Disrupting YouTube: can this spicy creator-paying startup challenge the video king?


Cinnamon is a new video platform with a couple of unique features.

First, you get paid for videos you upload. Second, it happens without ads. And third, it plans to bridge the gap between creators and viewers with a technology called Shorts that makes creators out of consumers.

To get the scoop, we’re chatting with the CEO, Róbert Tarabčák in this episode of TechFirst with John Koetsier.

See my post for Forbes on Cinnamon here.

Or, scroll down for full audio, video, and a transcript of our conversation …

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Read: Cinnamon is a new video-sharing site that pays creators without ads

(This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity).

John Koetsier: Can a spicy startup with an ad-free creative model disrupt YouTube? Welcome to TechFirst with John Koetsier. Cinnamon is a new video platform with a couple of unique features.

First of all, you get paid for the videos you upload. And secondly, it happens without ads — that’s kind of interesting, that’s unusual these days. Third, it plans to bridge the gap between creators and viewers.

To get a little deeper and get the scoop, we’re chatting with CEO, Róbert Tarabčák. Welcome, Robert! 

Róbert Tarabčák: Thanks for having me, John. 

John Koetsier: Hey, it’s a real pleasure to have you. Give us the quick lowdown. What is Cinnamon? 

Róbert Tarabčák: So, Cinnamon is a multi-level engagement video platform that is empowering creators with a bunch of quite unique tools to get paid fairly and instantly.

But at the same time, to reach the audience — not only their audience, but also the audience of the audience. 

John Koetsier: Interesting. Why did you create it? What’s the gap you’re trying to fill here?

Róbert Tarabčák:  So, as you’ve been talking about in [a] previous podcast with [a] SignalFire analyst, there are now over 50 million content creators. And that is going to grow in the future, based on the reports from SignalFire, and Andreessen Horowitz, and much more.

And around 97% of these creators are not getting paid fairly. 

John Koetsier: Yes.

Róbert Tarabčák: They can’t make a living out of it so …

John Koetsier: Or not very much at all. 

Róbert Tarabčák

Róbert Tarabčák, CEO & Founder, Cinnamon

Róbert Tarabčák: Yeah. So that’s why there is a huge increase of platforms like Patreon, and Tip Jar, and Buy Me [A] Coffee. And we are next to the mix with [a] different business model, different approach, with a focus on empowering creators with these tools, and also to empower their viewers to pay them directly. 

John Koetsier: Okay. Interesting. So we’re going to get in to a lot of things about Cinnamon, some of the features, some of the cool new things that you’ve done there, and why somebody would want to post their stuff to Cinnamon … other things like that, some of the sharing features that you’ve built, all that stuff.

I want to start here, because you mentioned it about the monetization piece and because it’s pretty different, right? I mean, you mentioned there’s lots of different models. There’s Patreon, Tip Jar, all these things. YouTube is of course ad-based mostly, although there’s some subscription as well.

How does the monetization piece work on Cinnamon? And how’s that better than what is available elsewhere? 

Róbert Tarabčák: So, when we initially started, we’d done some research about what we can do in order to support creators in their journeys. And at that time I was working for a company called Coil that was building entirely [a] new system for streaming payments online on the web.

That’s called web monetization, and it’s open source, so anybody can use it.

And they are making it super, super, easy for any developers to implement and accept payments from anyone across the world. So it can be fiat, it can be crypto. It works perfectly, so that’s why we picked to partner with Coil.

And how it works actually, is that we are creating this bi-directional flow of data and value. So, when you will hit the video on Cinnamon, your browser will initialize [a] stream of micropayments that lands instantly into the wallet of [the] creator. And once you will stop the video, we will stop streaming payments. So it’s [a] completely different approach, and it’s also about reducing friction points for the user. If you have to tip, it’s always [a] different additional action you have to make. And we are trying to make that experience better for both publishers and consumers. 

