Monday, November 27, 2006
Interview with Keith Richman, Break.com
Keith Richman is the CEO of Break.com (www.break.com), an online web video site focused on the male market. socalTECH's Ben Kuo interviewed Keith to learn a little bit about the site and business.
Can you tell us a little bit about Break.com?
Keith Richman: Break was started in 2004. The goal in many ways is what we are today, which is an entertainment channel for fifteen to thirty-five year old males. We started posting web videos, and in December of 2004 started specifically focusing on user-created content, offering $50 for original user created videos we posted. By offering a differentiated, original web video content, we developed a loyal audience, who became evangelists for the site. We created a unique and distinctive brand, earlier than other people who were getting into the space. That content and brand has fueled our growth, from 20,000-30,000 daily visitors to 1 to 1.1 million daily visitors today. Our goal is to be the leading entertainment channel for guys.
What is Break.com's business model?
Keith Richman: We're entirely ad-supported. We show 10 million videos on a daily basis, and give from 17 to 20 million ad impressions. We have an extensive amount of inventory, and in the last six months, have built out lots of ad products, including ways for branded advertisers to create experiences on the site. We recently ran an ad campaign for Universal Pictuers, Adidas, and others. What we have done very effectively is to run ad campaigns which integrate user created content on the site and content from the movie, integrating that into the site.
Tell us a little bit about your background?
Keith Richman: My background is I spent eight years in Silicon Valley. I worked at a company called Classifieds2000, which was acquired by Excite; Billpoint, which was acquired by eBay; and OnePage, which was acquired by Sybase. I decided I wanted to do something with web video, web video targeting people like myself. At the beginning of 2004, I started spending an enormous amount of time online, looking for online video sites. I found a site called Big-Boys.com, called the guy up who was running the site, and said I wanted to be a partner. About a year ago a college friend of mine and I bought the site, though the founder continues to work with us. We shifted the operations out to California, where it's been ever since. Last November, we made a name change. Big-Boys.com (with the dash) was a hassle to type, and we had a problem branding and getting traffic. We had purchased Break.com earlier in the year.
It looks there's been a lot of recent interest in video sharing/swapping sites like yours?
Keith Richman: What we've realized is that by creating a quality product, with differentiated content, we were able to attract a large audience. We don't consider ourselves a sharing site, we consider ourself an entertainment destination. Video sharing is just a mechanism for acquiring content. What we've done is create a very filtered entertainment experience. We have a team here and technology to isolate what videos the community things is great, then we buy those video from the audience. We have paid up to $300,000 to date for user-generated content that we've been able to filter out and isolate. User generated content is not all good, to be honest. The key challenge to creating entertainment content is to find the good videos out of all the bad, and that's what we've done a really good job of. What you'll find, if you go to the site--and I hear this time and time again--is people who go realize that the content is good, and that it appeals to them--and that's why people come back, for five minutes every day, and find videos they find relevant and exciting.
How do you handle all the competition out there--ie YouTube and others, and get above the noise?
Keith Richman: We've got two attitudes toward it. The more people who want to watch online video, the better. We believe people will find the product--we've grown 55% since January, and there are lots of people who haven't discovered online video as an option yet. We're not too worried about multiple sites, as we believe a rising tide lifts all ships, and we feel strongly we have a quality product. We're happy when people use web video overall, because they will find our site. That might not be true in three years, when competition will be more fierce. However, we find that scale has become a virtuous cycle. Because we can distribute content to a large audience, we can get content first. Getting content first means we get a larger audience. People without that level of scale will find it very difficult to develop it outside of a very, very defined niche. We don't pay much attention to sites that target other male demographics--we think we'll all do well. We're focused on ourselves and our product.
What's next for you?
Keith Richman: Two things. We want to continue to do what we're doing, but to do them faster. We want to grow out our brand--we feel very much that we're like MTV in 1985, lots of people know us, but there are lots of people who don't know us. So we want to increase our brand awareness. The other is to increase our ability to monetize the site and content. More branded advertisers means we have the ability to increase what we compensate users. We're starting to monetize as much stuff as possible. We continue to grow by a half million uniques each month, we are going to hit 15 million unique visitors this month. We're both astonished and thrilled that we can represent such a legitimate content distribution platform for our demographic. There's a video on our home page, with 53,000 views, which was just put up an hour ago--that's how we can now leverage this distribution platform. There's lots of opportunities for how we can grow this business in the long run.
Thanks for the interview!