Friday, February 4, 2011

KickApps Brings Its Social Software Solutions to KIT digital

KickApps was founded in 2005, and is a leading provider of customizable social software solutions consisting of a suite of hosted applications and services which are used by some of the world’s largest brands and recording artists including: NBC Universal, American Express, Live Nation, Scripps Network, Simon & Schuster, Viacom, The Washington Redskins, The Weather Channel, Madonna, U2, Kiss, Shakira and all the NHL teams. Its more than $12 million annual revenues are made almost entirely from recurring software license fees.

On January 28, 2011, KIT digital acquired the privately-held KickApps Corporation, based in New York City. Its more than $12 million in annual revenues are almost entirely from recurring software license fees. As part of the acquisition, KickApps' CEO Alex Blum, was appointed to the new position of global chief operating officer of KIT digital and will be responsible for the overall business operations of the company. Blum has had a long career as a pioneer and innovator in online video and interactive TV as vice president of products at AOL. Additionally, KickApps CFO David Lapter will assume the role of SVP of business administration at KIT.

KickApps adds significant technology and product synergies to KIT digital. KickApps’ Open Source Media Framework (OSMF) App Studio will help unify all publishing-layer technologies across KIT digital's family of products to deliver fully customized Flash and HTML5 experiences. KickApps' suite of self-serve deployable social solutions that are created using an intuitive drag-and drop interface, ranging from full social website experiences to simple social widgets. The platform also includes KickApps’ proprietary WidgeADs ad format, that can be served in any IAB-standard ad slot and shared  across the web.

KIT digital's President Gavin Campion said: 
“KickApps’ innovative and proprietary suite of social media applications are a perfect strategic fit for us, adding powerful social tools and player authoring capabilities to our software platform solutions. Its applications will also help us reduce our marginal cost of customized interface development and dramatically reduce the speed of our custom player deployments versus the competition. We see extensive and attractive cross-selling opportunities in our respective client bases, and plan to mine KickApps’ capabilities immediately in the global geographies we cover.”
Prior to the acquisition, I caught up with Mike Sommers, then VP of Product Management for KickApps, at the 2010 Online Video Platform Summit, who discussed the growing importance of curation, specifically social video curation. With the proliferation of video on the web, Sommers said, it's getting more and more difficult for consumers to find the good content they are looking for. He noted that a long time ago curation of content on the web was done by editors at AOL or Yahoo, and there would be a bunch of links to point the way to that content. Then Google came along with its bots that automated search, and its algorithm became the main curator of content through keyword searches.

But as Sommers noted, the problem with video is that Google's search engine bots can't understand what video content is about as well as humans can.
"So, what's happening today is that we're going from search engine optimization – which is a practice of building your website in a certain way that makes it understandable to search engines – to friend engine optimization – which is building your website in way that makes it sharable, that invites people to take our content, notify your friends about it and then drive traffic back to your website."
Sommer said that publishers building out their platforms with social media should pay close attention to to their brand, and that means where they host their content:
"I think the temptation right now is to leverage these social media platforms, like Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and YouTube, because they're free and there's a lot of eyeballs there. So the temptation is to put your content on these destination sites and try to figure out how to monetize it. But what's really important for these brands to understand is that the true experience is about more than just that little piece of content. 
It's about the brand, and it's about what happens around that content and what happens to that content once it's been distributed – and when that content is distributed on platforms that you don't control, you don't have the ability to leverage that content and leverage the data that's created when that content is interacted with. So with a platform like KickApps, we provide a method for our customers to create completely branded social experiences at their domain or out on their Facebook tab, or on their iDevices or Android devices."