The money-sharing deal that powers OnlyFans wouldn’t work if the website operated as an app on the world’s biggest app stores, the social-media platform’s chief executive Tim Stokely said Thursday at The Wall Street Journal’s Future of Everything Festival.
OnlyFans lets people post videos, photos and other content and enables them to charge viewers subscriptions. It keeps 20% of the subscription revenue that creators earn on its platform and gives them 80%.
Distributing OnlyFans through Apple Inc.’s App Store and
Google Play store would require additionally paying those companies the 30% cut they take from digital subscriptions. That would mean creators wouldn’t be able to keep as much of the money they earn, Mr. Stokely said.
“It’s really important to us to be able to pay creators the highest commission possible,” said Mr. Stokely, whose company is based in London.
There are now more than 300 creators on OnlyFans who have earned more than $1 million, Mr. Stokely said. He said the site had paid out more than $3 billion to creators.
Apple also bans apps that serve adult content from its app store, but OnlyFans has developed a free streaming app where creators can post their content if they comply with the rules for the Apple and Google’s app stores and other platforms such as Roku.
Mr. Stokely founded Fenix International Ltd.’s OnlyFans in 2016 as a paid social-media site for adults with more liberal content policies than the traditional social platforms like
and Instagram. To recruit creators, he said he emailed influencers, making pitches that if they had two million followers, and 1% of those followers paid $10 a month for exclusive content, then they could earn $200,000 a month on OnlyFans.
OnlyFans is better known for its porn stars than its fitness buffs, but the site’s growth is due in part to the company’s efforts to diversify its creators. The site now has more than 120 million registered users, Mr. Stokely said.
The Covid-19 pandemic supercharged the growth of social-media and entertainment platforms as people stuck at home turned to their phones and screens to fill their days. Mr. Stokely said OnlyFans was already adding users before the pandemic, a trend accelerated by the health crisis.
The site also got a boost from popular entertainers, Mr. Stokely said. In early 2020, Beyoncé mentioned OnlyFans in a remix of rapper Megan Thee Stallion’s song “Savage.” Later in the year, rapper Cardi B said she was joining OnlyFans as a way to show fans behind-the-scenes footage of her most recent video.
Users flocked to OnlyFans. and more artists joined the platform as a result, he said. In February, the fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff used OnlyFans to post behind-the-scenes looks at New York Fashion Week.
OnlyFans has achieved this growth as a desktop and mobile website, at a time when apps are becoming the dominant way people consume online content. Mr. Stokely said he didn’t think being a website during the era of apps had held his company back, because OnlyFans has the look and feel of traditional social-media platforms.
Asked whether OnlyFans would join the Apple or Google app stores if the companies allowed the adult content, Mr. Stokely said he couldn’t imagine a scenario in which OnlyFans would pay creators less than 80% of the revenue their subscribers pay.
“It’s a key ingredient for why OnlyFans continues to prove popular for creators,” Mr. Stokely said.
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Appeared in the May 14, 2021, print edition as ‘CEO Says OnlyFans Not Being an App Hasn’t Hurt It.’