Friday, February 11, 2011

COD: Qwiki and the “information experience”

Thanks to the ad:tech blog for publishing this first.

Few would doubt that as consumers’ options for consuming content grow, more organizations are rethinking the way they portray information. That is the idea of Qwiki, a start-up focused on what they call “information experiences.”

Qwikis, as they are called, are machine assembled collections of audio and visual content collected from APIs across the web. The Qwiki can assemble any type of content, and display them in an attractive and addicting format that essentially makes a cohesive show out of previously disjointed and unconnected components. The platform automatically identifies great source material, curates it, and delivers it in an interactive format that can be watched from start to finish or clicked on to explore individual components and subthemes.

Qwiki provides a text to voice narration of the text, and accompanies it with photos, graphics, and videos as the content unfolds. Probably the best way for me to clarify what this is is to let you watch their Tech Crunch Disrupt pitch, which appears below. It’s a couple minutes long but worth it for the real time demo at the end.

Qwiki at TechCrunch Disrupt from Qwiki on Vimeo.

Oooo. Ahhhhh.

For example, imagine querying Jennifer Aniston. You get a show of audio and photos of her entire career, including classic images from “Friends.” Click on a Friends image and you can review it statically and/or click further onto suggested topics to view Qwikis about the show and its characters. The level of depth you pursue is entirely up to you. The site reports that more than 2 million Qwikis already assembled, on topics common and obscure. Even though the product is only in alpha at this point, I was impressed by the verbal visual synch it generally pulled off. Bravo. I am very much looking forward to future versions, when the offering will be even stronger.

The Qwiki team views this new platform as a fusion of art and science, and that’s a very challenging assertion to dispute. The visual portrayal of information is stunning, but extremely advanced technology identifies, curates, and assembles the information that makes it so valuable. Chicken? Egg? Let’s have both. I don’t mean to make light of what must have gone into creating this. But one of the key strengths of Qwiki is that it hides all that science in a beautiful interactive wrapper. Me likey shiny wrappers.

Why is Qwiki so significant, and especially for brands? Well, Qwikis are both authoritative enough to appeal to experts and superfans, and eyecandyish enough to appeal to most anyone. Imagine how you could portray your brand using a platform like this. Imagine the lifestyle content Qwiki can create so simply and easily. Currently the platform has millions of topics assembled, but they will soon unveil a platform for publishers – professional, brands, amateurs – to create their own Qwikis. I can hear the dribbles of saliva on more than one marketer’s chin right now. This page of the website offers six examples of such publisher created Qwikis.

Thus far, Qwiki has gotten great reviews in the tech trades, as in this Tech Crunch piece.

This is the part of these pieces where I usually try to sum up why I think something is likely to be important. The fascinating thing about Qwiki is that its importance is clear, even if its implications and impacts can only be guessed at now. This “works” on so darned many levels. For consumers, for pubs, and for brands.

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