Why Fstoppers Is Blocking Nudity And NSFW Content

Why Fstoppers Is Blocking Nudity And NSFW Content

Over the past  years Fstoppers.com has grown into something much more massive than I ever could have imagined. Patrick and I built this website from absolutely nothing and all of our success can be attributied to trial and error. We decided over a year ago that the new website would block NSFW content and today I will explain to you why we made that decision.

My job has changed

Before I get into the reasons why we made this decision I want to give you a small glimpse of my life as the owner of Fstoppers. 4 years ago Fstoppers was a hobby but today, this website has become my career. As Fstoppers has grown in size so have the haters. Happy readers don't comment but angry ones love to express their opinions.  Every time we updated our website the highest rated comment would be something like "The site looked better before the update." Every other comment on one of our posts became a negative attack on our website or the writer of the article.

Over the years we have learned to take critiques from every angle and with every new venture we attempt.  Three years ago Patrick and I worked for 9 months filming and editing our first ever digital product: Peter Hurley's, The Art Behind The Headshot. Before we released it we showed it to a few of our writers. Half of them told us it was boring, poorly filmed and perhaps even un-releasable .  We did not necessarily agree with them so we released it anyway because we had spent so much energy creating it.  Our own intuition was correct thought as it became one of the highest selling and acclaimed photography tutorials of all time. 

Every time we release a new product for sale, people love to tell us how it is over priced or how we are scamming the industry. They will buy it, put it online for free and then demand a refund from us. When we released our first light modifier, the Flash Disc,  we had tons of people claiming that I copied the Flash Bender even though I built the first prototype product 8 years ago and even own the patent on it.  Our haters said it wouldn't sell and we were making a big mistake investing in another unnecessary photography tool.  We stood by our product, put it on sale, and we sold all of our 1000 units in a few hours.  It was such a success that today people are eagerly waiting for the next shipment to arrive.  

I've learned to tune out the haters. Even my closest friends and family members can be extremely negative when it comes to change or when faced with a new idea. In many cases I've stopped seeking advice or opinions and I simply implement my idea. I've grown tired of people who don't accomplish much themselves, telling me what I should and shouldn't do. 

About 1 year ago we hired an incredible web developer to build the "new" Fstoppers. Our goal was to keep the standard blog the same as it had always been so that casual users could still enjoy the site but we wanted to implement a very complex "community" feature that would allow photographers to connect in a deep new way. Although the FS Community is currently live, many of the features are still in development and will be available soon. One of the small "features" of the new site was a "worksafe mode" which would allow you to block out nudity and other NSFW (not safe for work) content. If you weren't logged in, worksafe mode would automatically remain on so that no nudity would be seen if you stumbled upon the site. There are 3 main reasons why we wanted to create this. 

1. Appearances

If you remember the Fstoppers from the last 4 years, we almost never posted articles or images with nudity. There were probably less than 10 posts ever made that had nudity or what I would consider NSFW content. Nudity in photography is pretty prevalent and we did feel like we were missing out on posting some quality content because we wanted to keep our clean and family friendly vibe. Being that the new Fstoppers would allow anyone to upload pictures to their public portfolios, we knew that we needed to block nudity from those people who weren't interested in seeing it. 

I'm a big fan of Model Mayhem; it honestly helped me in a big way when I was first starting my career. That being said, MM has a very sleazy vibe to most people because of the types of pictures you can find on that site. We don't want Fstoppers to be the next haven for pornography and therefore we decided to block NSFW content unless you are logged in and specifically choose to see it. If our community becomes really trashy we will take even more steps to clean up the site. 

Yesterday I posted an article with 13 different nude body painting videos. I would have never posted something like this on the previous versions of Fstoppers because I feel like it has too much nudity to be public. I just taught a class at a high school a couple months ago and they go to Fstoppers every day during the class to see what's new. Obviously this wouldn't work if there was nudity on our site. We want Fstoppers to be a safe place for anyone at any age to view. 

