I caught up with Christian Sterner, the co-founder of WellcomeMat, to get his thoughts on automated video, drones and his platform’s new high-definition photo tool.
The following is my Q-and-A with Sterner:
Tom Flanagan: You unveiled the new version of WellcomeMat last year, which was a significant platform upgrade. Now that the dust has settled and the migration is complete, what did you learn from the experience and what does the future hold for the platform?
Christian Sterner: Honestly, no matter how prepared you are for a slow process, rebuilding an airplane full of people, in mid-flight, is going to be rough. Now that we are here, with zero technical debt, I can say that we anticipate the largest growth period real estate video and our company has ever seen.
The tech enablement, platform side of our business has been a great and profitable way for us to reach base camp. Video has the potential to be the largest revenue opportunity that exists in our industry and the highest netting value to real estate marketers. That is where this parade is marching.
Flanagan: WellcomeMat recently introduced third-party products into the platforms Video Marketplace. Tell me about the apps and have they been well received by WellcomeMat partners?
Sterner: Regardless of our opinions, the WellcomeMat system is content agnostic — we know what content performs the best but ultimately higher quality content means better results for our customers. The Video Marketplace supports what we believe to be firmly established truth: video success requires great content and a great platform.
BombBomb and MarketReports (by Vscreen) were easy additions to the marketplace because we already shared customers with them and just needed to remove technical friction. Voiceover Toolbox is a really cool startup that enables people to quickly and affordably add professional narration to listing videos.
The Video Marketplace got a good amount of immediate action but we view its success as a long-term goal requiring all the right steps. Our users want easily accessible, discounted content solutions and complimentary software tools. We plan to add new products and services consistently.
Flanagan: WellcomeMat just built a new tool that enables users to extract high-definition photos from uploaded property tour videos. How does the application work?
Sterner: Consumer demand for more videos and high quality photos is greater than the supply. It’s a major problem. Video is 24-30 frames per second and the overwhelming majority of videos uploaded to WellcomeMat are HD. In our first pass, we are placing more than 20 million photos into the hands of our users, a tiny fraction of the amount of images available to us. These images are tagged with all the right meta data for real estate and our users have robust photo editing tools at their disposal. They can even add filters as they would with Instagram.
If a user has chaptered their videos, all the photos pulled from that portion of the video (such as “kitchen” for example) are captioned. When consumers are browsing through the photos supplied with a video, they can click an image to play the video from that very moment forward. It’s radical. We love it and, more importantly, our customers love it.
Flanagan: Do you envision this tool replacing professional photography or complementing it?
Sterner: No way! We think this tool complements the craft of professional photography. Through a high volume approach, we are offering everyone more choice and perhaps more ways to be creative. But, like great chefs with food, you cannot mass-produce the best end product.
Flanagan: I have never been a fan of poorly stitched virtual tours or bad slide shows. Video automation is a hot topic these days. What are your thoughts?
Sterner: Video automation is an oxymoron and yet another slap to all the people pushing video to its highest level. What’s worse, it is an insult to consumers’ intelligence: they do text based searches to find properties in their desired location and price range, then they qualify properties using the photos. For short-term SEO benefits, companies are creating card trick versions of the same content consumers already looked at and making it nearly impossible for consumers to find the real thing.
Some might say, “yeah…but we are inserting locally focused video clips into the presentation,” and to that I ask: “doesn’t that make video the star of the regurgitated show?” If so, face the hard work and let’s get this real estate video thing done already.
At best, video automation is a sideways step on the path to video.
Flanagan: Drones are another hot topic in the industry. In terms of imagery, do they have a value proposition or is it a medium that isn’t worth the legal hassle?
Sterner: Totally, 100 percent worth the hassle. It is ground that even the mighty Google has not touched and a blue ocean of imagery that consumers will love.
Flanagan: Video is a perfect fit for real estate and is quickly becoming an integral marketing piece for many brands. Where is the medium going next in the industry and how will WellcomeMat play a role in the space.
Sterner: Video is wedging itself into the very core of the real estate consumer experience. The business side of video is fluid but what we hope to prove is that video is like a natural spring of water. If you protect the purity and quality, it can and will be a life force for our industry.
Tom Flanagan is the director of information technology at Residential Properties Ltd. in Providence, R.I. You can contact him at email@example.com or @tflan on Twitter.