For that matter, the technology used to deliver the demo hadn’t yet evolved to the point where one would necessarily envision camming becoming an industry unto itself. The demo’s framerate was extremely low, the image quality dicey, at best.
There was, however, a small handful of innovative companies who intuitively understood the power of an experience which was far more interactive and intimate than looking at online porn – an act which, at that point, consisted mostly of slowly downloading still images.
In the early days of camming, the entertainment form was largely relegated to centralized operations. Studio-like operations set up rooms to which models would report to work shifts. They wired up residences to give viewers a “voyeur” experience, wherein they’d watch performer roommates not only in the context of shows, but as they went through the more mundane routines of daily life, as well.
For early adult subscription sites, camming usually was something of an afterthought, one of several up-sell opportunities site operators would present to their members and from which they’d derive some ancillary revenue.
Given what the cam industry has become in the years since I watched that first demo, it’s hard to believe how many of us in the adult industry were skeptical of its potential. Now, the add-on has become a focal point all its own. It has grown into a product which may well prove to be more stable and more resistant to market disruptions over the long haul than the prerecorded adult content to which it used to be a mere sidebar.
Immediacy, Intimacy and Interactivity
What has driven the rise of the adult webcam market? Regardless of who you pose this question to, there are several key terms you’re likely to hear cited in their response. One of these has been referenced from the very inception of what has grown into the adult webcam industry: Interactivity.
However much one enjoys watching porn, it’s a passive, receptive act. There’s not much choice involved, either, beyond selecting a video and deciding how much of it to watch.
With cams – and especially in the context of one-on-one private shows – the user has an opportunity to engage with another person, in real time. We can quibble about whether these interactions represent true “intimacy,” but you can’t dispute it’s more of a connection and human interaction than simply hitting the play button on a porn clip.
Another advantage held by the adult webcam sector which is almost universally cited is the (relatively) piracy-resistant nature of a live cam show.
Content piracy has always been present in the adult industry, of course, even in the pre-internet age. The ease of reproducing and redistributing digital content made piracy a far more disruptive force over recent decades than it had been previously, though – and is often identified by adult studios as the primary reason for their declining revenues in recent years.
While one can argue endlessly about the extent of content piracy’s impact on the adult market and legitimately contend that refusal to change and adapt is as detrimental to adult companies as piracy itself, there’s no question one of the advantages camming presents as a product is its difficult-to-pirate nature. With its immediacy, intimacy and interactivity, camming presents an experience which is far more resistant to piracy than is prerecorded content.
This doesn’t mean camming is without its challenges, of course. Like any other segment of the adult industry, there are legal risks to mitigate, personnel-management difficulties to navigate, technical issues to confront and a host of other variables which must be managed.
In the coming weeks, YNOT is turning its spotlight on the adult webcam sector to look at how companies, performers and advertisers are making the most of this vibrant segment of the adult industry. In a series of interviews, profiles and features, we’ll explore both the opportunities and difficulties of the adult webcam space from a variety of perspectives.
How do big cam companies manage their expansive operations? What are some common traits among popular, high-earning performers? How autonomous are cam performers and to what extent do cam companies monitor their work? What major developments and market shifts do the leading cam companies see coming in the years ahead? With the help of executives, models, marketers and others who make their living in the cam sector, we’ll probe these and other questions in depth.
Our in-depth coverage of the adult webcam sector begins this week. As with our recent coverage of age verification, social media and digital advertising, in addition to appearing on the main page, the webcam feature articles will be archived in the YNOT University section.