Lara Stein is the force behind TEDx, the community organized edition of the world renowned TED Conferences, powered by Magnify.net.
We asked her to begin by explaining, just what TEDx is, and how it works.
We created TEDx was because once TED talks were put online the brand evolved, and more and more people were coming to TED and asking us if we could organize events in their cities and countries. And we're a small team so that idea couldn't scale. So we tried to find a way that we could actually give the brand away to these local communities and allow them to really customize it and personalize it for their own needs. So TEDx is really this idea that you can create a mini TED event in your local community, but really customize it for your local community and allow these local voices and ideas to bubble up.
TEDx was really launched as an experiment in March 2008 and it's grown beyond our wildest expectations. We have almost 300 events happening on university campuses. We have Youth Day where we're going to have over a hundred TEDx Youth Day events happening over the course of a 36-hour period. And Melinda Gates is one of our strategic partners and they do an event called TEDx Change. All of this with our current staff is five full-time people.
So, how did video begin with TEDx?
Events were small to start. "They'd have some speakers and they'd capture the video. And really what we were just looking for is a unified platform where this global community could upload video to. And at the time we researched a bunch of different options and the only real option available to us at the time was YouTube. It worked, but what we didn't foresee is this incredible proliferation of the TEDx platform. So at the time we thought maybe we'd have a few hundred videos on this YouTube channel and we'd organize them in a way...and you know, we listed them and created this whole sort of protocol around how you label them and how you tag them. And for 100, 200, 300, even 500 videos that would be fine, but as of today we have 9,000 videos. So finding a video on the YouTube channel was a complicated thing.
So, you had a YouTube Channel, why wasn't that enough?
The YouTube channel wasn't providing our core audience the ability to find these videos. And so we were trying to find an alternative solution, how could we create some kind of an organizational protocol that would allow a global community to find, organize and find 9,000 videos. And so that's when we came to Magnify." In the old world, before curation, videos from TEDx would have been visible based on popularity. But you did something different, can you explain? "In the way videos currently organize, unfortunately, most the time it is that video that gets the most views that actually bubbles up to the top. With TED I think we try to turn that around a little bit and definitely curate as much as we can.
So how does this curation thing work?
Right now we have 1-1/2 head count working on this and it's not really all dedicated to this. But A lot of the initial groundwork is done by the TEDx community, the taxonomy, some of the labeling, some of the tagging. so what's really left for us to do is cleanup play lists, make sure things are tagged correctly and then highlight the videos we want to highlight as our curatorial picks.
I think YouTube is great for a whole set of reasons, but there are some things YouTube doesn't do and I think that's where Magnify really delivered a solution for us. I think as a video platform you know, and even global video platform YouTube definitely got us halfway there. The tricky thing for us was when we started to grow exponentially YouTube was limited as to what it could deliver us because it is such a large platform, and it can't be personalized and it can't be curated.
Now all our talks live on YouTube and they pull into this amazing environment that helps us organize it in a better way.
But did you have to choose between the reach of YouTube and the look and feel of the Curated TED.com site?
To give YouTube its credit, it's gotten us this far and it continues to get us this far because with 9,000 and growing videos we needed a really robust platform that could help us deliver that part of a solution, and so Magnify is this layer on top that's delivering this complete other solution to us now.
So you wanted the best both worlds. The reach of YouTube, and the ability to create an enviroment that would needs of TEDx organizers around the world?
Going into this we were desperate for a solution because we had this huge quantity of videos and there was a lot of pressure from the community all over the world to develop their own portal sites in their languages or that were relevant to them. And so Magnify gave us this perfect solution where we could find a way to really hone in and curate in a way that it was intelligent to all these different communities.
We trusted that it would be a great experience moving forward with your team at Magnify and it really was.
It's gotten us totally to where we hoped it would get us, so much so that we've rolled it into the ted.com platform, which was never my initial plan. So it was seamless. It was really a great experience and I think it has delivered a great product.
So now, with more than one thousand TEDx events a year, around the globe, in different languages, with different technology and experience, how have the volunteers responded to the new Magnify.net platform for TEDx videos?
Once we put it out there I think the community was really happy with it. I think it has definitely given them the ability to deliver to their community a little bit more of what they need, having a library of talks that are relevant to their community. Whereas prior to this they were digging through a list that was all over the place. This curated the list in an intelligent way for each of their local communities.