In its short life since launching in beta around April 2006, video firm TurnHere has morphed from travel video destination site to an agency-like filmmaking and distribution service for local merchants and world-renowned brands. While most video outlets are still trying to figure out how to monetize this explosive media form, TurnHere has aligned with a slew of advertiser partners, from InterContinental Hotels and Resorts to Simon & Schuster to real estate firms such as Real Living, to companies like Citysearch that will help them connect with even more advertisers.
ClickZ Features chatted with TurnHere CEO Brad Inman this week about the evolution of the young company, and online video.
Q. I’ve been following TurnHere for awhile, and now when I go to the site it looks like an agency site; it doesn’t look like a destination anymore. You’re working with these large national brand advertisers. How do you think this reflects where the marketplace is right now?
A. What’s clear is there’s this huge demand for video assets, still from early adopters. What hasn’t been figured out, and we decided not to wait for it to be figured out, is how is video going to be integrated? How is it going to be monetized? When you look at YouTube, there was no revenue; it was all based on this incredible traffic. So what we decided to do is focus on building our network around partnerships with our number one asset, our filmmaker network, which is up to about 2,600. Let’s partner with other people, using other people’s sales forces, other people’s distribution, until this other unanswered question [is answered]. We work with them to figure it out but we work on their dime and we make money in the interim…What we do is show them how to scale a lot of video assets.
Our mantra is creating lots and lots of video for our partners that can monetize it now. If you look at all the video companies, they’re all scratching their heads. “We’re going to get traffic and then maybe we’ll do pre-roll or maybe we’ll do back-roll or maybe we’ll make it searchable or maybe we’ll use the metadata.” But none of them are real businesses.
Q. Do you think that there’s a difference in terms of the kinds of things you’re doing through Citysearch for local advertisers and what you’re doing for large brands like Intercontinental or Travelocity?
A. Every movie we make is the same. There are some that require more branding sensibilities, but it’s a local character, it’s a local person. It’s a real person talking about a real experience, whether it’s someone giving a tour for a Discovery piece or a concierge. Whether it’s a local merchant or whether it’s an author, that’s the commonality. The entertainment value comes from someone passionately speaking about what they do.
But the elements that are important are information, because this is all about, searchable, useful content. People are going to want these video assets…they view this as the next search engine. The Google universal search is a great example. It’s kind of like if you didn’t have a Web page, no one’s going to find you, now if you don’t have a video no one’s going to find you.
Q. I was really fascinated to see that you guys sponsored the Personal Democracy Forum conference. I thought, “Oh, they’re going to try to get some political candidates, political campaigns.” Has anybody bitten yet? Why were you there?
A. They wanted to shoot a video. One of our investors was talking about the political dollars that are going to be invested in the next 18 months….If this is about advertising and promoting and telling your stories about your candidate on the Web, where are they going to get the production services? We just put our toe in the water.
And we do this all the time. We’re doing some stuff with automobiles; we’re doing some stuff with dealers, test drives. Our producers were kind of cynical, but we went in and did a couple of them and again, it’s the personality. So we shot a bunch of that and we’re mixing that up with test drives by real customers talking about the car and talking about the dealer. We’re doing that and we’re doing a bunch of tests. We’re doing 50 videos.
Q. Is that through a particular auto manufacturer?
A. It’s actually an online [service].
Q. Like a Cars.com type of site?
Each one of our deals, it’s about testing something. We have tests with probably 150 partners right now where they’re testing 10 videos to see the click-through rate. And the experimenting is about two things: What’s the style, how does it fit? And most important, the economics of video. How does it pay for itself?
Q. So how are you, in terms of ROI, how are you showing that to the companies that are far enough along…the ones that have had their videos out for, say, six months? What do they want and what are you showing them?
A. Take the merchants, when people come into the stores and say, “We saw you in the movies.” Advertisers are always looking for ways to confirm the relationship. Clicks to the video, the staying power on the video is another important metric, and what they do afterwards. And this whole area of local is big for us. We’re testing with a lot of directories, a lot of the vertical directories: real estate, legal. [No directory company names could be disclosed.]
But the convergence here is around entertainment and commerce. The bet here is that you’re emotionally engaged and you take action, you increase the odds of taking action. Our whole strategy from the very beginning has been about conversion; it’s about commerce.
Q. What’s next for you guys? Are you moving into other advertiser verticals?
A. We’re creating — and this is stuff we’re doing on spec — we’re creating 500 travel videos in China for the Olympics.
Q. Who’s hiring you for that?
A. No one. I looked at the Olympics and I said we’ve got a model here, and there’s this huge advertising spend and I don’t think people really know how big a deal this monster China is going to make out of the Olympics. It’s going to be their coming out party. We’re shooting stuff over there for partners and I said, “Hmmm, this is a big opportunity.” So I went over and met with a bunch of filmmakers, and met with some of the sponsors of the Olympics and we’re just now creating them.
Q. What would be the goal there in terms of monetizing those?
A. What we’re really planning to do is syndicate it and license it to a lot of partners.
Those are the kind of things which I’ve always said, once we build our network, and we build the company up, we can point our cameras wherever we want. And we can point them to partners, but we can also point them to our own projects.
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