With 100,000 Consumer Users, Guide Pivots into a Tool for Publishers

December 3, 2013

2:56 pm

Miami-based Guide, a startup that turns your news into video, announced late yesterday that it had retired its consumer app and launched a tool for publishers.

Founded in August 2012, Guide launched earlier this year and quickly became a top 5 news app on iTunes. The app took your daily text-based news and served it up to you in a video, with avatars – ranging from robots to cats – as news anchors.

Now, Guide will be using its text-to-video technology to allow publishers to create videos from their content. Those videos can then be embedded into webpages or mobile apps to drive views and engagement.

Guide’s secret sauce is technology that can pull out key people, places, things, quotes, and data from articles and highlight them in the video. From there, publishers are able to tweak the summary and images; sell video ads; and add a human narrator (the default is a computer-generated voice, and that was my one complaint about the original Guide).

The idea for the pivot began with the “polarizing” response to the avatars – for some people, they triggered the uncanny valley effect, the sense of revulsion when something looks and moves almost but not quite like a human, explains founder and futurist Freddie Laker. Since selling avatars was a big part of Guide’s plan to earn money, their ears perked up when they started hearing publishers talk about their video problems. So the Guide team switched direction in August.

“While part of me is a bit sad at the thought of disappointing our nearly 100,000 users of our consumer app on the web and iPad, I know in my heart as an entrepreneur and innovator that this is the right move. We are going to be able to serve a larger audience and solve an even bigger problem, and that feels awesome,” wrote Laker.

Watch a video with Freddie Laker from SXSW

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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