“I was right out of Florida State [University] and I didn’t know what the hell I was going to do,” he says. “Thank God for the Internet.
“In the beginning, like a lot of webmasters, I tried to do a lot of things. What you end up doing when you try to do a lot of things is you end up doing them half-assed.
“So we just focused on providing content to webmasters. I even closed down my own pay sites because I never wanted to compete against our own clients. I decided to focus my energies into seeing what’s out there, who’s selling, what we can get on the Internet, and deciding on what’s the best way to deliver it. That has changed in an incredible way over the last 15 years.”
And so has the outlook of Andy Alvarez. Now the president of a cutting-edge content provider, Webmaster Central, Alvarez has guided his firm to dizzying success by seeing the future and getting on board.
“For the last two years we’ve focused almost all of our energies into mobile because we’ve seen our traffic grow,” he says. “Two years ago, mobile used to account for two percent of our traffic. Now it’s 30 percent. We allow website members to view content through their i-Phones, their Play Station 3’s, their i-Pads. Now that we’re mobile-compatible and the screen sizes are bigger and the quality is so much better, we can buy stuff that is totally unlike what we bought in the past. We used to buy DVDs, which have good quality. But now, when content providers are getting a little more desperate because there’s so much free stuff out there, we buy content from studios that is shot straight from cameras. This way the picture quality is huge. And the only stuff we’ll buy now is high definition.”
One of the many reasons why webmasters have been flocking to Webmaster Central for content is that the product is customized to each site.
“We are literally a webmaster central,” boasts Alvarez, “a centralized place where webmasters can say, ‘All I want to do is shoot content. Can you help me with everything else?’ We do that. We convert their tours to be mobile-compatible, convert their entire members’ section to be mobile-compatible, and then we take their entire library of movies and encode them for mobile, exclusively for each webmaster. Then we send them back the hard drives, which puts them in the 21st Century.”
The new secret weapon behind the Webmaster Central success story is XML Gateway, which gives webmasters total control of the content provided by Andy’s company. Webmasters can pull specific content through the XML Gateway and use it for tours or anything else pertinent to their sites. The demand for this new feature has been so great that Alvarez has had to drastically increase the number of machines he uses to encode orders that often run in the thousands of films.
“We provide a white-label theater for customers that contains all the niches they want,” explains Gabriel Kapp, Chief Technical Officer of Webmaster Central. “XML Gateway gives you the most control because it gives you access to the mobile files and to high-res Flash features that can be played on any computer in high definition. We just put it into [webmasters’] content management systems and this allows them to play videos and different updates through us. XML allows them to play content not just on their Flash player, but also play it on their site in mobile mode, so customers can play it on their phones or their computers without leaving the webmaster’s site.”
Aside from the encoding service, webmasters also benefit from the hosting duties performed by Alvarez’s company.
“For example,” he says, “if there’s a password leak, we’re right on top of it. Whereas other content providers will send webmasters a giant bill at the end of the month and do nothing about their password leak, we’ll shut them down with their permission until they fix the problem, so it doesn’t cost them any more money. This is why so many webmasters trust us with their hosting. We’re not in this business to make a quick buck. We’re in it for the long haul, so I make sure no one ever can say I did something shady or ripped them off. I under-promise and over-deliver.”
Alvarez admits that his daily duties have become much more difficult since moving his company so totally into the mobile arena. Where it once was just a matter of people coming to him with their content and sitting through around 15 demos per day, now he is much more intent on getting high quality content.
“You’ve got to be the best,” Alvarez stresses. “We still do a lot of the old stuff like the postings and sending out sales emails and tracking new clients. But I do a lot of my work on the cell phone because, with two kids, I have to.”
The importance of this fact, constant business via cell phone, is not lost on Alvarez, who sees mobile as the new wave in providing content.
“People say the industry is dying because of all the free content available,” he says. “That’s a bunch of bull, because if you’re not into mobile and focused on new technology, you’re going to die. Our clients who are making the most money now are the ones moving toward mobile affiliate programs. If a webmaster’s tour right now does not say that it features mobile content on the site, or even if the tour itself is not mobile-compatible, sales are going to go down.
“Two years ago we started to see our clients dropping and things began to look like they did in 1996 before the Internet took hold. I wondered, ‘Where do we go from here?’ Well, along comes mobile and now our company is growing again. It’s almost like the Internet has started all over again. It’s an entirely new business.
“It used to be a matter of affiliate programs trying to top each other with their sign-up payments. That model doesn’t work anymore. The clients I see that are making money now are the mobile affiliates. That’s because they don’t compete with thousands of affiliate programs. They’re in competition with just five or six affiliate programs. This is why I believe that mobile is the new Internet.”
And thanks the foresight of Andy Alvarez, Webmaster Central is at the forefront of this new Internet.