You are currently browsing the archives for the Pinterest category.

Smile, People Like Your Pictures More Than Your Words (All Things D Version)

On March 7, Facebook announced a major overhaul to its newsfeed, the scrolling page of friend-news where we spend the bulk of our Facebook time. The central change: Facebook is making room for bigger pictures.

It’s a logical move when you look at the data. In November 2011, one-fifth of posts uploaded to newsfeeds were photos. Today, every other status update is a photo. My math friends tell me it that it’s hard to meaningfully affect percentage gains when you start with a really big number. Even with my quantitative limitations, I have to believe Facebook qualifies. Last year it told investors (as part of its IPO roadshow) that users were uploading more than 300 million photos every single day, and from that very large starting point photo activity just jumped 150 percent in 15 months. So much for the law of large numbers.

If you’re a brand, though, it’s not the fact that photo-enabled devices will soon outnumber humans on the planet, or that we’re piping all those pictures into social media. The important trend is that consumers are looking at them. In other words, your art-directed fashion spreads have a lot more competition these days.

There was a time when professional photography had a monopoly on our attention. When mass media meant national magazines, TV networks and big-city newspapers, only deep-pocketed corporations could afford access to large audiences. Back then it made economic sense to build your story around professional-grade photography: A single print ad would reach millions of readers, so a few tens of thousands of dollars spent on art and photography chewed up only a negligible percentage of a campaign’s costs. And for a few generations, this approach worked great.

It turns out, though, that cost-to-produce and magnitude-of-consumer-delight don’t plot analogous curves in an Excel graph. In fact, it’s hard to find a direct correlation between the two. A photo that captures something important or interesting or timely wins our attention — regardless of who took it or how much it cost to make. It also turns out the spans of our attention are shrinking. Google economist Hal Varian observed as far back as 2010 — before SnapChat, and back when we uploaded a mere 30 million photos to Facebook every day — that we pay less attention to stuff when we consume it online. “The average amount of time looking at online news is about 70 seconds, while the average amount of time spent reading the physical newspaper is about 25 minutes a day.”

So corporate storytellers need to master a new narrative technique. It’s as if they need to shed those florid sentences that played so well in Victorian novels and dial it down to the Hemingway-esque. The good news: This new approach to storytelling still employs a language in which brands are fluent: Photos. There are three ways that brands should modify their visual storytelling.

One, feeds move faster than print magazines, so you need to tell your story in a series of frequent episodes, anecdotes and updates — not the grand gestures of Ogilvy or Draper. Photos are the currency of social media, but it’s a currency doled out in nickels, not twenty-dollar bills.

Two, let photos do more of the talking for you. Humans process visual information much faster than we process text. And when we’re online (remember those stats from Hal Varian), we navigate more quickly from story to story. If you’re going to capture attention in a digital landscape, you have to do it fast. So steal a page from the playbooks used by Pinterest, Flipboard, USA Today’s new design or the NYT’s TimesCast: Use visual content instead of words to invite consumers into the story.

Three — need I say it? — let them interact with your story, let them re-mix your assets and choose their own adventures. Let them steal your photos so they can more easily share them with friends. Let them explore inside your images to find links to products, deals and related links. And let them contribute their own. If the Web conversation is going visual, encourage them to talk to you in the local dialect — images snapped on their phones looking for a place to be uploaded.

(This post was originally published at All Things D.)

Moving Pictures: Can Companies Create Engagement from the Exploding Imagesphere Online?


(Graphic by Shaw Nielsen, Adweek.)

Let’s officially call 2012 the Year of the Imagesphere. To review: Facebook says its users upload more than 300 million photos per day (up from 31 million in 2009). To support this massive interest in photo sharing, the company acquired Instagram in April for $1 billion.

Meanwhile, Pinterest leapt out of the shadows to become the third largest social network (valued at $1.5 billion by investors in May) because of its unique and popular spin on photo curation. Almost exactly a year ago, Twitter launched its own photo sharing, and earlier this month it rolled out photo filters in a bid to steal usage from Instagram. Within days, Instagram responded by disabling integration with Twitter cards and erecting a wall between the two networks that makes it harder for consumers to share Instagram photos via Twitter. And a few weeks ago, the original photo-sharing giant, Flickr, jumped back into the battle with its own sharing app.

