Archive for the ‘content creators’ tag
The following is this week’s Radar DDB 10am One Thing that I wrote for the DDBlog.
TV, newspapers, human resources, taxis and hotel rooms. So many industries have been and continue to be disrupted by the internet and social media. The latest is the very act of making a payment. American Express has already integrated its offers with Foursquare (check-in to redeem), with Facebook (sync, like, save) and with Twitter (sync, tweet, save) but now other start-ups believe they have the secret sauce to revolutionise the payment industry.
The recently launched Cover app is self-styled as the “Uber of restaurants” – your credit card is kept on file and charged after every meal, tip included. No awkward moments of waiting for the cheque, no more using your phone to work out how much to tip. Just book, eat and leave.
Online and on the social web, Chirpify connects your credit card to your social activity – users simply need to comment or reply “buy” to content in order to purchase that item. The “social commerce and payments platform” promises no linking to other experiences, no shopping carts, no complicated checkout process. Just an instant sale.
On a personal level, flattr allows users to “tip” content creators by sharing a set monthly donation across all the pieces of content they have liked. The service has been around for a few years, but has recently expanded from a simple button included on blog posts to integration with some of social media’s hottest sites like Soundcloud and Instagram.
Social money is a new way of thinking about paying for things on and offline. It takes an existing process and reimagines it, redesigns it, disrupts it by using the power of digital and the social connections digital can forge. Do you think this digital disruption will stop at money? We think it has a long way to go.
Cover, covered by Wired: http://www.wired.com/business/2013/03/dine-and-dash-guilt-free/
The One Thing is a result of the daily 10am meetings held in the DDB Canada offices, where our digital teams meet to discuss new online trends, tools and technologies. Today’s One Thing was written by Ed Lee, Tribal DDB Director, Social Media.
For an archive of the 10am links, visit our Pinterest board.
Photo: Steve Snodgrass/Flickr
Adam Draper, carrying on his family’s multi-generation venture capital legacy, recently launched BoostFunder, an online marketplace where startups and investors can meet to the facilitate the investment process. Now that the company is off and running, it has divulged its first list of featured companies to VentureBeat:
Dareme.to is Kickstarter for “Dares.” Want a friend of yours to do something? Motivate them with some crowd sourced cash.
iCrumz is a free cloud-based personal bookmarking platform where you can easily organize 100+ bookmarks on a single page without being crowded. Available from any computer, mobile phone or tablet.
Sofulo is a mobile application startup that is focused on future location social networking- answering the question “where are your friends going to be later.”
Hitch Radio is a social media platform for global real-time broadcast radio airwave search.
Invested.in is the technology leader in crowd funding, they partnered with BoostFunder to help power the site.
Vergence Labs is re-inventing the future of human-computer paradigm as a stylish pair of glasses with a computer inside. The computer can record, share and augment your reality.
Uncorkd is a SAAS platform that allows restaurants to create and manage interactive iPad menus.
Phone Halo creates software that keeps track of your valuables. Their products are cobra tag and headset trackr.
Mobber.net creates a social bomb based off of hundreds of aggregated tweets and Facebook messages.
MoPix is giving content creators a framework for creating, distributing and monetizing video.
Bottlenose is a new way to search and keep up with social networks.
Fancorps is a word of mouth marketing and brand advocacy technology solution for consumer brands and organizations.
These startups are currently using Boostfunder’s platform to apply and raise up to a million dollars. Before they can be featured on the site, the BoostFunder team must approve the application. Once selected, accredited investors can check out the profile pages and reach out if they are interested in pledging investment. With all the uncertainty regarding the JOBS Act, no transactions actually occur, but rather the site acts as a place where vetted startups and investors can size each other up.
Draper decided to create BoostFunder after witnessing how challenging it could be for fledgling companies to close deals with older, established investors. As someone fully immersed in the investment world, he wanted to lend a helping hand.
“When a startup begins, it often has no idea how to raise capital,” he said in an interview. “There is a big gap between a verbal agreement and the actual signing of paper. BoostFunder is a way to bridge that gap by providing a place to pledge investment immediately. It creates social pressure to follow up.”
Social pressure can be a powerful force. Dareme.to, one of the featured companies, combines social pressure with crowd funding. By contributing small amounts of money into a pool, friends can motivate each other to carry out dares. The dares can be something silly, like walking into a business meeting wearing boxer shorts, or more constructive.
Founder Marc Chambers shared the example of his friend who liked a girl but was too afraid to ask her out. His friends said if he shored up his courage and invited her on a date, they would pay for it. They each threw $20 into the pot, and then he had financial, as well as social incentive, to go through with it.
