This week, I had a discussion with TurnHere.com's founder and CEO Brad Inman, who was CEO of HomeGain.com until recently when it was sold. You can listen to the podcast by clicking here (MP3, 13.9MB, 15 minutes) or clicking below. TurnHere.com is a website that pays professional filmmakers to make shorts about specific geographic areas and posts them on TurnHere.com categorized by location or distributes through its partners. The company pays about $500 per video and anticipates creating 25,000 videos in the first year. Clearly, this is quite an undertaking.
Inman is a visionary. While VCs are pumping in millions of dollars for many "me-too" video sharing websites to compete with leader YouTube, Inman is pursuing a completely different direction. And there are some clear advantages. For example, Inman maintains strict quality controls to ensure the videos are actually worth watching. This contrasts with the throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks model adopted by YouTube.
Their network is currently 2,000 filmmakers strong. TurnHere treats the filmmakers well by providing them with regular work, room to exercise their creativity and competitive pay. Really this is a win-win situation: the filmmakers get to do what they love, and Inman is building a business. Plus, TurnHere is building relationships with filmmakers before anyone else, which could serve as a competitive advantage over new entrants.
The full fruits of amassing a library of thousands of videos will not be apparent overnight, but they will ripen over time. For now, TurnHere is doing revenue-sharing deals with a range of websites. TurnHere videos are uniquely well-suited to travel websites because the videos focus on specific locales.
Of all commerce categories online, travel is one of the most profitable, which bodes well for developing revenue models for TurnHere. Think about it from the perspective of someone looking to go on vacation somewhere in the world. What's more compelling, reading reviews on CitySearch about a destination, or watching a high-quality film about it? The answer is clear.
The bottom line here is that the TurnHere model is worth watching because they are building a 100% TurnHere-owned library of interesting and useful content tied to travel, a valuable online category. VCs have to ask themselves this question: rather than spend $20 million in another video sharing website to cover huge bandwidth costs and fight an uphill battle against YouTube, why not just invest that in 40,000 high quality videos in a proven money-making category (such as travel) that has both immediate and significant potential revenue models? TurnHere has not taken on investors yet, but may do so to scale the business.
TurnHere podcast questions:
- What is TurnHere.com and what is the reason you started it? (0:21)
- How do you identify the filmmakers you want, how do you compensate them, and what is your process for assigning films to make? (1:24)
- Do ideas for filming come from the top down? You talked about distribution deals you do. Do film ideas filter through those partners depending on the interests of the partners? (3:05)
- What sort of websites are you looking to get distribution with in addition to the TurnHere.com website?(4:32)
- How big is your filmmaker network? (5:48)
- It seems like there's a lot of interest from other websites to license your content. What is your revenue model there? (6:35)
- As you look at this business built on the network of filmmakers, how do you think about the freshness of these videos over time? (7:25)
- At 25,000 videos being filmed this year, that seems like quite an investment. (Note: it's about $500 per video). Do you have or have you been seeking investors? (7:53)
- Thinking about TurnHere's business model, it sounds like you are really treating your filmmakers well, so they will in turn treat you well. In terms of other entrants into this space, you are building a relationship that can last. Is that a fair characterization of your approach? (8:14)
- As the technology to make films has become cheaper, I can imagine there could be a lot of film submissions. How do you do quality control? (9:10)
- Can you talk about the differences between you and video sharing websites like YouTube? Obviously websites like YouTube don't have the quality standards you have, but they do have a lot of features that drive viral spread. (10:07)
- What are the demographics of the people who watch your videos? My guess is it is a sophisticated crowd and mostly travel-oriented. (11:50)
- Where do you see TurnHere a year from now or as the business develops? (14:03)