YouTube for soccer Moms
Pure Digital is unveiling a new, cheap camcorder that syncs easily with YouTube. It could be a hit with parents and, eventually, investors.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- A closely held tech firm with some impressive financial backing is hoping to piggyback on the success of YouTube and other online video sites with a new, inexpensive camcorder geared to older consumers who may not be as tech-savvy as their kids.
Pure Digital, which makes disposable cameras sold in drugstores, is launching a new pocket-sized camcorder called Flip Video on Tuesday. The product, which will be available at Target, Costco, Best Buy and on Amazon.com, comes with a USB arm to connect to a personal computer or Mac.
Jonathan Kaplan, CEO of San Francisco-based Pure Digital, said the company hopes to make it easier for people to record and share video online. To that end, the camcorder comes with built-in software that makes it easy for people to upload their videos onto Google (Charts, Fortune 500)-owned YouTube or Grouper, an online video site owned by Sony (Charts).
"There is so much pent-up demand for capturing and sharing video. But the challenge is that there is no great, easy way to get video up on YouTube," Kaplan said. "The user-generated content mainly comes from Webcams, cell phones and digital still cameras. There is no simple, affordable device to capture video so we decided to address that."
Pure Digital is selling two versions of Flip Video, one that can hold about 30 minutes of video and another that stores an hour. The 30-minute version will cost about $119 while the 60-minute version will sell for around $149. Both devices run on standard AA batteries.
So is Pure Digital really filling a void? After all, a quick look at YouTube and other online video sites shows that there isn't exactly a dearth of user-generated content on the Web.
Kaplan argues that the quality of the Flip Video will be better than the rudimentary video functions offered on mobile phones or digital cameras and that Flip Video will allow people to shoot more creatively since they won't be tied to a Webcam.
"Most of the moments you want to record for YouTube are not happening at your desk in your office or at home unless you're Lonelygirl15," he said, referring to the popular video blog series portraying the life of a fictional teen.
Ross Rubin, director of industry analysis for consumer technology at The NPD Group, a consumer research firm based in Port Washington, N.Y., said that Flip Video may not appeal to younger consumers comfortable filming video on their cell phones or other devices.
But he said the product could be a hit with parents looking for an easy way to record their kids and post videos online. That's one reason Pure Digital is selling the product in Target and Costco - to attract Moms and Dads .
"Flip Video isn't likely to dramatically expand the amount of user-generated content available but it can open the doors to an expanding demographic. Pure Digital, through its distribution, is actively targeting Moms looking to capture everyday moments simply and upload them on YouTube," he said.
What also makes Pure Digital interesting is that several big-name venture capitalists and financial firms are investors.
As such, Pure Digital also announced Tuesday that it had just raised $40 million in financing from a group led by Morgan Stanley (Charts, Fortune 500) and AllianceBernstein (Charts). Other investors include prominent venture capital firms Sequoia Capital (an investor in Google and YouTube), Benchmark Capital and Steamboat Ventures, the VC arm of Walt Disney (Charts, Fortune 500).
Kaplan said Pure Digital is planning to go public in 2008. And while he would not disclose specific financial information about the company, he said Pure Digital's goal is to be profitable by the time it files for its initial public offering.
All that's great, but is the camera worth buying? Pure Digital sent me one to demo and I did find it very easy to use. Recording was simple - all you needed to do was hit the red button on the back once you've turned the camera on. Even a Luddite could figure it out.
It was easy to save the videos (I did so as files that I could view later in Microsoft's Windows Media Player) and upload them to YouTube once I plugged device into my laptop's USB port.
As soon as the camera was attached to the PC, an easy-to-use interface popped up giving me the option to share my videos. Once I clicked on share, I then had the choice to upload directly to YouTube or Grouper. (Kaplan said you can upload to other online video sites as well.)
By choosing YouTube, a Web browser opened up that connected me to YouTube and then walked me through the fairly simple process of actually uploading the video.
The process did take a fair amount of time though, which I owe more to my somewhat pokey DSL connection at home than any flaw in the camera's software. I tried uploading a five-minute video to YouTube but gave up after fifteen minutes because it was taking so much time.
I did, however, upload a 30-second clip that shows what I made for dinner on Sunday night: some tasty Moroccan chicken (rubbed with a mixture of orange juice, paprika, cinnamon, cayenne pepper and salt) served with red onions, zucchini, squash and couscous.
That clip is embedded at the bottom of this page in order for you to judge the quality of the video, as well as whet your appetite. Needless to say, I'm hoping that if this writing for CNNMoney.com gig doesn't work out, a career as a chef awaits. Based on my shoddy camera work, there's a better chance of me becoming the next Emeril than the next Martin Scorsese.
In addition, CNNMoney.com's online video guru Abigail Heffernan recorded me and our managing editor Allen Wastler discussing Pure Digital's prospects and the latest season of "The Sopranos." Those videos have been published in our own CNNMoney.com video player and also have been posted on YouTube.