Q&A With Douglas Richter, AWEmpire.com
For the past four years, the charismatic Douglas Richter has helped grow AWEmpire.com’s affiliate program in the U.S.
AWE operates live video sex chat sites LiveJasmin.com and CameraBoys.com and a variety of other niche webcam sites. It’s a perfect fit for the always upbeat Richter, who also operates web developing and consulting company Bright Guys Inc. out of his Beverly Hills, Calif., offices.
We met up with Richter, a 13-year veteran of the online adult entertainment biz, and discussed how he got into the industry and what’s going on right now.
XBIZ: How did you get into the adult industry?
RICHTER: I got my start in the adult industry in 1997 when I went to work for Portfolio Studios in Minneapolis. It was an adult modeling agency that provided photo layouts for many of the now defunct magazines like Men, Freshmen and Unzipped and supplied the Midwest gay bars with go-go boys and headliners.
It turned out to be more than a “modeling agency” because they were also one of the early live cam studios and operated a small stable of models broadcasting feeds from their digs in the warehouse district.
As an early adopter to chat boards and BBC forums, I found the webcams beyond interesting; you could literally connect live to beautiful people from your home or office. It brought real interactivity to web chatting; people could no longer hide behind fake profile pictures.
I started typing messages to the users while models did live sex or solo shows. It was a lot of fun and there were not many sites like this available at the time so you can imagine how well the performers were doing financially.
The video quality was nowhere near where it is today, but indeed live video goes back to the early days of the internet boom. Who knew that what I initially thought would be a great way to weed out mismatched potential dates would become my livelihood.
I began consulting for Adult Webmaster Empire (AWE), the affiliate program for LiveJasmin and CameraBoys, in 2007.
After nearly 10 years in the business, my partner and I started a web developing and consulting company Bright Guys Inc. At that point I had worked in many verticals of adult including live cams, content development, print and advertising, and even did trade shows and events, so starting my own firm was an obvious next step.
I wanted to be my own boss, and moreover I wanted to work in a place where I could offer my clients real opportunities to gain market share and increase their brand awareness. Consulting allowed me to work for multiple companies in various sectors of the industry, which gave me a double advantage. Not only have I been able to maintain a constant view on what is trending, but I am able to much more easily facilitate cooperation between my various clients by cultivating their potential synergies.
XBIZ: What is my typical work day like?
RICHTER: Productive! Interesting! Fun! My day begins around 4:30 a.m. when I touch base with colleagues in the operations headquarters in Luxembourg and support staff in Budapest. After answering emails for approximately two hours I head to the gym for a morning workout.
After some exercise and breakfast I head to my office, located in beautiful Beverly Hills, Calif., where typically by 8:30 a.m. I am at my desk until lunch time.
There are a ton of great lunch places in Beverly Hills. I wish I got to enjoy them more, but most days I grab something from the deli or Subway in the building next door. The workday officially ends for me at 5 p.m. when I head back to the gym with my tablet for my evening run.
After my run while I wait for dinner. I spend some time answering emails or catching up on TV or reading until about 8 or 9 p.m. when it is off to bed for a good night rest so I can start it all over again.
It is a grueling day I admit but we willingly maintain a steady pace at AWE. The vertical leader can’t rest for a moment or we will start to see the other guys in our rearview mirror.
XBIZ: Are there any new AWE projects around the corner?
RICHTER: Keep watching! There are always big things going on at AWE.
For example I am sure you are aware that we are currently in the last phases of rolling out the new LiveJasmin.com. It is visible in California. With this project comes a leap in standards for live-chat providers including higher-quality images, smoother and faster video quality and increased sound and video quality on iOS and Android devices. AWE literally re-wrote the book on live video chat with the new LiveJasmin.com.
AWE will adopt the new layout as a white-label template soon.
New and improved promo tools for webmasters are always coming out.
AWE has just upgraded all of our mobile sites to be optimized for all mobile devices, not just iOS — putting AWE technologically at least a year ahead of the competitors.
We just launched the new Tiered Lifetime Plus Program, which has been hugely successful for partners.
