When OnlyFans announced plans to ban sexually explicit content, the Internet was flooded with comparisons to another site that notoriously took the “family-friendly” route – and promptly lost many of its users.
Tumblr, a blog site that enjoyed cult status among teens in early 2010, banned “adult” posts in 2018, only to experience an immediate 30% drop in visits, according to the traffic monitor at Tumblr. SimilarWeb Internet.
Purchased by Yahoo for $1.1 billion (about Rs. 8,170 million) in 2013, Tumblr had already been sold in 2019 to a new owner for a paltry $3 million (about Rs. 22 million).
Twitter users shared memes predicting a similar end for OnlyFans, a site with 150 million users – most of whom subscribe to obscene content, sold directly by the people who create it.
“Tumblr and OnlyFans leaving after they both banned porn,” read a widely shared tweet, showing two headstones side by side.
Sex certainly sells. Since launching in 2016, OnlyFans has paid more than $4.5 billion (about INR 33,410 crores) to content creators, which include celebrities like rapper Cardi B and well-known porn stars, but also students and grandparents who supplement their income .
So has the company doomed itself to failure by banning exactly what it’s known for?
Modest Payment Processors
“This is a bold move by OnlyFans, considering the revenue generated by adult content artists,” said Scarlett Woodford, an analyst at Juniper Research who published a study this week on the future of adult digital entertainment.
The UK website, which obtains a 20% reduction in revenue from performers, cited pressure from bankers and investors for the decision.
It wouldn’t be the first time financial companies have been blamed for what critics say is an unwarranted crackdown on sexual expression and represents the removal of many of the sex workers who made the site a success.
Patreon, another site through which fans can support creators, announced a similar ban on explicit content in 2017, under pressure from banks.
“Credit card companies and financial institutions consider adult entertainment to be a high-risk sector,” explained Woodford – mainly due to the high rate of transactions that people dispute, claiming they were accidental.
Payment processing companies and investors are also increasingly concerned that they may be accused of financing illegal material that reaches sites that allow adult content.
Visa and Mastercard temporarily banned payments to sites belonging to pornographic giant MindGeek last year, due to reports that it hosted non-consensual “vengeance pornography”.
And this month, US lawmakers called for an investigation into alleged child pornography posted on OnlyFans.
cooking and yoga
US news website Axios reported last week that “several companies with lots of funds” refused to invest in OnlyFans because of the “porn problem.”
OnlyFans has yet to specify what will be prohibited under its new policy from October, although it says nudity will still be allowed.
The ban on “explicit content” was met with great consternation by groups of sex workers, who said the site provided financial security and a safe working environment for tens of thousands of people during the pandemic.
But a rebranding is already underway, with OnlyFans posing as a site where people can go to subscribe to videos of their favorite chefs or yoga instructors.
Losing your obscene niche will put OnlyFans in more direct competition with sites like Patreon, Woodford warned.
And it remains to be seen whether mainstream content creators and their fans can be persuaded to go there.
Texas painter Bria Gladney didn’t last long at OnlyFans for much longer than a week. “The public there isn’t interested in tree paintings, if you know what I mean,” she said.
But OnlyFans has aggressively recruited healthy content providers, from singers to fitness trainers.
“I was absolutely hesitant to create an account,” artist and drag queen Chase Ingrande told AFP. “Not because I think pornographic content is a negative thing – I’m just not that kind of creator.”
Ingrande posts singing clips as well as makeup tutorials – for example, how he makes his bushy eyebrows disappear as he transforms into his drag alter ego, Chase Runaway.
Toronto fashion designer Barbara Aleks was also reluctant to join, until OnlyFans persuaded her to open a page by offering to promote it.
“Once they educated me on the platform itself and explained that there is another side to it, I thought I’d give it a try,” she said.
“It gives me access to an audience that might not necessarily find me on Instagram or TikTok. And it gives me the opportunity to share exclusive paid content in the future.”