WHAT IT IS: It's getting easier to learn how to do anything -- by going online. And there are a couple of fresh players to the market. One, Quamut, quietly launched with the backing of bookseller Barnes & Noble, has text-based directions on how to do anything from pilates to podcasting, making sushi to investing in mutual funds. Another, Howcast, launched by three ex-Googlers, aims to create and aggregate how-to videos on everything from praying the rosary to having safe sex. It also offer printable directions for those who want an "offline experience."
HOW IT WORKS: Quamut, fully functional but routinely being tweaked ahead of its official launch sometime this spring, is home to some 1,000 step-by-step guides and expects to amass around 5,000 of them by year-end. Each instructional guide, or "Quamut" (Latin for "how to"), is written by field experts and vetted by B&N editors. They are available for PDF download for $2.95, but because Quamut is ad-supported, all content is free to read online. Howcast aims to match emerging filmmakers with how-to scripts to create high quality and often entertaining videos. It sees distribution just as important as destination; its syndication strategy includes Verizon, YouTube, MySpace and iTunes.
AD ANGLE: Both sites say they offer the perfect combination of context and intent. "We believe that we're going to be a terrific media buy," said Dan Weiss, publisher and managing director of Quamut, who believes the diverse content will draw a wide swath of consumers and, as a result, blue-chip advertisers. The website ties into B&N stores by making a select number of Quamuts available in a physical, laminated format for $5.95. Howcast has signed on JetBlue as an inaugural advertiser on its travel videos and aims to help advertisers make their ads "more useful," said CEO Jason Liebman.