Hark, the online repository for audio clips, is getting more studio content Thursday, with a deal that will bring sound bites from Universal’s film library online. Hark will get access to about 100 Universal films, which it will cut up into bite-sized audio clips and add to its sound bite library. That will include memorable one-liners from movies like Animal House, The Blues Brothers, and The Breakfast Club — satisfying the desires of all of us who still like to quote stuff from the 70s.
Years ago, Hark launched as an easy way for users to capture and share bits of audio with each other. As a so-called “YouTube for sound bites,” it racked up a collection of clips from all over the web, including a whole bunch of famous movie quotes. The problem is that there’s no way to monetize that content, and there are legal ramifications if you don’t have permission from the content owner. So Hark started striking deals with studios to bring their clips online.
So why would a studio agree to let Hark distribute its sound clips? For one thing, those clips are usually out there already in some way, shape, or form. But they’re usually not accessible in a clean, well-lit place. And they’re usually not being monetized. Hark allows studios to control some of the presentation for how those clips appear, and also to sell ads against them.
And since it’s got a rapidly growing database of sound bites available already, Hark is gradually being recognized as the go-to place to listen to a certain audio clip and share it with friends. It has more than 3 million audio sound bites, quotes and images in its database, including content from major studios. Prior to the deal with Universal, it had signed up Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures as content partners as well.
That’s had a pretty huge effect on traffic over the last year, according to Hark CEO David Aronchick. It’s seen year-over-year growth of 683 percent, serving up more than 1 billion audio clips over the past year, compared with 2 billion served up during the three years prior. Much of that traffic comes from search, and the Google juice of having a trusted source of audio “quotes” that people are searching for. But it’s also getting a lot of play from social channels, where inbound traffic has increased by 2,000 percent over the last year, but from a smaller base. Also helping is the 2012 election: Hark gets a boost from political sound bites. (Just imagine what 2008 was like with all that Sarah Palin fun.)
Seatlle-based Hark has 10 full-time employees and is, according to Aronchick, profitable. The company took $4.5 million in funding from Redpoint Ventures in 2007 but hasn’t raised money since.