Tumblr's Explicit Content Ban Leaves An Entire Unserviced Diaspora

Why It Matters

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Pornhub, the largest pornographic website on the Internet, has been presented with an excellent opportunity to flex their superior technology development strengths (they ARE owned by Mindgeek) and push its social networking capabilities. This is because in the wake of the recent incident with social networking site Tumblr— which led to the harsh censoring of media content on the site— there is an entire diaspora of people who appreciate the beauty of every person’s body and the artistry behind explicit imagery in many media formats. They are creators, often sensitive to others’ identities, worldview, and knowledgeable about the news around them. Using Pornhub as a new community for them would allow them to converse, share art and images, and monetize their art, creating further incentive to abandon Tumblr. 

To achieve this, Pornhub will need to align themselves in a more politically correct way to attract this audience. How does a “sin industry” organization do this? For Pornhub, the answer is to denounce the industry’s practices and encourage these potential users to use their talents to create art that promotes love in relationships and sex and normalizes every type of body in society. 

Background

Pornhub is the largest pornographic website on the Internet, founded in 2007 by Matt Keezer. Originally part of the company Interhub, the site was purchased by Fabian Thylmann in March 2010 in the buyout of Interhub, making it part of the organization Mindgeek. Mindgeek is known to own many pornographic sites and production companies, such as Brazzers, RedTube, Digital Playground, Men.com, Reality Kings, and Sean Cody (Cooper, 2017; Buse, 2012). This makes pinpointing competition for Pornhub difficult, as Mindgeek has a virtual monopoly of the online pornographic industry with main competition coming from lesser known sources with little to no recent innovation. This is why Pornhub’s competitors are seen to be in different industries. Thinking in this abstract way allows Pornhub to integrate unique and innovative tools that continue to differentiate it and put it ahead of the competition in print and tech, like Playboy Enterprises and eTeamsys. They have gone very far out of their way to prove that they stick out from the competition. For example, in 2015 they announced Sexplorations, a porn flick that would actually be filmed, at least somewhat, in space. The endeavor would cost them $3.4 million, and they sourced primarily on crowdfunding sites like IndieGogo. While they did not reach their goal, and ultimately did not produce it, the concept was new and raised over $230,000 (Pornhub Team, 2015). They also have stepped up in terms of technology integration, much more so than other sites, in order to create a more user-focused experience. This is no surprise, as MindGeek is an information technology firm that offers a variety of services, from search engine marketing solutions to web security (Mindgeek, 2017).

This puts them at a unique vantage point, as they can use their diverse tech talents to accomplish feats that smaller pornography companies could only dream of. For example, Mindgeek’s Vice President Corey Price announced in 2017 that Pornhub would use AI to help process and tag videos for various content and hoped to have their entire library scanned in 2018 (Biggs, 2017). They are also working on an industry-changing front on a project that will help online pornography distributors avoid lawsuits and liability from underaged users. Their work on AgeID, which some have deemed controversial and further monopolizing, comes from regulations being put forth from the UK’s Digital Economy Bill, which will be imposed on sites offering adult content who do not have age verification in place. However, this technology, also being createdby MindGeek, will create a more definitive block that keeps pornography distributors from liability issues for underaged users coming on to their site (Allen, 2018; Cooper, 2017). Seeing the backlash from other, smaller sites and hearing their concerns over loss of revenue from already slim streams echo the sentiment of a lack of online competition in the pornography industry.

There is also another unexpected way in which Pornhub has gained the attention of the national press and both pornography yay and naysayers: philanthropy.

Philanthropy

Pornhub’s first attempts at philanthropy began in 2012 with the infamous “Boob Bus”, which toured New York City offering passerby free breast exams and at-home self-check techniques from a certified professional. This, combined with a partnership with celebrity spokesperson Bree Olsen, was meant to bring awareness to breast cancer and the importance of women’s health screenings. Their campaign continued later that year into online territory whenever they launched the “Save the Boobs!” event, where they offered to donate a penny to Susan G. Komen for every 30 videos watched from the “big tit” and “small tit” categories (Tuttle, 2012).

Interestingly enough, this nonprofit declined the donations and asked that Pornhub no longer use its name in its promotion of breast cancer awareness. In response, Pornhub sent out a “call to charities”, asking for charities and organizations that work for breast cancer awareness or treatments to pitch themselves to receive donations instead. Over 74,146,928 videos were watched, and Pornhub subsequently decided to triple the amount donated to $75,000 and split the money to multiple charities (Katie, 2012). The initiative was so successful that it became a repeat campaign for Pornhub, offering the same stakes and incentives with educational content (and no donations to Susan B. Komen) (Pornhub TV, 2015).

Pornhub has also engaged in other off the wall initiatives that engage the public, generate buzz, and help others. This was done through their Pornhub Cares division, which is an entire section of the organization dedicated solely to philanthropy (Crandall, 2015).  Notable actions from Pornhub Cares include offering to plow snow from public roads during winter storm Stella, saving the whales, (Darrow, 2017; Larimer, 2016;  

However, some entities think of these efforts as double-edged donations. They have been accused of perverting goodwill to continue perpetuating violence against minorities and creating more acceptance for pornography when this should not be so, sometimes from large and prestigious organizations (Crandall, 2015). This has been a consistent occurrence, even with initiatives not associated with content views or explicit content.

Year in Review

Pornhub also keeps impressive track of its stats, drawing important insights that it shares with the world annually. This transparency gives people a sense of what pornography is being used for, attitudes and understandings of users, and other types of information synthesized into a comprehensive report (Pornhub, 2018).

