The company uses natural language processing to generate instant videos from text
Wibbitz, the Israeli text-to-video startup, has raised $8 million in Series B funding to expand into the U.S. market. This brings the company’s total amount of funding raised to $11 million.
The company’s CEO Zohar Dayan explained that Wibbitz addresses the pain point of shrinking news rooms. As almost everyone knows, the journalism industry has been hit hard by the internet and the 2008 financial crash: The number of working print journalists in the United States is down at least 30 percent since 2000. So how do you churn out content with a smaller number of writers and editors? Simple: You get an algorithm to do it.
Wibbitz produces short video clips automatically from any text using natural language processing algorithms. In fact, Wibbitz has produced a video for this article, which you can view at the top (we are a media partner).
This human writer is both intrigued and miffed at the thought that a machine can do what was formerly a human avocation. If you watch the video and you like it, does it detract from the experience at all to know that it was produced by a piece of code that had no comprehension of what it was doing? You, the watcher, felt as though you were the recipient of human communication — does it matter if a bona fide human was behind the video or a mere constellation of zeroes and ones?
So, did you like the video? It might not matter
Is this video produced by a computer good, passable or off-base? We purposefully did not edit the video, which Wibbitz allows you to do, just to show you what the technology provides automatically. From our experience, sometimes the automatic videos are spot on, and other times, not so much — this is to be expected from this kind of technology.
However, even if the automatic videos are not amazing, we estimate that Wibbitz has a bright future because it could make one medium very profitable for news companies: advertising. Publishers may be inclined to include even mediocre videos within articles for the ad revenue, and more so, they could be eager to create their own automatic video display ads. This kind of video, which is based on news, is a lot more engaging than a typical, terrible video display advertisement, and could potentially earn publishers more bang for their buck than dealing with video ad networks.
With Wibbitz you can produce a video instantly, thus surpassing the expensive and labor intensive nature of producing video. An editor can then use Wibbitz’ Control Room feature to edit the video, which can be done much more quickly than generating a video from scratch.
At present, Wibbitz works with many publishers in Israel and Europe, including the Times of Israel and the Telegraph, to produce short videos to accompany text. The revenue generated from advertisements within video content is also a key reason that the New York Times and other publications have beefed up their video content. Now, they hope to expand their client base in the United States as well.
This financing round was lead by NantMobile, founded by L.A based billionaire physician and entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong and a part of the NantWorks network. Existing investors Horizon Ventures, Lool Ventures, Initial Capital and Kima Ventures also participated.
Helping shrinking news rooms
“High quality video content is no longer a luxury for publishers — it’s a necessity. Most video content is expensive to produce and maintain, and our technology solves this growing issue,” said Wibbitz co-founder and CEO Zohar Dayan. “Newsrooms are shrinking, video production remains costly, and there is huge demand for video ad placement. Wibbitz relieves these pressures so that editors can focus on creating quality content while executives can establish new opportunities for revenue.”
The $8 million investment will be used to build out the company’s U.S. headquarters in New York City’s Financial District, a growing hub for media and technology companies. Specifically, Wibbitz will focus on expanding its business development, sales, marketing, and editorial teams, with plans to hire about 20 new employees within the next few months. Wibbitz’ research and development and engineering team will remain in Israel.
Founded in Tel Aviv in 2011, Wibbitz first released an award-winning mobile news app for consumers to showcase its text-to-video technology. Now, the company is launching its B2B platform and focusing on new features to expand its publisher services. Wibbitz has invested heavily in the development of its comprehensive Control-Room solution, a video creation platform that provides publishers with editorial control over branding narratives, visual components and the option for human voiceover.
Laura Rosbrow contributed reporting.