Pornstar entrepreneurs find new homes on messaging apps

Posted at 2:19 PM, Mar 23, 2015
and last updated 2015-03-23 14:19:48-04

NEW YORK — On a good night, “Bridget Grey” can make up to $60 an hour stripping online. Then, after she shuts off the camera and steps away from her computer, she opens Snapchat and other messaging apps to continue working.

Bridget (her stage name) is a live-cam model who specializes in “findom,” a fetish involving financial domination. As a professional dominatrix, she says she’s there for men when they need to lose control.

The almost-21-year old has been stripping for private audiences primarily on ImLive and MyFreeCams, porn sites dedicated to webcam performances. But, like other online personalities who want to make it big, Bridget is learning that she needs to expand her digital footprint.

The popularity of messaging apps is giving her many new opportunities to succeed.

“You have to stay on top of it to create a bigger [fan] base,” Bridget said about all of the emerging apps. “Everybody is going to start using them.”

Over the past eight months, Bridget has created professional accounts on Snapchat, Kik, Facebook’s WhatsApp, Viber, and Microsoft’s Skype. Bridget charges each of her roughly 40 clients a monthly subscription fee to chat with her through the apps: $10 for Kik, $15 for Snapchat, and $20 for both, for example.

Sometimes men ask for specific photos or videos. A set of 10 pictures can sell for $3 or $5 (in addition to the monthly fee).

“People with larger fan bases can charge more,” Bridget added.

Some pornographers are using messaging apps like Snapchat and Kik for self-promotion, to sell pictures and videos and to stay in touch.

Some pornographers are using messaging apps like Snapchat and Kik for self-promotion, to sell pictures and videos and to stay in touch.

It’s a promising side-business, even if she and other online strippers make far less “selling content” on these apps than performing in live cam shows.

The bigger benefit to using messaging apps is that fans get to know her on a personal level, Bridget explained. “The money is less important than customers coming back,” she said.

This loyalty changes the relationship on both sides, turning clients into people she considers friends. Once friendship is established, she said, “you’ll be their girl forever.” And, from then on, the perks can be boundless.

“Cam girls have a saying: ‘You spoil us, we’ll spoil you back,'” she said.

Being spoiled is something “Mel” or “Melissa” experiences often: She’s a paid, virtual girlfriend to dozens of men. It’s her full-time job.

“Some men crave companionship, and they tend to spend more freely,” she said, recounting an incident when one of her “friends” gave her $2,000 for no particular reason. “He said, ‘Go buy some clothes with it or something.'”

The 19-year-old primarily works on MyGirlFund, an adult-content social network that pays women to befriend and stimulate men.

Last year, Mel said she made about $35,000 from chatting and selling photos and videos on the site, and she doesn’t even need to get nude.

“As soon as you show someone everything, what else do they need?” she said.

MyGirlFund said that while cam sites are very popular in the adult entertainment industry, it’s not the company’s strategy.

“We’re more about the intimate relationships that are formed,” MyGirlFund’s director of business development Stefan Patrick said. “The girls who are most successful are the ones who can carry a conversation.”

Popular models on the site have made $200,000 to $400,000 in a year, he claims.

The potential to make that kind of money from a relationship-based model is why “Addy” or “Addison” is so dedicated to perfecting her messaging app business.

The full-time 25-year old cam model earns a living from MyGirlFund and performing on a live-stream porn site, Chaturbate. Like Bridget, Addison also charges fans a monthly fee to chat with her on various apps.

Every day after she wakes up, Addison signs into Google Hangouts and says good morning to her followers. Then, she sends snaps to her 20 or so fan club members as she’s getting ready to shower, and then maybe again when she’s in the shower.

Addison juggles so many different platforms that she said she has to set alarms on her phone to remind her to Tweet, snap, stream, or chat.

“It’s not that glamorous,” said the college grad who majored in marketing.

Not only do messaging apps foster deeper — and potentially more lucrative — relationships, but they also enable sex workers to be their own boss, work another job in real life, and help them make more money by cutting out the middle man.

Cam girls like Addison and Bridget prefer to get paid for their messaging app conversations through Google Wallet or Amazon gift cards because they get to keep 100% of their earnings. Neither platform takes a cut like adult content sites do.

Chaturbate, for example, takes about 40% of what they make, leaving the women with only 60%.

MyGirlFund has a tiered revenue-share plan. Female users are paid 35% to start, and 2.5% more for every $5,000 she makes on MyGirlFund, up to 90%.

In exchange for the cut, the sites say they provide a platform where these online sex professionals can feel safe. Harassment can be reported, violators get kicked out.

If online strippers are harassed on messaging apps, there’s nothing they can do. Messaging apps have a zero tolerance policy for adult content businesses. Bringing an issue to Snapchat or Kik’s attention could result in them getting kicked off.

“We have sophisticated systems in place to detect abuse and shut down accounts that violate our terms of use,” said Jill Hazelbaker, Snapchat’s vice president of communications and public policy. “We are very aggressive about taking action and we will continue our efforts on this front.”

A spokesman for Kik said the messaging app bans the selling of photos and videos. Charging people money to chat with you is also prohibited.

“Kik has a team dedicated to looking into these types of incidents to make sure that Kik is a safe environment for all users,” the spokesperson said.

Despite the personal and professional risks associated with where they offer their services online, these women are charging forward.

“Technology is just so cool because it’s always evolving,” said “Blue,” Addison’s friend and fellow online stripper. “With cam-girls, we’re really good at adapting. It’s like that Jay-Z song — ‘I got a million ways to get it, I’m on to the next one.'”