TopBlip | Buzz Blog

Thursday, December 30, 2010

TopBlip

Posted By on December 30, 2010, 7:04 AM

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With all the talent-driven shows you can find on television, it was only a matter of time before it migrated to the internet. And we're not talking about randomly finding people on YouTube or watching a band rise from nothing by viral word-of-mouth alone. Taking the actual competition and judging you'd find on every reality-based competition show and formatting it into a website that virtually anyone can enter and participate in. ...But who knew that idea would take off from Utah?

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--- TopBlip started off as just an idea thought up on a track run a year ago, but after some coordinating and viral marketing, has become one of the premiere websites to find new talent across the globe. Allowing users to submit videos of their music or dance performances for an audience to judge, the website crowns weekly winners for prizes and even holds tournaments to showcase the best they can find. We got a chance to chat with the two brothers behind the website, Sean and Justin Bingham, about coming up with the idea and the success they've had so far, plus their thoughts on where they'll be taking the website from here.

Justin & Sean Bingham
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http://www.topblip.com/

Gavin: Hey guys, first off, tell us a bit about yourselves.

Sean: I'm 29, graduated in Broadcast Journalism from BYU. I love sports, I love to travel and have always been an entrepreneur at heart.

Justin: I am married with one son and two more on the way (twins). I was a track athlete at BYU... ran the hurdles. I live in Pleasant Grove. Served an LDS mission in Milan, Italy.
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Gavin: How did you both take a specific interest in online media?

Justin: The internet was always so intriguing and the idea of reaching hundreds of countries was too enticing.

Sean: Media was my major at BYU and the Internet is hands-down the best way to reach the largest possible audience. We wanted to provide an opportunity for literally everyone to have a chance at fulfilling their dreams.

Gavin: You're both graduates from BYU. Did either of you study anything entertainment-wise or was this more of a side hobby you looked into?

Sean: I graduated in December 2005 with a degree in Communications, Broadcast Journalism emphasis.

Justin: For me it was more of a side hobby. I minored in Business and took some entrepreneur classes that inspired me to do something on my own. My brother though, was a communications major, so we had a head start on how to do media things properly.
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Gavin: How did the idea come about to start up TopBlip?

Justin: I was out at Track practice one day just thinking of the show my wife loves to watch, "So You Think You Can Dance", and I was thinking how to make it a world wide thing... then it just evolved from there.

Sean: Justin initially came up with the idea of a website with head-to-head video competition for singers and dancers a couple years ago, then came to me with it in December of 2009. I honestly loved it immediately, so much so that it became my top priority almost instantaneously. We formed an LLC not long thereafter and began working on the details of the site. The name for the site came to me when I was snowboarding last January by myself and had dedicated the day to brainstorming domain names. Once I started thinking of cool and catchy taglines of what we wanted our site to be and do, the name came easy. We want to give people a chance to "make a blip on the world's entertainment radar".
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Gavin:
What was it like for you setting up the website, and how did you decide on the rules of the competition?

Sean:
It's been really busy, but a lot of fun so far! The rules came from a variety of things, but also from wanting to make it a fun site, but also an easy-to-catch-onto site.

Justin:
It was not too bad in the beginning to get the site up...we had a good group of designers and programmers...The most hectic part of it all though is making sure that what you have created will attract the public so you can imagine there were times when we’re certain that one thing would be done a way but had to change it at the last second. The rules have evolved a bit since the last competition. We thought up what would be the most fair way to run a competition but at the same time keeping the level of talent at an extremely high level.
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Gavin: For those who aren't aware, what are the guidelines to submitting a video?

Justin:
You must be 14 years of age to upload, if not ask a parent to do it. Upload the video is free and easy. After just promote yourself through any means possible.

Sean:
The basic guidelines to submitting a video are simple: create a TopBlip profile, upload a video of your choice in either the music or dance category, make sure it's in line with all our Terms and Conditions, contains no nudity, vulgarity or profanity, and then have all your friends, family, etc. go to the website to view and rate your video daily!

Gavin:
Considering how the website started out, what was it like for you both advertising it and getting the word out?

Sean:
All we really did at first was send an email to friends and family, and then spread the word by basically doing the same thing on Facebook. After that, we traveled to three "American Idol" auditions to pass out flyers and get a few people singing on camera. We've never really spent money on advertising. The whole idea is for the site to be viral. People need to self-promote to win.

Justin:
It was very time consuming to try to reach a world wide audience through simple email and Facebook messages. We tired many of methods but the best seemed to be finding talented musicians online from other sites and emailing them about TopBlip. Once you get a few people hooked the word just spreads on its own and its almost self-advertising now.
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Gavin:
The site launched this past July. What was the response like during that first month?

Justin:
We were pleasantly surprised to see how involved people got with the competition. It was a very clean competitive competition. Everyone involved benefited.

Sean:
We had 335 visitors in our first few hours and Facebook had 450. TopBlip's first month saw more than 20,000 page views from 39 countries with nearly no marketing or advertising effort from us, as we were both still out in Washington DC working fulltime. The first month we had to dedicate fully to TopBlip was September and that month TopBlip received over 384,000 page views from 136 countries. The first ever TopBlip Tournament (three weeks long) received over 667,000 page views from 150 countries! More than 1,250 videos were uploaded in three months to compete in the first tournament.

Gavin:
What were some of your favorite videos you received during the first few months?

Sean:
"Passion--Billie Jean..." in Music and "Baby I'm Yours" in Dance come to mind first. They both placed and received a cash prize in the first TopBlip Tournament. The overall talent level is already significantly higher for this upcoming Tournament too. More and more talented, yet unknown artists, are finding out about us every day and adding to the overall quality of TopBlip--and we're certain that will continue for years to come.

