Posted on 12 March 2015.
Imagine putting a movie clip, song and photo together with one tap. That’s what Trio does. The iPhone app, released in the App Store on March 4, allows users to put their creativity to the test by remixing content from all aspects of the media world (from GIFs to videos to iTunes music) and turn them into mashup videos. The app comes from Meograph, Inc., a company based in San Francisco devoted to creating multimedia stories. The Circuit’s Online Managing Editor Jennifer Schonberger spoke on the phone about the new app with Meograph CEO Misha Leybovich: MIT rocket scientist, former UC Berkley student body president, Guinness World Records finalist and world traveler who aims to help technology change the world.
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Trio founders CEO Misha Leybovich (left) and CTO Clay Garrett (right)[/caption]
Where did the idea come from and how did you get involved?
We’ve been working on Trio for about a year, but our company has been around for almost three years. Trio is an outgrowth of our previous products. We had to learn along the way what makes for a good product – what makes it easy to create but also interesting to consume. As far as where the idea came from, I graduated college in 2005 and spent the next seven years traveling to about 70 countries. During my travels, I collected a lot of media: images, video clips, sound bytes. I was always looking for interesting ways to tell stories, and I would play with bringing in other assets that weren’t my own to remix in. After doing this just as a hobby, I realized it was really fun but also that it was really hard to actually create something. I wanted to make a tool that made it really easy, so that set the company in motion.
What was the process of creating the app like?
It took tons of different experiments. The reason the app took a year isn’t because it actually took a year to code. A lot of it was just iteration. You need to play with constraints, like how Twitter has 140 characters and Vine has 6 seconds. We played with that for a long time. How many pieces of media should be allowed? What things are mandatory and what things are optional? When you look at a simple consumer app, it feels simple but only because so much thought and effort has gone into it. You always want things to move faster, but I’m glad that we had the process that we did because it turned into something great.
What makes Trio different from other popular social media apps?
The primary thing is that you can be creative without having to capture a lot of assets yourself. There are a lot of products out there that say “Hey, you just went on vacation. Take your photos and turn them into a video.” The fact of the matter is that most of us are not on vacation all the time. I can be creative and funny and clever any time of day, but the assets need to come from somewhere. So that’s what we set out to solve – how to put the world of popular media at someone’s fingertips and let them have a playground to express themselves in different ways.
What qualities will make Trio popular?
For the creators, you have to make the content easy to create. On the other side, for consumers, it’s got to be interesting and entertaining. Being a mashup product, we have to think about the original content owners and make sure that they’re taken care of. We’re relying on other people’s content to fuel the inputs for our content. We do linked attribution, meaning that when you tap on Trio, you see all the assets used, who made it and where it came from, and then there’s a link to go to that asset. If it’s an Instagram or a Vine, it’ll bring you directly into that app, to that post or user. If it’s a movie or video or music clip, it takes you to iTunes where you can buy it if you want to. Here’s a crazy stat so far just based on our beta tests: when you use music on Trio and tap on the music icon, it brings you to iTunes and tells you what song it is. The percentage of people who then buy that song from that link is 35 percent, which is crazy. This is a strong win-win. The consumers get what they want, and the artist gets to sell more music.
Did you have to get rights from the brands that are being used for mashups?
Most of our content comes from public APIs such as Instagram, Giphy or iTunes. They give us access to use their content and they want that to happen. With things like movie clips, fair use comes into play where we can use copyrighted work as long as certain conditions are met. Not only do we not compete with the original, but we also drive sales to the original content, which is great for them. For instance, you might have not seen “Wedding Crashers” in years, but now you saw a clip of it and remembered how funny it was and then you’re one tap away from buying it.
Do you expect there to be any popular themes in what the mashups are about?
There are lots of tributes where people take their favorite celebrity like Harry Styles or Ariana Grande and put a bunch of GIFs and clips of them. People use their favorite sports clips or clips of favorite movies to create highlight-reel type things. There are a lot of funny juxtapositions, like two movie clips that don’t belong next to each other. It can fit whatever suits you best. When you first open the app and consume content, you start with a ‘yes or no’ page. What’s cool about that is that every time someone watches a Trio, we get data. We always surface the best content possible that most people like. As we get more sophisticated, we’ll be able to tell users, “Other people like you like this kind of content.”
What is the purpose of the Challenges tab on the app?
You know how trends like the Ice Bucket Challenge and Harlem Shake were successful. We analyzed what made these things work, and it’s that people creating content pick a topic and have a formula so that everyone knows exactly what to do. You sort of have a friendly competition and see who can do it the best and the funniest. We put up a Challenges feature so that everyone can create content around a particular theme. We want that to solve the problem of inspiration, when you don’t know what to create in the first place or don’t have any ideas. You can search what Challenges there are and see what to create from that.
What kind of role do you think Trio could have in exploring different forms of creative expression?
When you look at other apps right now, they’re all about you using the camera on your phone to take photos or selfies. There’s a notion of this success theater that people are almost doing things just so that they can show it on social media and it gets really tiring. People feel like they always have to look good or say, “Look at this good place that I’m eating at,” or “Look at this place where I’m traveling.” With us, it’s a new form of creativity. People still want to be liked by their friends and want social engagement, and that doesn’t change. But to be able to do it based on the strength of your wit and of your humor is a whole different kind of thing and is much more accessible.
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