Situation Analysis

For 2018, the statistics in the annual report were compelling, with the top 10 searches, in particular, being quite telling. A variety of terms were popular searches, from Stormy Daniels to “tattooed”, echoing perspective shifts in the consuming population. In addition, there is a shift to wanting more romance in pornography, with one of men’s trending searches being “how to treat woman [sic]”. (Pornhub 2018); According to Pornhub (2018):

The popularity of ‘Romantic’ videos more than doubled and remained twice as popular with female visitors when compared to men.
Interest in ‘trans’ (aka transgender) porn saw significant gains in 2018, in particular with a 167% increase in searches by men and more than 200% with visitors over the age of 45 (becoming the fifth most searched terms by those aged 45 to 64).

With people using pornography to explore the world around them and also understand relationships, it should come as no shock to find that Pornhub’s average visit duration also grew from 14 seconds (wow!) to 10 minutes and 13 seconds with more people also utilizing community features than ever before (Pornhub, 2018).

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These statistics show an opportunity for Pornhub with the recent fall of Tumblr as an exotic art, sexual education, and adult content creation community due to reconfiguring the type of content allowed on their social networking site after a child pornography incident that cause their app to be taken from Apple’s App Store (Heater, 2017). This opportunity is to expand its community tools to really regulate that social media aspect of Pornhub and build it around the artistic and body positive communities to replace that niche social outlet that is now lost. Appealing to the romance aspect that has drastically risen in pornography indicates that the cause to bring them to the site would be positive pornography, indicating that pornography that perpetuates violence against women is unacceptable. It is Pornhub’s chance to take on their biggest critique from stakeholders while also building their philanthropic image and building the acceptance of porn in mainstream society.

Stakeholders

There are off- and online communities that must be considered in decision-making processes. They include:

·     Porn-positive, body-positive, and adult artists who benefit from open expression and an arena to share explicit imagery

These misplaced artists will need a new space in which to convene, share, and monetize. They require community and often encompass LGBT users, which was a complaint voiced in the Tumblr fallout. 

·     Anti-porn activist groups and concerned groups, like moms, some feminists, and conservatives
Concerns from these groups typically stem from religious beliefs, fear, or ideas of how pornography contributes to societal violence. Learning from this group’s concerns about privacy, identity, and content on social media will enhance the Pornhub social experience as well as any creative messaging (Ochs, 2018).

·     Underaged social media users
While it is understood that underaged users do engage with pornography, those creating and distributing it have an obligation to pretend to be shocked whenever they learn about it. Some of the resources offered through social media use, as well as existing sexual education community tools, would be beneficial to these groups. With AgeID, it will be easier than ever to work to block explicit content from younger viewers while allowing them to soak up the art and education of approved media content.

·     Business Partners/Owners
What’s profitable? Those in business with Mindgeek/Pornhub will want to know how this initiative will drive growth and profit. By growing the community and the reasoning to keep people on the site longer, ad revenue will definitely see an increase. Furthermore, artists looking to monetize their work will bring in further revenue with sales and dedicated patrons (subscribers) that may not traditionally be on Pornhub.

So, what do you think will be next for Pornhub? Should they capitalize on this opportunity, or do you think they should remain how they are?

References

Allen, T. (2018, February 01). Pornhub's 'AgeID' system will require punters to hand over their date of birth | TheINQUIRER. Retrieved from https://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/3025848/pornhub-ageid-system-confirmed-digital-economy-bill

Biggs, J. (2017, October 11). PornHub uses computer vision to ID actors, acts in its videos. Retrieved from https://techcrunch.com/2017/10/11/pornhub-uses-computer-vision-to-id-actors-acts-in-its-videos/

Buse, U. (2012, December 20). Harnessing the Internet: The German Porn King's Revolutionary Model - SPIEGEL ONLINE - International. Retrieved from http://www.spiegel.de/international/zeitgeist/fabian-thylmann-and-his-revolutionary-porn-business-model-a-873802-2.html

Darrow, B. (2017, March 14). Pornhub Offers to Clear Boston Roads of Storm Stella Snow. Retrieved December 14, 2018, from http://fortune.com/2017/03/14/pornhub-storm-stella-snow-removal/

Heater, B. (2018, December 17). As adult content ban arrives, Tumblr clarifies and refines rules. Retrieved December 17, 2018, from https://techcrunch.com/2018/12/17/as-adult-content-ban-arrives-tumblr-clarifies-and-refines-rules/

Holmes, D. (2013, October 09). What media companies can learn from Pornhub and its new PornIQ service. Retrieved from https://pando.com/2013/10/09/what-media-companies-can-learn-from-pornhub-and-its-new-porniq-service/

Katie. (2012). Save the Boobs Reaults: Triple Donations [Web log post]. Retrieved December 14, 2018, from https://www.pornhub.com/blog/321

Liao, S. (2018, May 24). Pornhub launches its own VPN. Retrieved from https://www.theverge.com/2018/5/24/17382144/pornhub-launches-vpn-vpnhub

Mindgeek. (2017). A Leader in Web Design, IT, Web Development and SEO. Retrieved December 15, 2018, from https://www.mindgeek.com/

Ochs, J. (2018, December 04). What is Tumblr App? Parent Guide. Retrieved December 16, 2018, from https://smartsocial.com/what-is-tumblr-parent-teacher-guide/

Pornhub Team. (2015, June 10). Pornhub Space Program - SEXPLORATION. Retrieved December 15, 2018, from https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/pornhub-space-program-sexploration#/

Pornhub TV. (2015, September 30). Pornhub Cares: Save the Boobs. Retrieved December 14, 2018, from https://vimeo.com/140935215

Tuttle, H. (2012, April 25). BOOB BUS: Porn Site Teaches Women Healthy Way To Handle Their Breasts. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/25/boob-bus-porn-hub-bree-olsen-breast-cancer-exam_n_1452715.html