opinion

Free Cams vs. Pay Per Minute

Stewart Tongue

Only a handful of years ago, nearly every depiction of nudity on the net was available exclusively to paying customers. The free porn era changed all of that as piracy, tubes, torrents and file lockers allowed a small number of unethical site owners to quickly expand the proliferation of free porn to a point where just about every niche is now available in full length HD videos legally provided for free to fans as part of a freemium business model. Webmasters continue scrambling to make sense out of the current webcam market and wonder if free cams offer performers, webmasters or site owners better payment possibilities than the parallel pay-per-minute business model available?

Freemium site owners often tried using lower quality pre-recorded free porn videos to attract traffic which could then be monetized using premium upsells to higher quality content like live erotic webcam shows. That window stayed open until the webcam sites themselves started offering fans free viewing options like group tipping and public viewing as alternatives to the strict pay-per-minute methods available previously.

The quality and consistency of the performers is a more important factor for affiliates than customer payment model alone. -Brad Estes, VideoSecrets.com

“I imagine that for most users, free sounds like a good idea. After all everything is free online these days, right? But, I would say that for fans and real users, free also means cheap most of the time, and by cheap I mean cheap quality,” said Christophe, marketing director for Streamate.com. “You can sit in a chat room for free and be one among hundreds or thousands of other people, waiting for someone else to throw some money around so you can enjoy a show, but you are lost in the crowd.

“The model probably doesn’t pay much attention to you, you’re just a silent, invisible spectator and for you the experience is probably not so good. That’s why many webcam clients would rather have the full attention of their model, someone talking directly to you, responding back immediately, smiling at you probably ... and more. Just you, not a whole room full of nobodies.”

At its core what separates the live webcam segment of adult entertainment from so many prerecorded paysites is the immediacy and personal focus that fans get from their favorite performers. The public free cam method, which relies on tipping, does dilute that connection to some degree, and that is why some platform owners have tried to offer the best of each method to their client base.

“Fans of specific performers benefit from each business model; although the free cam model can be aggravating for hardcore fans who appreciate chat with their favorite performer without incessant free chatter disruption,” said Brad Estes of VideoSecrets.com. “All of the sites in the Video Secrets program offer a hybrid consisting of free tips, pay-per-minute and group pledging to give both customers and performers diversity throughout the day.”

“The quality and consistency of the performers is a more important factor for affiliates than customer payment model alone,” Estes said. “All things being equal, affiliates should promote the sites with the most ways for customers to spend money so that their upsells can appeal to all of their visitors and not a small segment.”

In researching the affiliate possibilities available, Homegrown Video was very helpful due to their extensive experience with webcam upsells, having tried several companies and webcam platforms on their adult content properties. When asked to provide insight about choosing the right option, their reply had much more to do with branding and saturation than either the Free or PPM method of monetization.

“From Homegrown’s experience, we have seen merit in both free and PPM models. The free cam model work well with our free/tube traffic. Although we find it takes longer to get people to register and spend money, but once they do, we have a loyal customer,” said Spike Goldberg of HomegrownCash.com. “Conversely, PPM cam systems work better in members sections with qualified traffic. There, we can offer free credits which are only useable with a registered account, to incentivize users and persuade them to give it a try.”

“People tend to get into the habit of doing something on the web,” Goldberg said. “If you are used to using a PPM cam system it’s not going to be a big leap for you to use a different one. That said, one of the bigger issues both types of cam platforms have is overexposure on tube sites. When you have systems being pounded with people on the tubes, by the time they get to you they are already engaged on some other platform, making it harder to get them to engage on your specific site. A good strategy is to work with a cam system that will let you brand your site within the cam system, and even better is branding the buying of credits so it all runs through your processing. This way you have the user focused on your brand and offerings to keep the user experience more unified.”

Maintaining flexibility is also very important for webcam affiliates and providers. “I think our model of offering multiple show-types and payment models is the best approach because it affords our sites the ability to adapt to changing market conditions throughout the data and across the different strata of performer abilities,” Estes said. “Some performers can command our $15/minute rate while others excel at tip-based free performances. Live video chat is not static; both the content delivered and the payment modalities used to access it should not be static either.”

Providing the right mix of resources and monetization methods for each individual brand is what has allowed Manica Media to build momentum as a fully managed solution for site owners seeking better revenue and traffic numbers for their paysites. With Manica Media now operating sites for several significant brands and utilizing webcams from a variety of site owner perspectives, they had this to say about choosing the system that suits your goals the best: “It depends on what the site owner or affiliate wants to achieve,” said Erwin de Boer of ManicaMedia.com. “If you’re an affiliate you might be looking for either quick money or long term growth. If you want quick money the traditional cam models (PPM) are a quicker way to generate money, but if you want long term growth, then the free method is probably better since it will attract a bigger bookmark crowd which may eventually account for greater sales over time as users become more comfortable and hopefully spend more money over the course of their engagement with your site.”

“I don’t see why it would be different for affiliates or models,” Christophe said. “An affiliate wants to be successful which means getting customers that spend money. I don’t see how an affiliate would be happy with a model that promotes free time. The same way, I don’t see why it would be any different for site owners or even for performers.” Taking the hard bottomline ROI view that some webmasters favor.

On the other hand, Estes had a different view based on their experience with a hybrid platform.

“While initially resisted by many of our performers and customers, our tipping shows (Party Chat) and our collaborative pledging shows (Group Chat) now represent a significant double-digit portion of our revenue.

“We achieved this success without cannibalizing our established pay-per-minute business; underscoring the point that different payment methods appeal to different customers, some of whom would have never purchased without a certain option or showtype. We analyze our business components based on customer engagement and have found that it’s not one specific model versus another that leads to higher engagement (and spending) but rather it is the performers who keep customers coming back again and again.

‘We pride ourselves on recruiting and retaining top quality performers who share the same attributes that have made past performers successful. Our customers come to expect this quality on our sites and this keeps them engaged with our products.”

One thing that seemed nearly universally accepted by everyone who contributed their expertise to this article was that the platform, performer and affiliate marketing campaign must provide a coherent user experience to garner the best results. In fact, some of the insiders we spoke with thought that the single most important aspect of the equation was the comfort of the performers with the business model of the sites publishing their performances. For that reason, the point of view of performers like Lisa Sparxxx, who has appeared on multiple webcam platforms, can be especially important.

“I find that cam systems that allow for different payment scales and different types of chat (exclusive and premium) work best for me,” said Lisa Sparxxx of LisaSparxxx.com. “Where sites like My Free Cams have only a token method, keeping girls in the free area doing many more things to try and get tips ... it just didn’t work well for me. I like more structure, so I know who has paid and where to focus my attention so that the actual customers get the best of me, instead of sitting in free chat hoping for someone to tip and being unsure of which viewer is a true potential customer.”

As the free porn era continues to evolve and platforms for webcams, dating and other premium forms of adult entertainment shift from a single business model to several competing strategies, the goal remains the same.

Maximizing the revenue your sites can generate in the short term without cannibalizing the long term growth and reputation of your brand. Free content seems here to stay, in one form or another, and learning how to optimize your sites by properly filtering traffic and providing the sales mechanism best suited to each visitor is essential to the health and prosperity of any site.

The good news is that webcam providers are now offering an assortment of platform options for site owners, performers, fans and affiliates to utilize to your complete satisfaction.

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