Humanity.TV is a new travel documentary site, highlighting locals from around the world in short-form HD video. The company aims to offer an inside look at the lives of people from around the world and the places they call home.
The startup is self-funded and currently the team comprises founders Kerrin Sheldon and Gaston Blanchet although the plan is to have multiple film-making teams at the beginning of next year.
The company sees potential in the gap between the likes of National Geographic and the Discovery Channel and the travel blogger market especially given the rate of growth ofÂ online video consumption and tablet use. Humanity.Tv wants to be the top creator of online travel documentaries and videos. The startup also sees potential in film-making for travel brand and tourism board campaigns.
In short, Humanity.TV reckons it can help the travel industry engage its audience via high-quality video content but without the associated huge production costs.
The strategy for making money is advertisements on videos, content licensing and sponsorship from brands.
Q&A with co-founder Kerrin Sheldon
How is the way you are solving this problem more special or effective than previous attempts you or the market has seen before and how different do you have to be to succeed?
The current offerings for original travel series online is incredibly lacking. They either follow the usual (and mundane) host-based format or the even more conventional reality-show format. Humanity.TV videos are created not only for enjoyment and travel escapism, but as a way to better understand the people of the world and the places they live. Unlike many other travel shows, it’s not about becoming famous and being the centre of the show, but instead showcasing the stories and people that make the world such an interesting place. Chances are, you won’t meet Kerrin or Gaston on your trip to Everest Base Camp, but you may meet Ankami or Sange Sherpa, the porters from one of our videos from Everest.
With the barriers to entry continually dwindling thanks to advances in HD video and editing technology, creativity in short-form digital content has seen a huge spike. Somehow, online travel series have completely missed that point. We hope to inject some creativity, emotion, and life into the travel video market.
With the ability to make compelling HD videos cheaper than ever, there is no excuse for a top travel brand’s videos to be shot with an iPhone and feature a soundtrack created with Garageband loops. The next five years in travel will belong to original video content – if travel brands aren’t currently producing high-quality video content, they are already behind.
Why should people or companies use your startup?
The online travel world needs new, fresh content. Too long it has relied on host-based programs centered around television. There are very few companies who are creating a professional-grade travel series made strictly for online and tablet consumption. Also, all travel trends show a strong move towards more authentic, experiential travel. Traveling should be about the culture and the people – we hope to bring this idea into online travel videos.
Other than going viral and receiving mountains of positive PR, what is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?
We hope to secure a content partner or sponsor to help roll out the content as the videos are created. We will also focus on growing our Facebook and Pinterest fan base, as that is the best way to get HD video and photo content in front of viewers. As travel writers and filmmakers, there are many avenues to create and distribute content to a host of different sites. We hope to take advantage of the many different opportunities to do so.
What other options have you considered for the business and the team if the original vision fails?
Because online video is becoming increasingly popular, there is a strong need for HD video for online marketing purposes. We have already funded the first leg of our Southeast Asia route by creating marketing videos for conferences, MBA programs, and events. If the company cannot succeed in its original vision, then it will pivot into a more marketing and viral-video campaign role – with different sectors of the travel industry being our main clients.
What mistakes have you made in the past in business and how have you learned from them?
Scaling too quickly. We plan on building the brand with just the initial Southeast Asia team until we gather a following and some strategic partnerships. In early 2013, we will expand to another team or two. But we want to make sure to stay nimble and flexible in the beginning stages.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
Online travel is in a huge content-rut. The direction of online travel videos is moving away from the old format of host-based series. Travel shows shouldn’t be about a host, but about the people you meet, from a humanitarian championship fighter to a rock band in Delhi. The experiences you have with these unique individuals are what make your trip memorable.
We hope to get away from the stale and overused host-based format and showcase unique individuals, lifestyles, and experiences from around the world. There are very few online-centric outlets that are attempting to do the same.
While there is a host of amazing video content on sites like Vimeo, no online travel company has yet created a compelling series that showcases the world in a fresh and unique way. We will do that – currently in Asia and soon all over the world.
This is one of those projects that could be great if the travel industry got behind it. The idea of video content showcasing a destination by featuring locals is really nice and suitably different.
But, the worry is that the industry won’t or can’t afford to invest even without the huge production costs that normally go along with high-quality video.
A change in mind-set might also be required – away from the host-led clips that many travel companies, especially mass market, seems so fond of and towards something more unique and bespoke.
That said, maybe Humanity.TV will find enough traction in the niche end of the market.
Another challenge to the service could be in the increased usage of user-generated content by travel companies and destination marketing bodies. It seems like everyone now has a platform for user-reviews, images and video clips and a number of recent tourist campaigns have had UGC at their heart. It might not always be high-quality but it’s cheap.
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