Enter #waywire, a curated video sharing service launched last year. This morning #waywire co-owner, Newark, New Jersey, mayor and presumptive candidate for U.S. Senate, Cory Booker plans to announce the beta release of waywire.com. With it come tools that make it easier to pull individual videos from YouTube, Vimeo, and other social sharing sites–plus every video you have on Facebook, Twitter, and Vine–and organize them into single channels, or “wires.” Wires can then be shared with others.
The company says this is the first time that video from multiple services can be collated in such a way into a single source.
Today’s beta launch also includes new “content collaborators” who program their own wires on the site as a way to share video with their own audience. This first batch of collaborators includes Refinery 29, CollegeHumor, New York Magazine, and HuffPost Live.
“Video is a powerful tool and a democratizing force,” Booker said in a statement. “It’s being embraced by the current generation in ways my generation couldn’t imagine.” But, he added, “It’s too hard right now to find meaningful video content from trusted voices.”
Booker’s own wire contains multiple channels, some devoted to Newark issues, and others more national like gun safety and civil rights.
They can be viewed in what #waywire CEO Nathan Richardson calls “more of a lean back than lean forward experience,” meaning they will play right through in the order Booker selected them–without the viewer having to select a new video at the end of each one, something YouTube has experimented with in its Spotlight feature.
“YouTube is a big messy ocean of video that isn’t easy to navigate,”
Richardson tells Fast Company. “The ability to curate collections will change the expectation for online video. Right now it is poorly aggregated, not put into any context, and very difficult to find.”
Also new today are the first details about how advertising will work on #waywire. Like digital video websites everywhere, #waywire is searching for ways to monetize its content, especially as online video becomes the most buzzed-about segment of digital advertising–with spending expected to exceed $4 billion this year. That’s a 41% jump over 2012, according to eMarketer.
For #waywire, getting in on some of those billions means allowing advertisers to buy entire wires, add their own pre- or post-roll ads to existing videos, or produce their own premium channels that subscribers might one day pay for.
For now, though, all of #waywire remains free to users, and currently there are about 14,000 registered. The goal is to become what Pinterest is for images and Pandora is for music, says cofounder Sara Ross, formerly of TechCrunch and Yahoo. She says the dominance of YouTube has only served to stifle innovative video sharing, and that #waywire adds a key social media component by allowing users to share their entire collections of video at once.
“We can help turn Twitter and Facebook into the world’s largest broadcasting system,” she said.
That potential was enough to raise $1.75 million in seed funding, and attract marquee investors like Oprah Winfrey, Eric Schmidt, LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner, and even Lady Gaga’s manager Troy Carter.
The advisory board includes John Hamm, Dan Rather, and Andrew Zucker.
Of course, #waywire now faces the challenge of adhering to its initial social mission as a political voice to inspire the Millennial generation, even as it courts branded content and advertisers. Its own promotional video shows Booker responding as young adults describe traditional media as an “asinine medium” filled with “information that is almost irrelevant.”
Convincing Millennials that the content on #waywire is somehow different could turn out to be even trickier than restoring confidence in one of the most dysfunctional cities in America.