Draper said he was drawn to Dareme.to because it was a fun product that he would use himself. Both he and Chambers were excited by the opportunity to get it off the ground.
“On BoostFunder, I am connected to a community on investors looking for cool ideas,” Chambers said. “When they say they are in, I can ask them right there what the terms are. Offline, this is very uncomfortable. You don’t know how to talk about it or if you should ask for money. On BoostFunder, it is easy to communicate.”
There is no good way to ask for money, particularly massive amounts of it. BoostFunder strives to take the awkward out of fundraising and turn verbal commitments into actual paperwork. So far, around $400,000 in pledges have been made.
Filed under: VentureBeat
Today, the TV freedom fighters of Roku closed a $45 million deal. The money came not from Silicon Valley hotshots but from a carefully selected string of strategic investors in media and entertainment.
This round’s investors include News Corp. (parent company of Fox), BSkyB (that’s British Sky Broadcasting), among other unnamed partners. Previous Roku venture investors Menlo Ventures and Globespan Capital Partners also joined the round.
“The investment is important to us, because there’s also a commercial deal with each of the strategic investors,” said Roku CEO Anthony Wood in a phone conversation with VentureBeat this evening.
The exec told us the new money would be used primarily for an advertising/marketing blitz, akin to last year’s big holiday push, as well as expanding Roku’s services and continuing research and development activities.
John Miller from News Corp will additionally be joining the Roku board.
“We’ve had two great quarters this year,” Wood said. “Toward the beginning of the year, we passed 3 million boxes sold. Q1 and Q2, we beat our internal budgets quite handily. The streaming stick [the company's new USB-sizezd device that connects smart TVs to its content network] will start to ship this December.”
All in all, Wood concluded, the business’ fundamentals are solid.
And on the content side, he said, “We’re adding more than one new channel every day.” This is possible because, as today’s new strategic investments show, content creators are stepping up to the plate, as well.
“Generally, there’s this big shift of content moving more and more to the Internet and premium TV becoming mainstream,” said Wood. “For us, a big part of this partnership is credibility with the entertainment industry… making them comfortable with moving content to the Internet. We want to keep that momentum moving.”
For example, he said, Roku first started working with News Corp last year, rolling out three channels for the company’s various brands. “They were very happy, and they want to bring more content to our platform,” Wood said.
Other entities are getting onboard in other ways. “Dish has dropped AMC from their lineup,” said Wood, “and if you call their customer care line… they send you a free Roku player and some credit so you can buy it on Amazon. It’s definitely part of the mix now. The Internet is changing the dynamics of those negotiations.”
But this shift has come slowly and has cost all parties involved, from studio execs to couch potatoes, a certain amount of pain and suffering. “There’s a huge amount of money in content distribution,” said Wood. “Companies aren’t sure how the Internet will change their economics.”
But even though Roku and its ilk are without question disrupting traditional TV, Wood sees his own company as disrupting in a way that doesn’t rock the boat enough to drown key partners.
“We’ve had a strategy from the beginning to try to have excellent relationships with [entertainment companies],” he said. “A lot of tech startups are about trying to change the business models of industries, like Boxee or BitTorrent. … When Google started with YouTube, ther was a lot of pirated content.”
Obviously, he said, “Entertainment companies don’t like that, but for tech companies, it’s part of what drives their business.” Still, Wood contends, “That’s just not productive in terms of building a real business. Real businesses have partnerships; it’s rare to see them be successful while being adversarial.”
We finished our chat by asking if Roku, which still operates at a loss due to its aggressive growth, will be taking any more funding in the near future. “As far as we can tell 45M is enough to sustain us for a long, long time,” Wood said.
Roku was founded in 2002 and has taken a total of $67.4 million in funding to date. The company is based in Saratoga, Calif., pretty near Cupertino in the Bay Area.
Filed under: VentureBeat
Well, New York-based TreSensa is having a busy morning. The cross-platform gaming startup revealed that it has locked up a cool $1 million in angel funding, and launched its new TreSensa game engine SDK into public beta.
TreSensa is the brainchild of Rakesh Raju and Tremor Video alums Rob Grossberg and Vincent Obermeier, who departed from the digital video company shortly after it acquired ScanScout in 2010. In short, the year-old company’s mission is to provide support and tools to developers who want to create HTML5 games for players sitting at desks or on the go.
