Industry Innovators : New Ways to Engage Readers—And Please AudiencesJanuary 2013 By James Sturdivant
Making Photos Speak
Pictures: people love 'em, to the tune of 3 trillion or so images posted online. The problem for publishers is that these big, beautiful bits of real estate are mute, with no keywords, tags or ads to make them monetizable space—until now. A new crop of startups (two of the best-known are Stipple and Luminate) succeed in giving photos a voice by embedding links, tags, video and social sharing, activated by clicking icons that appear when hovered over by a mouse. Wondering what dress Jessica Chastain wore at the Critic's Choice Awards, or who sells Brad Pitt's wool cap? You can now find out without leaving the Web page to search elsewhere.
Palo Alto, Calif.-based Luminate, backed by Google Ventures, Nokia and others, is "on a mission to make Web images interactive," according to company president Chas Edwards. "In every corner in which you look, publishers are recognizing that consumer appetite for images is enormous, so figuring out how to sell them is important." The problem, he says, is that an image is "sort of a dead-end street … asking more questions than it answers." By tagging the who, what and where of a photo, Edwards believes Luminate can provide the relevant information readers and advertisers are looking for.
We asked Edwards for more details on the technology and how it can benefit publishers. His answers are excerpted from that interview.
Publishing Executive: What's the problem you are looking to solve?
Chas Edwards: When you ask [publishers] about photo galleries they'll say, 'We have discovered the importance of photos and love them—the bad news is the photos that satisfy our readers best are the ones that make us lose our customers.' If you have photos of the red carpet at the Critic's Choice Awards and a viewer is really interested in a picture, you would think that would be a moment of publishing victory … but readers go to Google or IMDb [for more information]. If we can bring relevant content to that image, we can answer that reader's question.