Sharing photographs is now easier than ever before. Gone are the days when you held your breath while images attached to the email you were mass mailing to friends and family. The last five years have given rise to a plethora of photo sharing sites like Flickr, Photobucket and Picasa.
Social networking sites have jumped on the bandwagon too — Pownce was created around the very premise that sharing media should be easy, while Facebook, Twitpic and others are also popular places for people to share photos.
It’s undeniable that there’s a burgeoning interest in taking, uploading and sharing photographs. Recent statistics released by Mediamark Research reveal that about 25% of U.S. adults have shared photos via a Web site in the last 30 days. One company that’s aiming to capitalize on this is a fledgling site called Photrade.
Founded last November by photographer, Andrew Paradies, and still relatively under the radar, Photrade’s mission is straightforward yet comprehensive: allowing users to share and make money from their photos, while also protecting and monitoring their usage. Angel funded thus far, the site claims to be unique in that it’s a one-stop shop for photographers to achieve multiple ends. The selling point: convenience.
“We offer the sharing and selling stuff all in one place. Rather than sending someone to different sites, we’ve combined different sites’ functionality into one place,” explains Paradies. “It’s like going to a grocery store. You can go to a butcher, a dairy and a farmers market and it might be bit better, but the time saved by going to a grocery store is huge.”
The site currently has about 15,000 users, with the average user logging on about 15 times a month.
Sharing and making money from photos
Why do people so willingly share their photos online without expecting any remuneration? Paradies doesn’t necessarily believe they do: “If you took a swath of photo sharing users off sites like Photobucket and Flickr you’d find a strong correlation between the people who create the best content and those who think they should be compensated,” he states. His target is just that – the semi-professional photographer, who’d like to disseminate content but doesn’t want it to be misused.
Photrade claims to have the most ways on the Internet for users to make money — from print and merchandise sales to selling stock photography licenses. They allow users to choose their own prices and take a 20% commission on every photo sold whether licensed or merchandized. “If you look at percentage of revenues – we are among lowest in the industry,” says Paradies confidently.
Although he hopes the site’s model will self-sustain, Paradies admits that, in the future, the company may have to place a cap on the number of photographs users can share.
The company has a patent pending Adcosystem, which allows it to put a highly contextually targeted ad in each photo shared online. The ad revenue is then shared with the photographer. Ad-supported photos are free to use by bloggers and publishers with the photographer getting paid for every click. The system is different from one like that adopted by PicApp (a service offering images that can be free in exchange for an ad placement), because Photrade does not use a flash based system. Their system was specifically built to allow search engines to pick up their ads.
Protecting and monitoring usage
It should be no surprise to anyone, that photography, like music, is widely misappropriated on the Web. Photrade conducted a survey of about 1000 photographers and bloggers online, which revealed that 87% of people polled stated that protection of their content was important to them.
“One big issue is that of awareness: The average person isn’t even aware when they use Google image search that they are pirating,” says Paradies. In the same survey, Photrade asked bloggers whether they use legally licensed images for their blogs. While 80% said yes, about 60% of these then stated that they found the images through a Google image search.
Obviously photographers themselves want their content to be legally used, but on the publication side, the question inevitably arises: how many bloggers actually care about being legal? “A list bloggers want to be legal,” says Paradies in response. “The more money you make from your publication the more concerned you are.”
As for regular users, protection can often be in their best interests too. “Protection is one of those things you don’t really care about until you get burned,” says Paradies. He recalls a father in Cincinnati who uploaded a picture of his son flinching because someone was throwing a basketball at him. The picture ended up being downloaded by someone else off the father’s website and turned into a widely syndicated “Fail” poster that says “That’s why you always get picked last fatty.”
Apart from promoting awareness about copyright issues, Photrade deals directly with the copyright and licensing issues faced by online photo sharers by using technologies like LinkFind, LinkBlock and custom watermarking to give photo owners control over how and where their images are used online.
You can see who’s linking to your images and shut down these links on a one-off basis, or even at a site level. You can also prevent the screen capturing of your images.
“We’re not going to make the claim that our technology is going to stop the highly motivated cracker hacker guy,” says Paradies. ” But we want to make it really annoying to steal images and to make it really easy to use them legally. We want to make photographers feel safe, protected and have a sustainable revenue stream from what they do.”