We Bought a Company!

Now every Tom, Dick, and Mary can get video with their words.

…and delicious.

Before I plunge you into a rollicking true tale involving humans, robots, scallops, and bacon, here’s a handy table of contents to guide your journey:

Pretentious culinary pairings

Think of all the wonderful combinations in the world…

Chips and guacamole

Prosciutto and burrata

Truffle salt and anything

Fried chicken and champagne

Now get ready to add one to the list:

Written content and video

A delicious combination, together at last. Think peanut butter and chocolate. Or, if you prefer HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan’s metaphor (and you aren’t kosher): scallops and bacon.

Verblio Acquires Automagical

We bought a company! Not just any company, either: We bought Automagical.

Car company? Purveyor of top hats and trained rabbits? No and no. Try: incredible automatic video machine.

The first time I saw what Automagical could do, I was like a kid in bouncy castle—giddy, unsure what was happening, but totally there for it.

Check out my bounce rate.

Automagical took one of our blog posts, dropped it into their platform, and, shazam! —out popped a summary video faster than I could say, “Dang, this drumstick pairs well with Dom Perignon!”

This was going to be fun.

Victor Kiam—President, Remington Products Inc.

There’s a famous old commercial by the CEO of Remington razors where he says: “I was delighted and impressed. So impressed, I bought the company.”

That’s pretty much how I felt.

And exactly what I did.

Automagical is an AI-based, social video platform created by a HubSpot leader. It uses AI to scan a blog post, pull out the key points, add one per slide, source images and video footage, set it to jazzy music, and render it all to video. It actually does feel like magic.

Suddenly, video isn’t just for fancy people anymore. Automagical brings highly-scalable, affordable, and delightfully bubbly video content to the masses.

The content marketing holy grail

holy content marketing grail

In my first weeks with Verblio, I attended Inbound 2016 with 20,000 of my closest new friends. In his now famous keynote speech, HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan stated emphatically:

50% of your content next year shouldn’t be text, it should be video. We need to make the shift. Your prospects want to live inside a video.

-Brian Halligan, CEO of HubSpot, Inbound 2016

I had a few immediate reactions to Halligan’s bold statement.

1. I also want to live inside a video.

2. Who is this guy?

The guy in the white sunglasses? That’s Max Headroom. Brian Halligan is a content futurist/bacon-and-scallop enthusiast, and HubSpot has a proven track record of identifying and even defining top content trends, so they’ve earned their street cred for forecasting the next big thing. I was listening.

3. What’s in it for him??

If the CEO of Remington razors told you to invest in shaving cream, you would rightly be skeptical. [Irony duly noted]

But HubSpot didn’t offer video services at all in 2016! Their bread and butter was written content for inbound marketing. He had me at scallops and bacon and this added bonus credibility points.

4. What kind of videos are we talking about?

Should these be $10,000 videos produced by a top production company?

Quick videos taken on your mobile phone to send as sales outreach?

Viral videos of my dog?

What was a content marketer to do!?!?

Halligan’s call-to-arms sent me on a quest to find how Verblio could deliver unique video content in the same way we deliver SEO-focused written content. It was to be my white whale and my holy grail for two years. And often my white rabbit and hookah smoking caterpillar as well.

A man, a plan, a canal Panama

Maybe the best palindrome ever. And while the canal/panama part has no relevance to this story at all, Kevin Raheja was indeed a man with a plan. The fried chicken to my champagne.

Though we didn’t know each other at the time, Kevin was also in the audience at that fateful 2016 Brian Halligan keynote. He was also intrigued. As a senior leader on HubSpot’s partnership team, Kevin had a front row seat as HubSpot guided countless clients to create an arsenal of written content to drive their SEO—and their overall inbound marketing—with great success.

Kevin wondered if he could take all of the huge effort invested in building written content over the years and use a new technology platform to quickly convert that bounty into video.

Giddy up. Automagical was born.

Kevin called his friend Scott Silvi to run the new company, and all-star developer Travis Fisher to start coding. Automagical was on its way to building an A.I.-driven video  platform that could transform articles and blog posts into social videos through a simple interface. Who doesn’t love a simple interface?!

