This week, it’s been reported from several news outlets that OnlyFans, the popular premium subscription service known mostly for explicit content will be banning explicit content from October 1, 2021 forward. Why would they do this? What are they planning for the future? Could OnlyFans now become a better option for artists and photographers?
Recently, I’ve taken some interest in OnlyFans. I discovered earlier this year that the founder of OnlyFans is from my hometown and actually went to school with my girlfriend.
What’s interested me the most is how OnlyFans has marketed itself and how well they’ve created a brand identity. I’d go so far as to say that the word OnlyFans is as synonymous with posting adult content online as Tannoy is with public address systems or Hoover is with vacuum cleaners. During the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, there have been many people who have made a reasonable income from posting premium content on the OnlyFans platform. It became a safe way for sex workers to still engage with their market in a world where social and physical contact was forbidden. It’s a testament to their branding that so many people flocked to OnlyFans when services such as Patreon already had a good userbase and allowed certain amounts of adult content. Right now, OnlyFans seems like the Wild West of premium subscription services: anyone can get involved, it's not heavily regulated, and there are people making a lot of money from the service. I guess the bubble had to burst at some point.
What Are the Changes Starting October 1st?
This is a great question, and at the time of writing, OnlyFans has yet to outline the specifics. Yet, every major news outlet is posting sensationalist headlines that OnlyFans is banning explicit content. OnlyFans has confirmed that users will no longer be able to post explicit content. However, creators will be able to post nudity as long as it conforms to OnlyFans' terms of service. Their press release says that more information on the specifics will follow in due course. I have reached out to some acquaintances who are content creators on the OnlyFans platform, and they have informed me that OnlyFans has responded individually to a number of creators' concerns after these announcements, confirming that creators will be able to continue posting adult content that meets OnlyFans; terms of service. This expressly bans images of anyone under the age of 18, of torture, rape, revenge porn, or sex trafficking. My understanding is that creators must undergo enhanced age and identity verification that regular user accounts do not have so that creators can continue to post nudity while regular users cannot. These sound like fairly sensible criteria with the suggestion from OnlyFans that there will be no major changes to what creators can post. It’s worth noting that OnlyFans has historically deleted a number of confirmed accounts that they discovered to be posting images of persons under the age of 18; this can only be a good thing and demonstrates that their verification process is probably fit for the purpose.
Why All the Fuss?
Looking at the wording from OnlyFans, as well as some replies to actual content creators, my personal feeling is that this is just a great marketing strategy from OnlyFans. There may be some small changes to just how explicit creators can be with their content, but everyone is now talking about them (myself included). It’s as sensational as a headline like “Apple banning the sale of iPhones.” Most major news outlets are talking about their service and speculating on the changes, which are yet to be specifically confirmed by OnlyFans. Surely, it's no coincidence that OnlyFans has recently released an app for Android and iOS that allows users to post safe-for-work content such as fitness, cooking, and DIY. The new app is called OFTV and is allowed on mobile app stores because it contains no adult content at all.
My feeling is that this app launch and all the noise being made about OnlyFans banning explicit content, when in reality, it doesn’t look as though they are actually banning much at all, is a heavy-handed attempt to clean up their image and make the company more appealing to investors. If OnlyFans starts to look more like Patreon than PornHub, they may have access to more investors who could otherwise be scared off by the link to pornography. It's also been reported that OnlyFans payment processors are unhappy with their ties to somewhat unregulated explicit content. After all, no one wants to be associated with explicit images of children, let alone inadvertently profiting from them, and many companies don’t want to be directly associated with adult entertainment at all.
What Does Any of This Have To Do With Photographers?
It’s my belief that OnlyFans is trying very hard to change their branding and public image without upsetting their content creators too much or actually disrupting all of that money that comes in from subscribers every month. The action taken to limit what unverified users can post is a positive one in preventing inappropriate images of people who may not consent or may be underage. This is good, so well done, OnlyFans. This is still a very long way away from OnlyFans outright banning all explicit images.
If there wasn’t a stigma attached to OnlyFans then they may become another legitimate service to support artists and photographers in the same way that many artists use Patreon. At present, if I asked someone to subscribe to my OnlyFans, they would likely have a different content expectation compared to the suggestion that they support me on Patreon, although the services can be used in very similar ways. I think that OnlyFans is aiming to aggressively change their image to engage with a wider variety of content creators from different fields. This has the potential to be good for all creators, as more platforms mean more choice, and more competition in the market can mean better terms for creators. With recent criticism of Instagram for their policies on what constitutes nudity, surely an unfiltered platform is a good thing?
What do you think about the OnlyFans announcement? Would you use OnlyFans if they changed their image? Do you already use OnlyFans?
As always, let me know your thoughts in the comments. Remember to be nice.