In 12 months, The Huffington Post hopes that 50% of the content on its site is video. To meet that mark the AOL-owned publisher is creating its own network of video creators as companies like Disney‘s Maker Studios have done.
The Huffington Post has signed a deal with digital video network BroadbandTV to create a network of citizen video journalists called Outspeak. People who join the program will be able to create and upload their own news videos to be distributed on The Huffington Post’s site and YouTube and — unlike CNN’s similar iReport service — make money from the ads sold against their videos or videos they end up making for advertisers.
The Huffington Post helped to popularize the idea of citizen journalism — normal people on the ground covering news events the way paid journalists do — and for its titular co-founder, Outspeak is an extension of that work.
“We have a hundred thousand bloggers around the world, and we are getting to ready open the platform to more on the blogging side, and we wanted to do the same on the video side,” said The Huffington Post’s co-founder and editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington. The Huffington Post plans to invest more than $1 million in Outspeak over multiple years, a spokeswoman said but declined to provide specific figures.
The Huffington Post tried a similar “citizen journalism for video” program in 2012 when it partnered with live-streaming service Ustream to distribute that service’s user-generated broadcasts on The Huffington Post’s site. However, Ms. Huffington shot down the comparison.
“This is pretty much a new beginning for us,” she said, adding that this is the first deal Nathan Brown has put together since the former Complex video exec joined The Huffington Post as senior VP and GM of video in March.
Outspeak is different from the Ustream deal. Whereas the Ustream deal was about acquiring videos, the Outspeak program is about acquiring the people who make the videos. That makes it more closely resemble so-called multi-channel networks (MCNs) like BroadbandTV, Maker Studios and Fullscreen that manage thousands of creators’ channels on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Vine.
“Philosophically, we’re all about this being a boutique MCN and getting the best of the best. A lot of MCNs out there will take any creator with a pulse, and it’s really not about that,” Mr. Brown said.
The Huffington Post is looking to sign a few hundred creators to join its video network this year. It plans to sign deals with some of those creators to co-produce original series. The Huffington Post is also looking at Outspeak as something of a feeder system for its own video team. “We are in the market to bring some of them full-time on staff,” Ms. Huffington said.
The Huffington Post is looking for creators to post videos in categories spanning news, politics, entertainment and pop culture. “It’s fairly broad, but it’s people that are entertaining people and looking at the world in a progressive way,” Mr. Brown said.
A good video creator doesn’t necessarily need The Huffington Post or BroadbandTV to make money from their content. They could just as well sign up for YouTube’s partner program and receive a cut of the money from ads sold against the videos on their YouTube channel. Or they could sign up with an existing digital video network like BroadbandTV or Collective Digital Studio to have those companies handle ad deals and promotion.
But for years, those companies have been primarily focused on YouTube, and some creators and industry experts have complained that YouTube’s typical 45% cut of ad revenue can make it hard to sustain a living off a YouTube channel. And even though YouTube counts more than 1 billion monthly viewers, it can be hard for creators to get their videos in front of enough of those viewers when there are 300 hours’ worth of video being uploaded to the service every minute. The Huffington Post believes it can offer creators an easier way to get viewers.
“They’ll still have audiences on YouTube, but we’ll help them scale outside of YouTube,” Mr. Brown said.
While the bulk of Outspeak creators’ videos will live on YouTube, a best-of collection will also be available on a dedicated Outspeak page on The Huffington Post’s site, and the site’s editorial staff will also be able to embed Outspeak videos within their articles.
Creators will maintain ownership of videos posted to YouTube and then syndicated across The Huffington Post. But if a video is co-produced with The Huffington Post, then the publisher and creator will work out an arrangement so that The Huffington Post can take some ownership of the content. “We definitely see ourselves taking an [intellectual property] position in the content we co-produce,” Mr. Brown said.
As is common with digital video networks, the Huffington Post and BroadbandTV will make money from ads sold against the videos and split that revenue with the video creators. The Huffington Post also plans to have its ad sales team pitch branded video deals in which an Outspeak creator would make a video for a marketer and split the revenue with the publisher.
On Monday, Mr. Brown said the publisher was finalizing what percentage of the revenue will go to creators; later in the day a Huffington Post spokeswoman declined to provide the figure but said in an email that it would be “an exponential increase over what YouTube pays.”
The Huffington Post considered setting up the video network on its own, but decided to team with BroadbandTV, so that it could move faster and service more creators and their content, Mr. Brown said. BroadbandTV already operates a network of more than 32,000 creators and offers tools that creators can use to manage their channels, like posting videos and monitoring viewership and revenue stats.