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Tribune Co. partners with video start-up for user content

Start-up VMix, an also-ran in the video-sharing sector, will help media conglomerate jump into the user-generated-content craze.

Tribune Co., a card-carrying member of the old-media establishment, has turned to video-sharing start-up VMix to add a "user-generated" presence to its 50 newspaper sites.

One-year-old VMix will supply the technology to help online publications for Tribune properties--including the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and New York's Newsday--to manage user-generated videos, photos and blogs, according to a statement released Monday by the companies. Financial terms were not released.

The deal comes as a surprise because San Diego-based, privately held VMix has mostly been known for being just another video-sharing company among the hundreds chasing sector leader YouTube. The start-up was also chosen over companies whose primary mission is to help corporations put video on their Web sites and tap into the user-generated phenomenon. Some companies more focused on that market are Brightcove, Videoegg and RealityDigital.

The deal could be a signal to other video-sharing companies that their technology and expertise has value.

One glance at video sharing, and one can see why some companies are seeking greener pastures. In the past year, more than 100 video-sharing companies have attempted to challenge YouTube. Dubbed Time magazine's "Invention of the Year," YouTube has bulldozed past all of them. Almost half of people who visit video-sharing sites go to YouTube, surveys have shown. Even executives from rivals, such as Guba and Revver, have recently acknowledged YouTube's dominance .

So what happens to everybody else? San Francisco-based Guba is trying to find a buyer. Others, such as VMix, are trying to cash in on their knowledge.

Greg Kostello, VMix CEO, said he began to recognize the potential of offering a "white label" service to other businesses last summer and quietly began making plans.

"Half of our (35) employees come from traditional companies," said Kostello, who worked previously at Apple and MP3.com. "We have an understanding of what these companies need."

Kostello said VMix, backed by venture firms Enterprise Partners and Mission Ventures, was chosen by 160-year-old Tribune after VMix promised to supply everything the company needed.

"They wanted someone willing to do video, blogs, ratings, polls--everything," Kostello said. "They wanted total community interaction and didn't want to have to go to a different vendor for each one."

Kostello said this is the first of a series of similar announcements to come and that VMix will continue to operate a video-sharing site.