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Howcast on Nightline

How to do "Everything", September 28, 2009, ABC Nightline News


Martin: In this cash strapped economy, it's no surprise that do-it-yourself is in. But while we're all keen to save money, some of us can be clueless when it comes to the task in hand. Enter a new online guide with more than 100,000 helpful hints. And all at the click of a mouse. For John Berman that is a sign of the times.

Woman 1: Step 1. Brush your teeth, floss, and use mouthwash.

John: What if I told you, you could learn how to kiss with passion.

Woman 1: Angle your face to avoid crunching noses.

John: Learn how to change a tire.

Woman 2: Never get under a car when it's on a jack.

Man 1: Say, "Prost."

John: Even how to set up a backyard beer garden.

Crowd: Prost.

John: Now what if I told you, you could learn all of this in one simple place?

Man 2: The bear will take it as a direct challenge to his authority and he will rip your head off.

John: One site actually., the infinite house of how. How many how-to videos have you guys posted?

Daniel: We have roughly 100,000 on the site and that's a combination of content we've produced and aggregated from a variety of sources.

Jason: We feel like we're just scratching the surface on that. There's so much content out there.

John: I mean I almost didn't know there were a 100,000 things you could do.

Man 3: How to know what the referee is signaling while watching football.

John: Apparently there are. Two years ago Daniel Blackman and Jason Liebman, veterans of internet giant Google, launched Howcast betting that one thing people always need to know is how to do stuff.

Man 4: How to build a starship enterprise out of a floppy disc.

Daniel: People are looking for all sorts of information especially right now during the recession. More people are trying to do things themselves. So instead of hiring that plumber for example, you might want to say, "Hey, I can do this." But they're also looking for information on other topics like how to recognize the swine flu, how to understand the federal stimulus package, how to use Twitter. So the range of possibilities for this type of information is enormous.

Man 5: How to dance your a** off.

John: They have a system. Keep the video short. If possible keep them fun and keep them good. Jason's twin sister Darlene is in charge of the filming.

Darlene: Seems so silly but I'll never forget I once saw a video on another site and it was how to sew a button. And the guy's fingernails were just disgusting and it was just gross. And I'm like, I learned something but I didn't enjoy it. So what's the point? My goal at Howcast is to find people who can take really mundane topics and make them extraordinary.

Man 6: How to turn your backyard into a beer garden.

John: Howcast invites aspiring directors to come on board and make their own videos. Nick Carbonero turned an empty city garden into an Oktoberfest extravaganza in one afternoon for his 90th Howcast video.

Nick: Prost.

Crowd: Prost.

John: It's a way to make a name for yourself and for Howcast a way to keep things cheap because one of the hows Howcast cares about a lot is how to make money.

Man 6: Have apple strudel or black forest cake for dessert.

John: So the extras in a how to host a beer garden video are mainly Howcast employees.

Daniel: Just say hey there's some free beer on a roof in Brooklyn and that's not a hard draw.

John: They'll rope anyone they can find into their videos. They corralled me into doing one on how to look manly while wearing makeup.

Man 7: Occasionally you're doing an interview somewhere and there's a public bathroom and you're putting on makeup and people are looking at you like what are you doing exactly? And so what I try to do when that happens is give them a look like of course I'm putting on makeup in the bathroom. What's your problem? You could use some too pal.

John: Though this video won't help, Howcast expects to be profitable by next year. Pretty fast for an internet startup.

Jason: We make money by selling targeted ads against our inventory so if we have a video like how to get over jet lag, JetBlue was one of our launch advertisers advertising on our travel content. The second piece is product placement. Say if we do a video on how to make a margarita, maybe Patron would pay us to have their product placed within that video.

Man 8: How to do the moonwalk.

John: And most of their videos have minimal narration, so they're easy to convert into different languages. Their site now gets 20 millions hits a month. Do you guys walk down the street and every where you look, you see a how-to video? You see a manhole cover and say, "Oh, how to open a manhole?"

Jason: Yes, you start dreaming in how-to videos.

Daniel: My friends are constantly telling me, "Can we possibly have a conversation where you do not mention a how-to video that can be done out of whatever we're talking about?" I say, "I can't. I'll try."

John: I'm John Berman for Nightline in New York.

Martin: Looks like a how-to guide for a successful website if you ask me. Our thanks to John Berman. And when we come back, tonight's closing argument.

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