"People told us we'd never make any money out of softcore," he recalls. "I think we proved them wrong. There is a huge market for it."
What began as a hobby has grown into a thriving U.K.-based business, employing 16 people to photograph, videotape and edit content for six sites. What's the secret?
"Our quality makes us stand apart," Paul says. "Now we have everything in-house. We have more than 1.4 million images, all exclusive; and 2,700 videos. We've used 560 models, many of whom have been featured on Page Three in the tabloids, so they're already quite well known in the U.K.
"The benefit of softcore is that it applies to many different niches, and by being very soft we have the best looking girls possible — girls who wouldn't do porn or adult. But they're happy to pose in sexy lingerie, so we've got the best looking girls available. Since we're based in England, we use mostly English girls, although we'll use Czech or Hungarian models occasionally. But our content is very Europe-focused."
With the focus on titillation, OTCash offers only a fraction of its content as topless, the rest being totally non-nude in lingerie.
"It's somewhat like the Victoria's Secret catalogue on the web," says Paul. "We focus on putting the models in stockings, tights or socks. We do tease very well. Some people approach tease with just a few images of the model in stockings before she takes off all of her clothes. That's not teasing. Our members really like the tease that we do, which is often a set of 120 images, and in the first half they don't take off any clothes at all. Only for about the last 20 images do the models get topless.
"Not every guy wants to see hardcore. There are a huge number of guys who just want to see good-looking girls in sexy clothing. They don't want to see what the girl had for dinner through gynecological shots of her stomach. In fact, occasionally we get complaints from men that [say] we show too much flesh."
The special tastes of the OTCash customers would seem to require a totally different kind of marketing strategy, but Paul says that's not necessarily the case.
"Our marketing is slightly different in that we want to get across that we do tease and softcore," he adds. "We're not interested in just ripping off members by just trying to get them to pay and not be happy with the content. We let customers know that if you're looking for nudity and strong stuff, then OT is not for you.
"Aside from that, we use the traditional marketing methods with affiliates and FHGs. The TGP that focuses on stockings and lingerie is great for us. We stay away from the TGPs that focus on fetish stuff, because those haven't converted for us. We do very well selling within sites that get traffic for softcore babes in stockings, pantyhose and other lingerie. Stockings fans love to see girls in stockings, whether it's hardcore or softcore, but there's no big preference for hardcore in this niche."
OTCash also uses affiliates, but doesn't rely on them. According to Paul, any site today that relies purely on affiliate traffic does not have a good business model. But OTCash has made the effort to provide affiliates with a lot of content, free hosted galleries, and a free monthly video podcast to help them push traffic along. OTCash even creates custom galleries for those affiliates with particular needs.
But in the current economy, the firm points to member retention as the key to its current success.
"We work hard on member retention, and our conversion ratio has stayed pretty constant," Paul says. "In this economy it's getting harder to find increased traffic, so we work at retaining our members by building a community spirit on the site, increasing our updates and improving our video quality. We moved to HD six months ago, investing a lot of money in new HD cameras. The quality of our photography is second to none. We have in-house photographers who shoot five days per week. They're former Page Three photographers, and very experienced at this kind of work. And we found that the price is fairly irrelevant because of the quality of the content. Our membership price is $44.95, which gives access to all six sites, and now about 60 percent of our members use that option."
Another important facet to the OTCash business plan is building a true community feeling for members of the site. The OTCash forum has been a huge success, and is now approaching 100,000 posts.
"That's great for retention," Paul says. "The members love getting to chat with the models. Plus, we get a lot of feedback from our members on what they like and don't like, and we connect very quickly to what they want. Stockings, tights or pantyhose fetish persons are very specific on what they want. We get a lot of feedback from customers on what we're doing right, what we're doing wrong, and how we can improve it."
The OTCash customers come from all over the world, but since the company is so focused on Europe, about 60 percent of its members are European. The 40 percent who are not European mainly reside in America and Canada.
"We find that the American market in particular loves the British girls, especially the videos where the girls are talking," Paul reveals. "We get a lot of feedback on how sexy they find the British accent. It seems strange to me, but we're happy to go along with it."
And going along with customer needs is exactly why OTCash has succeeded in a niche where everyone said they would fail.