Wibbitz Sets Up NY HQ to Help More Publishers Turn Text Into Video

With attention spans getting shorter and shorter, publishers are looking for new tricks to make their content more attractive. Wibbitz has created a platform that turns text-based news articles into narrated video summaries to do just that.

The company got its start in Tel Aviv, then moved its headquarters to New York in May just after raising $8 million in a Series B round. CEO and co-founder Zohar Dayan demoed the platform at this month’s New York Tech Meetup, then spoke with me this week about Wibbitz’s relocation here. “We thought New York would be the best place for us with it being the center of news, media, and advertising,” he says.

Prior to the move, Dayan says, he would visit New York every month or two. Soon it made sense, he says, to have a permanent presence in the city to make connections with media publishers that want to leverage more video with their news articles.

Wibbitz developed a natural language processing algorithm that scans through the text of each article to create summaries of the most crucial information. The software then pulls relevant video clips, photos, and other graphics from the publishers’ library of content. A voice actor provides the narration created from the summary, and the elements are combined into a video.

Dayan says this is a new way for publishers to generate advertising revenue, and hold the attention of their readers. The platform is free for publishers to use; Wibbitz takes a share of the ad revenue generated by the videos. “We enable publishers to make much more money off their existing content, and take a cut out of that,” he says.

In addition to the platform for publishers, there is also an iPhone news reader app the public can use to see the videos.

There are other software platforms, such as Article Video Robot, for turning text into marketing videos. There is also an app in the works from Crumbles for creating mashup videos with short text phrases, but that service is more focused on entertainment, not news.

The idea for Wibbitz emerged, Dayan says, while trying to read news articles on his iPhone. Text not optimized for mobile was difficult to read, he says, so the idea to create a personal video newscaster was born.

Currently Wibbitz has a crew of five at the business headquarters in New York, with another 25 people working in research and development in Tel Aviv. Dayan says the company is looking to hire more sales, business development, and marketing staff in New York.

So far, the company has raised almost $11 million, including the latest round. Its backers include Horizon Ventures and Patrick Soon-Shiong, the Los Angeles-based physician with deep pockets who Dayan says is known for investing in innovations in machine learning and natural language processing.

For now, Wibbitz focuses on turning news text into videos, but the technology could be applied in other ways, depending on how the algorithm is used, Dayan says. That may include converting recipes, reviews, and books into videos as well. “We get requests from students who don’t want to read anymore and want to watch a short videos,” he says. “It’s all a matter of how we train the algorithm.”

Dayan believes Wibbitz can emulate the growth of companies such as Outbrain and Taboola in the publishing sector, but he will need a bigger team to make that happen. “By the end of this year, we want to add 10 to 15 people in New York,” he says.

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