A wise person once said “there’s just too much crap on the internet”. When content is uploaded online, it immediately gets lost in a sea of digital clutter. It takes an avid consumer of content to sift through the clutter and find gold. Thankfully, there are many self-made content curators doing the world kindness by finding the best content and presenting them in playlists on digital platforms like YouTube, Vimeo and Spotify. There are more and more applications and platforms emerging in the market to make the process of finding, organising and presenting video content easier like World TV, Vidque and Yokto. The latest is Brisbane-based startup Qrate.TV.
On Qrate.TV, video content curators are able to sift through the clutter of the web to unearth individual items worthy of being showcased for a specific audience. Once the selection is finished, the curator presents those assembled elements in the form of playlists under a cohesive theme, the same way museum curators do for specific exhibitions. If this sounds familiar, you might be thinking of another Brisbane-based startup Churn TV.
In fact, the original idea was pitched by Co-Founder of Churn TV Matt Way at Brisbane Startup Weekend in October 2013. At the time, the team consisted of Way, Nick Drewe (Co-Founder of Churn TV), Paul Frend, Glenn Arrowsmith, and Rob Sutton (Founder of Qrate.TV). Unfortunately, the team parted ways as they had different ideas about where they wanted to take the idea. Way and Drewe went on to create Churn TV; and Sutton decided to take the original idea on his own. He launched V.1 of Qrate.TV earlier this month.
The biggest difference between Churn TV and Qrate.TV, according to Sutton, is that the latter is focused on collaboration and socialisation. On Qrate.TV, users can discover videos through sharing and collaboration, helped by forming and joining interest-specific social networks. Sharing videos with friends and those like-minded makes for collaborative curation of playlists, consisting solely of video content interesting and relevant to each user.
Sutton says that on Churn TV, you can’t build a channel with someone else or make private channels, and that the founders of Churn TV “have a different long term vision for the site”.
When playlists (or queues) are created on Qrate.TV, similarly to Spotify, they can marked private or shared publicly at the curator’s discretion. Essentially, a queue’s creator (Qrator) is running his or her own video channel.
For Sutton in particular, the inspiration for creating Qrate.TV spawned from the frustration he felt after purchasing a smart TV and realising how difficult it was to use.
“At the start of 2013, I had bought a Sony Internet TV and I was extremely disappointed at the difficulty of using it: in particular I found it very hard to access online video as I had to use the remote the type in each search term in the same way as you had to use the keypad to type messages on old phones. Also, once I had found a video I liked, I couldn’t save it anywhere and I then had to spend a lot of effort searching for the next video to watch. It was frustrating to the point that I gave up,” says Sutton.
“I brought this experience with me to the Startup Weekend, and then Matt’s original idea was morphed by the team into a collaborative video playlist web application.”
The main reason he felt so passionate about taking Qrate.TV in its original form further is because “there are currently two modes of watching video, and nothing in between”. The first is television.
“Under this model, content is curated by the television networks, and you are restricted to only being able to watch what is sequenced for that particular point in time. Cable TV is slightly better, but there is still a very limited choice in what to watch, and when you can watch it,” says Sutton.
The second is online video; and given the internet has excessive content, it’s can be difficult to find videos that are interesting and relevant to you as a consumer.
“The intent behind Qrate.TV is to allow you to filter the vast ocean of online content through your social network; generally speaking, you will be interested in what your friends are interested in. Ultimately, Qrate.TV seeks to combine the power of social networks – the ability to watch what you want to watch, when you want to watch it – and the breadth of content which exists online with the simplicity and ease of watching television,” says Sutton.
So how does Qrate.TV work? The first step is to create an account and sign in. Users are still able to watch video Queues created by other people without an account, but cannot create their own, or collaborate with their friends on the creation of a Queue and can’t rate Queues. Once Queues are created via the dashboard, it needs to be marked as public or private. Users then select videos from six sources (YouTube, Vimeo, DailyMotion, Vybe, MetaCafe and LiveLeak, with more to be added in the future) and copy and paste the URLs of the videos into the Queue. They can also change the order of videos in the Queue.
Once the viewer presses play on a video in a Queue, it automatically scrolls through the clips making viewing an easy succession of videos without the hassle of clicking or searching for the next clip. The viewing experience can be likened to a TV show DVD marathon session.
If Qrate.TV is able to acquire a substantial user base of tech-savvy content curators and consumers, the possibilities are big. For example, users can create a private Queue of family videos to share privately. Emerging content producers can create Queues for shows they’ve filmed and test the market or share it across their private networks for feedback. The biggest challenge, however, to creating a platform that relies on community participation, is drawing in that community.
To draw in a strong, loyal community, Qrate.TV will need to outshine its competitors in both UI and UX. After all, humans are drawn to shiny things. Platforms like Churn.TV have gone through many iterations and achieved something that is visually appealing to users, while also offering a seamless experience. If Qrate.TV is able to follow suit, there may be some competition, though Sutton doesn’t consider Churn TV to be a competitor.
In the short-term, Qrate.TV will be generating revenue through advertising on the site. The startup is entertaining the idea of introducing subscriptions or paid channels in the future.
Sutton says the next development step for Qrate.TV will be to tidy up some of the features and fix any bugs that have been identified in V.1. He also says he’d like to include a video search function which will let users find videos through the site and add them to their Queues at the click of a button. There are many features in the pipeline, but at the moment, prioritisation is key.
It hasn’t been an easy journey for Sutton as a solo founder. He admits that balancing work and family commitments has been the biggest challenge and has outsourced as many tasks as possible. It’s clear though that he doesn’t regret pursuing the original idea on his own.