No startup challenges our norms about “appropriate” business more than MakeLoveNotPorn.
MakeLoveNotPorn (MLNP) is a user-generated crowdsourced video platform that celebrates “real world sex”. MLNP is a legal, lucrative, and liberatory disruptor of the adult entertainment industry. It’s also a profoundly generative business.
MLNP is generative not because it’s naughty, but because of how it’s naughty.
MLNP disobeys our culture’s norms about how a for-profit business should behave.
MLNP deliberately disregards the central claim of capitalism: that companies should focus their energy on what will build their profits. Instead, MLNP is growing its own business while transforming how we think about business relationships, how we share what we learn, how we create value, how we capture value, and how we define our roles within our network and community.
MLNP flaunts a generative, full frontal ambition: to make money, create opportunity, share value, and transform the ways that we talk about, think about, and enjoy sex.
(Note: It’s okay to go look at their site. When you’re not playing a video, the whole site is “safe for work”.)
The Basic Model of a Generative Business
MLNP’s CEO Cindy Gallop and her team of revolutionaries started with a very basic business model. Stripped of its specifics, MLNP would be an online marketplace. MLNP’s marketplace would rent videos that depict ‘real world sex’ and offer an alternative to the fantastical, verging-on-ridiculous sex offered by conventional porn.
MLNP would be profitable and gain market share because customers (known as members) would prefer and pay for a curated, reliable selection of alternative videos. MLNP would open their marketplace to include a second set of customers: members who wanted to make videos to be included in the MLNP collection and earn money when other members rented them.
The MLNP business model meets all the criteria for a generative business.
The platform creates an opportunity space for stakeholders, who can use these opportunities to create what they want to. The marketplace design aligns stakeholders’ interests so that they’re mutually-supportive; what benefits video viewers benefits video makers, and also benefits the marketplace owner, MLNP.
For example, revenue from video rental is shared evenly between MNLP and the folks who made the video. A feature where members can “admire” or follow video makers’ profiles not only offers social proof of quality to potential viewers but also tells video makers what their audience enjoys. The system is designed to gather and share information that lets stakeholders improve the quality of the video collection and participate in the financial growth of the marketplace.
Generating Shared, Thick Value
MLNP’s business model lets participants enjoy and share not only financial values like fair prices and profit, but also non-financial values (aka thick value) such as aesthetic quality, creativity, self-expression, and learning.
Video renters get production values that don’t offend their taste and intelligence, as well as content and narratives that promote values they believe in. MLNP videos depict a range of adults, personalities, and body types similar to what we see out in the world, in relationships that are real enough to be inspiring.
Video makers get to create the kinds of video stories they’d want to see, to enjoy the thrill of performing for future viewers, and to have their videos featured on a site that promotes values they believe in.
These non-financial values have an important payout for MLNP’s members: As a result of using the company’s products, members enjoy their sex lives more.
Explains one member, quoted on the MLNP blog:
When I discovered MLNP.tv, it was like a light went off: …Your #realworldsex videos have helped me regain confidence post-baby and inspired me to reconnect with my partner. (link, sfw)
MLNP doesn’t need to capture this kind of value in dollars and cents to know that they’ve achieved an important generative business goal.
Catalyzing A Generative Ecosystem
MLNP’s commercial ambitions don’t stop at the boundaries of their online platform. They take aim at the broader ecosystem around their business, starting first with the online adult entertainment industry. Although the industry itself has a negative reputation, sex videos are a popular form of entertainment (comprising an estimated third of all internet traffic) for a large portion of adults (over 65% of young adult men report watching porn once a week).
Still, most porn has a quality problem. Story lines are hackneyed and uncreative, behaviors are unrealistic, and lighting and sound are poor. The industry is perceived as exploiting both the performers and the production crews who make the content, while disproportionately rewarding those who distribute the content.
Like every other content-related business, the adult entertainment industry is being challenged online by price competition (e.g., an influx of free content) and degrading production values (e.g., amateur/inexpert/hackneyed content creators). The industry could use some disruption.
MLNP offers the adult entertainment industry an alternative, lucrative and generative business model.
By demonstrating how all participants who contribute to the marketplace can also profit from it, MLNP challenges the revenue model of the online sex video industry. And, since their profitable and vibrant marketplace proves that customers will pay for sex videos that are more realistic, creative and entertaining, MLNP promotes the financial opportunities of ‘real world sex’ entertainment.
Supporting Social Change
MLNP rents videos, but it sells social change.
Perhaps the most provocative challenge to taboos comes from MLNP’s aesthetic model. MLNP had to establish curatorial standards that defined ‘real world sex’ so that they could guide video makers, attract video viewers, and select appropriate videos to host on their platform.
By developing their aesthetic model interactively with video viewers and makers, the MLNP curators are creating a library of work that makes a shared value statement about what sex can be and should be.
For example, MLNP’s guidelines encourage people who use condoms to show how they put condoms on and take condoms off, as well as everything in between. By asking video makers to keep this ‘real world sex’ activity in their videos, MLNP not only normalizes condom use, they encourage people to make condoms sexy.
Offering a different kind of adult entertainment that explicitly promotes realistic, sex-positive values, MLNP fosters a conversation about what porn is, what adult entertainment could be, and where real world sex fits in our lives.
Here again, what MLNP does to build their business and benefit their customers also creates opportunities for culture change.
For example, Gallop and her team relentlessly promote the technological side of the MLNP business at tech conferences, the sex education element at conferences on business and society, and the opportunities for sex-positive marketing at advertising conferences.
With each presentation Gallop sells not only the commercial business of MLNP — driving more members to the site– but also promotes the aesthetic and cultural vision of their business – driving more conversation, more reflection, and more learning about real world sex.
A Little Naughtly Goes A Long Way
MLNP offers real world proof that generative businesses can succeed by being a little naughty.
Flouting the norms of conventional business, MLNP creates opportunities for customers, its industry, and society to grow. It designs its systems so that what’s good for the business is also good for customers and the larger system, and it captures and circulates not only financial value, but also non-monetary, thick value. MLNP’s business creates a marketplace and community of companies, partners, and supporters that generates opportunity for mutual growth while also propelling a larger, shared positive purpose.
If a company that sells adult entertainment can create opportunities for others while making a profit and changing the world, what can companies in more mainstream businesses do? Companies that sell music, software, gourmet food products, handmade crafts, and even real-time travel data can more generative by using design strategies, business models, and practices pioneered by MLNP.
MLNP is not only changing how we think about sex; it’s changing how we think about business.
See my post about Cindy’s earlier venture, IfWeRanTheWorld.com => Authentic From the Start-Up: 4 Tips from Cindy Gallop