Washington DC area based portrait and event photographer
Not to point out the obvious but Model Mayhem (“MM”) has been on a downward slide from its height of popularity about 4 years ago. MM used to be the go to place for freelance creatives to connect to each other but nowadays that not the case why?
1. Facebook and Instagram
MM is basically a social media site. Internet Brands (the company that owns MM) did not recognize early enough that Facebook would be the default choice for people looking to connect and not make a more concerted effort to connect and incorporate Facebook-like features (like DM, groups, etc.) or integrate Facebook into it’s platform. For example, I would pay to be able to automatically target message new Models or Models that change their status to “yes” for shooting nudes. That would save me time and would be worth the investment. MM has all this demographic data and does very little with it.
I also think that Instagram and the advances with smart phones have pretty much stunted MM’s growth. Why bother with setting up shoots with creepy Photographers when I can take all the selfies I want and get MORE of the attention that I’m seeking? MM’s numbers were being inflated by some of these wanna be Models and GWC and they’ve largely moved on to where the action is hot, which is Facebook and Instagram. The creeps are also following these “Models” on Facebook and Instagram so these folks are less inclined to pretend to be Photographers just to get on the site to follow Models. I think the true numbers of people interested in Models are being reflected in the decline.
2. Limited Access Points
I think Internet Brands made a strategic mistake in not recognizing and making it easier for people to connect to the site on different access platforms (they still don’t have a mobile app). The demographics of the site is always going to bend toward younger (18-25) models and how they use access the site will always be a moving target. That’s the challenge of all service businesses in this period of technological disruption. Meanwhile, Facebook continues to try to innovate and monetize their platform. All Internet Brands cares about is how many members that they have so that they can sell advertising.
3. Model Safety
MM is a sexual predator’s wet dream and they do very little to limit their own liability with this problem let alone provide guidance for Model’s to employ measures for self-safety. I coach track for my kid’s school and I’m certified by USA Track and Field (the governing body for the sport in the US). I had to pass a criminal background test and go through training for coaching kids and child sexual abuse. Some of the training was on-line but others I had to do in-person. By comparison, MM does nothing to help Models figure out who is safe to work with and who may need more confirmation. I don’t think it would be too burdensome to create a means for voluntary certification from MM to state that a person has been cleared for criminal background checks and tracks if there are complaints by people that they work with for physical harm or threats. No system will be perfect but if there was something in place that allowed for reporting and accountability for those abusing the site. I think this has turned off several Models that have real physical safety concerns. There have been quite a few rapes and sexual assaults that personally know of and I always advise new Models to take due diligence seriously and have a safety plan in place when going out for shoots. Again, another thing that MM could be pro-actively doing to help create a safer environment but aren’t doing.
4. Decentralization of Points of Contacts
This relates to Point 1 above. How people use MM has changed. Whereas before MM was the one-stop shop where everything was done related to shoots, we now have a situation where there are multiple points of contact with the various means of connecting with each other. I recently read about a Model lamenting the decline of MM with the response to her travel notices. What I don’t think is being considered is how she is measuring that response. If she’s just looking at MM, she may be discounting that folks are contacting her on Facebook, Instagram, etc. instead of through MM.
5. Heavy Handed Site Policing
Also, Internet Brand’s management of what little social interaction that occurs on MM has discouraged free and open exchange. The forums and contests used to be fun and now they are heavily monitored and policed. I understand the need to control trolls and maintain civility but when the policing is uneven and no one wants to post anything that may get them brigged or tossed off the site then they will find another venue. I would say that the policing is really what caused the exodus more than anything else. I saw a bunch of Facebook groups pop up about 4 years ago and they’ve essentially made the profiles on the site just another portfolio contact point and squandering the social media potential of MM.
It’s an adjustment to recognize that MM is no longer the primary source for searching for talent and lead generation for booking work. It’s been swallowed up by the pack of competing platforms. So what do you with MM? A lot of this will depend on where you live and how MM is used. For example, along the eastern seaboard of the US, MM is still enjoys popular usage. So doing a travel notice or casting call is still of benefit (for now) but this may be a different story if you live outside the major cities or if a local or regional Facebook group is more popular way of connecting. Each area is seems is different and you’ll have to experiment to see which medium is more responsive for your needs. It doesn’t help that this is a moving target so whenever there is a new social media platform you better move quickly to set up shop there. Early adopters gain more advantages than the fast followers.