LONDON — Writer and documentary maker Jon Ronson has released his new audiobook, “The Butterfly Effect,” which offers an up-close and personal interview with Fabian Thylmann, who chronicles his former company’s rise to dominance.
Thylmann, of course, was the former managing partner of Manwin, the adult entertainment conglomerate that was rebranded as MindGeek in 2013 after he sold his stake in the company to its management team.
Thylmann explains to Ronson in the first chapter of “The Butterfly Effect” how he started trading porn site passwords in the 1990s as a teenager and later had a lightbulb moment — a business model that could offer a bonanza of porn for those who didn’t want to pay for it.
After launching and exploiting one of the largest providers of free porn, adult tube site PornHub, Thylmann purchased a small Montreal tech company in 2010 called Mansef, which later became Manwin.
In April 2011, Mansef swelled with growth after Thylmann secured a $362 million loan from Wall Street investment firm Colbeck Capital, he told Ronson.
“I bought just about every [adult entertainment] company that was available for sale,” Thylmann said. “It was crazy.”
Indeed, at the time, Thylmann’s Manwin purchased the assets of blue-chip adult studios Digital Playground, Brazzers, Twistys and scores of others, as well as tube sites like YouPorn and RedTube.
For the audiobook, Thylmann discussed with Ronson the so-called “butterfly effect” — the central theme of Ronson’s latest project — where a minute localized change in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere.
For Thylmann, the new tube site business model for online adult entertainment was bound to surface — either with him or without.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people, and a lot of them are upset about how it all came about and how it continues today,” Thylmann told Ronson.
Thylmann admitted that the rise in tube sites followed the rise in piracy, and that he took advantage of the “uncertainty” many had for paysites.
“I don’t need to hide behind it,” he said. “It was a business decision.”
Ronson said the audiobook, available on Audible, “is sort of about porn, but it's about a lot of other things.”
“The flap of the butterfly's wings is a boy in Brussels having an idea,” Ronson noted. “His idea is how to get rich from giving the world free online porn. Over seven episodes I trace the consequences of this idea.”
The first chapter of “The Butterfly Effect,” which includes the Thylmann interview, is available for free here.