Boomtrain’s business model is in flux. Their website is going through some changes as the young startup refine their strategies. We covered Boomtrain’s consumer-end service a little while ago and said that, although the beta version of the site had some problems, the concept was a great one. What Boomtrain did that many other video hosting sites did not, was concentrate purely on web series. Unlike YouTube, where hunting for a new show can be an arduous task, Boomtrain learned from your choices and so constantly recommended other shows based on your viewing habits.
It also presented editor picks and a selection of categories to facilitate your web series hunting needs. I used it many times whilst trying to discover something new. Indeed, I found the superb Convos With My 2 Year Old in this manner (a show which has just entered a second season, aptly re-titled Convos with My 3 Year Old). It offered a simple, but attractive tile-based layout that organized your favourite shows for you and alerted you when new episodes were available.
However, things appear to be a-changing. When I tried to log on to Boomtrain recently, I was confronted not with my usual, personalised list of favourite webseries, but with this thoroughly confusing landing page instead.
Formerly, I simply needed to log in. Now the website seems to assume that I am some sort of high-flying businessman: something that only my mother would ever believe. On scrolling down a secondary page gradually swallows up the initial one, in a rather strange and unintuitive style design. Here we can see some information designed to help creators and sellers with integration and analytics.
Lastly, there is a glossy ‘Join Us’ picture, exemplifying the kind of men, women (and dogs) that Boomtrain see as its future users. There is an ability to sign up for a free pilot which leads to an email explaining how content creators can utilise the tools that Boomtrain offer (more on that later) in order to increasing marketing and social awareness of the web series in question.
What isn’t apparent, at first, is how I’m supposed to log in to browse web series as a casual viewer anymore. Eventually, through guile, ingenuity, and a staggering level of astonishing intelligence (read: emailing Boomtrain to ask), I found out that to log in you now have to click on the image that says ‘my shows’ and then click ‘try the demo app’. Hardly front and centre. I was amused by the helpful instructions I received in response to my email, which read:-
I expect that we’ll re-launch a new and improved consumer platform in the next 6 months as a testing ground for new features. If you want to access it now, you’ll have to find the secret passageway: open and close your laptop three times, pour a scotch, then click on the first image on the Boomtrain homepage (a rollover will appear that says “try our demo app”).
Although Boomtrain’s website may look a little work in progress, there is clearly a set of friendly and fun people behind the scenes working hard to achieve their aims. What aim are these? I went to the source to ask and got in touch with Christian Monberg (one of the co-founders of the company) to ask him what we can expect to see from Boomtrain from now on and beyond.
Mike: What is the current aim of Boomtrain?
Christian: Boomtrain provides a Personalized Marketing Platform for content companies to keep users on their site longer and bring them back more often. An example of this would look like this: Tonight, you get home from a long day and get on your computer to catch up on some entertainment. Your email tells you that a new episode of your favorite show is available on
mediaSiteX (thanks to a Boomtrain service). When you arrive at the site, the next episode is queued up on the home page along with recommendations based on what you’ve been watching most recently. We effectively bring Netflix or Amazon-style personalized marketing tools to thousands of content companies out there to make it easier for users to fall into their favorite content.
Mike: Is there no longer a capacity for individual users to use the system?
There is. However in our current iteration, we’ve decided not to focus on the beta consumer platform and instead clearly market our B2B [Business To Business] platform – this was getting confusing for our target customers. Recently we’ve had a lot of interest in licensing the consumer platform which we’re figuring out (and open to ideas).
We love our community of producers/writers/actors and fans. Our focus today has evolved from launching the consumer platform – we were having a hard time growing a business out of it given the complexities of the ecosystem.
Christian then directed me to the log in method I described above. It involves drinking scotch, so I was sold.
Mike: Is the current website a transitional phase toward full user / creator integration?
Christian: The current website reflects our B2B platform focus. We’re integrating our technology with a dozen companies – including some of the world’s biggest online content brands. They have massive distribution already, we provide the technology that helps their users gain more value from the experience.
We have a good pipeline and new features coming online every month.
Mike: What did you learn from your beta testing?
Great question: We learned that there is a voracious appetite for quality web-series programming. But this appetite is shared by a limited group of people. The rest of the viewers simply have too many options to be devout fans. The existing options for web-series are underwhelming. Blip was limited (though their latest redesign had some nice features!). YouTube is too distracted. We also learned that there are some amazingly talented people producing content for distribution directly to web. And, as I saw both Vice and Blue on my cable listings, we know the entire industry is changing.
Last, we learned that large distribution platforms were interested in parts of our service – namely recommendations and email / Facebook / mobile notifications.
Mike: Do you have any exciting deals with web series creators you’d like to share with us?
Christian: Unfortunately no, however we are connecting some of most respected web series creators with the larger content companies we’re working with. All content companies are hungry for top-notch content. Again, we’re not only huge fans of this content, we’re extremely thankful for the hard work and support they put into the community. We’re honored to be a part of it and
will continue to be a part of it. A rising tide lifts all boats…
Mike: What does the future hold for Boomtrain?
We’re inviting every talented web series creator/fan that we’ve met to a train trip with a white-faced Capuchin in a conductor’s hat shaking martinis.
We’re a business to business company. Personalization provides very tangible value to users and companies. We’re excited about introducing our platform to more media and content companies to help the masses find and watch content they love. It’s nearly 2014. If a company can digitize their content and stream billions of bits across a wire, we should be able to make sure that the bits is optimized and personalized specifically for that user. We no longer connect one-to-many, we connect one-to-one, every time.
We’re building a world where every consumer has a very personal and unique experience with the brands they love.
Thanks to Christian for talking to me. His answers paint a clear picture of a service that knows it can carve out a useful niche in the web series world and is constantly looking for ways to develop that. Yes, the website itself is still a little counter-intuitive, but it would take one hell of a confident gambler to bet against Boomtrain shaking up the way we find web series in the future: to both the creators’ and marketers’ gain.
Comedy TV is Dead will report more as it develops.