You’ve heard us say it before: Online video is a pain in the ass. Bryan Goldberg lays out the argument for professionally produced content, but really, the same argument can be applied to providing compelling user-generated content. For example, not many people will cut it as on-screen or voiceover talent, and people at work and school can’t easily watch video without getting caught.
Here’s one unlikely group that’s getting in on the effort to make user-generated online video better: professional baseball players and their wives.
The product is Flik – a Pinterest-esque mobile social network that launches today in invitation-only beta. And taking a page from Vine, the app replaces the photo format of Pinterest with 8-second videos of users showing off products and places they like. It was started by Tracy Hayes, a former fitness consultant with McKinsey and Company, who is married to her cofounder Chris Hayes, a pitcher who’s played for minor league teams associated with the Kansas City Royals, though he’s inactive right now while the couple is working on Flik. Chris coded the site and has a Computer Science degree from Northwestern.
The app lets users post short, self-made videos about products they like or restaurants or other places they enjoy. Users can then search through the app by category. Videos tend to be narrated by users explaining the product or place.
Thus far, the product has been in beta testing with a pool of about 200 baseball wives and players, about half of which are in the major league, and half in the minors. (The wives of a few household baseball names are on there, though Hayes asked not to mention specific names while the app is still private.) Most of the wives are using it as a utility, posting videos about travel accessories or places to visit while passing through different cities, says Hayes. Most of the baseball players – it’s about a 70 to 30 percent split of women to men – are posting about outdoors equipment like fishing gear.
At the moment, it sounds like a niche network for baseball wives, but Tracy says the idea is to “window shop through your friends’ lives,” getting their buying advice in all areas. She says she started off with the baseball community because that’s the community that was closest to her when she started Flik, but plans to open the network up soon.
She says the project has also been funded by investments from the MLB player community. To be clear, the product has no official affiliation with the MLB, just people who have been around the game professionally.
The idea of a coding baseball player is also not without its novelty, say Chris, who adds that he doesn’t know anyone else doing it. “I’m always the guy in the clubhouse before and after practice and games sitting on my computer coding. Airplanes, buses, hotels, it doesn’t matter. I’m usually working in what little free time we do get in this lifestyle,” says Chris. “I think my teammates probably think I’m weird.”
The design is clean and straightforward enough to navigate, which is a testament to Chris’s developer skills. But the videos themselves need to get more compelling for the app to be really useful. I see the merit in a trusted friend explaining why he or she likes something, but right now the videos seem too clumsy. Of course, the main point of the videos is utility and not art, and it’s still in the early goings, but it would help the overall air of the app to raise the quality videos. The worst offenders cut off mid-sentence, and one video was about the crab won tons at PF Chang’s. (Honestly, no disrespect to PF Chang’s, but it wasn’t supremely helpful to see a video about the appetizers and the “awesome dipping sauce.”)
These things come with time, and for its part, Flik is doing its best to manage quality control. Tracy has provided guidelines as to what makes a good video post. And the company encourages new users to provide a sample video of the kinds of things they’d be sharing. Getting the quality up will be key if Flik wants to contend with the general public. Because online video is hard. And for a service that’s predicated on spreading good taste and quality, the posts themselves need to pass that test too.
[Feature image via Shutter Daddy on Flickr]