Thursday, March 12, 2009

Graspr Unleashes Experiential Knowledge Through Online Video, Extends Brand through Innovation and Syndication on Glam Media Network

In a crowded field of How-to video sites Graspr has been innovating and expanding beyond its reach as a video destination site. In December 2008, Graspr joined the Glam Media network as a video content provider. I had the opportunity to speak with Graspr CEO Teresa Phillips before the new year about the recent Glam Media syndication deal, their innovative gCard™ and how Graspr differentiates itself from other How-to sites as an instructional video network. The Grapsr web site emphasises community sharing and this past week Grapsr integrated Facebook Connect to allow video producers to login using their Facebook accounts, and invite friends to share the wealth of knowledge available on the site.

Launched in September 2007 by Teresa Phillips, a former executive at both Yahoo and Time Warner, Graspr raised $2.5 million in Series A funding from Draper Fisher Jurvetson and angel investors and is a privately-held company based in Mountain View, California. Graspr is the world's leading instructional video network with over 30,000 videos under 17 different categories from producers and experts across major lifestyle markets, Graspr defines itself as the only site where learners, users, and creators of videos can edit, watch, collaborate on, and syndicate to make money from instructional videos.

Previously, in October 2008 Grapsr released an advanced video player widget called the “gCard” that carries the identity of a video creator wherever his or her video gets embedded across the net. The gCard is available for free to every producer who uploads their videos to Graspr or any user who creates a collection of videos on Graspr.

According to Teresa Phillips, "Graspr's gCard" uniquely enables producers of instructional videos to promote themselves within the videos they produce. The gCard is seamlessly embedded within every video a producer publishes, and is available to viewers via an on-screen icon that, when clicked, displays the producer's contact details and specialties, and showcases the producer's entire video gallery. The gCard creates a persistent presence for the producer in that it accompanies all videos at all times, whether a producer or user shares individual videos themselves or the videos are distributed through Graspr's syndication network of several thousand sites. The gCard allows producers to interact with their community at all times, promote their brand and expertise across the Internet and monetize their video content. Click here to see an example.

In my conversation with Teresa Phillips, she spoke at length about her passion in creating new markets and product categories
for experiential knowledge and that Grapr's purpose is to purpose is to help deliver that knowledge to the people who seek it. The following interview took place following their big announcement that Graspr had joined Glam Media network.

Larry Kless: It's real exciting news has it hit the airwaves Graspr Goes Glam, The How-to space for video has gotten really big in the last year.

Teresa Phillips: Yes, really exciting. It's certainly been validated over the last year or so. There are companies with a lot of traction and we're all taking a different approach and I think we're reaching critical mass, especially in terms of producers and people who are creating. If you look at the top uses of online video where people are spending their time on the consumption side, still instructional doesn't make it to the Top 10 but we're moving up in the ranks. If you look in the economy, I read this morning the number of new unemployment applications file last month were the most in 26 years, 2 millions people have lost their jobs this year. So people are looking ways to moonlight, make money from their expertise as well as do things themselves to save money. we've increased our traffic in the last couple of months and I think it's from the economy. It's just a natural direct result.

LK: Congratulations on your partnership with Glam and also with Can you talk about Grapr's syndication model?

TP: Our strategy has always been about syndication. I think it's difficult to build a big destination site and I'm not sure that the future of the Internet. everything is more about componentization, widgetization and so we've always sought to help content creators develop high impact videos and package those videos so that they're more easily discoverable through search engines and distribute them across the tens of thousands of sites who have text only and are looking for video by either lack the content or the technical infrastructure. So from day one we've always been about syndication.

The nice thing about instructional video is that learning pertains to all of what we do in life and it's very relevant to any type of site whether it's a community site in how people come together an learn or a retail site in merchants teaching their customers about products, how to use products, hot to fix products to sell more products, so it's very relevant. We've targeted lists in each content category of 1000s of web sites who have community, who have very targeted audiences where there's a lot of customer participation and interactivity and we approach them to offer them instructional high quality videos.

After I launched the company I spent about six months talking to producers trying to understand what they were doing with their businesses. And out of that work came four unmet needs that I heard. One of them was, "Help me build a brand online." So we have a lot of people who have brick and mortar businesses or side jobs or hobbies of passion but they don't know how to build a brand online. The second one was they said, "Help me stay connected to my audience." Because if they upload their video to YouTube or any other site they completely become disconnected from their content and don't even know who's watching their content and they can't build a relationship with their viewers. The third thing they said was, "Take me into deep rich vertical audiences where people are gathered talking about something I know something about so we can have meaningful rich discussions." And the last one was, "Help me monetize my content." So Grapsr's entire platform which we launched in July 2008 was built to satisfy those four unmet needs.

