pornocalypse-pitfall

It’s no secret that since 2005 or so, I have attempted to make a living at sex blogging. What may be news (if hardly surprising) is that I am no longer succeeding. The single biggest reason (and what I currently perceive as my largest business challenge) is that in 2015 there is no hope of growth in web traffic without social media, and social media companies are (predominantly) hostile to adult content. Generalizing: you can’t put (or link to) smut on social media, you can’t grow or even maintain your web traffic without social media, and so it’s very hard to make money on the adult web. Traffic and revenue decline, and there’s no way to chase it where it is. Back in 2012 at ErosBlog’s 10 anniversary, I wrote:

But what about the future? Will ErosBlog still be here in 2017? I’m less confident than I was in 2007; I grow older and move more slowly, while the world speeds up and accelerates into the future. But I’m persistent, and I’m stubborn. Unless I stop being entertained by porn (which seems unlikely) I can’t imagine not having bits of it that need pointed at and talked about. So, just as I did in 2007, I’ll say “I truly do hope so!”

I still hope so, yes I do. But it’s no longer clear that ErosBlog can survive as a profit-making enterprise. One of these days it may become a hobby, and a hobby with a much cheaper and less reliable server at that. I sometimes flatter myself that crowdfunding might offer a way forward, but it’s not immune from #pornocalypse either.

Enough about ErosBlog. Icons of the adult industry much bigger than me are struggling with the same dynamic. When your problems are also Hugh Hefner’s problems, you’re at least in good company. When I drunkenly posted the other night about the then-breaking news that Playboy was going to be putting panties on all of its Playmates going forward, commenter André adroitly identified the story as a #pornocalypse situation:

Pornocalypse comes to Playboy. Of all places. It was a common sense business decision, apparently. Porn is everywhere, so Playboy had long lost their edge, and in an age of sanitized social media, their only way to make it into mainstream platforms (Facebook et at) to – in their mind – secure a viable future (doubtful!) was to clean their act up and hide the nudity that offends the terms of service of those platforms.

André should write for Wired magazine. Here’s Wired:

Times have changed. Nudity and pornography are ubiquitous on the Internet. And people are buying fewer magazines overall, choosing instead to read online. Meanwhile, those same readers increasingly come to stories through third-party platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Those platforms have their own rules, and often prohibit or limit nudity. For Playboy to survive in a platform-driven world, the pressure to conform to those standards is immense—so much so that the publication is abandoning the core of its brand’s identity.

This isn’t really a new thing for Playboy. The company already transitioned its website away from full nudity, for the same reason:

Playboy‘s shift isn’t completely new. The magazine re-launched Playboy.com last year “as a safe-for-work site,” and has seen significant success. “Tens of millions of readers come to our non-nude website and app every month for, yes, photos of beautiful women, but also for articles and videos from our humor, sex and culture, style, nightlife, entertainment and video game sections,” the magazine says.

The company’s chief executive, Scott Flanders [says] that some content was made SFW “in order to be allowed on social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.” The Times also reports that following the website’s shift away from nudity traffic to the site increased “to about 16 million from about four million uniques users per month” as “the average age of its reader dropped from 47 to just over 30″—in other words, a demographic totally at home on social media.

Here’s the Wired summary of social media’s hostility to adult content:

On many social media platforms, the so-called community standards barring explicit content aren’t that different from what Hefner felt he was rebelling against when he famously published Marilyn Monroe’s nude centerfold back in 1953. Facebook, the company says, “restricts the display of nudity because some audiences within our global community may be sensitive to this type of content.” Twitter requires that sensitive content like nudity be marked as such so it can be hidden behind a warning. Celebrities and activists have had little luck in their campaign to have Instagram “free the nipple.” Apple’s App Store guidelines, meanwhile, warn that “apps containing pornographic material… will be rejected.”

This, my friends, is why we can’t have nice adult things. Discovery is no longer via search. (Google killed search for adult sites several years back anyway.) Discovery is via social media. And social media is hostile to adult. It’s not just me. Maybe “Bacchus” at a dumb little 13-year-old sex blog just doesn’t “get” how to market on the modern platforms-and-silos internet. But when freakin’ Hugh Hefner himself abandons the core of his venerable brand, which is models wearing no panties, because the social media platforms are hostile to ladies without panties? It’s not just me. It’s a thing.

I think I shall call it #Pornocalypse.

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