The Internet titans are placing big bets on the future businesses that will be built on the 3 trillion (and growing) online images. The unanswered questions: How will publishers, image repositories (such as Flickr or Facebook) and brands capitalize on the imagesphere opportunity? How will content creators turn the act of flipping through galleries and photo feeds into deep engagement? How will advertisers adjust from a marketing rhythm where they produced one beautiful photo every 13 weeks for a print campaign to one where they need 13 photos a day to feed a Tumblr?

And what’s in all of this for consumers? After a decade and a half of presenting consumers with online photos that they can look at — kind of like we look at photo albums at our grandmother’s house — will the Internet finally bring some interactivity to image content and turn photos into a stepping-off point for a richer experience?
It’s clear that consumers are itching for more. They want more depth, interactivity and the opportunity to explore more images beyond those the editor picked to populate a particular gallery. Publishers who want their attention will need to upgrade the photo experience, and advertisers will need to figure out how to tell their stories inside these photo experiences. This means one thing for sure: Brands and publishers need to figure ouhow to extract precise, granular metadata from the Web’s 3 trillion pictures.

Only when publishers know what’s inside images in their archives can they serve readers with additional relevant content from inside each gallery. Every image, then, will launch dozens more galleries — more Angelina Jolie images here, more pictures of fabulous shoes there. They can also monetize photos with precisely targeted ads, just like they do around other content on their sites.

Without image metadata, photos are the dark matter of the ad-server galaxy. Unlock this metadata, and brands will step into the imagesphere as sponsors. Turn those rectangular clusters of pixels into keywords, and ad budgets will support photo content as enthusiastically as they support keywords found in text. Hiring agencies and art directors to produce hundreds of new photo assets each month would break the bank. But attaching a brand’s message to thousands of photos snapped by fans could deliver the same results at a fraction of the cost.

Clearly, this is an emerging trend that Facebook, in particular, is betting on. It ignited consumer hostility by changing Instagram’s terms of service, raising concerns that the new rules would allow the company to license member photos (your personal photos!) to brands or other corporate entities. Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom responded on the company’s blog that it merely plans “to experiment with innovative advertising,” but will not license user photos to outside parties. It’s not our images Instagram wants — it’s the metadata.

The explosion in the image-based Web isn’t just an issue for brands. Publishers are experimenting with photocentric, responsive-design-oriented tablet sites. They’re also tinkering with images loaded with interactivity, whether as part of editorial or within ad units.

But it’s still early for applications and for ad products associated with images. The big headline in 2013 will be the evolution from photo creation and sharing to getting inside those images. Will you be camera-ready?

(Originally published as a guest column at Adweek.)

Visual Storytelling for Brands in the Facebook, Pinterest, Insta-gallery Era

In November 1995 I had a job selling ad space for tech magazines. One afternoon the office fax machine scrolled out 12 pages worth of insertion orders from a software company I’d been pitching for two months, and I did a happy-dance in my cubicle. With those orders, the company had committed to running a full-page ad in every issue the magazine would publish in all of 1996. I called the client to confirm the mailing address for our traffic coordinator and the creative instructions — right-reading film, emulsion-side-down — and got the further good news that the ad creative was already on its way in a FedEx pouch. The ad creative. A single photo with ad copy that would serve as the campaign’s creative all year.

I don’t miss the inky mess I’d make of my hands when I had to change the cartridge on that fax machine. But they sure were simpler times in the world of advertising and publishing.

Back then the brands on the other end of those fax machines could afford to sink significant time and resources into the production of each creative unit. Hiring a renowned photographer, a model, a team of set designers, makeup artists, art directors and post-production editors might set them back $25,000 for a single photo for a single print ad. But given the enormous role played by that one photograph — it would likely anchor a $15-million national ad campaign across many magazines for months — the time and dollars invested in getting it exactly right could fairly be called a rounding error. Twenty-five thousand dollars in creative development divided by 15 million in media spend is less than two-tenths of a percentage point.

While the math still works for brands advertising in glossy fashion magazines, there is trouble in paradise. Or rather, paradise has moved to the Internet. If brands want to engage with consumers online (which, more and more, is where their consumers spend time) they need to compete with publishers and social media sites that refresh their bins of eye-candy every few minutes. By the time they’ve art directed, developed and shipped a piece of right-reading, emulsion-side-down film to a publisher, Gangnam Style has been replaced with parody videos of Gangnam Style.

