opinion

The Cam Biz: Traffic, Billing Push Live Cam Growth

Alex Henderson

The live webcam sector has enjoyed tremendous growth in the adult entertainment industry, evolving into a field that is much more profitable, diverse and technologically sophisticated than it was during the early days of erotic webcams.

The cam sector has also grown increasingly competitive, and it is more important than ever for webmasters to keep abreast of current cam trends. The growth of mobile/wireless devices, a variety of billing needs and ongoing technological improvements are among the cam trends that webmasters need to be aware of as the Summer of 2014 moves along.

A large part of the Internet community is still on a desktop, but as the costs of the mobile solutions continue to become more affordable and more convenient, these numbers are and will continue to grow.

Douglas Richter, webcam unit director for DNX Network (whose sites include XCams.com, XModels.com and the gay-oriented HunkPrivates.com), said he is seeing a “movement towards increased stream quality” in the live cam sector and that “more HD streams, better bandwidth and features which improve the user experience are all very popular.”

Mobile technology is making its presence felt all over the adult industry, and that includes the cam sector. Richter said that although desktops still account for the majority of traffic on adult cam sites, he is observing “a massive, growing move by users towards mobile devices.” Asked to estimate roughly what percentage of traffic on adult cam sites is presently coming from mobile devices rather than desktops, Richter replied, “20 percent and growing. Still, the majority are using desktops, but mobile penetration grows by the day.”

And when the Netherlands-based Tristan, co-founder of WeCamGirls.com, was asked the same question, he offered comparable figures and said, “When I look at the stats of CamGirlCollective.com — one of our projects where models can create a profile, sell content, etc. — you see that about 80 percent of all the visitors use a desktop, 16 percent a (smartphone) and 4 percent a tablet. When looking at WeCamGirls.com, the stats are even worse for mobile and tablet devices: 84 percent desktop, 12 percent (smartphone), 4 percent tablet. But I don’t think the last one is a good representation since models are sitting a lot behind their desktop anyway when they work and log in on WeCamGirls.”

Tam, affiliate manager for the Netherlands based MyTubeCams.com, also described desktop traffic as dominant in the cam sector, estimating that adult cam traffic is roughly 78 percent desktop, 20 percent tablet and 2 percent smartphone. However, Tam is quite bullish on the cam sector’s mobile prospects.

“A large part of the Internet community is still on a desktop,” Tam explained, “but as the costs of the mobile solutions continue to become more affordable and more convenient, these numbers are and will continue to grow. As younger generations are growing older and not knowing what a desktop even is anymore, the smartphones and tablets and so on will become more and more dominant.”

Tam added that as mobile technology continues to improve, mobile traffic will increase in the cam sector. “In the last couple of years, the evolution of mobile hardware and software has brought the same desktop experience to the hands of wireless device users,” Tam observed. “By implementing cross-platform, unified, HTML-rendering engines, mobile devices are now in par with desktop computers regarding how they display actual content. It wasn’t always like that. The progression of the HTML5 standard focuses more on displaying multimedia on mobile devices without excessive usage of plugins and add-ons. However, technology is still a few steps behind when it comes to live video/audio streams on mobile devices. The more and more hated Flash technology is still the best option today to broadcast live audiovisual content on desktop computers, but the lack of the technology on mobile devices still has some questions unanswered. The applied policies of software stores also affect this niche’s intent to satisfy customers with user-friendly mobile applications.”

David Bloom, marketing/communications spokesman for iFriends, said that although desktop traffic remains dominant in the cam sector, mobile traffic continues to grow. “PCs and laptops still make up the vast majority of traffic,” Bloom noted. “There isn’t yet a mobile-first philosophy in the adult webcam sector that’s gained much traction or scale. What you see is a trend towards mobility. Laptop resolutions from Ultrabooks and Netbooks have increased. Compare this to the shrinking share of visits from traditional desktop screen resolutions like 1690x1050. Mobile device visits from tablets and smartphones are also increasing, month over month.”

Bloom added: “Web apps or browser applications remain the most productive tools for adult mobile traffic. The exclusion of native adult apps on major mobile marketplaces is driving the HTML5-based app strategy for adult businesses, like it or not.”

Billing remains a complex matter in many areas of the adult industry, and the cam sector is no exception. Cam sites are being paid for with a variety of methods, from credit cards in North America to the many different alternative payment preferences that are popular in Europe. Credit cards remain the dominant payment method for cam sites in the U.S. and Canada, whereas in Europe, a cam site might — depending on the country — be paid for with anything from bank-based debiting to mobile payments to prepaid/preloaded e-wallets.

“Alternative billing options are all the rage right now,” Richter explained. “Being able to take the money from users varies significantly from region to region, country to country. Having a billing partner that is able to cover all your bases is key.”

In Germany, Spain, Italy and many other European countries, most cam-related payments are being made with methods other than credit cards. But Tristan noted that in countries where credit cards dominate adult billing, cam sites still dread the possibility of chargebacks.

“I think keeping the refunds and chargebacks as low as possible are still the biggest challenges and concerns for 2014,” Tristan asserted. “Not covering a chargeback as a model when you are taking, for example, 50 percent of payment is not something they are very happy with because they actually worked for it — and most of the time, it is not their fault something went wrong with the payment.”

Tam said that fighting payment fraud is an ongoing battle for cam sites.

“Fraud is always a concern and issue regardless of what type of system you run or business it is,” Tam stressed. “There is always going to be a concern of fraud.”

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