Startup adds Hollywood flare to small business videos

September 7, 2011

Small businesses have been fast to tap social media platforms like Facebook, but their efforts to provide compelling video about their products and services have fallen short.

That’s the view of L.A.-based entrepreneur and media attorney Sam Rogoway, who is launching Near Networks, a national video service to improve those efforts, while keeping production within the budgets of many local companies.

“We saw this growth in local content and video had not caught up,” said Rogoway, 32. “Given how production costs have dropped, we thought there would be an opportunity to develop not commercials for local business, but real programming.”

Near Networks has developed a system of freelance videographers around the country who are available to shoot documentary-style video on location at restaurants (see video below of L.A.’s Tavern Restaurant), retailers, spas and other small businesses. The footage is then sent to L.A. for editing by a small staff production team.

“They shoot the video in the business after we’ve done a lot of pre-production work,” said Rogoway, noting that on the Internet documentary-style content is more compelling than traditional commercials. “(Businesses) know what to expect.”

Rogoway previously developed TripUp, the first online travel community to feature user-generated videos about destinations, which was sold to Sidestep in 2007.

He is funding Near Networks through Brave New Ventures, a digital media incubator he runs with investor Jeffery Dahlberg, the former chairman of Famous Dave’s of America Inc.

The incubator has more than $2 million in seed money, but Rogoway declined to disclose how much Near Networks received in funding.

A Near Networks micro-documentary, which introduces the public to a business, costs $1,500 and runs about two minutes in length, he said, adding the video will be available on YouTube and can be embedded on the company’s website and social media sites. Subsequent spots detailing a particular product or service run 30 seconds to one minute and cost $499 each.

The company has already produced content for some 20 businesses around the country, Rogoway said.

“Adding video is more cost effective than trying to rework your links and website architecture. It’s also a huge boost in SEO,” he said, adding: “We’re really confident that even if it’s a plumber…we can pull off a really compelling program.”

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