5Qs with… Magnify CEO Steven Rosenbaum

/ Jun 24, 2013


Video discovery and curation startup Magnify has raised $1 million in new financing from a group of investors that include the TED conference’s Chris Anderson and former Facebook chief privacy officer Chris Kelly. The startup, which enables publishers to find, curate, and distribute online video content via their websites, is generating 22 million video player impressions a month across 90,000 sites, including those from big brands to “mom and pop video entrepreneurs,” according to Magnify CEO Steven Rosenbaum.

We reached out to Rosenbaum with several questions about his company as well as the new money round. Here’s what he said:

You’ve said before that video discovery is the next step in the evolution of web video.

Video is shifting from search to discovery. Discovery happens better at the edge of the network,  rather than a central source. So publishers are emerging as trusted source for video — as users are finding the sheer volume of unfiltered content overwhelming.

The number of new players in the video creation game is awesome, but at the same time pretty noisy. Then, with Instagram Video, Vine, and Google Glass all offering video ‘content’ in their own way — we’re arriving at a moment of abundance without quality. That makes publisher-driven curation a new source of video discovery. In this world — curation becomes pretty damn important.

Video is no longer expensive to produce. But video discovery is a whole different ballgame. How does Magnify help publishers sort through that clutter? What sort of options/control does the platform offer?

Well, we start with the fact that publishers have a special secret tool in their toolbox that no algorithm can match — they’ve got an editorial filter, and that’s human. So our job is to make the use of that filter efficient. We begin with technology that brings in video from multiple sources. So a publisher can make and upload video — we call that “created” content. Then, they can tell our system about sources they trust, makers who meet their quality and content standards — we call this “collected” content.  And finally, our tech can scour our partners and bring in suggestions for content based on keywords, tags, body copy and other algorithmic discovery search secrets. That’s the “curated” content. The three “C’s” of curation: Created, collected, and curated. Oh,  and publishers can deputize their visitors to contribute content as well.

Who else is doing video discovery well, and who isn’t?

That’s a trick question. We think there are some sites that are doing it well, but mostly by hand.  So while the results are good, there’s an unsustainable amount of effort going into it. From a tech perspective, there are a number of apps doing a good job using social as a filter, but social only works for things your friends like — it doesn’t give you a niche content focus, or a professional editor’s point-of-view. So, modestly, we think we’re kind of killing it right now. And we’re running hard to stay ahead of the pack.

What kind of ad and analytics services do you offer to publishers? Who manages the video ad-serving and measurement and that relationship with advertisers?

Well, we have a deep-seated philosophy here that we want to be excellent at what we do — and partner with the best in our space to do what they do. So we’re not an ad network. Instead, we let publishers choose and embed video from our premium partners who sell ads. Then, there’s a very fair revenure share with publishers (we don’t take a cut). So today AOL On and Yahoo are premium partners. And we’ll be adding some more in the near future. As for measurement, our customers bring Google Analytics and Omniture. For ad networks, we support DoubleClick DART, OAS, OpenX, YuMe, Adify, Google AdSense, and Tremor Video.

What will the new funding go toward?

Eon Chairs and saltwater fish. Okay, just kidding. We’re adding people in some key areas.  We’ve got two more developers in the plan, as well as another front-end designer and another head count in sales. We’re taking more space in the building, and we’ll be doing a bit more outreach in some key categories where we think curated video can move the needle quickly.

What’s your take on Vine and the newly launched Instagram for Video? Will that be an element of the Magnify platform?

We think it’s super exciting. We think video is at an inflection point. You’re going to see video used to teach, to share, to expore, to evangelize. It’s quickly going to be the language of the web. And don’t forget Google Glass. In just the past three days you’ve seen a medical procedure demonstrated with Glass, as well as a Wimbledon champion playing tennis and a recorded tour of Disneyland.  We’re already aggregating and curating Glass Video.

So, will Vine and Instagram Video have API access? We think so — and we’re planning for it. Because, in a world of video that is being created and produced at breakneck speed, we think average folks are going to find themselves looking for trusted curators to help them find the signal in the noise. Magnify has both the technology and the philosophical DNA to be a great partner, making the noisy web more manageable and more valuable.

The truth is, no one wants “more” video, they want less. But they want a curated collection that is crisp and contextual. And that’s what we want to power.

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