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November 02, 2015

Fabian Thylmann Profiled By BuzzFeed ... And It's Not Flattering

CYBERSPACE—The name Fabian Thylmann is probably familiar to everyone in the adult entertainment business, and a few beyond it as well. For about four years beginning in 2010, Thylmann was the head of one of the largest conglomeration of tube sites on the Web: Manwin, now known as MindGeek. "At various points, MindGeek (formerly called Manwin) has owned eight of the top ten tube sites, some of which are the most trafficked in the world," wrote BuzzFeed reporter Charlie Warzel. "Outside observers have called MindGeek a monopoly and a vampiric hydra; industry producers have described it as a scourge, attributing it to the downfall of the adult industry’s famed profit margins. Among the changes Mindgeek has wrought: a glut of stolen content, now available for free on tube sites across the internet, and a 70% drop in revenue on standard pay sites, according to industry veteran Colin Rowntree." Like we said: not flattering. Of course, Thylmann tries to defend himself. "It was bound to happen," he wrote to Warzel. "The porn industry caused this to itself. It started giving away free content long before I came along … YouTube came about and was immediately copied in porn a few days later. I saw all these things and simply started to build a strategy around it, aggregating as much of the free content related websites and matching it with paying ones to optimally make money in the field. Add cold, hard business logic to this, and you have a winner." He's certainly correct that MindGeek is one of the major players in the adult industry today, having absorbed several companies like Digital Playground, Twistys, Reality Kings and Playboy TV, but all that acqusition didn't make Thylmann many friends—and many assert the online piracy continued under his regime. One of Thylmann's/MindGeek's non-friends is director Will Ryder, who told BuzzFeed earlier this year that the company is "the single biggest enemy of the porn industry." "They stole everyone’s stuff, mine included, and expect us to send a lawyer asking them to take it down. Once they take it down, three days later they put it back up. It’s a never-ending game of bullshit and I’m out," Ryder told BuzzFeed. "They’re liars and the scum of the earth. They’re complete fucking thieves and it’s too late to fuck them. If the adult industry was still controlled [by] the mob like in ’70s, this would never have happened." Thylmann, of course, disputes this. "Any DMCA notice sent into the sites was dealt with as fast as possible. In my opinion, we did everything possible to make it as easy as possible,” he wrote, noting that as head of Manwin, "one of his first business decisions ... was bringing in a law firm to handle copyright and DMCA issues." In fact, Thylmann argues that Manwin's tube site acquisitions brought more "stability" to online porn. "If I would not have done this, all these free sites would still be there, but they would be there controlled by many different people. And likely, people with much worse intentions than I ever had," he claims. Now gone from MindGeek, Thylmann spends his time "working as an angel investor for more mainstream tech companies like FrontBack and Giant Swarm" and discussing "sex worker issues at black-tie debates at Oxford" even as he fights tax evasion charges for which Germany indicted him earlier this year. Warzel's conclusion? "Ultimately, Thylmann is unapologetic about Manwin’s successes and what his former empire has wrought in the years since his departure. He concedes that porn’s shrinking margins were, at least in part, a result of his company’s dominance. 'Manwin simply is one of the causes for the industry maturing,' he wrote. 'We merged so many businesses under one roof, that we made it very hard for the old-timers to make any real money in their old business logics anymore.'" That would be "old business logics" like "not fucking over your competitors" and "creating profit by making a better product."

 
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