While I realise that the world won’t magically reset when the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, I’m still counting down the days until this cursed year is over. I mean, the universe has to be running out of ammo to hit us with, right? So far 2020’s seen an ongoing global pandemic, the spread of murder hornets, a fire tornado, widespread political and social unrest, and the president and his supporters calling to bring back public executions.
But for at least one company, all those months of people stuck quarantined in their homes has made 2020 one of its most successful years on record. OnlyFans, a subscription-based social media platform where creators charge fans to access their content, has gone viral over the year in large part to user testimonials on TikTok and shoutouts from high-profile celebrities like Beyoncé and Michael B. Jordan, among others. It bills itself as a way for creators, especially those who have already built up a following on other social media platforms, to monetise their content and cater directly to fan requests with custom video and photos.
The platform, which is open to all creators but most closely associated with adult entertainment, generated more than $US2 ($3) billion in sales this year, the company’s founder and CEO Tim Stokely said in a recent Bloomberg interview. He claimed OnlyFans is “revolutionising creator and fan relations.”
“I thought, ‘What if you could build a platform that works like these social platforms already out there but with a key difference being the payment button?’” he told the outlet, adding: “It works as a great bolt-on to free social media. One of our selling pitches is, ‘Look, you’ve got a million followers on Instagram, if just 1% of them pay for Only Fans…’”
OnlyFans currently has more than 1 million creators that collectively rake in roughly $US200 ($269) million per month, and its userbase of 85 million is growing by as much as 500,000 every day, according to Stokely. To put those figures into perspective, in 2019, another leading subscription-based content platform, Patreon, had 100,000 creators and just surpassed $US1 ($1.4) billion in payouts after six years in business, per Techcrunch.
OnlyFans takes a roughly 20% cut from what its creators earn, so the company stands to make more than $US400 ($539) million in annual net sales this year, Bloomberg reported. While it’s been around since 2016, its growth has ballooned since March as the pandemic’s spread pushed more people to stay at home. Per the New York Times, the company reported 3.7 million new sign-ups in just a month — a 75% increase — with 60,000 of them being new creators. OnlyFans saw another huge traffic spike of around 15% in May after Beyoncé name-dropped it in a remix of “Savage” by rapper Megan Thee Stallion, a song that ironically also went viral on TikTok.
Stokely said the idea to launch OnlyFans was the culmination of several of his lesser-known online business ventures built around giving creators a place to sell their content, one of which was specifically geared toward fetishists, which should come as no surprise given OnlyFans’ reputation as a hub for NSFW content.
In its expansion this year, OnlyFans has also started seeing a wider variety of creators coming to its platform, from musicians like Cardi B and Swae Lee to TikTok stars and other celebrities. As mentioned before, the actor Michael B. Jordan of Creed and Black Panther fame has said he plans to make an OnlyFans account and leverage his recent win as People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive this year to raise money for a new business venture: a barber school.
What’s next on the horizon? In his interview with Bloomberg, Stokely said that OnlyFans plans to set up offices in Asia and Latin America and is working on a streaming service, OFTV, to host exclusive content from its creators, which could be anything from interviews to full-blown series. We’ve reached out to the company for further details on the service’s format and potential launch date, and will update with their response.
I’m not surprised to see that OnlyFans made beaucoup bucks this year after seeing so many people talk about it on my timeline these past few months, though $US2 ($3) billion in sales is way higher than anything I would have guessed. I think its success says something about the human condition: No matter how much the world burns around them, people will always be thirsty.
Gizmodo weekend editor. Freelance games reporter. Full-time disaster bi.
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