Two new Toronto-area businesses are reaching out to video creators around the world and promising ways to make money, but are taking two different approaches. Covered previously, Rumble.com pays video creators to upload their videos to a YouTube-style network and distributes them across various channels with major brand partners. Notch Video invites video creators to create a profile to be found by marketers looking to make an online video to offer them work. Here, we take stock of Notch Video.

Fans of the AMC drama Mad Men, depicting a mythicized version of ’60s era agency life, might recall “The Benefactor” episode when character Harry Crane is motivated to seek a promotion after finding out he makes $100 less per week than his colleague. He corners his boss after being congratulated on a spirited pitch to a client and demands to be named the “Head of Television” because “all the other agencies have one” and gets the job.

Today agencies remain good places to make television ads, says Ian Buck, managing director at Toronto-based Notch Video. But the web is on the rise as a sphere of influence and online video is attracting more eyeballs than ever before. A former PR practitioner himself, with a stint at High Road Communications, he describes agencies as stuck in that ’60s era model that Crane was so eager to head.

“What I found was that old model advertising agencies were built to create TV ads, which are different propositions than what it is to create a short video online that’s going to do well on social,” Buck says. “You don’t want to spend a $200,000 budget on that sort of video.”

At the same time, online video creators appeared to often lack the business connections to get in front of marketers and make contacts that will pay them for their work.

To address that problem, Buck started Notch Video a year and a half ago, though the website in its current form was just launched six months ago. Now a five-person team, with a two-fold business model, they hope will disrupt the video production model, Notch is creating an online destination where marketers can find video creators to produce content while the core team also takes on video production projects.

Online video is the fastest growing consumer service on the market, according to Cisco’s Visual Network Index forecast. While in 2012 about 58 per cent of the world’s Internet users tapped online video services, that will grow to 81 per cent by 2017. To put that in perspective, Cisco is predicting online video will grow faster than digital TV, personal video recorders, and video on demand, and equal the market size of all of those segments combined in three years. Canadians are known to be some of the most voracious of online video watchers, ranking second only behind Argentina, with 92 per cent of Internet users watching a video at home or at work in October 2012, according to comScore.

But Notch Video isn’t unique in its approach. Other businesses have gone down the path of creating online video production talent directories, including another Toronto-based startup, SpidVid. That firm advertises that it has created 411 videos and attracted 5 million views since starting in April 2012.

Poptent is another site that invites video creators to connect with brands, and it offers web-based software to help the creators build a crew to complete the shoot. Kevin Nalty, a YouTube star best known as his username “Nalts,” points to a positive experience working with Poptent on a short video for Johnson & Johnson. Nalty put up his work request, had 20-30 people submit videos, of which he bought 12.

“They were really good, and about one tenth of what they would have cost through my agency,” he says. “Notch looks to be going a similar direction but it’s hard to tell if they’ve got any traction. I can’t see any creators listed or case studies. And this is not an easy business model to build because advertisers and brands are wary to try a new company.”

Notch Video may appeal to the lower end of the market, Nalty adds, helping small businesses to find local creators and production companies. That would be a needed service, but the economics are tricky, he cautions.

Notch doesn’t act as a middleman standing between the creators it lists – currently about 700 – and the people looking to hire them, but allows the two parties to directly connect and arrange contracts and payment. Right now, it’s a free service for both marketers and creators.

“We’re either like an online dating service or like an Airbnb where creators are getting paid by whoever is producing the video, no differently from if they were hired directly,” Buck says.

Notch also hires the video creators from its database for projects that it is directly producing.

“We are actively choosing different people from our community,” Buck says. “We try and work with as many as we can.”

Notch is mostly creating quick turnaround shoots that can be accomplished in one or two days, he says. Some examples can be found on Notch’s blog, such as this Canadian Tire video, part of a series that promotes its Motomaster brand of car battery:

Mark McKay is the director of digital communications at the University of Waterloo and a veteran of making online videos for brands such as Molson and Ford. He says Notch looks like an interesting way for creatives to make money from their art. He compares it to Voices.com, another Ontario company that offers a database of voice acting talent for hire.

“I can see why brands like Canadian Tire like it,” McKay says. “It’s one stop shopping for finding the right video style for their program.”

So far Notch’s most common client is advertising agencies, Buck says. As Harry Crane might put it, they need a go-to viral video production team “because all the other agencies have one.”

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