Post-Shaq, video service Tout prepares to spread the word

November 9, 2011

San Francisco start-up Tout made headlines in June when NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal used the little-known service to create a video announcing his retirement.

Now the service, which allows users to create and share 15-second video messages with their friends and social networking contacts, is taking steps that could give it another big visibility boost.

In the next few weeks, Tout will introduce new features (an API, or application programming interface, for the technically-literate) that will allow Web publishers to integrate user videos directly onto their sites.

A restaurant review site, for instance, could put a special Tout button on its website, allowing visitors who click it to instantly record a short video clip in which they praise or pan a restaurant while showing footage of the eatery and its fare. Instead of reading written reviews, websurfers on the restaurant review site could watch the clips.

Tout co-founder and Chief Executive Michael Downing said he is currently working with 6 to 8 different Web publishers, including one or two mobile app developers, that will offer Tout integration in the next few weeks. And of course, the API means that other websites will also be able to do the same.

But will 15 seconds be enough time to give a restaurant its due, or to opine on other topics? Downing believes — in the era of succinct attention spans — that the time constraint  is part of Tout’s appeal, similar to the way that Twitter’s 140-character text limit has been a part of that service’s success.

That said, he noted the company was exploring the idea of a reputation-management system that might allow users sporting higher ratings from their peers to earn extra face-time – say an 18-second or 20-second window.

Downing also said he is in the process of raising venture capital funding to supplement the $2 million round raised last year. This time, Tout is looking to scoop up between $8 million and $10 million to help it develop technology to monetize the videos created by its users.

As for Shaq, he’s now an adviser to the company.

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