Serial entrepreneur Jason Calacanis has just announced Mahalo 4.0, the latest pivot for his company that has now moved from being a “human-powered search engine” to a Q&A site. The new Mahalo, unveiled at the Digital Life Conference today, will be focused on creating how-to video content.
The goal, according to Calacanis, is to create thousands of original, high-quality videos each week. These will be supplemented with additional text as well as real-time Q&A offerings. As Dan Frommer from Business Insider describes it “Think of it as Howcast (how-to-video) + Quora (Q&A) + About.com (a more structured Wikipedia).”
Learning to Pivot
In his presentation at DLD today, Calacanis narrated the story of Mahalo’s multiple pivots. Founded in 2007, Mahalo did a good job with the human-powered search, argues Calacanis, but just couldn’t keep up with the adjustments that Bing and Google were making to improve their own search results. And so Mahalo continued to iterate, improving in the areas in that Calacanis said its users were already drawn to.
At first, that was the “answers” component. And now it’s this “how-to” video aspect.
All About the Learning
But just as “search” and “answers” are both quite crowded fields, Mahalo is entering into a space – video-based learning – where it will have several competitors. There are a number of popular and well-trafficked how-to sites, including Howcast and eHow.
As Mahalo is providing more than just video – maintaining the real-time answers component, for example – it will be interesting to watch how this pivot may impact some new companies who are trying to build video-focused casual and lifelong learning sites – companies like Udemy, for example. How will user-generated how-to and educational videos fare against Mahalo’s slick production value?
So will this pivot work for Mahalo? Calacanis insists the company is in a strong financial position. And he says that traffic is good, too; the company currently has about 12 million monthly uniques, and this new venture continues the company’s partnership with YouTube, which generates quite a bit of ad revenue.
So studio-made and expert-filled videos may be what gives Mahalo an edge on its competitors. Or – despite the move away from the “search engine” as the focus of Mahalo – this could all just come down to one big SEO battle.
It’s clear with today’s announcement that Mahalo is putting a lot of resources into developing a rich library of content. Will this drive traffic? And will learners be drawn to this site?