opinion

Live CAMS + Dating = EuroGold

Stephen Yagielowicz

Phone sex started it all. The idea of interacting with a live person in a one-on-one erotic exchange has kept porn lovers in a virtual state of hyper-horniness for decades. And the formula still works. Now live cams that offer just about every XXX video thrill one could imagine, and its less explicit but equally compelling sister — online dating — have not only flourished in adult’s tough economic times, but are being embraced by some as the salvation for an industry beleaguered with the proliferation of content piracy, tube sites and the general “been there, seen that” mentality of online surfers.

But there’s always the question of competition, and how does the struggling webmaster get into the live cam and dating game, especially in what’s become a tight market dominated by many of the web whales?

Because of the many local languages in Europe it is difficult for U.S. websites because even though many Internet users know English well, they still prefer their local language when it comes to dating.

The good news for domestic entrepreneurs is that although competition can be stiff, opportunity is alive and well across the Atlantic with some top industry types believing Europe will dig itself out of the global economic crunch faster than the U.S.

DatingGold vice president of sales and marketing Alfonsus Kusuma says his company is definitely seeing an untapped yet emerging dating market in Europe noting that “Affiliate marketers have been focusing more on other English speaking countries and foreign.”

But building a hedge against the free content scourge and implementing a new strategy is no an easy task. It requires that adult pros understand each market and customize their operations to work “across the pond.”

ImLive and affiliate partner PussyCash, which operates an adult and non-adult live cam broadcast network as well as its popular porn star celebrity live chats, has built much of its success in Europe as well as the U.S. by sticking to a simple formula — maintaining a local approach to its content.

PussyCash’s Yuval Kijel says this strategy is what he sees as the predominant trend in Europe for the foreseeable future. He points out that users who have the sense that they’re interacting with a model to whom they can relate will be engaged for longer periods of time and spend more money.

“What I see is more companies adapting the local approach. It comes in the form of translation which we see more and more in all of the big sites, more local models, local payment methods and even local look and feel in some sites.”

The executive notes that even the marketing efforts include a local approach. ImLive uses local forums, local press and magazines. A particularly clever strategy ImLive employs is reaching out to local webmasters and models that are familiar with the market and best ways for marketing.

“We try to keep this local approach by keeping very high level of translations, local payment methods and employing local models to make the user has a friendly hometown feeling,” Kijel says.

A major factor would-be live cam webmasters need to keep in mind according to Kijel is the inherent differences in the U.S. and European markets. He says that in Europe — in addition to the local appeal, — the live operations are much more oriented to per minute payment and there are distinctions in content and presentation from country to country.

Once again Kijel stresses customization and adaptation to local users’ tastes as the key to developing a successful live operation. “The details can be very different from one country to the other,” he says.

A unique take on what will work comes from Gamma Entertainment’s Livebucks.com and home-Cams Model Broadcasting Network director Guillaume Boisvert, who is a big fan of gamification when it comes to a current concept that applies very well to live cam and dating.

“I see the need to offer a very interactive experience, and engage our users fully. Users are not content to just sit back and watch a video; they need to participate in their fantasy. We work hard to make our product more and more engaging and interactive by adding fun features and activities for our users to participate in,” Boisvert says.

The executive adds that on sites like homeCams.com, interactivity as always been at the forefront of his company’s products, noting that users are on live cam sites specifically because they want more than to passively stare at videos and pictures. DatingGold’s Kusuma echoes the allure of interactivity, noting that his site’s members are able to interact with each other through the company’s cam2cam service. “We also integrated our live cam sites within our dating sites. Many of our users love to talk to live cam performers,” Kusuma says.

As always, marketing also plays an integral part in any model and Boisvert says controlling traffic is vital for webcam companies. “We cannot solely rely on affiliates anymore. This has of course modified the way we market. One method that anyone can use is working with traffic brokers. You want to make sure that you use a broker that allows you to start with a small budget, and lets you target your traffic really well. Targeted traffic is the key. You want to make sure that you target by keyword and country. Some brokers, such as adxpansion.com, even let you target mobile traffic.”

Webmasters may also want to take a cue from more progressive live cam operations that have surfaced in Europe.

Private Media Group late last year took the live experience to another level when CEO Berth Milton announced the company’s live webcam sex hotels.

Private did field research at more than a dozen swingers’ clubs in Barcelona and felt they were onto something big. The idea was that guests could stay at the hotel for free if they agreed to have their sex acts broadcast on Private’s Internet websites. Milton said he plans to open more than 100 of these hotels around the world, saying that he feels porn lovers will pay to watch people having graphic sex, rather than regular porn.

Milton believes a single hotel could generate $43.8 million a year in subscription fees from voyeurs watching from computers around the world. “The numbers are astonishing,” he says.

As attractive as live cams are, the operations do demand production facilities unless partnering with an affiliate, and of course wrangling talent — always a challenge and expense.

Another route and equally Euro-friendly is the dating site model and with the burgeoning social networking component, the user interactivity increases exponentially.

Swiss-based DatingFactory, a major white label affiliate provider is a case study in how adult webmasters can add dating to their business portfolios.

The company stresses that it has built its reputation on building systems “by affiliates for affiliates” and is setting its sites on being the major player both in Europe and the U.S.

Co-founder and CEO Tanya Fathers says Europe is ripe for more dating sites, citing less competition in the local countries, lower acquisition price per member and higher disposable income per individual website user.

She adds that the major trends in the market are including social network features and viral marketing techniques as well as the core “user interactivity” and a usable interface.

“Large numbers of competitors makes dating websites to change and adopt quickly to the market requirements — so flexibility is essential too. And the last very important element is niche targeting,” she maintains.

And for those setting their sites on the European market Fathers says the audience is more proactive than that of the U.S., explaining that websites like non-adult eHarmony are not exactly made for European market and like live cam considerations, the sites must be built with local customization.

“Because of the many local languages in Europe it is difficult for U.S. websites because even though many Internet users know English well, they still prefer their local language when it comes to dating,” she says.

Fathers explains that her company is planning to expand into non-English speaking growing markets as well as cover more niches in an English speaking world. “Watchwords are keeping up with market trends and providing extensive data to webmasters, all of this in line with creating a local presence using the DatingFactory franchise model.”

And getting users involved is of major importance, like DatingGold’s Kusuma, Dating Factory is considering melding live cams — a natural compliment — to its model.

Fathers notes that the company was able to nail user-touser web functionality right from the start, but now it’s time to move to the next level in order to remain on top, and “By the end of 2012, be the largest and the best white label provider worldwide.”

Gamma’s Boisvert predicts that live cam and dating will continue to grow despite the fact that it is a very difficult market to penetrate, populated by very large companies. But he’s optimistic about “personalities “ who he says will remain the central aspect of live cam and dating as more and more emphasis is placed on those types of features.

Boisvert’s also bullish on the market in general, predicting, “The mobile business should represent a larger and larger share of our revenues over the coming years.”

Kusuma says, “I predict that lots of new dating sites will pop up to capitalize the trend in Europe, I have already seen quite a few new players.”

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