The company’s focus on cross-platform gaming may seem worlds away from Tremor’s digital video roots (the pair was apparently “burned out on video”), but Grossberg tells me that the theories behind both projects aren’t that different. According to him, both companies aim to provide “content creators an in emerging arena” with the tools to make them successful. For Tremor, that meant (among other things) helping those creators monetize their videos with ads, but TreSensa game creators will be able to tap into the company’s distribution services and the ability to integrate features like asynchronous multiplayer (currently in private beta).
It’s up to each developer to decide how much they want to bank on TreSensa’s platform — they can dive in head-first and use TreSensa’s own game engine, but that’s hardly a requirement. Co-founder Obermeier was quick to note that developers who use other engines or SDKs will still be able to add TreSensa’s additional features into the mix.
“We’re making TreSensa component-sized,” he said. “Say you’re using Unity or Corona — you can do that and still use our backend services to implement things like multiplayer support.”
Of course, helping to monetize those games remains a big focus for TreSensa — the company’s first step is to implement support for current monetization models like offering paid virtual goods and digital currencies. From there, the pair peg advertising as playing a critical role because of the extensive reach that HTML5 games have — after all, they can be played by anyone with a smartphone or a reasonably up-to-date web browser.
It’s still early days for TreSensa, but the startup’s development platform has already garnered some attention from interested investors. As it turns out though, that angel fund raising process was relatively painless, mostly because Grossberg and Obermeier entered into it with a considerable network of contacts and resources.
“We’re not spring chickens here,” Grossberg quipped.
That said, it’s not like the two of them embarked on the process without any help. Grossberg cites New York startup incubator First Growth Venture Network as a crucial resource for the team as they worked to get TreSensa off the ground. Now, developers and media companies are showing signs of interest in TreSensa’s nascent offerings. YouTube content partner Mondo Media recently used TreSensa’s game engine SDK to create an HTML5 game based on the Happy Tree Friends franchise, and Grossberg mentioned to me that a “very large, New York-based media company” has expressed interest in TreSensa’s multiplayer functionality.
Brands, agencies, and niche content creators rely on audience development firm Alphabird to help them get more video views across a wide range of publisher partners. Now clients will be able to get better distribution and access to a number of new connected devices, thanks to the acquisition of video management and distribution startup Castfire.
Alphabird basically helps grow audience for its clients, guaranteeing brands, agencies, and content creators a certain number of views. It works across a wide range of premium web publishers to drive traffic back to videos that customers want to promote. It’s basically productized viral video, charging clients only when a video is watched (cost per view) or watched to completion (cost per completed view).
As for Castfire? It’s a pretty standard video publishing platform, built in the same vein as the Brightcoves and Ooyalas of the world. It was founded in 2004 and got a lot of early play with producers of original online videos, as it was used by clients like Next New Networks and Revision3 back in the day. (I still remember the day I first met CEO Brian Walsh in San Francisco back in 2008 — I was living in New York at the time — and he demoed how Castfire was being used to distribute videos for Ask A Ninja.) More recently, it’s been used as the distribution and management platform for some CBS Interactive properties. But it never really got the wide adoption of some other platforms.
Alphabird is mostly buying the technology and tech team — all engineering employees from Castfire will be joining the company — as a way to better support its clients. Alphabird president Alex Rowland told me by phone that Castfire has a pretty robust set of APIs for hooking into other content management systems, as well as an engine for recommending other videos that viewers can watch. Castfire also has some cool multiplatform capabilities, as it pertains to delivering videos to the iPad, Roku streaming boxes, or connected TV platforms. That will allow Alphabird to get more client videos watched, and on a wider range of devices. It could also open up more of a market for Alphabird to step beyond its historical customer base of brands and agencies, and to serve more video publishers, as they seek to boost video views on their own sites.
This is actually the third acquisition that Alphabird has made over the past year or so. Last November it bought social video platform Media Social to drive consumer engagement and interactivity for its clients. And in May 2012, Alphabird bought PlaceVine’s Brand Integration Platform to automate the integration of web video content and brand messaging. Alphabird also recently introduced its own production studio for branded entertainment and original content — content that Castfire can help distribute to new platforms.
Both startups are based in San Francisco, and together the combined firm will have a total of about 45 employees. Rowland says that Alphabird has been profitable since its first quarter of operations, but recently it’s taken a small amount of growth capital. (According to an SEC filing, that includes $1.9 million raised in April.) But it could raise more money later this year to further accelerate growth.
Hulu Strikes First International Co-Production Deal With The BBC To Bring “The Thick Of It” To The US
Hulu has been working to bring on a lot more exclusive online programming, striking deals with content creators to license and in some cases produce, interesting new series it believes its audience will love. The latest move by the video site is to work with the BBC to co-produce the fourth season of U.K. political comedy “The Thick Of It” and make it available on Hulu.com.
