Commentary

Print-To-Video Quick: New Tool Helps Publishers Monetize News

If I were to write, “Here’s the online video news you need to know before traveling off for a long Memorial Day weekend,” here’s how that turgid sentence might “look” if it were put to video:

A screen shot of someone watching “Gangnam Style,” followed by a person studiously staring at their video screen as if reading important news, followed by a quick shot of a busy airport and concluding with a shot of an old-fashioned Memorial Day parade. Or something like that.

But MediaPost hasn’t bought into Wibbitz, a new text-to-video tech company that takes print copy and within seconds spits it back out as shortened broadcast-like audio copy. Accompanying video matches the words in some logical way. An example Wibbitz provided took the news story about President Obama’s meeting with Cuba President Raul Castro,  an ordinary print wire story on Web sites, and redressed it as a video.   

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An Israeli company, Wibbitz is just now entering the U.S. market, after raising $8 million in Series B funding. This financing round was led by NantMobile with existing investors Horizon Ventures, Lool Ventures, Initial Capital and Kima Ventures also chipping in. That money lets Wibbitz open a New York office.

The selling proposition behind Wibbitz is pretty simple: Video is far easier to monetize than an online print story, so a news organization could take several stories and give it the Wibbitz treatment. A video story also makes Twitter and Facebook use more engaging. Tthis would seem to be a pretty ideal way to display show biz and sports news, though essentially, many stories being covered as news-of-the-day end up using many of the same, easy to grab  images.

CEO Zohar Dayan is not a journalist — they’re looking to hire one, however. “I don’t have a news background, but I’ve always been news junkie,” he said in a phone conversation. “But trying to read news stories on a mobile device is a little like trying to read a newspaper through a keyhole.”

Wibbitz started as a mobile news app for consumers in 2011, but its B2B work with publishers is already a going thing in Europe and Israel.

Wibbitz’s algorithms can edit a story into a video-appropriate length in seconds or minutes, then add video that it gets, and replenished daily, from stock houses and the news wires. So, Dayan says, if a news site wants to make a video out of breaking news story, Wibbitz could do that,  add new incoming video or still photography within several minutes.

A computer does it all, back in Israel. (He admits that at this point, the Wibbitz tool wouldn’t be perfect at editing and voicing a story in which there’s an ironic or humorous tint,  but that's for now. Otherwise the tech modifies the voice to fit the story.)

As a demonstration, Wibbitz produced a video announcing its entry into the U.S. market and the funding round results. It mixes video and images of Dayan and NantMobile founder Patrick Shoon-Shiong  with stock footage of Times Square, military hardware and a Cleveland Cavaliers game, among many other things, that serve as example of how a publisher could use it.

When the video plays with pre-roll in front, the publisher keeps 70% of the revenue, typically, with 30% going back to Wibbitz as its fee, though Dayan says that ratio is negotiated.

The publisher assigns a staffer who looks over the finished piece before the site itself makes it live. And that publisher can, with a tool called Control Room add, delete and suggest changes. Per Dayan, that means the site gets what it wants. “You have full editorial control,” he says. Wibbitz also uses a site’s graphics so, in theory, the resulting video has the same style as the rest of the site, produced in minutes.

“I saw a video the other day of The Wall Street Journal’s video department, and they had 40 editors to produce 40 videos,” Dayan said. A Wibbitz client, he says, could have just one.

pj@mediapost.com

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