There’s going to be many, many authors and lecturers and experts that have incredibly rich and valuable content that we can monetize.”
- Murray Hidary, CEO and Co-Founder, iAmplify
A Serendipitous Start
Murray Hidary, CEO and Co-Founder of iAmplify, discovered the idea for his business by chance one evening. “I was having dinner with a friend of mine, and she’s a New York Times best-selling author. Her name is Marianne Williamson,” said Hidary. “And she has been giving lectures for the past fifteen to twenty years, in addition to writing books. And I asked her, Marianne, where are the hundreds of lectures, the recordings, that you have given over the last fifteen to twenty years? It turns out that when they are recorded at a live event, they are sent to a warehouse in Carlsbad, California, and they are sitting in boxes and they are not being monetized.”
“So I literally went to L.A., drove down to Carlsbad, put all these boxes of content into my car, went back and got them digitized, turned them into MP3 and MP4 files. We built a prototype of our platform and announced it on her website, that for the first time you can get access to these incredible archives of content from Marianne Williamson for ten dollars a month. Every week we are going to send you another lecture. And instantly it turned into a six-figure business out of thin air. So I said, well, I think there’s something here! If this works for Marianne, there’s going to be many, many authors and lecturers and experts that have incredibly rich and valuable content that we can monetize.”
After this serendipitous start, Hidary worked to turn the vision into a reality and launched iAmplify a little over a year ago. iAmplify is an online store for expert video and audio downloads, comparable to YouTube, but with expert-level, premium content and the ability to buy and sell. Topics include educational seminars, fitness workouts, language learning, financial information and self-help.
The purpose of iAmplify is “to empower and enable the content owners of audio and video to self-publish and monetize that content on the web,” according to Hidary. “For certain types of content, our model is going to work really well. It’s not going to make sense for a lecturer on relationships or a Pilates or yoga teacher to offer their content free for ads. It just won’t generate enough views to give them any significant money. But with our model, they can monetize their content and create a really robust new revenue stream for themselves.”
Building the Technology Foundation – The Media Factory
The most significant challenge in launching iAmplify was to develop a technology platform for uploading, delivering, buying and selling audio and video content. Named the Media Factory, this technology would be the foundation of the business and had to be functional, easy to use, scalable and cost-effective.
“It was quite a challenge to put the different pieces of this puzzle together,” said Hidary. “We had to make the web interface easy to use and simple to navigate for people with no technology experience. Our platform is not for programmers and sophisticated users. We have people who have never been on the web before, coming onto our site and uploading and selling without any scripting or programming experience. So it had to be incredibly easy to use for the non-technical person.”
“Number two, it had to have all the digital content management – meaning it needed to handle all kinds of file formats for audio and video, and be able to store and deliver those files in an efficient and scalable way. And that’s not trivial when you’re dealing with literally terabytes of video and audio files.”
“Another piece is the e-commerce component. It’s a transactional model, so we need to take credit cards and also recur billing those credit cards if they have a monthly or annual subscription.”
“And then the final piece is customer service. One of the things we had to do is completely integrate our platform so that customers can use it seamlessly with iTunes and their iPod as well as just download to watch on their computer. So you can download a course in how to play poker, and you’re on a plane to Vegas, you can watch it. It’s a portable, on-the-go type of experience. And there are a lot of people doing this for the first time and need help getting the video or audio onto their portable device, in most cases an iPod or an iPhone,” he said.
iAmplify Enlists Photon Infotech
iAmplify decided to partner with the IT consulting firm Photon Infotech to develop, maintain, support and market its Media Factory platform. Hidary continued, “We basically had an in-house team which developed the first version. And then, for a little over a year, we’ve been working with Photon as our technology partner to scale and take this to the next level. They’ve done a great job at both maintaining the current system as well as adding incredible functionality as our customers and expert publishers have asked for additional features.”
Photon Infotech reengineered the system to scale and handle a much larger user base. It added new features, for instance, a widget that allows affiliates or distribution partners to sell content on their own websites. The widget tracks sales so iAmplify can send commission checks to affiliates. Photon also handles ongoing administration of the Media Factory, scaling up capacity as demand increases and making sure the system remains online and delivers content 24/7.
If you have your audio and video content, you can upload it into iAmplify as easily as uploading it into YouTube.”
- Murray Hidary
Simplified and Automated User Experience
As a result of this joint development effort, iAmplify can now offer a highly automated experience of publishing and selling content online. “If you have your audio and video content, you can upload it into iAmplify as easily as uploading it into YouTube – click, browse and upload,” said Hidary. “And then you can set all the rules for how you want to sell your content, your business model.” This can range from selling individual downloads, bundles of content bundles and subscription services where customers periodically receive new downloads from a favorite lecturer or author. The iAmplify Media Factory handles all of the content delivery and billing.
Buying and downloading content is also simplified through integration with iTunes. “On our site, the customer literally hits one button which says ‘send to iTunes,’ and from that moment on, their entire library of whatever they buy through iAmplify automatically feeds into iTunes on their computer, and by definition onto their iPod, etc.” he said.
This is a deep partnership.”
- Murray Hidary
Streamlined, Growing Business
Hidary likes how the partnership with Photon Infotech has streamlined his organization and enabled it to scale. “So that’s probably the best part of this,” he said. “We had a lot of this in-house, both in terms of the programming team as well as systems administration and customer service, but having Photon as our partner has enabled us to outsource those functionalities and to have more capability at a lower cost. They’ve been able to help us scale as we’ve grown with our customers.”
iAmplify has grown the number of publishers on its site over the past year, both big media companies like Martha Stewart and Meredith Corporation as well as individual experts that want to self-publish. For the big media companies, iAmplify’s Media Factory serves as a back-end fulfillment engine. For instance, when a customer on the Martha Stewart website buys a cooking video, the Media Factory actually performs the content download and transaction, though it all appears seamless to the user.
“Most of these media companies have typically made their money through advertising and sponsorship models. I think what many companies have seen in the last year, given the softness in advertising and the economy, is that they are looking to diversify those revenue streams from just advertising to premium paid content as well. They are turning to iAmplify as their partner for that part of their business model,” said Hidary.
iAmplify plans to continue scaling its business by attracting new media companies and self-publishers, and Photon Infotech plays an important role here. Hidary continued, “They are the ones helping our partners launch these download stores. So each time we launch one of these big partnerships, we have a branded store with our partner’s look and feel and logo and brand, and that work is done by Photon. And the self-publishers – there is a lot of research that goes into finding these experts, and Photon has a team that is helping us with that as well. This is a deep partnership.”
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