Qwiki has had quite the ride since winning TechCrunch Disrupt in 2010 for its visual search platform, starting off as a visual version of Wikipedia, pulling together photos, videos, and other media into topic-based entries. It started getting attention from media powerhouses and publishers which eventually led to its Creator tool, then partnered with Bing to have content embedded in search results. Today the company is changing directions again, debuting a consumer-facing iPhone app that marks a shift away from working with media companies, and back to its initial goal of sharing multimedia stories
The latest from the startup is an app that lets users create videos that pull content from their photos, videos, and iTunes collections to put together Qwikis that tell stories about their life events with a tap of a button. Some are questioning the company’s latest in a series of pivots, as it’s now looking to compete in a space crawling with competitors looking to be the Instragram of video, and is going back to the drawing board in terms of monetization when it previously had the opportunity to generate revenue from media partners interested in tapping their technology.
When it came down it, the team at Qwiki asked itself if it wanted to be an enterprise software company for publishers, and the latest product release is their way of showing the answer is a resounding no way. Despite the turn of events, CEO and founder Doug Imbruce said in an interview with BetaKit that the new app is in line with the company’s original vision, to create a product that helps people share stories.
“We see everybody, brands, publishers, they’re all moving toward video advertising as the next big piece of monetization strategy…we think that creating an app that makes it very, very easy, turnkey, for all of us to generate high-quality video and share it is going to lead the way for far more exciting monetization strategy,” Imbruce said. “I don’t see it as a pivot, or evolution, we’re focused on the same problem, how do you generate a large quantity of high-quality video the fastest.”
The new Qwiki app scans a user’s phone to piece together and select highlights consisting of photos and videos from recent events, a song frequently listened to or favorited in their iTunes library, and then it adds captions, layouts, and pacing to create what is essentially a video highlight reel. Users can edit the video by adding a variety of filters to their photos and changing songs and layouts, and can then push it out on Facebook, Twitter, or share via email and SMS.
In terms of monetization, Imbruce said the company’s past media and publisher partners are actually quite excited about the new app for in-field reporters who can create Qwikis about the latest breaking news and embed them into their stories. It plans to add premium features for their use, in addition to having them available for more power users who want added features like narration. They also plan to work with brands and advertisers to create native advertising akin to promoted posts, tweets and the like.
On the one hand the company is another app looking to help move users from taking static photos with Instagram to embracing video as their primary mode of capturing their day-to-day lives, effectively joining the ranks of Vine, Viddy, SocialCam, and Telly. On the other hand they’re looking to equip media professionals and brands with a new tool that could potentially help them generate multimedia content at a much quicker pace, with players like Meograph and Chute, which recently launched its Mobile Reporter platform, also in that mix.
“We think that the reason mobile video hasn’t been able to scale is that it’s not enough to share a single video clip, that’s not a compelling enough of an experience…so with Qwiki we really try to think about it as the first story-telling app, not the 10th video sharing app,” Imbruce added.
Though time will tell how long the company will stick to its current efforts, it does bring up the question of whether it will become an acquisition target for Facebook or Google given that neither is about to watch Twitter’s Vine and social video stronghold last too long before making a move. With the proliferation of video, and now more than a handful of ways to create, edit, and share it, whether Qwiki’s new app beats out the bunch is something to keep an eye out for, as is whether it pivots again down the road.