Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

T.O.-based video-sharing service a hit

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TORONTO -- A Canadian social media startup company is hoping to become the Twitter of video.

With Toronto-based Keek, users can watch and send video clips of up to 36 seconds and label them with descriptions of up to 111 characters.

"The original idea was to use video... as a form of communications with your social network, kind of like a social microblogging video platform," says CEO Isaac Raichyk. "It's just long enough for somebody to tell a story but short enough for people who watch and digest a lot of videos."

The service has caught the attention of celebrities including Kim Kardashian, her sisters Khloe and Kourtney, and her half-sisters Kendall and Kylie Jenner. They are among the most followed users on Keek, which means "a peek or glance," according to the Oxford dictionary.

Other active users include rappers 2 Chainz and Soulja Boy, Jersey Shore star Jenni (JWoww) Farley and Pretty Little Liars stars Ashley Benson and Canadian Shay Mitchell.

JWoww racked up nearly 400,000 views each for two different videos responding to a recent bit of bad publicity. While co-hosting MTV's New Year's Show, photographers snapped a few unflattering shots of her short dress riding up, which were quickly posted to gossip sites online.

She posted her response to Keek, in which she appears in her underwear and high heels.

"It's come to my attention that there's a picture of my derriere going around that looks pretty vile, pretty disgusting, and to prove this picture wrong I decided to video my buttocks," she exclaims, before allowing the cameraman to pan down her body.

The media attention that followed her racy Keek post was great PR, but Raichyk insists the company doesn't want to be just a platform for celebrities.

"We didn't start with celebrities, we're Toronto-based, so we don't really have that much access to Hollywood," he says. "We believe the secret to our success is there are a lot of regular people creating a lot of original content on our site."

In the months after Keek launched, its users numbered in the thousands. It didn't really catch on until last spring, after the company went from being web-only to mobile-compatible, with the release of mobile apps for Apple and Android devices. Since then, the company says it has grown to having 15 million monthly unique users, totalling 75 million monthly visits. Four million user-generated videos are posted every month.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 21, 2013 B5

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