John Koetsier: So, talk to me about how that works. How do I stream payments to somebody? I’m watching their video, it’s super interesting. I’m two hours in and how am I — there’s payments streaming there.

Did I purchase something? Did I buy a pack of tokens or something like that and they’re just automatically going out? What’s that look like? 

Róbert Tarabčák: So Coil, as a pioneer in web monetization, built also [a] subscription service. Now they act as a web monetization provider. So, you pay to Coil $5 per month, and as a member, you now have access to all exclusive content across the web.

So, whether it’s Cinnamon, or Imgur, or any other site, you can browse them and they can decide whether to display to you ads while you are streaming payments to them, or they will just make the experience better for you and serve you more exclusive content. That’s what we do.  

John Koetsier: Interesting. So, that sounds cool. People have been trying to do micropayments for a long time and this sounds like a relatively painless version of it. And, in my mind, more interesting than Patreon or something like that, where I have to decide I love somebody so much that I’m going to commit to that one person or collective, to give them a certain amount. And also better than Tip Jar, where it’s an individual decision every time, right?

So there’s a lot of opportunity there. I want to talk about another factor that you’re building into Cinnamon. You say you’re trying to bring creators and consumers together, creators and viewers together. What’s that mean? And how are you going to do that? 

Róbert Tarabčák: So, about this, we’ve been super thoughtful this year since January, because last year we’d been focusing on building tools for creators. But this year, we looked at all of the current trending video streaming platforms like TikTok, Instagram new Reels, and also YouTube, something that’s going to stay here for forever, I guess.

And we tried to think about what are the best pieces of all of those? And what’s missing in each of them?

And based on that, we decided to empower not only [the] creator, but also [the] consumer, with tools to switch easily between being a viewer and being a creator. So, that we do with something called Shorts, and I think we’ll tap into that later. 

John Koetsier: So, let’s dive a little deeper into that. Is that sort of — it brings to mind Apple’s slogan from the early days of MP3s: ‘Rip, Mix, Burn’ or something like that — is that, you’re able to sort of take what somebody’s created and repackage it, reformat it in some way?

And what’s that look like? How does a viewer become a creator? 

Róbert Tarabčák: That’s [a] great question.

And, as [a] viewer is watching content on Cinnamon, you can basically decide at any time to share that piece of content with your followers on other social media. When you do that on YouTube, you have only a bunch of options today. A decade ago, we’d been thinking that we can share YouTube videos anywhere, because we haven’t had platforms like YouTube or TikTok that are just not allowing us to share embedded links.

And that we want to change … in the way that we are allowing you to with just two taps on your phone while watching a video, cut streamed content to you to 5-15 second long clips, add effects, text, filters.

And in the future, even different [inaudible] … and then share it natively to TikTok or Instagram as a story, or as a GIF on Giphy, or Imgur, or as a post on Facebook, or as a message on Messenger, or on WhatsApp.

So that’s why we are bridging these gaps.

John Koetsier: I like that. I like that a lot, because I think some of the stats that I’ve seen historically, and I haven’t seen recent ones, but that, you know, like 1% maybe to a maximum 10% — depending on your definition — of people are creators, and the rest, the vast majority, the 90% even 99% are consumers.

And if we can not think of ourselves as consumers, which is a horrible way to think of yourself. I consume, right? That is my identity. That’s a horrible way to think of yourself. If we can think of everybody as creative, and everybody as being able to contribute — whether that’s original creations, or whether that’s making something original out of other contributions — I think that’s a worthwhile thing.

Very interesting that you’re doing that. I

wanted to touch on a topic, and you brought it up a little bit ’cause you mentioned you looked at a lot of different platforms. You looked at YouTube, you looked at TikTok. They’re video platforms, but they’re so different, right? One is pretty long form. One is extreme short form, right? Where does Cinnamon fit? What’s your niche look like? 

Róbert Tarabčák: So, firstly I have to say we are a complementary platform. We don’t want anyone to shift their entire work over to Cinnamon today, or trying to move all of their audience to Cinnamon.

