- WEB STARTUPS
- WEB JOBS
- ALL TOPICS
Exclusive Interview: Marshall Kirkpatrick of SplashCast
I have enjoyed reading Marshall Kirkpatrick’s blog entries all over the web. He was one of the lead writers for TechCrunch before leaving to do his own thing. That didn’t last long (maybe 2 days??) before he was scooped up by a new “mixed media syndication platform” called SplashCast. Marshall is very talented and I wanted to find out more about him and also what the heck a “mixed media syndication platform” is. (I am now coining the term MMSP). Marshall was kind enough to spend a few minutes with me and the transcript of our discussion is below. Oh yea, he even gives a juicy bit at the end about what Mr. Arrington likes to do in public.
Allen: Can you provide a brief background about yourself?
Marshall: I grew up in Eugene, Oregon and now live in Portland. I’m 30 years
old. I’ve done a lot of different things in my life, I’ve worked at a
tofu factory, an animal hospital, for a nonprofit technology group
called NetSquared, at TechCrunch and many other places. I’ve always
written a lot and found RSS and blogging to be life changing tools for
people who want to research and communicate.
Allen: What is SplashCast and how can it help content creators?
Marshall: SplashCast is a mixed media syndication platform that’s simple enough
for anyone to use. The end product of our admin console is an
embedded Flash player that can display multiple videos, photos, text
frames and audio. Other people can subscribe to your media channel,
embed it on their pages and receive updates to that channel pushed to
their player automatically by RSS. That’s the big picture, it works
best to see SplashCast in action in order to really grasp what it
The usefulness for content creators varies depending on who you talk
to. Some people like the ease of our content creation tools, for
recording voice-overs on top of photo slide shows, for example. Other
people like the fact that our player is a simple, very clean looking
way to embed any number of YouTube videos all in one small space.
Other people like the persistent connection that SplashCast creates
between a publisher and their audience of supporters – embedding a
video podcast you like in your blog is no longer a one-off act – that
embedded player is live and as up to date as the channel it’s
Here is a sample:
wmode="transparent" width="320" height="240" name="player"
The creative possibilities are almost countless, in part because
SplashCast leverages RSS in several different ways. In addition to
pushing updates to distributed players by RSS, you can also populate a
channel by RSS. For example, I built a channel last week of all the
US presidential candidates’ official YouTube channels. I just plugged
the YouTube RSS feeds into SplashCast and like magic there were more
than 50 videos available in one embeddable player. Whenever one of
those candidates uploads a new video to YouTube, it will be
automatically available in my SplashCast player.
Allen: How do you make sure spam and other “illegal” content don’t make their
way into the player?
Marshall: We tell people not to use SplashCast that way and we provide an easy
way for anyone to flag content as copyrighted or objectionable. As
for spam, if I put your live channel on my website – there is some
trust required there, but if content starts being delivered that I
don’t like I know where it came from and I can easily either change
the channel or delete the player.
Allen: Why did you decide to join SplashCast?
Marshall: I joined SplashCast just a few weeks after leaving TechCrunch because
I think the company is taking a great approach to consumer level media
syndication. I love RSS and I’m convinced that online media in
general and video in particular are going to be huge in the very near
future. SplashCast engages with these issues in a smarter way than
any other vendor in the space.
They also offered to pay me well to hang out in an office with people
I like and watch a whole lot of YouTube. While my original plan
post-TechCrunch was to do consulting with an emphasis on the nonprofit
sector, this was an opportunity I just couldn’t pass up.
Allen: I don’t see any ads or any fees to use SplashCast, how do you (if you
do) monetize the service?
Marshall: Monetization will be rolled out in the next few months. There are
lots of possibilities but we are really going to try to avoid pre and
post roll video ads. I think we’re going to bring a fresh,
noninvasive approach to the question of monetizing rich media on the
Allen: Who is using the service? Is it geek-only or mainstream?
