Tag, You’re Paid

Ex-music industry executive shows how to make a picture worth $1,000

Rey Flemings, co-founder, Stipple Inc. (Photo by Edward Caldwell)
Rey Flemings, co-founder, Stipple Inc. (Photo by Edward Caldwell)

Every photo has a story behind it, but the Internet separates a photo from its context, says Rey Flemings, 38, co-founder of Stipple (www.stippleit.com), a service that syndicates the data inside of a photo.

“Computers are able to read and understand text today. But when it comes to images, the computers are still blind. A machine has no clue what a group of pixels represent. Stipple is in the business of helping computers know what is in images,” says Flemings, who launched the company in June 2010. Shortly thereafter, he raised $3.5 million in Stipple’s first round of funding from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a venture capital firm, as well as musician Justin Timberlake and other investors.

Stipple uses computer vision to help a computer obtain information from a photo. As a result, an image’s story or information stays with it as it moves throughout the Web, and that information will stay connected with the image no matter where it is published or how many times it is republished.

When a viewer mouses over a photo they can learn anything the tagger of the photo wants them to know. Publishers can add information about objects or people and even tag products for sale within an image. For example, the brand of sunglasses the subject is wearing, the price of the car they’re driving, or the cost of the vacation they are taking can all be available to the viewer. A photo can even act like a microsite containing other photos, videos, music, or tweets. That information will stay with the photograph as it is used by bloggers and by individuals on social media sites.

For photographers, Stipple provides an opportunity to earn money from display advertising, and advertisers will be able to turn images into e-commerce points of sale, build brand awareness, and collect analytics to show which photos perform best in ad campaigns. It’s free for anyone to get started, and Stipple users get 10,000 free mouseovers or engagements with their photos; after that, prices start at $25 for engagements or campaigns. The company also sells display ads inside of photos.

Flemings, who is the former president of the Memphis Music Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps cultivate a viable music industry in the city, has worked between the realm of music and technology for several years.

Currently, Stipple is being used by more than 3,000 publishers, including sites affiliated with Time Warner and Condé Nast. When the service launched almost two years ago, Stipple was limited to a smaller group of approved brands and publishers. Now, starting this month, any small business or individual can use Stipple to tag photos.

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