LK: How did you launch Graspr?

TP: We launched our beta product at Demo Fall 2007 and that's where I said I went out and talked to producers. We kind of stayed quiet and we didn't do a single press release for probably seven or eight months. That's when I spent the time holding bi-weekly and monthly conference calls with all these producers and kind of mini-focus groups to develop our syndication platform and our content creation tools.

We also are a big SEO shop. We've invested a lot in creating meta data within and around the video. That allows us to make our videos more searchable. We add the meta data as scenes so learners or viewers can jump to the part of the video that interests them without having to watch it in a linear way.

So we launched, then went quiet and relaunched our syndication platform and whole package in July 2008.

LK: Graspr uses an algorithm and human search to find videos. Is that how you initially launched and reached out to the producers?

TP: Yes we did, we built what we call a feed manager application that listens for RSS feeds and we also have crawlers that find instructional video and in the beginning we just aggregated and then reached out in parallel and after that fact. Now that we've gotten the word out and are a lot more popular through word of mouth we're only accepting 30-40% of the videos that we get. So all of our producers are actually registered members now before we have seen their videos. That's how we seeded the service with content.

LK: Had you been developing gCard for sometime?

TP: We're actually working on the commerce. I showed the commerce component today in a demo to some people. We filed a patent on it earlier this year. We have been thinking about and working on it. There's a lot of stuff we've already done that's not available yet. As you can see the gCard™ really went to the heard of help me stay connected to my audience where ever my video is embedded across the Internet and let them reach out to me directly as well as let me show what else I've been doing, give me credit for my work. Then finally it's about the viral distribution of it and ultimately commerce.

LK: And it allows for the hyper-syndication especially though Glam Media's network. So in terms of distributing on Glam, will we see the gCard™?

TP: In the beginning you won't see the gCard™ on Glam because it doesn't fit their model but we're in discussions with then about applying the gCard™ on a broader scale beyond Graspr content. In fact we're in discussions with some other video sites that interested in licensing the gCard™ for their own videos that are outside the instructional genre. So I just think it has universal appeal for producers and the hosted providers to help monetize some of the video. While you won't see it today I hope to work the gCard™ into our partnership with Glam.

LK: What differentiates Graspr from the competition? What's your value proposition for the producers, for the distribution networks, advertisers and viewers?

TP: Our direct competitors are the How-to video sites (Howcast, 5min, eHow, WonderHowTo, ExpertVillage, Videojug) and there's a number of different dimensions that we differentiate Graspr. One of them is how we source content. Whether you produce content in house or source it through your users. Videojug, Howcast and Expert Village to a large degree produce their content in house. You're familiar with that model, while you have high quality content and you can templatize there's still the vertical increase in acquisition costs when you're talking about production fees. They have two challenges that we don't have. One of them is operational costs in terms of production costs and scalability and the second one is, what I call perspective or context. So because they content production costs they can't have 25 videos on how to write a resume but I can. They check a box and move on. The nice thing about learning is that we learn from other people and we learn from people we whom we can relate to. Whether it's socially or demographically, or something we have in common, or the teaching style. What we find is that learners appreciate that we have a broad mix of teachers and experts and they can always find someone they can relate to and better learn from. So that's how we differentiate ourselves from the competition.

5min also sources content from its users but the big differentiators there is that we filter our content. Like I said, we accept 30-40% of content and it's appropriate for all audiences of all ages. Regarding SEO and SEM, if you look at some of the analytic sites and look at the top key words that are driving traffic to some of those sites, you won't find those keywords on Grapsr.

That's from a content perspective, but even further we are different from our syndication strategy and our commerce model and really our relationship with these experts. So none of these sites have real people behind them, these are just content repositories and they different strategies in terms of distribution. I love markets where there's competition because it validates the space and we've got a lot of great competitors who are doing great things and we're all trying to help make this market bigger. We believe that the end game is about helping monetize knowledge-based services.

So for me, this isn't just about how-to content which is most of our competitors have only How-to content. If you look at the big vision of Graspr and take a step back and look at what's going on in the world in that 79% of the U.S. GDP is fueled by services and 62% worldwide and half of all workers are "Knowledge workers", meaning people get hired for what they know as opposed of their ability to perform manual labor and we all know these guys. Whether they are our teacher, our kids piano instructor, golf instructor, veterinarian, we all know them. Now imagine if these knowledge workers everywhere could extend their services beyond their local neighborhoods to the world and with Graspr they can do that.

