Cam Technology Trends: Bye-bye Walled Gardens
Years ago the infrastructure required to provide live streaming adult video content was expensive, littered with bugs and came with an exceptionally high bandwidth bill, making it cost prohibitive for all but a few pioneering brands with deep pockets. Now that technological know-how and the commoditization of the innovations those early adopters created have opened up the marketplace to many new players and now that growth is climbing beyond the borders between Cam platforms to provide nearly universal access to clients for live models and webcam performers.
“Lots of models are now using cam-splitting software, such as Manycams, to broadcast simultaneously on many sites,” said Brad Spencer of EZ Camsites. “Most of our competitors have resisted this trend and actually ban models if they catch them simulcasting. We’ve decided to take the opposite approach and encourage models to simulcast. We feel that models are going to do it anyway and if we can give them an option to broadcast on our site, without giving up their current site, they’ll be more likely to try us out. Therefore, we’ve implemented a feature in our broadcast application called “Private Only Mode.” When a model selects this mode, she appears live on our site, but is only available for privates, not for free chat. Members can still enter her room and view her video feed, but they’re unable to chat with her unless they take her private. This allows the model to focus on chatting with members on her primary site, while still being available for privates on our site.”
The concept of simulcasting and live content syndication leverages the most powerful part of webcam shows by bringing truly original entertainment to multiple venues in ways that prerecorded video content simply cannot match. Whereas video sites need to continually produce fresh original scenes and combat piracy constantly to create a sense of exclusivity, webcams are automatically generating exclusive video with each passing second that the live action is streaming to the viewer. In this way a model can generate exclusive entertainment offerings for multiple cam site platforms simultaneously and magnify their impact (and earning power) with every new outlet added to their syndication plans.
Also fueling the rapid evolution of live broadcasts are the overarching technologies that support each performance. The cost of bandwidth continues to drop rapidly and webcams that were once large expensive add-on attachments for home computers have become ubiquitous features of nearly every cellphone, tablet, laptop or desktop configuration. While the quality of the cameras scale up with each new release cycle, the pricing drops even deeper.
“There are some other obvious trends, such as increasing adoption of HD,” said Spencer. “However, most sites still require the model to install a separate Adobe Media Encoder to broadcast in HD. This is confusing for many models and the setup process can be complex. At EZ Camsites we’ve implemented a technological solution that allows models to broadcast in HD without running having to use the media encoder. Our solution is 100 percent Flash-based, so there’s no software for the model to install or configure. Consequently, we’ve been able to greatly increase the number of models broadcasting in HD on our sites.”
In previous years the division of labor essentially boiled down to models performing to create content and cam platform owners providing much of the traffic (often in the form of affiliate marketing), processing and other back end support systems. “Now models are doing more and more promoting using social media,” said Tristan of WeCamGirls.com. “Twitter is still one of the biggest and easiest marketing tools they have at their disposal, but also blogs (like Tumblr) are used a lot to create a bond with the customer. This is in correlation with the steady growth of models creating personal websites (next to working on the Cam sites) and getting more and more independent using IMs like Skype. Sites like ModelCentro for example go with this trend in creating a platform where models can easily build their own website (in a Wordpress kind of way, but a lot easier and more focused on the cam business).”
That is creating a dynamic where platforms do more general marketing of their brands and site names while models take on more responsibility to market their own name and create a personal brand beyond the confines of the sites that host their video feeds. Combined with the simulcasting evolution mentioned earlier, it appears that many models are on the verge of climbing out of the walled-gardens established by early webcam platforms in the hope of building a loyal fan base that identifies with their personal brand more than the site(s) they happen to be appearing on this week or this month.
“Another trend that already started a few years back of course is the continued growth of the freemium cam site concepts (MyFreeCams.com, Cam4.com, Chaturbate.com) and it looks like the non-freemium sites are in serious trouble” Tristan noticed. “Streamate.com, Flirt4Free.com and Jasmin.com have completely renewed their websites in what looks like to me a great effort to get some of the customers back. Normally sites don’t change much when everything is going great (the freemium sites have been more or less the same for the last few years) and it’s interesting to see that a lot of the other ones are trying a different approach.”
The freemium method that initially eroded some of the per minute revenue cam platforms earn is now also allowing cam site owners to utilize ‘free content’ from cam models more easily as well. So while the marketing and branding side of the equation seems to be sliding more toward the performer part of the spectrum, the content creation values appear to be tilting more heavily in favor of the site owners. Of course the ones winning on both aspects of these changes are the fans who now see much more, in higher quality, while paying less and having greater choice of what will be on their screen next. Which may mean greater longevity and overall revenue for live cam providers even if profits per month are pegged a bit lower than they were when only a few platforms controlled the entire space.