2 min read

πŸ† Sex and the creator economy

πŸ† Sex and the creator economy
Photo by charlesdeluvio / Unsplash

A basic rule of the internet is that sex is embedded in its social nature. Online sex sells more than combined education, investigation, science, technology, or market analysis.

In practice, the top ten content creators of OnlyFans earn $470m, while the top ten authors on Substack earn less than $20m. And OnlyFans' revenues went from $150m to $1.2B within the last two years. Even better, their GMV grew during the same period from $2.2B to $12.5B.

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OnlyFans is a UK-based subscription platform where fans can pay artists as a one-off tip, on a monthly basis, or for specific pay-per-view content. Initially aimed at musicians and other artists, adult content creators, and sex workers flocked to it for its convenience. The platform has about 2 million content creators and more than 130 million 'fans.'
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The Gross Merchandise Value or GMV is the total value of merchandise sold over a given period of time on a customer-to-customer (C2C) platform.

It's true though that the GMV is challenging to assess on Substack. As a consultant myself (not on Substack but Ghost – same logic), some articles directly lead to missions in the €30-50K range. But neither Ghost nor Substack can track this back to their GMV (nor do they get a cut on this).

The lesson to be learned with OnlyFans (which we are definitely not on, sorry for our biggest fans) is that they focused from the start on the business of adult content creators, not just growth or number of subscriptions. In doing so, they found practical solutions to foundational issues in this business, such as copyright infringement, consent, minor protection, and creator's security.

Compare this to Substack, a good tool for writing and publishing but nothing much else. The appeal of this platform is that it became a solid reference for finding the best newsletter authors. This, in turn, leads to a dilution of the proverbial attention economy: when everyone flocks to the same platform, as unique as you are, chances are that you become the smallest fish in a bottomless pond. In that regard, the success of Substack becomes detrimental to the platform's creators, lost in an ever-growing long tail.

Anecdotally, Ghost launched an invite-only creator community where a small group of participants can be invited to join a private Discord server and be introduced to a community of 350+ creators to share ideas and get support. I was happy to participate last month, and it felt really... early stage (I'm being nice because I genuinely love what the Ghost team is doing), but if anything, it's the right mindset.

Of course, no one in tech wants to put adult entertainment as a model of anything. Which is a real shame since this part of the ecosystem is running a few years ahead of everyone else and has developed real insights that the rest of us should be learning. Fast.

Also? In a perfect tech world, Zuckerberg should have serious focus groups with adult content creators, asking them why they don't care about VR.