New York-based Qwiki is broadening its appeal significantly today via the launch of its Creator publishing platform, a tool anyone can use to create Qwiki’s signature interactive online stories, which can be composed of video, images, maps, real-time tweets and voice-over narration. Previously, Qwiki’s offerings weren’t available to the general public, and instead were most prominently featured on the company’s iPad app and website, which together acted as a sort of interactive rich media reference tool.
Now, Qwiki is hoping that opening the gates will bring its product to a more diverse set of verticals, including independent bloggers, news media organizations, educators and more. Its launch partners for the new publishing platform include ABC News, fashion publisher Stylecaster, blogger Shea Marie and fashion expert Jeannine Morris. Qwiki founder and CEO Doug Imbruce explained in an interview that he thinks the launch pool is indicative of the tool’s flexibility, and also reflects the company’s goal of making it as easy as possible for anyone to use.
“Up to this point, creating output that was sort of equivalent with what Qwiki did with the reference content for anybody was just really out of reach,” he told us. “The tools just didn’t exist. So now with the Qwiki creator anyone can create these interactive experiences in minutes. Our four launch partners show the breadth and the scope of the tool.”
To create Qwikis, content creators don’t need to know any code; Imbruce contends that it’s even easier to use than it is to create a photo slideshow in iMovie, for instance. Unlocking that kind of storytelling power could have a major impact on how online news organizations function, Imbruce suggested, since it democratizes online interactive media content creation, putting more control over the process in the hands of reporters and bloggers and easing the workload burden of online segment producers and web developers.
In terms of competition, Qwiki in some ways contends with YouTube, which, while it focuses on video, also allows publishers to insert links into the stream as well as contextual notes. Qwiki’s level of interactivity is beyond that, with dynamic content like tweets around a hashtag seamlessly integrated with video content and clickable maps rendered based on any address a Qwiki creator enters into their presentation. As a result, Imbruce suggested that the company’s real competition are more traditional desktop publishing tools.
“Our competition is firing up iMovie or Final Cut and having to deal with all that legacy software and then writing a blog post to surround it with links,” he said. And while professional video editors may scoff at such a suggestion, the easier that HD video creation becomes for consumers (entry-level DSLRs provide very high-quality experiences as it is), the more that individuals, rather than single-purpose, will be left to their own devices and responsible for some level of advanced content creation, especially in settings like online news and entertainment blogs, where companies often depend on largely autonomous employees and freelancers to populate their sites.
While the company hasn’t focused on monetization so far as it’s been concentrating on developing the product, Imbruce said that there are “significant revenue opportunities” involving revenue sharing agreements with its publisher partners. Unlike traditional video, he notes, Qwiki’s generate better conversion opportunities for advertisers since they’re interactive by nature. For major media organizations like ABC News especially, Imbruce says it’s a revenue opportunity that’s too good to pass up.
Qwikis are hosted both on landing pages on the site, and can also be embedded in any publisher’s site. One of the company’s early challenges will be making sure that they’re mobile-device friendly, but Imbruce said that an HTML5 player that would be device agnostic is in the works. The other big hurdle will be that while online video has proven successful with consumers, this kind of new, hard-to-define format is relatively untested. But opening up Qwiki as a platform is the best way to discover whether these kinds of interactive presentations are a natural evolution of how we engage with content online.