by Alan James Edwards
In the late 90’s I was an actor and a sketch comedian. I also made short films. I had all of my work on VHS tapes. It was expensive to make your own movies or put comedy shows up and tape them. And it took a lot of time.
I also loved to entertain people by showing them clips of great movies and comedians. I found that finding work that was already out there and showing it to my friends was another way to entertain, quickly, and without the production cost. But this was hard as I had to pop VHS tapes in and out of a machine and find the different parts of the shows I wanted to present. People had longer attention spans back then so my friends would wait. But it was annoying.
To solve this problem, I would rent space in an editing room and bring all the VHS tapes and edit the clips I liked together in a sequence. Then I could show that to my friends. And if I wanted to distribute this work, I had to copy the tapes and mail or deliver them on foot. But I only could do this in a limited way because of the cost, and I didn’t have the copyrights to use the material.
Back then a viral video meant someone copied tapes and passed them around. Some of you may remember when George Clooney got a hold of the first South Park animation tape, made copies, and gave them to his famous friends. Then those people made more copies and it went viral. Finally, one of my sisters got a hold of it and I was able to watch. It was called Jesus vs Santa (The spirit of Christmas). We thought it was hilarious and watched it over and over again. The rest is South Park history.
Then the Internet arrived. By 2005 I could digitize and upload the work I made to YouTube. But it was still hard to produce my own videos. So I continued to entertain my friends with clips that I found around the internet.
I could save YouTube videos into folders, but with videos available in so many different places, I ran into problems. I would forget where I saw each video and I would have to google to find it. Sometimes I found the right one and sometimes I didn’t. When I couldn’t find a video, it was frustrating. I would sometimes lose my audience while they waited for me to find clips. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, I had to save playlists in all these different platforms. It was a drag and not a lot of fun. Also, these playlists are located deep in the platforms, hard to find and share, and not presented in a personalized way.
Then online video started to explode, especially in mobile, growing to 85% of the total user population. Working in the digital advertising industry, I noticed a tidal shift. All of a sudden, the first words out of everyone’s mouth were “I want video.” It was clear to me from what I was seeing firsthand, that digital video was going to become the most powerful medium in the world.
Then I got this idea. Why not create a platform where anyone could save and organize all these clips into their own playlists in one place? Then they could easily share and show them to their friends. I could make the videos available on any phone, computer, or television. I developed the first version of the app and found that I could embed the videos with the new Oembed standard that all major publishers were using. I did have to invent special code for a “controller” to deliver all the different videos from different sources into one application window (they all have different embedding API’s, dimensions, and specifications). The embedding ability is convenient because the videos are delivered from the original source, so people can save videos without violating copyright law. When any video plays, it counts as a view on the original platform and is delivered with their advertising etc., bringing incremental traffic and revenue to the original publisher (e.g. a YouTube play from the app counts as a view on YouTube).
I spoke with a number of publishers and content creators that I knew to get their feedback. They universally loved the idea. You see, finding viewers for videos is hard, (90% of Youtube views go to the top 3% of creators) so any application that brings a larger audience to their content is welcomed as a plus.
I named the app CLIPKICK and released a beta version for close friends and family. I was elated to find that people, like me, loved to put together video collections. I became increasingly impressed by the creativity people were showing with every new playlist that appeared. I started calling the playlists “Lineups.” (like a “Thursday night lineup” on TV). People made video lineups on all sorts of topics: cooking, comedy, late-night talk shows, inspiration, politics, sports; the list goes on. Some lineups were very specific, like how to fold laundry, or weave scarfs. I learned the word “Spoopy” around Halloween. I had to ask one of our younger users what it meant as the word kept popping up in Halloween lineups. Turns out it means “Funny and spooky. Not horror, like fun scary.” I was also surprised at the number of clips saved. Some users were actually saving THOUSANDS of videos.
Showing the user obsession helped me raise some “friends and family” money and I invested in a production version of the app. We released this version to the public last year, and as the user base grew, I began to notice two types of users emerging.
Some were content creators who make their own videos and put them on YouTube, Facebook, TikTok, etc. They find the app useful for assembling all of their work in one place and sharing the link. Then people can see all their videos without jumping from app to app. CLIPKICK also increases “Cross-pollination” ( e.g. getting their TikTok audience over to Instagram and Facebook) and helps them find new viewers to grow their traffic and audience.
But most users were people that didn’t have creative endeavors at all. Lawyers, doctors, bartenders, fitness trainers, these people would not be considered “creative” by any means, but clearly, they were finding a way to become creative through the curation process in the app. Their collections were amazing.
I used to think that only a small percentage of people in the world were actually creative. I thought that if you didn’t write, make movies, play music, or paint then you weren’t a creative person. Only an elite could “Think different.” Now I know everyone can be creative. Everyone has a vision. They just need the right tools to help them do it.