ago to eschew traditional advertising models, according to cofounder and COO Sima Sistani.

“We have a big user base, they’re highly engaged [and] we can we can distribute content to them. But it’s important to me that they get to choose whether they want to engage. And that if they’re going to pay us for it, it’s because it’s an additive experience.”

Sistani says users can, however, expect more in-app games as well as other “shared experiences” as the company explores other content partnerships. 

For Houseparty, its move toward monetization comes at an important time. The video chat app has drawn the attention of larger competitors, like Facebook and Snapchat, because of its ability to attract younger users. But much of its early growth has now stalled, according to a recent report in Digiday, which cited slowing app installs. 

At the same time, the amount of time its users are spending in the app has increased, with the average user spending 60 minutes a day in Houseparty, according to the company. (By comparison, Snapchat says its users spend “more than 30 minutes per day” in its app, while Facebook claims more than 50 minutes a day across Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram.)

The sheer amount of time users spend in the app makes it all the more striking that Houseparty purposefully forgo advertising as a revenue source. Sistani says she knew very early on she did not want to purse monetization via advertising, a decision in part influenced by her experience at Tumblr, where she was previously head of media.

“Ads disrupted that community,” she said. “From the beginning, I’ve always said that I would like to try to approach monetization [for Houseparty] in a different way.

“I hope that we’re, you know, able to show a different path.”

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