Crossing the proverbial chasm

Automagical was created as a DIY platform. It would stand apart from a crowded field by focusing on converting existing-based text content into social videos, a plan that aligned closely with HubSpot’s inbound marketing principles.

Kevin and team built some pretty slick tech. It uses machine learning to read and summarize a piece of written content, extract the key messages, and adds stock images and videos that are matched to the context of the key points to create a draft storyboard.

Automagical launched on Product Hunt in 2018 and got some really good buzz, and some impressive early adoption.

But the team struggled to cross the Proverbial Chasm. Users expected the AI to get it right, every time. And in reality, the AI was closer to ~50% accurate, plus it lacked the pizzazz of a human storyteller.

Scott Silvi, Automagical CEO, says this makes sense: “Humans can only agree on the sentiment of a statement around 80% of the time; I believe there will always [need to] be a human element involved to ensure the content produced by AI / machine learning properly reflects the brand it is representing.”

So what the Automagical team found in video is what we’ve found in written content: nearly anyone can create a video using today’s DIY tools (nearly anyone can write a blog post too). But, that doesn’t mean it’ll get done well.

And that’s where Verblio’s writers fit into this puzzle.

When Kevin told me he and the team were selling Automagical, I got excited all over again. Not because I wanted Verblio to own a DIY video creation platform, but because video was the perfect space for tech-enabled services to take off.

So, after getting to know Kevin, Scott, and Travis and understanding the power of what they’d built, we acquired Automagical.

And then after the champagne toast

…we shut down their self-serve platform. It’s a highly competitive space with some great existing offerings for folks that want to start making their own videos.

Instead, we’re using Automagical’s core technology to power our tech-enabled services offering, Verblio Vids. We believe using technology to create and deliver affordable, effective videos in combination with their existing content creation solution will have much higher mass appeal.

Robots + humans = better together

My career in crowdsourcing has taught me an important equation:

humans + technology > technology alone

The technology, on one hand, is critical is in removing cost and friction from complicated processes.

People are much better at talking to people. We let the machine do the heavy lifting, which saves the humans time to focus on things like nuance and strategy—things AI isn’t yet good at.

AI writes subpar content. Burger King made a great commercial series by taking AI created slogans and using them as punchlines. We believe great writers need to be involved in video creation to make them effective content. (And that’s what we already DO!)

Technology lowers the cost of producing our videos by ~50%. That means we can deliver about 10-20 videos for the price of one standard in-house production video. And that means our clients can now create the scale of video they need to reach their audiences when and where they need to.

Humans + technology is just one more delicious combination to add to the list.

So now, drumroll please……

Verblio Vids & why you should care

What are Verblio Vids?

Verblio Vids are quick slideshow videos that use stock photos/videos, plus on-screen text, to summarize a piece of content or create a quick teaser for that piece of content.

Here’s an example:

Why are they interesting?  

Verblio videos are focused on delivering results for marketers by engaging and expanding their audience. They won’t win an Academy Award anytime soon, but they will win you customers. The goal is for them to be watched once. But they do their job—grabbing the attention of eyeballs and getting them to your content or keeping them on your content. Think of them as a trailer for your written content, driving traffic to your site.

Teaser social videos are shared on social media to boost engagement and entice people to visit your site.

Summary social videos are embedded in the content itself to drive buying decisions and increase time on the page, decrease bounce rate, and more generally increase engagement, which, in turn keeps prospects on your site longer, which makes them more likely to remember your brand and buy. This engagement also sends a strong signal to search engines that your content is good, and deserves to be ranked higher.

How do social videos change your content marketing world?

With little effort and cost, a marketer can now add massive value to a content marketing strategy in a variety of ways, like:

  • Engagement: Improves the impact of your text-based content with better audience engagement.
    • Estimates are varied, 10-40%, but all indicate an important improvement in engagement with on-site content, a key indicator for SEO success.
[Source: Kinks album. Not their best work.]

  • Double your content: Rapidly double your content library.
    • Add a video to every blog post, white paper, or landing page and you quickly expand your reach.

