Best of Slow Journalism: Prostitution and the internet

Photo: AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade

Photo: AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade

So far in our weekly ‘Best of Slow Journalism’ posts, we’ve tried to point you to some of the most powerful narrative long-form journalism available around the internet. The piece we’ve selected this week is slightly different: a brilliant data-driven investigation carried out by Economist home affairs correspondent Josie Delap.

More bang for your buck‘ examines how technology has changed prostitution. By web scraping, or using software to harvest data from websites, Delap and her colleagues analysed data from 190,000 online profiles of sex workers to find the latest trends in the oldest profession.

The piece deals with prostitution in a frank way, analysing it as an industry that’s affected by greater economic movements – not something inherently icky or morally wrong. One of the biggest findings is the steady drop in gobal hourly rates. Here’s what Delap says: “Men see buying sex as a luxury … and with the price of necessities rising it is one they are cutting back on.”

Delap also finds that, at $3,700, a typical boob job can be earned back with only 90 hours of work, considering the premium clients pay for a D cup.

We love this piece for its innovative use of publicly available data, and commend Delap for her tenaciousness: Delap recently said the piece had taken up one year from start to finish. ‘More bang for your buck’, along with a short audio feature are available online here.



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