Marshall: Photographers, painters, teachers, Zen Buddhists, farmers’ market
advocates, Japanese pop-culture commentators, video bloggers and a
General Motors entertainment news project are some use cases I’ve
noticed recently. It’s leaning towards the non-geeky, but it’s so
darned useful for bloggers who want to embed multiple YouTube videos
in a single player in a blog post that we are seeing a fair amount of
Allen: What is the team like? Has it been what you expected when you signed on?
Marshall: The team is small, there are only 8 of us right now. They are all
kind of freaky, in a good way – which is what I hoped for and where I
feel most comfortable. Thankfully, we have a CEO who is very skilled,
driven and ambitious but not an ego-maniac filled with hot air.
That’s really refreshing. The team is very supportive of engaging
with new social media and has also retained a traditional and very
capable PR agency. I like that dual strategy approach. There haven’t
been any big surprises yet, I had a good idea what I was getting into
with this company given previous communication with them.
Allen: What exactly does a “Director of Content” do?
Marshall: Freak out that every possible software development must be implemented
simultaneously and immediately. Once that freaking out is done, I
hunt for good examples of SplashCast put to use by our users and
communicate with as many of users as I can.
I also try to rock the blogosphere with breaking news and compelling
analysis in order to drive traffic to our site and thus expose people
to our company. That’s worked very well for us so far.
Allen: Who are your competitors?
Marshall: Everyone and no one, to be honest. We do things that are also done by
Brightcove, VideoEgg, Revver, VodPod, YouTube, Blip, Flickr,
Feedburner – you name it. The way we do it is very unique though – no
one else has yet offered a mixed media, multifile display that
leverages syndication and is easy to use.
Allen: How would you compare SplashCast to Brightcove?
Marshall: Brightcove is best positioned to serve big media on the web. They
have a beautiful multi-file player but no push syndication. They beat
us on video transcoding quality right now but we beat them on ease of
use. We also do much more than just video.
Allen: Is SplashCast funded? Can you share any info on the funding?
Marshall: The company raised $1.3 million last summer and is in talks to
complete a modest Series A round right now.
Allen: What’s coming in the next 6-9 months for SplashCast?
Marshall: Total global domination and a bunch of bizarre use-cases that I can’t
even imagine today. Our users will move beyond their current emphasis
on the multi-file and low-branding aspects of SplashCast and will
begin using it more extensively for distribution around the web. It’s
a paradigm shift but I think people will use us more like Feedburner
than like YouTube.
Allen: Since you have reviewed what seems to be hundreds (if not thousands)
of startups, what are the most important things that a startup must
have to be successful?
Marshall: Let’s be honest – I know best what it takes for a start up to launch
well. I also know what I need from a service in order for it to help
me do my job well. As for startup success, I’d say visibility,
timeliness, ease of use and good business development strategy for
partnerships, content and distribution deals are all high on my list.
Allen: And what would be the one thing that you believe would be the
strongest characteristic of a startup that will fail?
Marshall: Not judging the circumstances of the market you are entering
accurately; have a cool idea that’s either ahead of it’s time or is
just plain unrealistic.
Allen: Which new RSS feeds are you reading these days?
Marshall: NewTeeVee, Look Shiny, Steve O’Hear’s The Social Web and one feed
that’s TechCrunch, Gigaom, Mashable, ArsTechnica and PaidContent
spliced together and filtered for the word “video.”
Allen: What was it like working with Mike Arrington? Any secret juicy bits
you can share?
Marshall: He and I are very different people but it was a fun job. He’s got a
really kind heart but is no nonsense when it comes to business. He’s
a man who likes to be hugged in public – just kidding about that part.
Allen: Where do you see video going this year?
Marshall: There’s going to be a ton of people and companies putting video online
in the next year – not as many as are blogging in text but a ton none
the less. I think and hope we’ll start seeing more video from people
who aren’t white and/or traditionally beautiful women.
Thank you very much for the opportunity to do this interview.