The easy availability of broadband and the sharp increase in the number of high-speed Internet users makes it a perfect time for entrepreneurs to experiment with content in general, and user generated content in particular, despite the lack of what could be sustainable business models.
The venture investors are happy to back these plays, because many believe that we are seeing a fundamental shift in the media consumption methods. From online video to online curators such as Digg and are all part of this trend. Add Bix, a start-up previously known as 900 Seconds, to this list.
The company was started by Mike Speiser, co-founder of Epinions.com and has raised $6.77 million from Sutter Hill Ventures, Trinity Ventures and a gaggle of individual investors including ex-Yahoo Geoff Ralston.
Bix is a platform for creating contests online much in the mold of American Idol. From singing contests, photo contests to video shootouts, the company will allow end-users to become their own producers and editors. Speiser says the company was inspired by the growing popularity of contents such as American Idol, and Top Model.
Here is how it works – I create a contest inviting participants to submit their photographs of San Francisco. The community can then vote and pick their favorites. The photo submission with most votes bubbles up to the top. You can also have a head-to-head competition between various photos as well. You can do the same for picking say the top videoblogger or what not. Basically Bix is using community to do the editing and selection – off loading all the cost of creating and managing content.
Speiser says the fact nearly 500,000 people camped out to tryout for American Idol, shows that there is a large number of people who are waiting to be discovered. “Internet is perfect for the discovery of the microstars, such as the Chinese BackStreet Boys,” he says. He thinks that there are more such acts waiting to be discovered.
Bix will compete with the likes of kSolo, a company acquired by Fox Interactive Media earlier this year. Like kSolo, it will provide lyrics for online karaoke and has licensed those rights from various music labels. Speiser says they have more features. For instance a Java-based online tool will allow users with video cameras built into their laptops to record video in addition to audio clips. Bix, works with a Mac as well as a PC, which at least gives the company a shot at acquiring customers from the “creator class.”
The company plans to allow end-users to download their own audio clips and use them as ringtones for a small charge. Eventually the same content could be sold to others, and at that point the company is going to split the proceeds with the creators. Of course, like all eyeball-based start-ups, Bix is hoping to cash in on the shift of ad-dollars to the online medium. Speiser says that these contests will be ideal vehicles for brand advertising.