Today San Francisco-based startup Stipple, which allows publishers to add a layer of information to their online photos, announced a new version of its social image community today, which opens up the platform to anyone publishing an image online, as well as small ecommerce companies. Stipple launched in 2010 and has raised $7 million in funding, and has been installed on over 4,000 online publishers’ websites.
Stipple was originally only targeted at B2B advertisers who were looking to tag editorial images to provide customers with context around images, for example adding a description, price, and link to purchase the item. Today’s re-launch opens Stipple up to the public, and aims to help any online publisher, user or company add information to photos, either manually or via the new auto-tag feature which adds product information to catalog photos at scale. It also ensures that information stays with photographs as they’re republished online, and that information associated with those photos is dynamically updated. “For the first time, we are giving content creators, advertisers, marketers, publishers etc. the ability to understand and remain connected to their images as they travel the internet,” Stipple founder Ray Flemings said in an interview.
The company allows publishers to tag images with anything that has a URL – videos, products, ads, or attribution – and the photo retains that information wherever it’s published around the web, so photographers can use Stipple to claim their photos to avoid copyright infringements. To address image search, the company lets anyone install a Stipple browser extension, which automatically pulls details from Stipple into photos like it would for publishers with Stipple installed on their website, or who have claimed their photos using Stipple. The company also provides engagement and viewer analytics, telling publishers who viewed it, which tags were clicked on, and which sites it’s appeared on.
For example if someone searched for an iPhone in Google Images, they would get thousands of results, all of which are linked to different websites, only a few of which actually link to Apple’s product information page. With Stipple Apple could upload a photo of the iPhone or import it from a URL, attribute it to the original source, and tag it with points of interest like the product information and social media accounts, almost like how a user would tag a photo on Facebook, but rather than tagging people, it’s tagging information. Anywhere that photo appeared online, the information would remain the same. “The companies have a heavy burden of copying information over and over again just to get the price or product features correct, and that information is subject to change,” Flemings said.
The company has worked with several ecommerce companies, since it can automatically tag images in bulk, a feature it’s opening up to the public today. The company recently tagged over 900,000 product photos for Zappos. As part of today’s relaunch, they’re making this functionality available to Etsy sellers, who can connect their stores to Stipple to automatically tag their images for free. For automatically tagged images, the details are updated dynamically across the web, so if an Etsy seller updated a price, it would be reflected anywhere that photo is published.
While creating content is always free, the company makes their money when companies or publishers want to link content back to their site and have consumers engage with it. “How we make our money is when content creators, large or small, want to have their photos point back to them,” Flemings said. “If you moused over a photo from my favourite food truck, the food truck could pay to make sure the photo links back to their website and their location for the day.” Or a car company could pay to turn photos of their cars into a microsite, so wherever it appeared consumers would have access to product videos, commercials and features. Marketers and content creators pay as engagements occur within their photos on the web, paying per interaction on a revenue-share model. If users refuse to pay for use, Stipple will revoke access to their platform.
Luminate, billed as the “AdSense for images,” and ThingLink are two companies attempting to make images interactive. Flemings said those services are more about tagging individual images, or crowdsourcing tagging. “There are 50 places that would allow you to tag a photograph on the web,” citing Facebook, Flickr, ThingLink and Luminate as examples. But he says that those solutions allow users and publishers to tag single photos on a single site, which doesn’t solve the problem of image distribution. “Stipple is, in that regard, without competition on its core solution, and that is enabling you to manage your photos across the web.” In terms of image distribution, TinEye provides a reverse photo search engine, which allows publishers to upload a photo and see where else it has been published online, but Flemings said they’re “not in the business of catching copyright infringement.” They are in the business of giving anyone the ability to tag and track their photos, so today’s launch should open them up to a brand new audience of small businesses, Etsy sellers, and individual users.