opinion

Look Into the Mirror

Q. Boyer

Editor’s Note: In early November 2013, Manwin rebranded and changed its corporate name to MindGeek. For more information see the XBIZ News release here.

So rumor has it that Fabian Thylmann, the rotund and boyish face of the Corporate Porn Borg now known as Manwin for the last several years, is exiting stage left with a suitcase stuffed with nine-digits of cash.

Our far bigger problem as an industry is that an entire generation of consumers perceives the value of the product we make to be approximately zero dollars.

Editor’s Note: In early November 2013, Manwin rebranded and changed its corporate name to MindGeek. For more information see the XBIZ News release here.

The core of this rumor appears to be true, at least (apparently Thylmann is getting bought out), but it’s far from the first rumor we’ve heard concerning Thylmann, and somehow I suspect it will be the last, even if he walks away from the adult industry entirely and immediately.

First, I heard Thylmann was nothing but a glorified front-man, a smiling mask outwardly promising improved corporate citizenship on the part of his newly acquired Tube Empire, but the true purpose of which was to conceal continued tube-driven skullduggery behind the curtain up there at Montreal’s Porn-Theft Central.

“The real money behind Manwin is Russian mob money,” one rumor-mongering trade show attendee told me several years ago, glancing around as though he’d just revealed the identity of a super spy who might be lurking nearby with a poison dart loaded into a cocktail stirrer, just waiting to eliminate all those who knew too much.

“Actually, it’s a mix of Russian, Middle Eastern and Greek money,” a nearby bystander assured us, saying that he had this on good authority because a friend of his is a lawyer, who once had a conversation with another lawyer, who had sued somebody, who sued someone who was, in turn, just about to sue Manwin.

That was a compelling chain of hearsay evidence, to be sure, but one that still left me a tad unconvinced.

“Maybe Manwin is funded entirely by gold stolen from a unicorn-riding leprechaun?” I offered. I thought it was a fairly plausible notion in context; after all, there was just as much proof available for my theory as theirs, and it had the added benefit of explaining Manwin’s Ireland connection!

When Thylmann offered a somewhat less exciting explanation (he borrowed the money to acquire the company? Bor-fucking-ing!), there was widespread disbelief. “Impossible!” many said of the notion that Thylmann borrowed the funding used to acquire the company — including some of the same people who later patted themselves on the back for digging up the name of the entity that funded the loan… you know, the same loan that couldn’t have happened in the first place?

All I know is this: Speculating about the providence of other peoples’ money has never made me a penny of my own. Bellyaching about how, whether and how often those people might have broken the law to generate their bankroll hasn’t put any food on my table, either, regardless of how it might soothe one’s envious nerves to do it.

I was never quite able to fathom the amount of time, energy and effort that has gone into hating Thylmann on the part of many within this industry. While I certainly understand resenting a business model that seems predicated on profiting from profligate piracy, benefitting from piracy is hardly new in this industry, and anyone who thinks their company’s downfall can be directly and solely traced to the content-pilfering-driven ascendance of Manwin is kidding himself.

Yes of course, our industry has a piracy problem, and yes the tubes are part of that problem. Our far bigger problem as an industry is that an entire generation of consumers perceives the value of the product we make to be approximately zero dollars, and that also sees the companies that make those products to be something akin to a drug cartel: they enjoy what we make, sure, but they aren’t going to lose any sleep about hearing that we’ve been gunned down in the streets of Cartagena, should it come to that.

Naturally, being able to find and watch full-length porn movies for free has done a lot to foster the consumer perception that porn should be (and is) free, but as an industry we have not done much to help ourselves in the areas that have little to do with piracy, but that have contributed greatly to consumers not particularly giving a flying fuck about our collective bottom line.

To wit, Thylmann didn’t make anybody get too aggressive with pre-checked cross sells, nor did he force anyone to target consumers with malware, gratuitous popup consoles or bogus penis pill offers. Hell, Manwin’s predecessor Mansef didn’t even exist back when companies first started doing things like advertising as “exclusive content” videos that had already been resold dozens of times before ever being displayed on the pages that proclaimed it to be unique and unavailable elsewhere.

Yes, as strange as it may seem, for some wacky reason, people don’t particularly enjoy being lied to, and they like it in the context of a transaction where you get their money even less. Fancy that!

As an industry, we have spammed, scammed and credit card-slammed our customer base to an extent that it’s a wonder that anyone is willing to fill out a join form at this point. We are more than happy to send our customers off to dating or hookup sites that claim to have profiles from “thousands of girls” in their area, even if their area has a total population of around 16, then we cry foul when they prefer to get our products from the torrents and tubes.

Not everyone is part of the problem, of course, and there are adult companies out there who run their businesses according to a high ethical standard — and my heart truly goes out to them, because their own image is often tarnished by proxy to the bad apples.

I’m sure some people are reading this and thinking “yes, and that’s exactly why I hate Fabian!” Fair enough, but consider this: to the extent that they have any idea who he is (and I suspect very few would recognize the name) consumers don’t hate Thylmann, and they sure as fuck don’t hate PornHub.com. They love that shit, because it is what it is -- and, more to the point here, it is what it claims to be — free porn, and a shit-ton of it.

I’m not here to tell anyone who and what they can hate, or how to deal with their hatred; if ripping Thylmann a new on the boards, or penning a nice rant about him on your blog provides some sort of catharsis or satisfaction, great — have at it and enjoy yourself.

Just don’t delude yourself into believing that the man is the sum and source of all your problems. To ferret that out, you might just need to start by looking straight in the mirror — and be sure to take off those rose-tinted glasses, first.

A 16-year veteran of the online adult entertainment industry and long time XBIZ contributor, Q Boyer provides public relations, publicity, consulting and copywriting services to clients that range from adult website operators to mainstream brick and mortar businesses.

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