What does adult entertainment do in the time of social distancing?

Topics porn | YouTube | Instagram

To a large extent, traction has been driven by porn for the new social media trends, though net traffic has risen all-round
The pandemic has led to significant changes in the social media landscape. Many content creators have moved onto platforms that allow for premium subscription models where they interact intimately with followers, and charge them directly. This could pose an interesting challenge for the advertisement-driven model that has propelled YouTube to the top of the social media heap.

To a large extent, traction has been driven by porn for the new social media trends, though net traffic has risen all-round. The adult entertainment industry has always been an early adopter of technology. In the 19th century, risqué postcards appeared soon after photographic plates. Ditto for phone sex via rotary dial phones. Porn movies quickly went Technicolor, and porn cassettes influenced widespread VCR (video-cassette recorder) penetration.

The internet led to an explosion of online porn. And, the blocking of porn sites by governments led to widespread adoption of VPNs and video-downloaders. But what does adult entertainment do during a pandemic that demands social distancing?

Adult entertainers can’t travel to shoot in exotic locales; they can’t hold live shows with audiences. But they do have captive audiences, assuming they can reach them. So, traffic has exploded on porn sites. Pornhub, which aggregates over 12 million videos, claims traffic has spiked an average of 15-20 per cent daily since lockdowns. It has pulled in more viewers by making its premium offers free for the first seven days.

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But Pornhub isn’t lucrative for adult actors. Adult studios pay little. An entertainer gets paid only once for a shoot. One-on-one sessions and escort services are lucrative, as are nightclub tours and conventions with fan-interactions. (Yes, porn has conventions and awards!)

But both options are now ruled out. Channels like YouTube, DailyMotion and Vimeo don’t work for adult entertainers due to censorship issues, and also, most advertisers are wary of the brand associations.

What does seem to work is the freemium, or premium subscription, model. Take a site like OnlyFans. It claimed 200,000 content creators and 20 million viewers by March end — it said that 3.5 million of those users signed in March itself along with 60,000 content creators.

Content creators who set up channels at Onlyfans can charge subscribers (or not). OnlyFans offers both pay-per-view for video and monthly subscription for channels. It hosts cookery classes, game-playing coaches, musicians and gym instructors, who all seem to do well by catering to their target audiences. OnlyFans offers a good model for porn as well and you’ll see many adult actors advertising on Twitter with claims about their OnlyFans rank.  
Canadian platform ManyVids has a similar model is almost exclusively about adult videos. The subscription revenue splits seem generous with the content creator keeping a much bigger slice (up to 80 per cent on OnlyFans) than in other places.
Cameo is another platform that offers variations on these themes. It allows people to request personalised video messages for payment, and its user-base is composed of celebrity fans, wannabe pastry chefs, and adult entertainment viewers.

Porn stars also use Twitch.tv, which has pay models. You can stream anything on Twitch.tv and charge what you think the market will bear. While adult entertainers entertain adults, Twitch is also popular among chess fans. (The two groups do overlap — indeed a strong Dutch Grandmaster has supposedly starred in porn flicks.)
Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura has a very popular Twitch channel and makes a decent living streaming games and interacting with fans.

Another thing adult entertainers are good at is leveraging mainstream platforms. They use Snapchat, Instagram, Instagram Live and figure out off-site methods of monetisation of followers on these platforms. One leading adult entertainer says she manages to convert about 30 per cent of her Instagram following into paid Onlyfans subscribers — that’s a fantastic ratio. Others use Patreon to crowd-fund.

This trend of using premium social media platforms may have been driven by adult entertainment. But we’re likely to see content creators from other, less exotic, fields as the format catches on. 

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