The digital landscape changes fast, and pictures are a main catalyst. Netscape released the first commercially-available web browser in 1994 and fewer than 15 years later Flickr housed more than 6 billion photos — more than 450 times the number of photos held by the Library of Congress. In 2009 more than 2.5 billion camera-enabled devices were in the hands of would-be photogs and in the course of a year would go on to take ten percent of all photos ever taken by humans. Instagram, the photo-sharing apps for smartphones that Facebook bought earlier this year for $1 billion, measures its customer engagement in uploads-per-second; 60 uploads per second, back in the quaint old days of December 2011, pre-acquisition, and before comScore released data showing Instagram’s daily usage is now greater than Twitter’s. By early 2012 Facebook members were uploading to the site more than 300 million photos every single day.

This slurry of data signals “the end of the Kodak Era, where we took photos birthdays and vacations, and shared them only with a small group of friends,” says Bob Lisbonne, CEO of Luminate (my boss) and former SVP for Netscape’s browser group in 1990s. “We’ve now entered a phase in which visual communication is supplanting the written word — what some are calling the dawn of the Imagesphere.”


(Source: 1000 Memories Blog.)

But it’s not taking or uploading pictures that should worry marketers. It’s the fact that there are consumers on the other end of these photos — viewing them, engaging with them, and generally spending more time with images they see on Facebook, Tumblr or Pinterest than they used to spend reading glossy magazines that arrived on the newsstand once a month. comScore’s Mobile Metrix 2.0 survey says Facebook users are spending more than seven hours per month visiting the site by way of mobile phones alone. Om Malik, founder and editor in chief of GigaOM, asserts that photos are the fuel driving the mass migration to social media:

Malik writes, “Photos are the reason many of us continue to engage with Facebook. Facebook has tried many verbs to increase and maintain our engagement with the service — read, listen, watch. But in the end, it’s the photos that work wonders for the Menlo Park, Calif.-based social-networking giant.”

Research from a team at Harvard Business School supports Malik’s claim. A 2009 study finds that 70% of all activity inside social networks revolves around photos. Keep in mind, that was in 2009 — when Facebookers were uploading a mere 31 million photos a day, and My Space was still relevant enough to be included in a study of social-media sites.

These millions of new photos — or at least those shared by friends and organizations we choose to follow — are pushed to us each day in an unending, ever-updating stream of visual storytelling. We watch our friends’ kids grow up, in near real-time, and news stories unfold throughout the day as fresh photos replace those from hours or minutes before. Publishers, too, are responding to their readers’ growing appetite for image content with larger, high-res photography and the gallery-ification of stories as disparate as celebrity news, travel destinations and business analysis.

Roughly one-third of pixel real estate on the web is image content, according to the Wall Street Journal, and those images get old fast. In its first three days on the Internet, the average photo has attracted half the total views it will ever attract. If you look at content shared via social media platforms rather than the entire web, the half-life for content is measured in hours not days.


(Source: Bitly Blog.)

And there lies the rub for brands. The changing dynamic of media consumption has changed the rules of marketing in three fundamental respects.

One: “Professional grade” doesn’t get the mileage it once did.

Sure, the list of most-viewed clips on YouTube includes Justin Beiber music videos, but it also includes quirky independent interviews of people waiting in line for iPhones and home-movie sensations such as ‘Charlie Bit My Finger… Again.’ The same goes for photos. Consumer interest no longer tracks with traditional definitions of “photo quality.”

There was a time when all media was professional media, created and distributed by large publishing companies. It only made sense, then, for advertisers to polish their creative units to a professional, high-production-value shine. Good advertising should always seek to imitate the editorial content around it; ‘native advertising’ has been around long before the Internet. There’s mounting evidence, however, that recall rates for TV spots and display ads in magazines are declining, despite the professional expertise that goes into their creation. Nowadays relevance trumps production value.

Now that amateur photographers have gained access to distribution — Google might lead you to an independent photoblog, Instagram might introduce you to some great photos from an excellent hobbyist — consumers are dividing the world of photos into ‘interesting’ and ‘not interesting,’ not ‘professional’ and ‘amateur.’ Interesting no longer requires the talents of a professional.

Two: Attention Deficit Disorder has become a lifestyle choice.

A trend that’s probably as old as the publishing industry has achieved fever pitch: Content miniaturization. Articles get shorter and shorter, and readers still can’t get to the end of them. I mean, who has time to read the entire tweet anymore? Audience ratings seem to suggest that frequency and freshness of content are trumping quality and depth. In a world where tapping our thumbs on the Instagram icon on our iPhones unleashes an endless stream of photos taken in the last four hours, looking again at last month’s print ad for Prada strikes many modern consumers as boring.