2. Advertising

Although it makes people angry to admit, Fstoppers is a business. Our expenses are insane. We have an office, insurance, 40 part time employees, 2 full time employees, advertising costs for our own products, insane server costs, and endless other bills. We wrote more checks going out last year than I made shooting photography in the last 8 years of my career combined! The only reason that we can afford to have as much free content as we do is because we make money with advertising and selling products. This money also allowed us to take a massive risk this year and produce our first ever live workshop

Last year Google Adsense banned us for a few months because we had 3 pages on our website they had "nudity" (it really wasn't even nudity). In those few months we lost thousands and thousands of dollars that could have been spent creating some awesome new content or site functionality. 

For Google to remain happy we don't have to block all nudity, (we simply have to remove their ads from all pages with nudity) but it's simply easier to block all nudity to the public. Our other advertisers may also not want to show up on our site if it has nudity plastered all over the front of it. We have a huge partnership with B&H and they are an extremely religious organization. We can't have Fstoppers banned from their offices because of our content. 

3. Inspiring signups

Many people, including at least one of our own writers, believe that we want readers to sign up for the new Fstoppers so that we can capture user email addresses and send them spam so that they will buy more products from us. This is not true. I am being 100% honest when I say that I want more people to sign up because it will make them more active on the website. The average users spends about 2 minutes on our site per visit. The average logged in user spends about 20 minutes on our site per visit.  I truly believe these active users are becoming a bigger part of the Fstoppers community which over time will make it one of the most exciting places to post your work, critique the work of others, find other photographers in your area, and open your mind to new ideas, techniques, and overall inspiration.  

Fstoppers will always remain a casual place to surf while you are bored at work, but my vision for Fstoppers isn't simply a site where you waste time and casually read. The new community has the opportunity to be the most interactive place for photographers on the web. The notification system alone will let you know when someone has commented on one of your images or has replied to one of your comments on a post. That feature alone now makes it so much easier to stay connected. 

We will continue to make our community better and better and these features will make more photographers want to sign up but seeing NSFW images is sadly one of the perks of signing up that will push many photographers to actually hit the button to sign up. 

I want to be 100% clear that we have no intention of tricking people or forcing people to sign up. All of the NSFW content on our site would not have existed on the old site. It's new content and a new feature of a new website. If you don't want to sign up that is totally fine, you simply won't get the perks of the new system. It was very important to me that the new website would not remove features for our older, loyal user base and I feel that we have accomplished that. In fact we have more writers and more free content than ever before.  

Where I screwed up

Yesterday I made a NSFW post and I asked our marketing guy to post it on Facebook. He warned me that it would make a lot of people angry because they would only be able to see the post if they signed up and I told him that I wanted to do it anyway to see the number of clicks vs new signups.

As we expected it made a lot of people angry. What most people don't realize is that when you are mad about something, and you comment on it to show your anger, you are only promoting it more. The average post on our Facebook page reaches about 20k people. This post reached 70k people because it got so many angry comments. 

I knew this was going to cause a stir and I am 100% to blame for this and I admit it was a sleazy move. I just needed to run the numbers to come up with a game plan for the future, and this post seemed like an interesting test. Right now I want to apologize to our loyal readers who I angered by doing this. 

I'm still listening

I hope I've done a decent job of explaining myself and this situation. I have become accustomed to the "haters" and it has become easy for me to completely block them out, but I do really care about the Fstoppers community and your opinions. Without you the reader, we wouldn't exist. I know you guys are going to keep me in line and I want you to know that my whole team loves calling me out as well. Even my web developer, who agreed a year ago to build the site to work like is now fighting with me about this NSFW stuff.  Nothing is completely set in stone, and even though I know we will never be able to please everyone 100%, I am still open to suggestions on how to make this the best website I can.  

Maybe one day we will open up NSFW content to the public but as of now that is not our goal. My biggest mistake however was promoting this post and we will not promote this blocked content on Facebook anymore. 

The new FS Community and commenting system have already become a huge success. We currently have more comments than ever before, they are far more kind and positive than they have ever been, and the writers of the articles are notified so they are able to quickly respond to the readers. We have no intention of changing Fstoppers.com and forcing people to sign up to view standard blog posts. The same blog that you know and love isn't going anywhere but we will be adding more and more killer features to the Fstoppers Community over the next few months and we would love for you to be a part of it.

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106 Comments

Congratulations. I really like the new format.

I try not to be a dick, but I have been very critical of you guys in the past. It always seemed that you guys have still listened. I appreciate that greatly.

