Tout makes the real-time social web more visual

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Twitter laid the groundwork for real-time publishing. Tout is looking to add the next layer by making real-time publishing a more visual, highly engaging experience.

The San Francisco startup, spun out of the Stanford Research Institute, has developed a video service that lets publishers create and publish short (15-second) videos. The Wall Street Journal announced on Monday that it’s using Tout for its new WorldStream offering, giving its 2,000 worldwide journalists a new platform for publishing videos directly from their smartphones. The Journal is using WorldStream this week to showcase videos from reporters and editors covering the Republication National Convention.

The Journal’s Alan Murray described the utility of the new service to Nieman Journalism Lab:

Reporters who are being asked to collect video anyway finally have a place to publish it in standalone snippets. Depending on what they shoot, videos could also show up embedded in stories, as part of larger packages, in cutaways during one of The Wall Street Journal’s produced shows, etc., etc. Murray says just about “anything shot by reporters could and should go into the stream.” And to battle that somewhat disjointed mix of content, viewers can apply thematic filters — if you just want videos of what the GOP is up to in Tampa, that’s all you’ll see.

The real potential of Tout, however, comes from its ability to bring consumers into the conversation. World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE), for example, is using Tout to connect its celebrity wrestlers with their fans. The service has already drawn in more than 2.5 million users who have contributed videos to more than 16,000 conversations, Tout CEO Michael Downing said in a phone interview. The top 100 conversations have each generated over 25,000 replies, he said. (WWE has a reason to promote Tout: It has invested $5 million in the startup.)

  

Somewhere between the Journal’s curated, staff-generated Worldstream and the WWE’s user-generated free-for-all lies an opportunity for other publishers to use real-time video to connect and engage with their audience.

“The Internet experience has largely been defined by a print metaphor,” Downing said. “The most profound innovation over the next 10 years will be how we transform away from the print metaphor and be more human, more real-time and more immersive.”

Siri – another innovation from the Stanford Research Institute – embodies this shift, Downing said, and Tout extends the concept further into social communications. “We all have this newfound capability through our smartphones to capture, publish, instantly receive and consume high-quality videos,” he said. “With Tout, we’re giving media companies a platform for real-time conversation around these videos.”

Many traditional publishers may not be ready to open up their video blogs to the masses. In the interim, Tout offers an easy way to build up an inventory of “micro-videos” – and the advertising that goes with it.

Tout’s free offering includes a standardized package of tools and widgets that publishers can use to embed a live feed on their website. A premium-level service, priced based on the number of user accounts, includes analytics, HD video and tools for integrating the feed with existing ad servers.  The emerging ad model calls for a 15-second pre-roll or interstitial that runs after a minimum of four videos, or “touts,” Downing said.

In addition to Tout’s premium offering, Downing anticipates another revenue stream for the startup: leveraging the user data the company is collecting. Because Tout hosts the videos from its customers, it will have the ability to analyze touts and sell targeted advertising to brands – similar to the ad model Twitter is implementing.

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