Three: Consumption is giving way to interaction.

There’s something that’s even more popular than posting pictures: Liking them and commenting on them. It’s a sign that we define ourselves not only through our own pictures, but also through association with the pictures of others. It’s this instinct that explains the growth of Pinterest, the social network that rocketed to 10 million users faster than any social network before it. It’s not built on photo-sharing in the sense that Instagram or Facebook are (“Hey, check out my pictures”); it’s about photo-assembling (“I’ve collected these pictures so you understand who I am and what I care about”). Forty-one percent of us, says new research from Pew, find photos and videos online and re-post them on sites designed for sharing with others. It’s one of the most popular things we do on the Internet.

In order for brands to embrace these new platforms for photo mixing and mashing, they need to get comfortable with their images being separated from the carefully assembled context of yesterday’s print ad or the Spring catalog, and being extracted from the traditional models that protect ownership rights and pay out talent royalties. Your customers want to befriend you and play with you, but that game is going to be on their terms.

So what’s a brand to do?

The creative departments at traditional agencies simply can’t adapt to this new world, says John Battelle, founder of Federated Media (disclosure: I was his co-founder there) and the first managing editor of Wired Magazine. The old rhythm of branded storytelling — devise the Big Idea, take a month to convert it into an art piece of advertising, and then enlist the media department to implant it deep into the skulls of consumers through mass media — is losing its efficacy. Agencies will continue to find success producing professional-grade assets and distributing them around tent-pole events, but they’re ill-equipped for the in-between times, the 363 days a year that don’t feature the Super Bowl or the Oscars. The beefy muscles built up over years of pumping out thirty-second TV spots and full-page print ads aren’t well suited for the marathon running required by lasting social-media conversations. “Brands need to catch up to media,” he says, and they’re going to need some help.

“Most creative agencies don’t see themselves as ongoing, real time publishers — that’s the business of, well, publishers,” Battelle continued. “I predict the two will merge over time — agencies must become more like publishers, and publishers are going to have to learn how to service brands like agencies do.”

Federated Media says the solution is a distributed, crowdsourced model for branded content creation. It invites advertisers to tap the talents of “the world’s largest creative department,” the 30 million some-odd bloggers affiliated with FM, from the vast army of small WordPress publishers to large-reach sites such as Boing Boing or Notcot.


(Source: Tom Ryabo, featured on Intel’s My Life Scoop.)

Three years ago, David Veneski, Intel’s director of US media, took FM up on the offer for a program called My Life Scoop. While the site features periodic updates on products like Intel-powered Ultrabooks, the bulk of the content is created by a broad array of independent content producers who speak the native language of Intel’s customers — those young, affluent people who seek out cutting-edge tech gadgets to enhance their lives. The imagery that accompanies the site’s content is not highly produced. Instead the emphasis is on fit, tone and relevance — photos and videos collected, curated and presented to My Life Scoop readers at a fraction of the cost associated with a professional shoots. The content is on-message (‘Sponsors of Tomorrow’ and ‘Ultrabook’), it’s frequently refreshed and it’s inviting social amplification. Nearly 50,000 Twitterers are following the My Life Scoop feed, and 100,000 Facebook members have Liked it.

“It’s important to us that we provide an authentic and compelling brand story for our target audience,” says Veneski. “We find that visuals and imagery, both photos and video, alongside written content, offers a way of telling a story that is more interesting to the people we want to reach.”


(Source: GE’s Tumblr.)

General Electric has taken an even more stripped-down approach. On Tumblr they’ve created (with help from the Barbarian Group) a corporate site that is nothing but photos. You’ll only find text only where it’s used to caption or hashtag a photo. What’s initially surprising is that airplane engines, smart LED bulb testing facilities, and gardens decked out with PulseArc Multi-Vapor metal halide lamps are quite photogenic, especially when they’ve been dolled up with an Instagram filter. Without set designers, models or professional photographers, GE is telling its story with frequent, low-cost iPhone pictures. More importantly, GE fans are spreading this story to their networks, with comments and hashtags included.

And the ‘interactivity’ isn’t just something that occurs after the brand unleashes the content — GE uses Twitter to invite its social-media followers to pick the locations of future photos.


(Source: GE’s Twitter Account.)

Without breaking the bank or getting reckless with its brand, GE found a path to social-media relevance. The brand is leaning into the consumer acceptance of spontaneous, inexpensive photo storytelling, which isn’t just reducing production costs either. It’s giving GE a stream of highly sharable content nuggets to satisfy the short-attention-span types and the sharers.