The Grabby’s Awards Gay Porn Star contest is returning for a third year, where AWE runs a competition between porn stars to see who is the best cam model.
We are sponsoring tons of events in the coming year and will hope to see you all on board at AWE as a model or webmaster. Join us at a seminar, workshop, networking event, dinner or cocktail party soon.
XBIZ: How has the adult business changed since you started in the biz?
RICHTER: A lot! I find this question to be a bit overwhelming for people who have been around since the beginning days so I will do my best.
When I started, VHS was the dominant medium despite the incredible power the Internet represented. Many people were convinced that the Internet wouldn’t take off. Consumers bought or rented VHS porn in adult bookstores or ordered them through mail order catalogs. Consumers religiously subscribed to various publications. Technology evolved and brought the DVD, quickly replacing VHS as a far superior format.
At the same time oblivious to many, the Internet was also quickly growing and advances in streaming technology and video-on-demand joined the mix.
While this was happening the blog phenomena was exploding, effectively shrinking the print media market. At the same time many savvy entrepreneurs realized they could produce content and make it available on the Internet at a fraction of the overhead costs necessary to support the existing content production and distribution business models. The Internet offered a solution not only to the large barriers for entry normally faced by new content producers but it is where the next generation of consumers were hanging out too.
Now, VHS are in museums, DVD is a dwindling market compared to the download to own market, and VOD is the last stop on the revenue cycle for prerecorded content.
Live video chat has been around since as early as the mid 1990s, but there have been huge advances in technology and many of the companies that started the live video chat phenomena are now following the trend set by AWE.
The sites work on mobile phones, tablets, computer, televisions, wherever the viewers are looking. Models can now stream in true high definition and take advantage of real-time language translation to translate what they are typing on the fly so both model and user see the chat in their native languages. Also, users experience a site that caters to their behaviors as the site learns and adapts to offer what users are seeking out.
Methods for marketing and advertising have changed significantly. The live vertical particularly illustrates this with the white label and the live-feed promo tools revolutionizing how webmasters promote webcams. What used to be simple banners became complex promo tools designed to dynamically deliver living content in real time. Marketing creative are now works of technological and visual art as programmers and designers come together to create compelling funnels to draw users in to engage the products interactively.
XBIZ: What do you see as the future of the cam business?
RICHTER: Stream quality will continue to increase. Expect to see additional features that allow an increase in interactivity between user and performer. Competition will become more intense as the market has become saturated with many startups finding it more difficult to enter the market.
XBIZ: Are there any trends in adult that are underexposed or overexposed?
RICHTER: Social networking and email marketing, depending on how it is being utilized, is a bit overexposed when done improperly. I have always believed the market does a good job of deciding what it wants.
Trends are just that, what is current and hot at the moment according to the desires of consumers. It seems that while Twitter is a great way to communicate to your fans and customer base, one cannot let the conversation become unidirectional. Brands and stars must engage with their users to keep this marketing medium an active and productive use of one’s time.
Similarly with email marketing, the message often becomes clouded after the tenth spamming to one’s inbox in a day. Take it easy, we all check our emails and have fairly sophisticated tools to filter the junk; one copy will do. Also, we need more LiveJasmin pops.
XBIZ: When not thinking about the biz what do you like to do?
RICHTER: I live for fitness and love the outdoors; kayaking is awesome. My grandparents have a cabin on a river in the mountains; it is one of my favorite places to spend free time. My grandparents are super-cool people and make amazing food in addition to their memorable stories. I also love to hike through rainforests and to appreciate the beauty of nature.
XBIZ: What are the most important character traits leading to a long and productive career in adult?
RICHTER: Honesty and integrity. Relationships are key, and you have to treat everyone you encounter with the respect and dignity that you yourself expect.
Don’t give false expectations; this is a small industry where everyone knows each other and with sites like GFY there is little room for persons of low moral caliber to squeak by.
XBIZ: Where do you see your career at 20 years?
RICHTER: Over the next five years, I expect to see my consulting business turn 10 years old as it continues to grow alongside my clients and partners. I am extremely happy with my life’s direction as I am sufficiently challenged and hope that this course blissfully continues.