Qwiki burst on to the scene with a cool platform for creating automated multimedia presentations on the fly, kind of like a robot-crafted Wikipedia. But founder and CEO Doug Imbruce saw a bigger future for the company as a publishing medium for creators. That’s what prompted him to move the company to New York late last year to be part of the city’s media and publishing scene.
Now, the company’s efforts are all coming together with the launch of new media format that allows publishers, bloggers, Web personalities and others to create 60-second video stories that are embedded with other videos, images, maps and links. It’s like an interactive video slideshow that lets users click on other content throughout a narrated story, so they can choose how deep they want to experience the content.
The service has gotten a big endorsement from ABC News (s dis), which will use Qwiki to tell news stories online. The network has already started putting together stories, which also appear in its Qwiki channel. Other early advocates are Stylecaster and blogger Shea Marie. The service goes into private testing today with some early users and is expected to open to the public in a couple of weeks.
Users can put together a Qwiki by arranging images, videos and maps and other content into six frames. Each frame can be further edited with a caption and embedded with more images, Tweets, maps and links taken from sources such as YouTube (s goog), Flickr (s yhoo), Google Maps and other sources including their personal content. When the media content is laid down, a user records a 60-second narration for the story with the option of appearing in a small window throughout the Qwiki. The creator decides when to advance each frame.
“Our goal wasn’t to create a single app, but release a two-way format that makes content creation and consumption richer, more fluid and engaging,” Imbruce told me in an interview. “Our vision is for short but very deep pieces of content.”
Imbruce said we’re seeing the emergence of more storytelling tools such as Storify for online content. And there’s still video software like iMovie (s aapl) or Final Cut, that can allow people to achieve a similar effect. But he believes there’s a need for an easy tool that lets all kinds of people create personal stories.
Qwiki’s new format still has maturing to do. It isn’t capable of playing back on mobile devices. And a mobile app for creating Qwikis is planned but not available yet. But it still has a lot of appeal. A couple thousand teachers tried out a beta version of the creator tool and many came away impressed with what they can do.
Imbruce said there are many more features to be added that could make Qwiki even more attractive to its creators and users. For instance, Qwiki is looking at creating a “buy” button so that creators can prompt viewers to purchase items that are talked about during their Qwiki story.I like the first version of Qwiki, although I kind of wish it offered more flexibility with the timing. Right now, creators can only tell a 60-second story. But with the ability to add more content, it could really be the starting point for a bigger story. I think over time, Qwiki might be better served by allowing people the option to make videos a little longer. But, overall, I think this is a cool tool that can help people show off their creativity and storytelling abilities. New online tools, such as Pinterest, are already showing us that self-expression and curation are now very popular. I think it’s logical that a simple tool for mixing video, images and online content could also attract an audience.