The other piece is that it's about the products backing up the services. My first goal is to unleash experiential knowledge and we chose video as the medium for its high impact value. The impact of the medium is amazing in terms of motion, emotion and connectedness and learning. And so the first goal is to give people the tools and education to help them tell their story, to help unleash this experiential know-how and help them package it in a form that can be easily consumed.

The second thing really is to build a product business around it because these experts have developed affinity toward branded products. So if you listen to our videos we did this random sample and about 60% or so of our videos the producers were recommending products and brands within the video. For example, one of our producers Mark Donovan says, "When you're doing drywall use Sherman Williams paint. It goes on easy, it doesn't fade, etc..." So when the learner is learning how to hang drywall they don't hear just how to do it they also hear, "Go buy Sherman Williams paint."

LK: So the product placement is baked right into the video.

TP: Totally, it's part of the message. It's the whole nirvana of broadcast video which is product placement. Tie those brands as close as you can to the plot of the story and products are at he heart and soul of learning and doing. So what we're doing in terms of algorithm from a product perspective is we're deciphering and we're going to be mapping these products to what these producers are recommending within their videos and creating a commerce model around it.

LK: How do you see this new syndication through Glam? How did it start, where do you see it going and how will it benefit your producers and the Grapsr community?

TP: Glam has a TV section, video section and they primarily source professional content. They don't accept UGC, they like branded content. And what they liked about Grapsr is that it really enables them to obtain what I call "indie artists" so it's high quality content from people who are trying to create a business and care about the quality of their video and message, without having to accept user generated content. So with our kind of producers it was just a nice fit. It was something that Glam did not have. They did not access to these real people. Because if you think about it their publisher network is mostly long tail content, small mom and pop businesses, and so they don't want content that's overcooked or with mass appeal and they having the content from real people. So that's what we bring to the table; real people, real stories without the compromise in quality.

LK: It seems like a good fit in that helps them extend their existing brands into the video space.

TP: Absolutely, and it's content that they can still think about advertising against. There are different types of syndication and distribution deals and levels. Sometimes you do deals for brand awareness and reach other times you do deals for longer term strategic relationships or even for monetization. This for us is about reach and brand. Glam is redistributing our videos and our producers have the opportunity to get in front of their extended global network in these communities that have really targeted audiences where there's a lot of conversation and discussion going on which his exactly what are producers are trying to do.

Graspr/Glam Press Release:

Instructional Video Leader Joins as Content Provider For Glam TV , Will Provide 700+ Sites in the Glam Media Publisher Network

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA December 11, 2008 – Today, Graspr (, the world’s leading instructional video site, announced that it has been selected as a video provider for Glam Media’s GlamTV/BrashTV platform. The GlamTV/BrashTV platform is an innovative video application that allows for the distribution of premium content across Glam Media’s network of 700+ sites with a reach of over 98 million uniques globally.

Graspr videos will now be available to publishers in the Glam Media Publisher Network, pairing high-quality video content for visitors with relevant monetization opportunities for advertisers. Graspr’s content is complementary to that of the Glam Media Publisher Network, with its channels including style, living, family, health and wellness. Graspr’s video content about consumer electronics, sports and recreation, cars, computers and Internet will be featured on BrashTV, part of Glam Media’s newly launched, a vertical content network targeting men.

This partnership allows Glam Media publishers access to an increased quantity of quality video content across its network and provides new compelling content opportunities for brand advertisers. For Graspr, the partnership is further proof of its syndication model which provides video creators and producers with additional opportunities to increase the distribution of their content and to monetize it.

“Glam Media publishers are focused on providing the highest-quality content relevant to their readers’ interests and passions,” said Christina Cece, Senior Product Manager for GlamTV “Graspr gives our publishers access to videos that will further engage their audience on an instructional level.”

“This partnership with Glam Media opens the door to exciting new distribution opportunities for our producers who can take advantage of the additional reach. At the same time they can attract premium advertisers for their high-quality video content,” said Teresa Phillips, founder and CEO of Graspr.

About Graspr
With over 25,000 high-quality videos from producers and experts across major lifestyle markets, Graspr is the world’s leading instructional video network. Graspr is the only site where learners, users, and creators of videos can edit, watch, collaborate on, and syndicate to make money from instructional videos.

Graspr is a privately-held company based in Mountain View, California and can be found at: Graspr was launched in September 2007 by Teresa Phillips, a former executive at both Yahoo and Time Warner. Teresa founded Graspr to enable people to discover the answers they seek from either experts or from those who have shared a similar experience. Through the broad reach of the Internet, and more specifically the power of video, people all over the world are able to share their wealth of knowledge more freely through Graspr.

Media Inquiries
Dominic Johnson, Consort Partners