I’ve been following Animoto – an automated music video creation company – ever since they first launched on Facebook in March 2008, and although they are tight-lipped about their success, I feel they have a smart, expandable business model for online video. The company reached out recently to let us know about their upcoming 2nd Annual Valentine’s Day Video, and I thought I’d take the opportunity to look at their existing services, business models and share a bit of opinion about their current offerings.
What is Animoto?
Animoto works by allowing users to upload images and video to the Animoto website or Facebook Application, and then choose from a bunch of video templates to create a polished, tightly edited video slideshow. The free versions on the site and Facebook are restricted to short, 30 second clips. These videos acts as a teaser of sorts, and Animoto’s real business revolves around attempting to upsell the user to their premium packages. A year-long subscription to create full-length videos goes for $30, and free users can upgrade their short videos to full-length videos for $3 a piece. Users also have the ability to download their videos as High-Resolution (720×480) videos for $5, by buying “High-Res Upgrade Credits”.
Shortly after Amazon and Madrona invested $4.4 million in the company two years ago, Animoto expanded into business services and began offering Animoto for Business, allowing businesses to utilize Animoto services for $99 per user for 3 months, or $249 for a year. The business service includes all features, including unlimited high-res downloads, which isn’t available as part of the $30 per year license. This is useful for business, who can then publish the video on a DVD, for instance.
The technology behind Animoto is impressive. Instead of simply dropping the photos into a slideshow, their proprietary software, “Cinematic Artificial Intelligence”, causes the video to react to music. In my test videos, it was clear that whether I put in a few photos or a lot, and whether I used their music or mine, the video would certainly respond to the rhythms and crescendos of the song.
I have to say I’m surprised by a few of the decisions Animoto has made over the years. I really thought they were hurting their own virality with maintaining the 30 seconds limitation on Facebook, as the shorter videos -while certainly delivering the ‘wow’ factor – did not have enough content to be viral within a group of friends, at least for me.
Looking at their statistics on Facebook, we can see that they’ve never risen above 100,000 MAU, which is a shame considering the quality of content that they distribute. That said, they’ve stayed constant and if they are converting their users to the Animoto.com registration, that may be providing them with a loyal user base and possible ARPU.
As someone who works with video, I can say that the quality of the videos are great, but the lack of HD is frustrating. They support up to “DVD” quality, which is a 720×480 resolution, but judging by the forums we can see a lot of users are asking for 720p or 1080p for true high-resolution video. Seeing as Youtube and Vimeo are offering this type of service, Animoto should upgrade to stay competitive.
2nd Annual Valentine’s Day Video
Last year, Animoto released a Valentine’s Day video template that gave users the ability to easily produce a polished Valentine’s day video. All users had to do was add a selection of photos, choose an appropriate song and write a few words and Animoto’s video-maker would take care of the rest .
Animoto recently helped us to a look at the new Valentine’s Day video to be released this year, and it certainly is gorgeous. You can take a look at the video below, and as some quick advice, you may do yourself a service by letting a little time go by before telling your significant other just how long it took you to put gift together.