The show was created and written by Armando Iannucci, who U.S. audiences might know as a writer on HBO series “Veep.” Later this month, the first three seasons of “The Thick Of It” will be available exclusively on Hulu and Hulu Plus, as well as two specials that ran in-between seasons. But that’s just to get viewers warmed up for the fourth season, which will premiere on the same day and date in the U.S. as it airs on BBC in the U.K.
It’s the first international co-production deal for Hulu, struck in partnership with BBC Worldwide Americas, which is the commercial licensing arm of the U.K. public broadcaster. Hulu’s Andy Forsell will get an executive producer credit on the fourth season of the series, along with the BBC’s Mark Freeland.
The whole co-production thing is interesting, because it points to a future where Hulu could bring interesting shows from abroad to U.S. audiences. It’s also interesting that Hulu gets the show day-and-date with the U.K. release. For years, viewers of popular U.K. shows like Dr. Who have complained that episodes typically aren’t available here until months after U.K. audiences have seen them. We can expect that window to close, as digital distribution makes it easier to reach audiences sooner.
Co-production deals like the one Hulu did with the BBC could also point to a future where Hulu and others help keep shows with niche audiences alive, in exchange for exclusive access to their content in the U.S. Imagine, for instance, if Hulu had been around and could have partnered with Fox to keep Arrested Development on TV, rather than having to be resurrected years later by Netflix.
Anyway, it’s just another way that Hulu is providing additional value to viewers, through exclusive content. Anecdotally, it seems that the site has been bringing a fair amount of U.K. programming online lately, which suggests that there’s an audience for it. And it also suggests that we’ll see more of it on Hulu, as the video site attempts to create more options beyond the broadcast content it gets from parents Disney, Fox, and NBC Universal.
Comcast wants to make all its content available online, and has been hard at work striking deals with content partners to bring their shows to its Xfinity website, mobile, and connected TV apps. The latest deal, with Scripps Networks, will add more programming to those platforms from networks like HGTV, DIY Network, Food Network, Cooking Channel, Travel Channel and Great American Country.
Comcast announced its TV Everywhere initiative three years ago, and has been busy striking long-term deals to improve its digital products. So far it’s gotten content providers like Time Warner, Disney, and others signed up, but the rollout has been a little slower than expected. That’s due in part to the length of many of the deals that it’s been negotiating.
It also is due to a relatively wariness on the part of the networks themselves, as they try to figure out what the business model behind TV Everywhere. That is, how are shows put online measured and monetized? Up until recently, there’s been little interest in moving stuff online, because shows that appeared online and on mobile apps generally didn’t bring in as much money in ad revenue as the networks could expect from broadcast TV. But it’s clear that consumers are increasingly watching video content on new platforms, and content providers need to be there to capture those audiences.
That’s especially true for networks like Food Network and DYI, which are seeing increasing competition from online-first content creators. As Peter Kafka pointed out a few weeks ago, YouTube, Demand Media, and others are creating a ton of on-demand web video series at a fraction of the cost that networks like Scripps spend to produce similar programming. If Scripps shows don’t find their way online, viewers might just gravitate toward whatever programming is there. With that in mind, Scripps acquired video startup RealGravity to help bolster its networks’ online distribution.
In addition to Scripps TV Everywhere content, which will soon become available on Comcast digital platforms, the cable network also got rights to Scripps video-on-demand programming, which will take advantage of Comcast’s new interactive advertising capabilities.
Online sharing service Shareaholic just released new data showing that Pinterest referral traffic is now beating out Twitter, StumbleUpon, Bing, and Google referral traffic (not Google organic, of course). The study is based on Shareoholic’s network of over 200,000 publishers, which reaches more than 270 million people monthly.
The company has been keeping its eye on Pinterest this year, finding in January that the emerging social network had topped Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube combined, for example. And in February, Pinterest beat out Twitter for the first time.
The new data shows that Pinterest’s referral traffic climbed from .85% in January to 1.19% in June. That’s nothing compared with Google’s organic search (46.8% in June), but it tops Google’s referral traffic (1.09%). For the purposes of this study, Shareaholic is defining Google referral traffic as those referrals that don’t come through organic search or AdWords, but on other Google properties, like Google Groups or static pages on related Google sites. It does not, however, include Google+.
Pinterest is also topping Bing, StumbleUpon and it’s still topping Twitter, too. Twitter itself climbed from .82% in February to .92% in June, but is still falling short of Pinterest’s 1.19%.
