Animoto Opens Slide Show Creation Tools to Kodak Gallery and More Partners

There’s a slew of tools like Apple’s iMovie for turning your raw photos and videos into fun multimedia slide shows that you can share with friends and family. The problem is that none of them are drop-dead simple—except perhaps Animoto’s. The startup, which is based in San Francisco and New York and backed mainly by Seattle investors (and led by Seattle natives), offers the easiest tool I’ve found for uploading photos and short video clips and setting them to music.

A lot more people are likely to stumble across that tool now that Animoto is making the technology available to outside partners such as photo-sharing sites. Kodak Gallery, American Greetings, and are the first three companies participating in Animoto’s new partner program, announced today at the South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, TX.

Up to now, the only way to create an Animoto project was to go to the startup’s website or download its iPhone app. But thanks to the new software bridges Animoto has built to partner sites, people who store their digital photos and videos at Kodak Gallery, make free e-cards at American Greetings, or use’s editing tools will be able to make full Animoto videos from their own media without leaving those sites.

That could eventually translate into a lot more visibility—and income—for Animoto. “I think it’s conceivable that in the future, not only will the majority of Animoto videos be created outside of, but also the majority of our revenue will be driven from outside,” says Brad Jefferson, the startup’s co-founder and CEO.

Building the application programming interfaces, or APIs, needed to pull this off preoccupied half of Animoto’s developer staff for most of 2010, Jefferson says. The company has been testing the service since last September; it was rolled out today at Kodak Gallery and will be available within a few weeks at and American Greetings.

Partners are interested in adding Animoto to their sites in part because it offers them a way to make money from consumers’ video clips for the first time, says Jefferson. “At least one in five online photo albums has at least one video clip,” he says. “But there’s not a lot of products that allow [photo-sharing sites] to monetize video clips. Their products are mostly tangible things like photo books and prints. Animoto gives photo-sharing sites the ability to offer a product that incorporates video clips and creates a lot of value.”

At Kodak Gallery, users can create their first high-resolution Animoto slide show for free during the month of March, and after that Kodak will charge users for each show they make. That’s similar to the arrangement at, where it’s free to make shows under 30 seconds, and making longer shows involves a monthly or yearly fee and per-show charges. (On average, about 10 percent of people who make a free 30-second show go on to sign up as paid members, Jefferson says.)

The project-building interface within the Kodak Gallery bears a “Powered by Animoto” logo, and Kodak and the other partners will share their revenues with the startup. That means the partner program isn’t open to just any random Web developer. “Out of the gate, this is a closed API, meaning we are only giving access to companies where we understand a clear way for them to monetize, so that there is meaningful revenue to share,” says Jefferson.

Sharing the Animoto technology with existing media-sharing properties is a much more efficient way for the company to grow its own user base than spending a lot of money marketing the standalone service, Jefferson believes. “If you can go into a user environment that already has 50 million users and plug in a tool that has a proven 10 percent conversion rate, it has the potential to really scale Animoto into a mainstream consumer Internet brand much more quickly than I think we can do ourselves,” he says.

Jefferson couldn’t name names, but he says Animoto is in negotiations with more sites that will make innovative use of its video creation service, beyond obvious partners such as photo-sharing sites. “There will be all kinds of usage of the service,” he says. “While will continue to be the flagship platform, the video creation service is what we’re the best in the world at, and the future we are trying to build is about having tons of partners, where every one of them is able to make money against our service and revenue-share with us.”

For their next act, Jefferson says, Animoto’s developers plan to dive into building new smartphone and tablet-based versions of the service. Right now, Animoto’s iPhone app can only assemble shows from still photos, not videos. Now that the Apple iPad has a video camera, it makes a lot of sense to upgrade the iOS app to allow users to make mixed-media shows, he says. “It’s such a great form factor,” Jefferson says. “Apple is doing a great job of selling iMovie as an editing tool, but Animoto can do the same thing with a fraction of the effort.”

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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