"I thought Hazel would stop me when I said I wanted to start a porn site," Barry remembers. "But she was totally in favor of it."
On Valentine's Day, 2000, the couple launched Spread4U from a computer inside their tiny one-bedroom apartment in Toronto. It remained a husband-and-wife home operation for the next three years, even after the couple moved to a two-bedroom condo. Today, Spread4U remains the flagship site of what has grown into WebcamCash, an affiliate program that employs 11 people and has its own office.
But now there is a new and improved Spread4U that figures to keep WebcamCash atop the heap in the webcam affiliate arena throughout 2009. That's because the firm has re-launched Spread4U with some innovative bells and whistles.
"We redid it from the ground up," Barry beams. "We've kept the old site for the die-hard members, and called it Spread4UClassic, but the new site has a web 2.0 interface, which makes it much easier to use. It has a number of new features, including two-way voice-in-private, and we're the only cam program offering that now. Everyone has had cam-to-cam for years, but putting two-way voice alongside that really enhances the experience. Another new feature allows members to stay in the chat room for as long as they want if they keep buying time. The members like it, and obviously it's good for conversions and good for the affiliates. The members also have much more control over the experience in this new setup. The whole look and feel of the site, including the logo, has been re-designed."
In addition to this improvement, WebcamCash also introduced a new product a year ago called the Webcam Toolkit, and after its successful trial, it has been ramped up for 2009. It's basically a plugin for solo-girl member areas to the girls' webcam shows, and it offers many new advantages.
"The models receive a free webcam platform to do shows for their members," Barry explains. "But they also become part of the Webcam Toolkit network, which we brand to consumers as the Cam Hotties network. We recently launched Cam Hotties as a subset of Cam Girls, and this site features our best looking, top converting models on one domain. Now with the Webcam Toolkit, their content is shared across the other solo-girl sites, so they get exposure to our members in order to sell memberships to their own sites. They also get exposure to the other solo-girl members, so they receive content from the shows of the other solo girls. It's basically a network within the member's areas of all the solo-girl sites. Also, members of Cam Hotties and Spread4U can watch those solo-girl shows on our points reward system."
The reward system, "cam points," is another recent innovation in which the more a member buys, the more points he earns. Members can spend cam points on solo-girl shows, on video-on-demand, and other items in the WebcamCash points store including the new adult toy store.
These new additions haven't dimmed the luster of the firm's established sites, like Cam Club, a full-featured portal in which all WebcamCash content, including straight, gay and even non-nude, is offered under one roof. Cam Club differs from Spread4U in that the latter features only XXX webcam girls. There are about 15 different niche domains total that are subsets of Cam Club, all of them pay-per-view webcam sites with different variations: Asian niche, busty niche, etc. There's also the long-running Stroke4U, the company's gay PPV site.
Barry, who is CEO of WebcamCash, believes it's vital to keep coming up with new improvements to stay ahead of the intense competition in the webcam field.
"The number of webcam affiliates out there is a lot smaller than the total number of affiliate programs online," he says. "They probably make up only about 10 percent of the affiliate programs. But we seem to be in a more competitive arena, because there are fewer affiliates in these programs, too. So we have to be innovative, and introduce new marketing tools like the party chat room. It's a group chat room, and no one else had one when we launched ours. Cam programs tend to be more innovative than other programs simply because we offer a more dynamic form of content.
"In terms of operation, we're very similar to the other webcam programs. We offer a generous per-join payout and a typical revenue sharing payout — 20 to 40 percent to our members. But we are the only company with a first conversion payout, where an affiliate who sends a 'member join' earns a 100 percent commission on the first sale. The better the first conversion is, the more money that affiliate will make."
But perhaps more important than anything else is the longevity of WebcamCash, in terms of setting the company apart from the competition.
"People who are into webcam know that we've been around a long time," Barry says. "Only about two or three cam programs have been around longer than us. They know that we're honest about payments, and that they can count on us to convert the cam girls. The name, WebcamCash, is immediately recognizable and that's worked really well for us."
Owning an established and trusted brand is vital in any business, of course, but Barry realizes that it's a laurel he can't afford to rest on. In the coming months, WebcamCash will introduce daring new strategies, and although he can't reveal the details right now, Barry hints that his firm is taking a radical new direction.
"We want to offer our members more than just PPV webcams," he says, "because I think the time has come for us to expand beyond that. We're looking to be more community based, because that's where the whole Internet is going right now. So we're looking to add more community based webcams for our members in the first quarter of 2009."
Whatever new strategies are implemented, WebcamCash will be a long way from the one-bedroom apartment where it was born a decade ago.