The big takeaway from this news, says Shareaholic, is that content creators should definitely have Pinterest on their radar as an additional form of SEO, but it’s not a replacement for keyword building by any means. Google organic traffic is still by far the biggest source of traffic on its network, sending nearly half of referrals.
The more interesting detail here, perhaps, is that Pinterest is now beating StumbleUpon in referrals, a company which has long been seen as a under-hyped, but key driver of website traffic. StumbleUpon reached 25 million registered users in April, and was seeing around 1.2 billion Stumbles per month at that time. Meanwhile, Pinterest doesn’t talk user numbers but is currently estimated to have around 20 million users, based on third-party sources.
It’s not a spelling mistake, it’s a typo. That’s my line and I’m sticking to it. But what if proof reading, along with copywriting and translation, could be offered akin to a Software-as-a-Service, API included? That’s the ambitious aim of TextMaster which this week uncloaked its technology stack to enable third-parties to start building apps that integrate the full functionality of its service.
TextMaster offers a platform for content creators to crowdsource their copywriting, translation and proofreading needs via its community of ‘professionals’ who have each gone through a quality vetting process and are paid per-word. One way to think of the service is a Mechanical Turk for a very specific niche, while the bigger vision is to disrupt the respective copywriting, translation and proofreading industries. As an example, the translation industry is thought to be a $20B market.
Launched six months ago, TextMaster says that its platform has processed 6.5 million words by over 22,000 translators, copywriters, and proofreaders for more than 2,000 customers, while those doing the work tend to be journalists, writers, teachers and students.
Its customers range from e-commerce companies, bloggers, advertising and communication agencies, and editors. “Potentially any company can need our services to translate a website or to write a brochure or a newsletter”, says co-founder and CEO Benoît Laurent.
But of course, with an API that existing apps and new ones can tap into, that customer base could grow significantly, presuming there is developer interest. The types of apps that Laurent envisages include integration with blogging platforms like WordPress, Dotclear, Typepad, etc., or an email client. In addition, the company is soon to release an iPhone ‘dictaphone’ app that will offer transcription of audio files “within minutes”, which takes the startup into a whole different space.
The company is also in contact with “many global platforms”, says Laurent, such as e-commerce, and vacation rental sites, in order to remove the language barrier to using these services. To date, TextMaster is available in 8 languages and 5 countries: France, Germany, USA, UK and Spain.
The Brussels-headquartered company was founded in June 2011 by Benoît Laurent (CEO), Alexandre Ponsin (CTO), Thibaud Elzière (Product & Strategy) and Quentin Nickmans (Advisor).
A group of SOPA/PIPA’s greatest opposition has come together to create the Declaration of Internet Freedom, to protect the Internet from censorship.
The declaration comes from a consortium of those who opposed the SOPA and PIPA laws that were shot down in January after a months long battle between Congress, Hollywood, and the general Internet public. The laws were intended to help content creators be more in control of their intellectual property, and be able to take action against website who used that content illegally. But the details of the bills didn’t sit well with Internet leaders, who felt the bill could lead to censorship.
If a website was found infringing on a company or individual’s rights, it could be quickly blocked by Internet service providers, stripped from search results, and preventing from conducting business or connecting with services such as PayPal. This sort of interruption is scary for the millions of people who have built their companies online. It cast a shadow of, “my site could be taken down at any moment,” even though the intentions behind the bill were to protect IP.
This is why the coalition formed and now that SOPA and PIPA have been shot down, the group wants to ensure the Internet stays as open as possible. The Declaration of Internet Freedom has been signed by a number of well known names in the industry as well. This includes Mozilla, Y Combinator, and Amnesty International. Individuals who have signed the declaration include Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, former White House chief technology officer Andrew McLaughlin, and Cheezburger Inc. chief executive Ben Huh.
You can see the full Preamble and Declaration below:
We believe that a free and open Internet can bring about a better world. To keep the Internet free and open, we call on communities, industries and countries to recognize these principles. We believe that they will help to bring about more creativity, more innovation and more open societies.
Join us in keeping the Internet free and open.
We stand for a free and open Internet.
We support transparent and participatory processes for making Internet policy and the establishment of five basic principles:
- Expression: Don’t censor the Internet.
- Access: Promote universal access to fast and affordable networks.
- Openness: Keep the Internet an open network where everyone is free to connect, communicate, write, read, watch, speak, listen, learn, create and innovate.
- Innovation: Protect the freedom to innovate and create without permission. Don’t block new technologies, and don’t punish innovators for their users’ actions.
- Privacy: Protect privacy and defend everyone’s ability to control how their data and devices are used.
Filed under: VentureBeat