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Online video is hot, hot, hot. Even with the rampant success of YouTube, we've barely scratched the surface of online video's potential. A study released by the Pew Internet & American Life Project earlier this year found that traffic to video-sharing sites doubled in 2007. New York City-based Magnify.net is one startup that's launched into this space with vim and vigor. Instead of focusing on user-uploaded videos a la YouTube, Magnify.net aims to help users locate, aggregate and use video on their own websites.
Magnify.net, which launched in January, is a prime example of finding new opportunities in online video. It takes a lot of storage space and specific technical know-how to host user-submitted videos, but startups can look toward areas such as video search, video advertising, niche content, and video-creation and sharing tools. "We decided not to be a portal or a destination," says Steve Rosenbaum, co-founder of Magnify.net with Simon Cavalletto, 36. "We built a solution that lives on top of this inevitable mountain of storage. We give websites the tools to discover and curate video."
These are the Wild West days of online video. Startups are jumping in, and venture capital is following them. "There will come a moment when the leaders in the space will emerge and own the beachfront property," says Rosenbaum, 46. "You're not too late, but it is time to start exploring." He recommends that entrepreneurs who are thinking about starting in the online video space take time to try out the existing tools and services. He also warns that it could take a while for a consistent revenue model to shake out. "Get involved, take risks and make mistakes," he says. "Don't count on it happening too fast."When it comes to getting the word out about your online video startup, keyword advertising and word-of-mouth are still big factors. Magnify.net also pounds the pavement by attending trade shows and conferences to conduct presentations and speak with customers. The company raised $1.2 million in first-round funding and expects to boost sales more than 100 percent over last year's earnings of $200,000. "I got into this knowing that we could lead the [online video] curating revolution, and that's what we've done," says Rosenbaum. This year is prime time for entrepreneurs to jump in to the online video sandbox, try out new concepts, explore revenue models and help shape the wide-open future of this growing area.