Two to Watch: Liquidus and MyPodStudios Are Up-and-Comers
Up-and-Comers is a regular feature in which we take a look at companies that are making a name for themselves with innovative services and technologies. This month, we look at two startups.
Liquidus Marketing has built a solid niche for itself by helping prospective buyers get the details they need about used cars: It currently streams 1.6 million videos a month to a variety of car sites. Or, more accurately, it doesn’t stream any videos at all.
What appear to be customized videos describing the history of individual used cars are actually complex animations created on-the-fly from a variety of feeds. The “videos” aren’t stored and don’t even exist until a viewer requests one. Liquidus’ Videolink service combines car information from multiple data feeds with pictures of the cars and professionally created voiceover tracks describing the mileage, condition, and history of the car.
The result is tailored videolike animations that let buyers research and even shop for cars online. The car business has been good for Liquidus, which streams to about 22,000 dealer sites. Dealerships can add their own preroll for branding, which is the only actual video streamed.
The used-car photos come from on-the-lot processors that capture the condition of each car that passes through a dealership. Those processors take down all the relevant specifications about a car and enter it into a database. Liquidus has a collection of 400 to 500 professionally created voiceover tracks used in its automated process. A typical stream includes up to 15 photos, transitions, and text overlays, as well as a dozen audio and music clips.
Besides offering Videolink, Liquidus is using its resources to power other dynamic streaming offerings. The company recently released Socialink 2.0, its Facebook service. Also used by car dealers, Socialink creates a video inventory tab that dealers can put on their Facebook pages. This tab is updated in real time so that visitors get a current look at that dealer’s inventory. As soon as cars are sold from or added to a dealer’s lot, the Socialink tab reflects the change.
According to Kirk Davis, co-founder and executive vice president of Liquidus, Socialink was introduced in June 2011, although he considers the first version more of a pilot release. Only now does it have the social features that make it more than a video showplace.
Socialink 2.0 includes a way for dealers to feature specific vehicles and have them display at the top of the page. The feature section includes four images, which the dealer can select. Visitors can now create polls, selecting several cars, for example, and asking their friends to vote on the ones they prefer. Also new to this version is the ability to stream to Apple iOS devices. The first version only worked with Flash-compatible browsers.
Feedback for the new Socialink has been strong. One dealer told Davis that he wishes he could replace his whole website with his Socialink presence.
Because of the way that Liquidus “videos” are constructed, there are no high-resolution copies to store—no hard files and no multiple iterations. Instead, animations are created as needed; they’re customized for that platform and connection speed. “We can tailor the response to the device,” says Davis.
Individual dealerships pay between $200 and $300 per month for Liquidus service, although that number decreases with volume for larger companies.
For Jay Miletsky, founder and CEO of MyPodStudios, LLC, the gated video community he’s created is the perfect place for people or brands to make their own video homes on the web.
MyPodStudios is designed to be the antithesis of YouTube (where contributors upload 60 hours of video every second and a brand has a hard time getting noticed). Miletsky’s platform is a way to create free customized video hubs online and to offer viewers a screened-in place free of user-generated video distractions.
When companies sign up with MyPodStudios, they can create their own space using the site’s template, but most choose to let the MyPod team do it. An on-staff artist creates a custom background for each pod. Each one also gets a personalized URL, such as www.artofthedrinkpod.com.
MyPodStudios is young, as it was only incorporated in October 2010. Originally, it was designed as a host for B2B companies, letting them show their videos away from YouTube. When that idea didn’t take off, the site pivoted to become ad-supported. It relaunched in September 2011, and by November, measurement company comScore, Inc. said it had more than 4 million unique visitors for the month—and that’s only from the homepage and category pages, not the pods themselves.
When viewers enter the MyPodStudios homepage, they see a banner listing eight content categories (such as Entertainment and Food & Drink), and the pickings seem a little slim. It can be hard to see what those 4 million visitors were looking at, since there isn’t much in the way of big name content here, and there are only 3,500 videos so far. Miletsky plans on expanding the site with subcategories so that it’s easier to drill down in the library.
What New York City-based MyPodStudios has accomplished so far it’s done with a staff of five (including Miletsky) and $550,000 in venture capital funds, thanks to Mike Reno, a private investor, and Black Ocean, an online media-focused venture capital firm.
The platform is constantly improving, with navigation pages recently moved to a new template, and the site now using an improved back end and database. It also recently signed some premium content partners, which should show up on the site as this article sees print: Howdini, A3 Network, Grab Networks Holdings, Inc., and Openfilm, LLC. What’s more, says Miletsky, MLB Network, Men’s Health magazine, and The Knot are close to signing up.
Miletsky’s plans don’t stop at video: He wants to carry the brand into other forms of online entertainment, such as free Flash games. He’s now working with what he calls an army of student developers to have the games created. That future game site will have its own URL (either MyPodGaming.com or MyPodGames.com), categorizing its games as MyPodStudios.com does its videos.
As for MyPodStudios, Miletsky plans to evolve it into an online magazine, where a hostess will turn viewers on to what’s hot each day.
For Miletsky, MyPodStudios isn’t just a great platform for video creators, but also for life-changing moments. In January 2012 (on Friday the 13th, no less), he launched a temporary Marry Me pod, then asked his girlfriend (who works at the company as the media manager) to take a look, claiming he was having problems with it. What she saw was a video marriage proposal, and when she turned around, Miletsky was there with a ring. She said yes; the wedding should take place in July 2013.
So while MyPodStudios is helping brands and creators find a home on the web, it’s also helping Miletsky build a home in the real world.
This article was originally published in the April/May 2012 issue of Streaming Media magazine.