Howcast, yet another how-to video site, and one that we’ve been tracking through its stealth mode, launches today. The company, founded by Google and YouTube alums, has raised an $8 million Series A round led by Tudor Investment Corporation, and said it plans to add additional funding from strategic investors soon.
Howcast’s founders are being control freaks about their content — either producing it internally or commissioning film students to make a video and then giving them a set topic and providing most of the production elements — a recorded voice over, a script, overlay and other graphics, and a step-by-step style guide. Contributors receive $50 per accepted video and then share half the revenue Howcast collects after the video has been seen a minimum of 40,000 times. That’s pretty stingy, unless the site becomes huge and can guarantee many more views than that.
“One of the things we’re creating is almost a hybrid between how users can create content and high-quality content,” said Daniel Blackman, Howcast co-founder and chief operating officer, in an interview last week.
Regular users can participate through comments, suggestions, and written “wiki guides” to content. Update: the company says it will accept videos that don’t conform to its rules, but it won’t pay an upfront fee for them. This is kind of a middle-of-the-road approach compared to other how-to video startups, many of which are also quite well-backed. 5min, for instance, has $5 million to aggregate how-to videos, while VideoJug has at least $30 million to make its own how-to videos.
Howcast co-founder and CEO Jason Liebman (there is also a third co-founder, Sanjay Raman) said he thought the large amount of competition validates the space, and added that he plans to aggregate the best content from his competitors. “At the end of the day the company we think is going to be most successful is the one with the best user experience and the best content.” Indeed, Howcast’s videos tend to be quite entertaining and polished, and its instructional player is quite impressive and usable (see example embedded above). Liebman said the company’s primary cost is paying employees, not producing content.
Howcast has already cut distribution agreements with MySpace, YouTube, Verizon FiOS TV, Joost and ROO, and has signed JetBlue Airways as a sponsor of the travel company. Starcom USA is helping the company with ad sales and production.
So will Howcast be able to stand out from the pack? We’ve said before we agree with all the people starting how-to video companies that this is a promising space. Still, just because you were employed by Google doesn’t mean you have the touch of gold. The Howcast team met when they worked on Google Video — which you’ll recall was not all that successful. But to be fair, I don’t think many consumers will be whining about “yet another how-to video site!?!” any time soon — it’s early days.