Justin:
There were so many... just a few that I liked in the first few months was “Jeremy Passion” singing a Michael Jackson song and “takesomecrime” dancing to “Baby I'm Yours”. Honestly though there were many talented videos... but this next competition is going to be a lot more talented. There are people on TopBlip that will end up with albums someday.
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Gavin:
I read that you've got over fifty videos a day coming in. What's the process like in filtering through the material and deciding what to highlight from day to day?

Sean:
I love watching the videos! There are truly some stars in waiting on TopBlip! I'm on the site at least four hours a day and probably only 2/3 of that is work-related. I've become a true fan. We haven't had to worry too much about inappropriate material, and hope we'll continue to have quality uploads only coming in. We'll pick about five videos every week that we think are really good and we submit those to Esmee Denters to review. She watches and reviews far more than that, but to help her not have to watch thousands of videos, we send what we feel are the best on to her. She then chooses (usually from what we send her, though not always as the decision is 100% hers) which videos to promote that week and which ones to comment on.

Justin: If a video is deemed inappropriate it is flagged and sent to us for review.
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Gavin:
You offer prizes to the winners every week and some cash prizes on occasion. Being how its just the two of you running it, how were you able to raise funding to reward for the winners?

Sean:
We've worked hard for years doing sales, saved well for something like this. We also have some ads on the site that bring in supporting revenue and recently added a some sponsors as well.

Justin:
Well we have had the opportunity to work in the past at a job that has allowed us to fund the whole project on our own. It has been a sacrifice for sure especially with a family, but the vision of TopBlip makes the investment well worth it. We do have sponsors that advertise with us which helps fund the prizes and maintenance of the site.

Gavin:
Where did the idea come from to start up big bracket tournaments between videos?

Justin:
That was just the original idea that we had... we wanted to make it head to head… the idea behind it is that everyone gets more exposure.

Sean:
We love sports and we love playoffs. There's no more fair way to determine a champion than through playoffs where the public votes! We figured having a TopBlip Tournament, or playoffs, every few months would really generate some excitement and fun! And it's proven to be true so far. People want that huge cash prize and in a lot of cases, even more than that, they want the recognition of hundreds of thousands around the world.
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Gavin:
You've got another big tournament coming up this month. What can people expect to see in the coming days and weeks for this one?

Sean:
We fully expect TopBlip to see over one-million pageviews in this upcoming Tournament. Esmee Denters (international pop star, signed by Justin Timberlake) is fully endorsing and promoting the site to all her fans which adds more viewers on top of the site's natural growth. We expect the winner to be someone extremely talented, as there are already about a dozen or so artists that I feel have a real chance at moving to the next level. It's going to be insanely fun and exciting and we hope everyone around the world will get involved in choosing the world's next TopBlip! TopBlip is not just for the artists to have a chance to display their talents, but also for the average fan or consumer to choose what he or she thinks is best! YOU are the judge!

Justin:
This next one will be amazing. There will be some pretty intense match ups. I foresee millions of views on some of these videos. The level of talented is as good as anything you may see on TV or hear on the radio. These are talented entertainers that have a dream to become somebody.
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Gavin:
Were you shocked to see how many different countries were submitting material after things really got going?

Justin:
Yes. It was nice to see how far our message reached though.

Sean:
I was surprised at how far it spread as far as the number of countries it's reached, but I was not surprised at how many visitors we were getting, especially in the U.S. and Canada--mainly because I saw how popular all the similar reality shows were.

Gavin:
Beyond the website you've also headed out to cities like New York City, Nashville and San Francisco. What was it like traveling around and getting a live experience from fans?

Sean:
It was a ton of fun and helped us spread the word pretty thoroughly to an initial target group in those regions.

Justin:
It was such a fun opportunity. There are so many people out there that pursue their dreams and all they get is thirty seconds in front of a stranger. Traveling opened our eyes to how much talent is out there that doesn't get exposed because of lack of opportunity. So we offer that opportunity and its free! I am certain we will become the location for millions of artists that have the ability and talent to be heard and recognized nationwide if not worldwide.
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Gavin:
Do you have any major plans for the website beyond what you're doing now, or are you going to stick to what you've got going for a while?

Justin:
We have thought about adding new categories to broaden our user base.

Sean:
We definitely have many plans to continue TopBlip's growth and success. We'd love to grow to a point where the winner of a TopBlip Tournament gets a record deal. We may add 1-2 more entertainment-based categories for competition. We love the response we're getting from the music category especially right now and will stay focused on growing that first. We may even expand to eventually be our own record label!

Gavin:
What can we expect from both of you and the website over the rest of the year?

Sean:
You can expect us to be fully dedicated to TopBlip, working our butts off to ensure every visitor to the site has an enjoyable experience and that every artist on there has a better chance of reaching their dreams! You can also expect TopBlip to continue to grow bigger and more popular every day. By the end of the year we'll have either a grand prize significantly larger than $5,000 and/or a major record deal (or likely both) in place for the TopBlip Tournament Champion!

Justin:
Well... only time will tell. Haha. I can gurantee though that the tournaments will get bigger and the talent will get better. We will have the next Carrie Underwood or Justin Bieber found on TopBlip.
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Gavin:
Aside the obvious, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?

Justin:
Our sponsors and the desire for more sponsors. And Trevyn Meyer our excellent programmer, and Ryan Caldwell our business partner.

Sean:
TopBlip is not just a competition and it's not just for aspiring artists. It is a social network that truly is becoming the platform for all singers, musicians and dancers around the world to display their talents, network with others in the industry, have some fun and make some money along the way. It's also for fans to network and discover new talent and help pick the best performers who belong at the next level! Lastly, Pinnacle Security is our official sponsor of the upcoming tournament, we'd like to thank them.


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