  • Whole new audience: Massively expand your reach by approaching a new audience on social media.
    • Estimates strongly indicate a majority of target audiences now prefer to engage with video as part of their content. Some estimates say as high as 80%
  • SEO—someday: And hopefully drive even better SEO results simply by adding the video itself. Some SEO thought leaders believe Google prefers ‘multimedia content’ —video + written content—as it gives your audience a choice about how they want to engage.
  • Cost! The average cost of video production is estimated to be ~$1,000 per minute. Verblio will now deliver social videos for $85 each or less. In fact, we asked some award-winning filmmakers what kind of video they could make for $85—see the video.

So, to summarize


Video: the Wild West

The rules of the video market are being written each day. Video is a Wild Wild West. And when you’re in the Wild West, you can go anywhere you want, do whatever you want, and help write the script we’ll all be using someday. Though this version is more like the digital marketing version of Westworld. The Wild West with robots. And jaunty stock music.

Not the kind of videos we’re making. Still an apt metaphor.

We already know some pretty amazing things about why videos will change the game in content marketing:

  • Video increases conversion.
  • Good videos create a perception of quality and boost credibility.
  • The modern internet = decreased attention spans = reading is hard.

Now for some validation from a stodgy old magazine—which is also now upping its video game. Forbes says that, “Online video use is simply staggering from a consumer perspective. It is changing how businesses or brands communicate with customers and how we communicate with one another.”

More fascinating facts to fan the video flames

  • Video advertising spend is skyrocketing. It’s up 204% in 2018 across B2B marketing, and 141% in B2C. SFDC report
  • People love moving pictures. YouTube reports mobile video consumption rises +100% every year.
  • Video drives buying decisions. 72% of people would rather use video than text to learn about a product or service.
  • Video boosts customer engagement. People spend 88% more time on websites with videos.
  • Video is effective. Companies that use video get 41% more web traffic from search engines than sites that don’t.
  • Social videos are crazy popular. Over 500 million people are watching video on Facebook every day.
  • Video will be even bigger. Online videos on social media will account for 80% of consumer traffic by the year 2020.
  • Video is still pretty pricey if you don’t plan to do it yourself. A SmartShoot blog from a few years ago showed downward pricing in the industry still left a range of $650-$10k for most small business videos.

Video: the wild unknown

Statistics make us feel safe, but here’s the reality: none of these numbers tell the full story. We have a wide range of numbers indicating a strong ROI for videos matched with content, but there’s still much to learn.  

One of the best marketers I’ve ever worked with, Jeffrey Pease of Message Mechanics, put it well by saying that:

We don’t know the full value of the metrics around the ROI of social videos yet, but logically it is simply better to have video than not when all trends show preference for consuming content through video.

-Jeffrey Pease, Message Mechanics

So what is one to do?

One of our guiding quotes at Verblio is: “if you don’t have time to write your own content, you can’t write your own content.” (Scott McKelvey)

The crux of content marketing is making sure it happens. And while anyone can sit down and write a blog post, video can be intimidating, and the rules are being written and re-written each day.

The market needed a plan to spark marketers toward their next great wave of attracting new audiences. A bold move, not unlike pairing deep-fried poultry with bubbly champagne.

Verblio has always made written content happen. Now we make your parallel video content happen as well.

I had the pleasure of talking with a leading video industry thought leader recently, Tyler Lessard, VP of Marketing of Vidyard. Tyler said “The democratization of video creation is one of the top video trends we’re seeing in 2019 as businesses look for new ways to deliver visual content at scale to meet the expectations of today’s buyers. Verblio is helping organizations deliver on that promise with tools and services that easily turn written content marketing into engaging and memorable video content.”

With Verblio Vids, we hope to make it possible for anyone to head west.

And now for the hookah smoking caterpillar


To wrap it all up, here’s a meta Verblio-Vid summary of my blog post about videos:

Over to you

Want to learn more and get more in the multimedia mix for your content marketing? For lots more info, visit verblio.com/video.

Avatar photo

Steve Pockross

As CEO, Steve brings more than 20 years of startup, nonprofit, and Fortune 500 experience to not only running the business of Verblio, but also setting the culture, vision, and purpose of the team. Outside the office, Steve enjoys ultimate frisbee, telemark skiing, hosting jazz concerts, and spending time with his two boys.

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