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December 09, 2015

Homegrown Video's Spike Goldberg Passes Torch to New CEO

This article originally ran in the December 2016 issue of AVN magazine. Click here to see the online edition. A couple years back, during an AVN interview with Homegrown Video President Farrell Timlake, the subject of his hard-working chief executive officer came up. Talking about how CEO Spike Goldberg took care of the day-to-day operations of Homegrown, Timlake commented, “He does the grind, the stuff that no one else wants to do. So god bless him. I’m going to drink to Spike right now.” Timlake’s light-hearted comment is a tribute to Goldberg’s skills as a numbers guy. “I was for years adamant about running by the metrics, which was impossible to do on the DVD side,” Timlake said. Creating a separate entity for the internet side made it possible to focus on metrics—something Goldberg has done for many years. Now it’s time for Goldberg to raise a glass of his own to celebrate the fact that he’s stepping away from Homegrown’s day-to-day operations. But that doesn’t mean he will be leaving the company—any more than Timlake has himself. Goldberg said he’s looking forward to refocusing on the bigger picture at the company. “I’m going to take on some special projects for Homegrown, but I’ll no longer be stewarding or steering the company. Josh will be doing that going forward—all the fun of my job.” Homegrown’s newly anointed chief executive officer is Josh Marcum (pictured above). Having been promoted to head of operations and chief operating officer in 2013, Marcum is well equipped to hold the reins as CEO. He’s been at Homegrown for about seven years and has been in the online adult industry since 2000. And with Goldberg still on the team working on special projects and Timlake fully engaged with the online community and video submitters, the three-decade-old company is well equipped to handle the challenges facing any company in the adult sphere. Installing Marcum as CEO has been in the works for several months now, but that is only part of the big shifts that have taken place at Homegrown in recent years. As Goldberg explained, “What happened two years ago is we merged the DVD business into the internet business. So we were two separate businesses, and we merged and now we’re one.” Talking to the Homegrown team, it’s clear they bring professionalism to a company that got its start selling content made by amateurs. “One thing in this industry, people don’t treat it like a business—actually having good reports, sitting down and having meetings,” Marcum said. And treating Homegrown like a business is vital to him. Timlake heartily agreed, noting that early on he saw that “tube traffic could be like Moneyball and be entirely stats-driven.” Marcum understood that and helped realize that vision at Homegrown. “That was his defining moment in showing how valuable an employee he is and put him on the path to his leadership role today,” Timlake said. Assisting Homegrown in the DVD business is Girlfriends Films, which took over distribution duties in 2014. And in order to come up with titles that will do well in the marketplace, Marcum said that he puts a high value on listening to his staff. “Passing ideas off to everybody, talking to the guy who just does thumbs and asking his opinion and taking everybody’s opinion and putting it on a whiteboard … The guy who does the thumbs, he talks at the water cooler and he hears what other people say. He might say the things that other people are afraid to say.” Goldberg said, “Online, we really have a good sense of what sells really quick and we’re able to reinforce that and make money this way in a very focused manner. On DVD it’s kinda like you were tossing a stone out and hoping it skips. … By the time you figure out if it’s a good stone, you’re already three to six months into the process, you’re going for your next title. So it’s very hard to capture the zeitgeist of DVD.” But Homegrown is just as much an online business as it is a company that produces DVDs, and both Marcum and Goldberg have plenty to say about that side of the business. “I’ve been doing the internet for 20 years,” Goldberg said. “I’ve watched this industry grow up and become what it is today.” And along the way he and Homegrown have played a role in disputes over piracy, including a well-publicized lawsuit against Acacia Technologies. Marcum, in the biz since 2000, is a child of the free porn era. “My generation grew up on Napster,” he said. Goldberg mused, “Generations have been taught to access porn for free. You have to reconcile yourself with that fact. … I know people in this industry who own companies who would rather go to a free site to watch porn as opposed to going to a paysite. When I started in this business there was something very cool about getting into a site and seeing the inside of the site and how it was created.” Now, however, as Marcum pointed out, porn “became so easy to find.” It’s not enough to offer video content—you have to offer a sense of community. “We try to make a reason to keep your membership and a reason to come there day to day. It’s not just porn.” However, that doesn’t mean throwing in the towel when it comes to piracy. Marcum noted that Homegrown devotes considerable resources to sending out DMCA notices, because without constant vigilance, its stolen content would proliferate over tube and torrent sites. And Goldberg emphasized the need for coordinated efforts between companies. “Much like I did when I fought with Acacia in the past, the industry has to remember to bind itself together at times and work together,” he said. “This industry is like an organism. And if it’s treated like a business and people work off the same set of rules, it grows and it will thrive. If we don’t all cooperate on that level … everybody’s going to be eating each other alive.” Fortunately for the company, its flagship site HomegrownVideo.com does provide a community where fans can get more than they will find in stolen video content. On the membership site, there’s more context. “You have the benefit of community chat and the texturing of history of what people have done and what’s going on in their communities to kind of reinforce what you’re seeing,” Goldberg said. In a video, he explained, “You get a 90-minute crack at explaining something as complicated as a couple opening up their relationship.” Goldberg continued, “I love the context. We’ve seen this for years at Homegrown. You see relationships evolving. And to be able to dig in and see that up close it’s not just porn at the point. It becomes a learning experience for people. We see some amazing things. One time we had a real threesome where this woman started crying because she got jealous of her boyfriend with this other girl. That’s not something you see in porn.” When asked about what he’ll be working on in the future, Goldberg said, “There are challenges that are inherent to this business that are going to continue to become bigger and bigger in the years to come, and I’m going to start to chase some of these structural challenges that running an adult business in this day and age create. Beyond this I can’t really say much yet. … Anybody who’s been in this business now a couple years has seen it so dramatically change, and I feel like it’s dramatically changing yet still.” He added, “society has changed attitudes about porn, and the way to monetize in this business is changing along with it. You really can’t look at a business in this space anymore as just something that’s creating content. You really have to do a lot of other things in order to be a viral entity. Between diversity and best practices, you have to create a business plan and focus that’s going to navigate through that. And fortunately, with Josh taking over I’ll have a lot more time to focus in those directions.” Marcum’s focus is, appropriately, on “the grind,” including the need to react to changes in technology, such as redoing Homegrown’s sites to operate without the use of Flash or JWPlayer. “I think the first thing we’re going to end up doing is streamlining to make it easier to update and to stay up with technology. It won’t be long before there’s 4K everything,” Marcum explained. “To be able to stay constantly updated you have to have a good solid backbone, a good foundation to stay on par with technology.” Keeping up is vital, he said, because consumers these days demand more. “Everybody wants to have the newest tech—the new iPhone, the new Android, the new this. You have to stay with them, because if you don’t, those people leave. … And everything is closed source, so when it’s closed source, you can’t update it yourself, so you’re waiting around for a patch. And when you’re waiting around for a patch, that could make the difference between losing 1 percent of your members or 2 percent of your members.” He understates, “When you have multiple sites it becomes a headache.” And now, as CEO, the headache is all his. As he ended the interview to get back to work he joked, “I’m going to go grow some gray hair.” Pictured: Josh Marcum, left; Spike Goldberg and Farrell Timlake at the the Homegrown Video booth at AEE 2015. Photo by JFK/FUBARWebmasters.com

 
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