It’s 2017, and I’m drunk on a rainy night in Nolita, NY. The glow of its black and orange logo is shining in my face. I squint for a moment as I think my eyes have deceived me. I wipe the raindrops off my face to get a better look. No, it’s real? Pornhub has opened a New York clothing boutique. I go inside to get out of the rain and for my curiosity. My expectations of an empty store with maybe a few curious tourists and single men with such a strong cologne scent that it could burn out my retinas, is wrong. I am wrong.
What I found was a store full of young, affluent Millennials purchasing branded bucket hats and hoodies. I said to myself, “this will not last; it’s just a fad, like skinny jeans.” I purchase my branded t-shirt, leave, to never think about it again…
That was until Shakedown arrived in 2020. An award-winning documentary by LA director Leilah Weinraub. The film captures the cultural shifts within an underground lesbian club over several years.
And guess what? It was streamed for free on Pornhub as the platform’s first non-pornographic feature.
Traditional NSFW brands are now producing and housing SFW content. This is not a fad; it’s the future.
OnlyFans, often cited as the “Patreon for porn,” is now home to one of my favourite podcasts. And it’s non-porn related. The pod’s primary subject matter is a dumpster fire of a reality TV show, 90DaysFiancé. *Maybe it’s a bad habit, but I tend to fast forward to find the best bits.*
If you’re too afraid to ask your friends and loved ones, what is OnlyFans? It began as a creator-first platform used by comedians and fitness models to help monetize their craft. But now, it’s widely known as a platform for personal, indie, uncensored adult content. Or, as I like to call it, good home cooking.
So, why are porn sites now the best places to release non-porn content? First, we need to look at the consumer.
Traditionally Millennials have been hesitant to pay for news and entertainment but are willing (more than Gen X or Baby Boomers) to pay top dollar for experiences. A report by the Global Web Index found that millennials care less about finding a low price and are more willing than other generations to pay a premium for convenience, immediacy, and content they care for. Corey Price, vice president of Pornhub, reports that millennials make up 55% of his site’s free users but 66% of its premium users.
While our mothers and fathers were wearing disguises trying to purchase their marital aids in unmarked, brown paper bags, Millennials and Gen Zs are out in the open. We have helped rub out many of the stigmas around porn and sex work. From the mainstream reporting of former Disney Star Bella Thorn, who earned two million dollars in the first week of starting an Only Fans page, to the TikTok trend of pretending to be “An Accountant.” It’s more than ok to talk about porn and sex work online in a positive way.
Millennials and Gen Z also actively search for porn; a joint Google and Columbia University study found between 2005-2014 that porn sites consist of about 4% of the internet. But also about 20% of all searches on mobiles. *A healthy reminder to disinfect your phone.*
So, you have an active Millennial audience willing to be open, positive and pay for premium experiences. And who are regularly visiting porn sites; why not offer them tailored SFW content. It makes sense.
Dropping a new album, showing your limited run of couture dresses, crafting an entertaining and engaging blog; don’t expect people to be excited on the traditional media platforms. Come and release it on porn.
History suggests that marketing is always a few steps behind culture, but you’re telling me that a banner ad on the Toronto Star will ever compete with a sponsored post on Pornhub; I think not.
Culture is shifting; porn platforms are progressing, and marketing (like always) will have to catch up.