StudioNow, which has built a nationwide network of thousands of creative professionals providing outsourced, on-location video shooting and editing, is announcing its Video Asset Management & Syndication Platform ("AMS") today. With the move, StudioNow looks poised to enter the crowded video publishing and management platform space, but from the angle of video production partner. Earlier this week I spoke to StudioNow's CEO and founder David Mason and its COO David Corts to learn more.
StudioNow's core business has been linking video professionals to its clients' projects (competitors in this space include TurnHere, Geobeats and others). There have been two primary types of customers; directories like CitySearch (which I wrote about here), who increasingly want to sell video ads to their local customers, yet lack the means to fulfill orders themselves and content publishers who want to add video to their sites, but for a variety of reasons don't have the capability to do so solely on their own. A good example of the latter is Maxim magazine which hired StudioNow to shoot and edit video from 100 different locations around the world for its "Hometown Hottie" feature.
These projects have been managed using the company's video creation platform, which allows all of a project's participants (videographers, editors, client project team, StudioNow producer, etc.) to gain access and manage the project's work flow through to completion. Given the geographic dispersion of project participants, the platform plays a crucial role in tracking projects and keeping them on schedule and on budget.
David explained that as StudioNow has produced these videos, a new problem has cropped up: how to manage them, especially as the quantity grows over time. Originally StudioNow would just FTP the videos to the client and they would manage them using in-house or 3rd party management platforms. But more recently, with clients asking StudioNow to get more involved, the company spotted a need to roll out a full service offering that manages, transcodes (in the cloud using Amazon's services) and syndicates the video to its intended destinations. AMS also enables metadata creation and management and next, analytics. StudioNow is announcing Simon & Schuster as its first AMS customer today.
Add in a player, a CDN offering, and integration with monetization options and it sounds a lot like another new competitor in the video platform space, right? Not exactly, or at least not yet anyway according to David. For now, StudioNow is positioning AMS as an intermediary stop, with video still getting pushed to third-party platforms like Brightcove, Ooyala, Delve, or others that its clients might use.
But from my standpoint, it seems inevitable that StudioNow will add features and become another full-fledged video platform competitor. Assuming it goes that route, its advantage is that it is already a trusted partner to customers on the video creation side. This could be a significant entry point, as more companies conclude they need to offer video to remain competitive. But lacking the capabilities to do so on their own, on-demand video creation services will likely become ever more popular, providing a strong toehold for StudioNow to leverage.
This is yet another example of how the video platform space is continuing to evolve, with newer players finding ways to differentiate themselves.
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Citysearch, the big online local information company, is making an aggressive push into video. The company is currently running a new promotion which allows its merchants to have a complimentary video made for them, which enhances their Citysearch listing, and can also be used on their own web site and on YouTube.
I'm always on the lookout for ways video can drive more revenue, and Citysearch's effort (originally begun in early '07) qualifies on at least two levels. First, it's a valuable enhancement to Citysearch's pay-for-performance ad model, increasing the ARPU the company derives from its merchants. Second, it appears to be a bona fide differentiator for merchants in helping them attract new business. And of course it helps deliver on users' growing expectations for video experiences.
Last week I spoke with Brian McCarthy, Citysearch's VP of Merchant Product to learn more about how the program works. I also spoke to Marc Edward, who runs Marc Edward Skincare in West Hollywood, CA, which is a merchant that's been offering video in its Citysearch listing for over a year.
Under the current promotion, Citysearch will make a 60-90 second video for its merchants for no cost to them. Citysearch has partnered with 3 production firms, TurnHere, StudioNow and GeoBeats to produce the video, which Brian said cost under $1,000 apiece. The merchant is involved in the editing process and then the video is added to the merchant's listing. When a user watches the video for at least 10 seconds, the merchant is charged a fee ranging from $.40 to $2.00, as part of Citysearch's "multimedia package."
Marc was one of the early users of Citysearch video and is quite enthusiastic about the results. He feels that nothing can convey what his business is about better than prospects actually seeing him talk about it, and explaining what they can expect. While he hasn't tracked new business directly to the video he offers, anecdotally he said new clients mention and cite the video as a major reason why they chose his shop over others.
While it's still early days for video enhancements in local listings/search results, it seems like a natural way to extend the model. Other local players like WorldNow, CBS and other broadcasters are on to this as well. The key is getting the financial model right for all parties: who pays to get the video made and how it generates a return over time. Citysearch seems to be making progress proving how the model can work.
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