At its peak, Jennicam attracted seven million visits per day

The following year Facebook was born and over the next ing video would become a cornerstone of mainstream social media. YouTube launched its live video service in 2010, followed by Facebook and Twitter in 2015 and Instagram in 2016. The big social networks have put their money on live video but anyone working in the adult cam industry could have told you: It’s been a safe bet for years.

Kelly Holland, owner and CEO of Penthouse, says beyond driving profits, the adult entertainment industry and social networks are serving the same basic need.

“Cams are the adult industry’s response to Facebook, frankly,” Holland says. “Facebook happened for a reason. It became what it was, I would tell you, not through Zuckerberg’s brilliance, but because it was just the right thing at the right time. It was in the pocket for where we were culturally, and where were we. We were in this incredibly desperate world where we had all moved away from home, we weren’t with the kids that grew up with. We weren’t with our families, and we were in this huge world of billions of people, and we needed to create our little tribes.”

Early on, she decided to giver her followers unrestricted access to her daily activities, including intimate moments like masturbation and sex

People in the adult camming business consistently draw the connection between online social networks like Facebook and the work that they do. Clinton Cox, founder of Havoc Media and Cam Con, a “model convention” focused on webcamming and other forms of social media, got his start in the early escort sites Des Moines IA days of commercialized live streaming video.

At the time, large webcamming studios were being built across the US, Latin America and Eastern Europe, churning out 24-hour streams from sometimes hundreds of models per day. These studios provided, and still do outside of the US, access to a safe space as well as the means to stream. Ten years ago, Cox, who worked in live music video production, was hired to build out a network of studios in Colombia. He says that at the peak of that project, the studio network shot 250 models per day.

“At the time I was going to school and working construction,” he says. “I was making $600 a week, which wasn’t bad, especially being sort of young. And I remember [my girlfriend] took me to West Hollywood where a webcam studio was set up, and I made like over $400 my first night. Like, literally in three hours. Safe to say I wasn’t in construction for long.”

Soon after Ducati started camming, Flirt4Free shuttered its West Hollywood studio. According to Pew Research, nearly 75 percent of American households have broadband internet, compared to about 50 percent in 2007 and many laptops have cameras capable of streaming HD video live to the internet. Models no longer needed the studios to make a living in the US, but developing countries in Latin America and Eastern Europe still rely heavily on studios to provide technology and a safe space for camming. While US models split revenue with services like Flirt4Free, MyFreeCams and Chaturbate, they’re otherwise largely independent.

Despite its success, Ringley took Jennicam offline in 2003, following a sex scandal in which she hooked up with a fellow lifecaster’s boyfriend on camera

“I love cams because at one level I like to say that it is the ultimate entrepreneurial experience for young women.” Holland says. “They can make as much money or not as they choose.”

While webcamming has taken off, traditional adult entertainment has struggled to remain relevant. Businesses like Penthouse have had to be creative to thrive, due in part to the economic recession of the late aughts, the rise of free tube sites and internet piracy. The material effect of camming on adult media pioneers like Penthouse is unclear, but Holland says it has changed the way that they work. She says her staff now trolls sites like MyFreeCams and Chaturbate for its infamous Penthouse Pets and recently introduced a monthly cam girl spotlight called Cyber Cuties.

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