OnlyFans and the online gig economyWith the global outbreak of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, OnlyFans gained almost overnight notoriety and acquired the spotlight among content monetization platforms. Between 2020 and 2021, several high-profile and celebrity users joined OnlyFans, bringing with them their already-formed audiences and allowing the platform to capitalize on their existing popularity.
According to a 2021 estimate, the highest-paid creator on the platform was American model Blac Chyna, followed by actress Bella Thorne, and rapper Cardi B. Between 2019 and 2020, the number of registered users on the platform rose from 13.5 million users to 82.3 million users, an increase of over 510 percent. While the coronavirus pandemic represented the occasion to launch the brand to mainstream audiences and onboard new users, as the restrictions diminish, creators’ output keeps increasing. In September 2022, OnlyFans counted over 22.5 million pieces of content, an increase of almost 31 percent compared to January of the same year. Similarly, a large number of aspiring creators attempt every month to register to the platform: In September 2022, approximately 344,000 creators’ accounts were submitted to the platform, while only 41 percent were approved to join.
An adult entertainment-first platform?Since its launch in 2016, OnlyFans monetization possibilities made it popular among adult entertainment performers and sex workers. The platform’s 20 percent rate commission is applied to all transactions taking place on the website but remains lower than the standard commissions applied by adult webcam services. For adult performers – who are often forced to split their revenues with the platform’s providers - the direct monetization features and the possibility to receive tips from subscribers represented a game-changing addition to the adult entertainment industry. While adult entertainment performers were the first category to join the platforms, OnlyFans reported 2.1 million creators may focus on any type of content, from fitness and cooking videos to music lessons, makeup tutorials, and gaming live streams.
After the initial announcement, OnlyFans received harsh criticism from creators - many of whom had turned to the platform during the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak and were bracing for a significant loss of income - and ultimately decided to backtrack on its ban a week later. According to OnlyFans’ official Twitter account, the company reported having “secured the assurances necessary” to continue operations. As of 2022, the platform allows payments with debit and visa cards, while Paypal and a large number of prepaid cards are not accepted. In August 2021, OnlyFans launched its first official mobile app under the name of OFTV, which features free non-explicit creators as part of the company’s strategy to promote more mainstream content. While the company was said to be looking to enter the public market in 2021, plans for an IPO have not yet materialized. Diversification of its content offering might further help OnlyFans to attract investors in the future.