“There is amazing video available on the Internet—funny, inspiring, educational—it's no longer just cat videos. The problem is that you're never going to find it,” says Neil Young, founder and CEO of N3TWORK, the first app that surfaces video content for you based on your interests.
N3TWORK, pronounced “network,” lets you follow people and things that interest you—whether it’s the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, economic inequality or, of course, kittens. Then it presents the very best, most relevant videos so you can watch them now, later, or anywhere, including on your iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV.
“Every day since we started N3TWORK, I've seen and loved something new that I know I would not have found otherwise,” says Young, who founded the personal television network in December 2013 with Bob Stevenson. “Some of that content has been found, filtered and recommended to me by our systems, some has been put into the system by our curators, and some has been put in by people beta testing the product.”
The San Francisco-based app originally began organizing the best content on the Internet. Today, the new, video-only version became available on the App Store for free on iPhone and iPad.
“I believe there are two ways you can build products,” Young says. “One: make a small center and iterate out. Or two: make a sketch that's broader and reduce down to a small center that you then iterate from. Our approach was the latter. We had a broader, rougher sketch of the software, and as we learned what resonated with our users, we reduced down to a core that had the best engagement, both objectively and subjectively.”
Young’s previous mobile gaming startup, Ngmoco, gave him the experience to connect with people and their passions. “Fantasy Role Playing, Science Fiction Role Playing, and Vampire Role Playing are all games in the role playing genre, but with different fictions overlaid on top of the same game system. We found that this segmentation, coupled with hard-learned lessons around game and engagement design, allowed us to build software that could keep a core audience of players involved, and ultimately playing for a longer time. By building a portfolio of products that complemented one another, we were able to build a scaled audience consisting of smaller, highly engaged niches, which in turn led to big business. It occurred to us that you could take this concept and apply it more broadly, replacing genres and fiction with interests (both general and niche), to engage people more completely with the content that they truly love.
Once you download N3TWORK in the App Store, you can sign up with Facebook or Twitter, or create an account with an email. Then you’ll be asked to tell a little about yourself, such as which subjects are important to you. From there, N3TWORK begins pulling in Internet video content that matches your interests. Your channel can be private, so only you can post to it, or it can be a public space you create with supporting media assets.
While N3TWORK is an interest-driven network utilizing video, it also gives a rich and targeted way to reach an audience. This can be through contextual and native video advertising. It can be by working with the N3TWORK team to manage a channel in support of your brand. Or you can engage a community that shares the same values as you or your clients.
“I think we're just at the beginning of reinventing how video content is watched, produced, shared, and interacted with,” says Young. “TV has been a read (or view) only medium for a long time. The engagement on sites like YouTube shows what happens when audiences go from being passive to participatory. I'm looking forward to the day when TV becomes personal for all of us, instantly available on any screen at any time, and for when it moves beyond a read-only medium and becomes read/write.”
When it does, Young says there are four ways they hope to make money. First, through pre-roll advertising, either on content hosted by N3TWORK or through referral content hosted by others. Second, through partnerships with brands and content owners who build channels that allow a new level of engagement with their customers. Third, by aggregating niche interests together into broad categories and offering premium subscription services. Finally, through what they call engagement-based monetization, which takes the lessons learned from building Ngmoco and N3TWORK and applying them more broadly to other media.
“Beyond our launch, I'm really excited about our iOS8 plans,” he says. “We have amazing features that will let you post directly from Safari or your camera roll, interact without leaving the lock-screen, and a whole new way to login to the system.”