This is a great post. This kind of explanation goes a long way towards generating good will. It also gives a very interesting BTS look at what it actually takes to run something that everyone assumes they could do better.

Lee Morris's picture

Thanks James, I'm glad you appreciated it.

And BTW, awesome that you take time to teach young students. That has absolutely been the most rewarding part of my career.

Lee Morris's picture

It was a lot of fun going back to high school. I don't see how students can learn in a 45 minute class period though!

Noam Galai's picture

I barely learned anything is a 12 year period... so...

Wyatt Michalek's picture

Zing! but agreed

Zach Sutton's picture

Most offensive part of this is when you referred to us as part time employees. With as active as the chatter is in the private fstoppers writers group, there is no way we're consider part time

Lee Morris's picture

Part time employees but we are all full-time time wasters :)

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Why does this offend you? Was it not made clear in your work agreement that you were part-time? If that is the case, why did you think his description was directed at you?
Also, if you collaborate with the folks at Fstoppers, why would you make a comment like that in a public place. Isn't that something that should be brought up in private discussions?

Lee Morris's picture

It was a joke, we all waste a ton of time cracking jokes on a hidden Facebook group we are in

Zach Sutton's picture

I was kidding.

And I'm one of the three editors on staff, so I do work on the website more than most people do, but I get paid for my extra time spent working on the website and making sure everything goes out in a timely environment.

Rebecca Britt's picture

We all have our roles on the website. It was obviously a joke.

Patrick Hall's picture

Technically it's a sub contractor....no one is really "part time" here.

Lee Morris's picture

lol

Adam Ottke's picture

And there it is...this has now become like our Facebook group Lee referenced...

Chet Meyerson's picture

Lee, I'm not a hater and I think you are always trying to do the 'right' thing. We all stumble occasionally and admitting a mistake is a very honorable thing to do, Let the hater-hate.

Great Article Lee. This brings a lot of things to light.

Adam Bender's picture

Good on you Lee. Handled like a boss! I really enjoy the new site and I come here multiple times a day for content.

Michael Cinquino's picture

Well said, Lee. As I'm learning myself, the bigger you get - not only the more success you'll have but also the amount of responsibility grows as well. Congrats on the new site and continuing to grow the Fstoppers brand. I find the site incredibly helpful and I really enjoy the variety of the posts. Keep truckin' guys!

Like anything else, at first I felt a bit lost when browsing. Now I can't remember the old design. I love the heaters—They just fuel you when you gain the ability to block them. If heaters hate it, then do it!
Keep on the good work Lee

ben guidry's picture

what's an f? and why are you guys so hell bent on stopping it?

Ryan Delos reyes's picture

I didn't mind signing up. I was just a little irritated after going through the sign up process, I still wasn't able to view most of the videos because I was using my iphone. That should have been mentioned. Oh well.

Lee Morris's picture

Why is that? Our site is super optimized for cell phones. If a particular video didn't load it was because the owner of the video changed the settings to block mobile.

Peter Drage's picture

Personally I love the new site, change is good and required. Keep up the excellent content and work, it is really appreciated, i have learned so much from your website. NSFW filter is excellent as I can use the site at work without worry. So many sites are good but have content that would cause issues.

Tony Guillaro's picture

Very well written and I fully understand why there can be no "NSFW" content.

I would just like to say something based off my own opinion.

You all are doing an amazing job, you brought the photography community closer than anyone has ever dreamed of! I may not be famous or well known, but I am the photographer I am today because of you all and your contributions. I can not thank you all enough for allowing me to grow in my craft, If you've only changed one persons life from this site being created- It was mine!

Ps.. F*ck the good for nothing haters!

Lee Morris's picture

So glad to hear you say that Tony!

Lee, from that first video in Vegas to the re-design of the site, you guys have always kept an honest and enthusiastic dialogue with this growing community and this post is no different. Keep up the good work!

Patrick Hall's picture

Shhh....let's not mention that first video from Vegas :) It has been a while ride and we have been so blessed to have experienced all of this with everyone here. Meeting our peers in person has been some of the most rewarding experiences of my life and I'm excited to now finally see the amazing work you all are producing as well in your own portfolios!

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