You can use Cinnamon today as a tool that will just increase the overall impressions of your content across all social media. So you can collaborate with our current community, or you can bring your super fans, just 1% of your followers to Cinnamon and work together in order to maximize the potential of your content. 

John Koetsier: Mm-hmm.

Róbert Tarabčák: And on YouTube there is one thing amazing, and that’s the engagement level. That’s for moments when you have [a] long attention span, but when you are on TikTok or Instagram, you have [a] short attention span. For me as an adult, Instagram or TikTok is — I do it because I want to explore to discover new things, and then when I want to engage properly with something and educate myself, or, I don’t know what should we view, I’m usually switching to YouTube.

And we just took the best of these platforms and combined them in one. So when a creator is uploading video on Cinnamon, we have a classic thumbnail, but we have a short up to 15-seconds long clip out of that original piece.

And then anybody can create their own representation of that content and it will stick to that original. So, you will explore originals in the way as you explore on TikTok or in Instagram stories, and when you will like those small clips, then you’ll go and head the original. And then that’s the time when you will turn around your phone in landscape mode and you will enjoy 16:9 ratio content.

That’s basically the experience, a multi-level engagement experience we are doing here. 

John Koetsier: That’s a very interesting thesis. Little bits, consumable, explorable, flippable, right? And super interested? Great. Dive in and go deeper into that. So you have a technology called Shorts, and I suspect it’s related to what we just talked about. What are Shorts? And how’s it work? 

Róbert Tarabčák: So, Shorts are small pieces of already-made content. They are 5 to 15 seconds long, and the original creator is required to provide its own Short when publishing on Cinnamon.

And the viewers are able to cut and remix their own Shorts and then share them natively across all social media. But they are compensated for creating Shorts, because web monetization provided us with this incredible [ability] to even split the revenue with up to 100 creators.

So when I, as a Coil member, will be watching your Short on someone else’s original, you will be compensated for promoting that piece of content in a different way, in the same way as the original creator.

John Koetsier: Interesting. Interesting. Now, you create a Short automagically, in some way shape or form, or is it with intention? Like if we were going to create a Short of this conversation, how would that work? What would that look like? 

Róbert Tarabčák: So, I’m just watching this conversation and when I will see a piece that [strikes] me, I’ll just tap a Short button. If that’s the right position of [the] Short, I will just hit another button to share it instantly and it’s done. If I don’t like this part, I can then move it to another part of the video however I like, and edit it natively in my mobile experience or on the web.

I also know that Twitch was playing with something like this a while ago, they have it still on their platform. It’s called Clips, but this is [a] completely different story. 

John Koetsier: Okay. Okay, good. Look out in your crystal ball for a moment. We were talking in the prep time before the show about some of the stresses of being an entrepreneur, doing a startup and everything like that. What does success look like for Cinnamon in a year?

Róbert Tarabčák: We would love to onboard more and more creators. That’s our goal today: to acquire more and more creators, bring them to Cinnamon. Simply validate every single step we do. I was user experience before, so for me, it’s very important to gather feedback, and based on that, shape decisions in our journey.

So, in a year from now, I would say we would love to have at least 100,000 creators onboard at Cinnamon.

John Koetsier: Wow. Well, that’s a substantial number and that’s a big dream. Robert, I’d love to thank you for joining us on TechFirst. Really do appreciate it. 

Róbert Tarabčák: Thanks for having me. 

John Koetsier: Hey, it’s a real pleasure. For everybody else, thank you for joining us on TechFirst, as well. My name, of course, is John Koetsier. I appreciate you being along for the show. You’ll be able to get a full transcript of this in about a week at JohnKoetsier.com. The story at Forbes will come out shortly thereafter. Plus a full video will be on my YouTube channel — maybe on my Cinnamon, who knows.

Thanks for joining, maybe share with a friend. Until next time … this is John Koetsier with TechFirst.

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