In other words, they’re speaking our language — the one in which every missive is worth a thousand words.

(This article first appeared on iMediaConnection under the title Why Visual Storytelling is the Future of Digital.)

The New Currency of Visual Storytelling


(Photo credit: Betharie)

“Visual storytelling is in renaissance — but with a twist. Photography, rather than video, is fast becoming the lingua franca of a more global, mobile and social society…. Businesses that bank on visual storytelling with images will win,” says Steve Rubel in his recent column for Ad Age.

When you observe consumers using mobile devices, social networks or the web, you see a strong preference for photos over other media formats. Facebookers upload 300 million photos a day, and Harvard Business School study concludes that 70% of all activity inside social networks involves a photo. iPhone users can choose from over 10,000 photo-related apps in Apple’s App Store. All told there are more than 3 trillion images online. Rubel attributes the popularity of photos to three factors: images are global (they transcend language and cultural divides), they’re distributable (small files are easy to share across digital pipes, even skinny pipes), and they’re digestible (full of content that humans can process more quickly than text or video).

Meanwhile big marketers, who credit moving pictures (not still ones) with building their brands, show a different preference — a desire that digital, social and mobile media platforms create space for TV-like ads. They seek out inventory into which they can insert those very same (if slightly reformatted) television spots, and when that runs out they create animated banners they hope will deliver similar results.

Results are bound to be disappointing, however, when consumers gravitate to one type of content (photos) and advertisers try to foist another type (animated banners) upon them. A recent study by some folks at Moat, Accordant Media and the Advertising Research Foundation provides one startling data point. In their experiment, blank rectangles — IAB units with white space in them — performed twice as well as the industry average for animated banners created by brands and their agencies. In other words, the absence of advertising is working better than the average online ad.

Taking Rubel’s advice — telling your brand’s story through pictures — can hardly be worse than what you’re doing today. With a little practice, maybe you can outperform empty rectangles!

Welcome to the Imagesphere

Here’s the Cliff Notes version of my boss Bob Lisbonne’s presentation at FM’s CM Summit on Monday:

In the Kodak Era we took pictures on birthdays and vacations. Now, with a camera in nearly everyone’s pocket — there were 2.5 billion camera phones in use in 2009 — there is a whole new dynamic around image content. You can break down this new dynamic into three phases.

Phase I
We’re witnessing a massive increase in photo creation: Ten percent of the photos every taken by humankind were taken in the past 12 months (source).

Phase II
New platforms for sharing those images (especially Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr) have turned photos into the universal language for communicating in social media.

Phase III
New technologies are turning those static images into interactive experiences. The popularity of Pinterest, from anonymity to the third largest social network in a few short months, is one example. Luminate’s image apps, which are used by more than 100 million consumers, are another.

Welcome to the Imagesphere.

Full preso here.

Federated Media’s CM Summit 2012: ChasNote Round Up

Battelle kicked off the annual Conversational Marketing Summit by interviewing Barry Diller, who delighted the CM Summit’s digital-evangelist crowd with remarks such as “magazines like Newsweek won’t survive another five years as print publications.” Then he summed up the divide between the big media companies and Silicon Valley as follows: “Talking to a TV network exec about tech is like talking to a plumber about bio-physics.” But tech adoption aside, he said, the cable and broadcast networks beat the pants off the internet when it comes to reliably delivering high-quality content, which is one of the chief reasons that advertisers love to spend on TV.

FM’s Joe Frydl presented the Law of Content on the Web: “The value of content on web is directly proportional to number of connections is starts or sustains.” Where digital marketing goes wrong, he said, is that — for all the targeting tools — it doesn’t understand context, and as a result it’s “tone deaf.”

LUMA Partners’s Terence Kawaja blinded the audience with a handful of new LUMAScapes, those logo mosaics that show the complicated ecosystem of startups, agencies, networks and exchanges all fighting for parts of the digital advertising dollar, and proposed a standard OS for online advertising. From Ki Mae Heussner’s post on GigaOM:

While the industry wouldn’t want to quash the innovation, he floated the idea of addressing what he called the ‘rationalization’ issue through standardization. Just like mobile technology has its Android and iOS platforms, Kawaja said, digital advertising could have its own operating system. “Many other industries have benefited greatly by having an operating system, a common platform upon which other companies can build their tools,” he said.

Everyone loves an easy-to-use platform, it seems. By 2015, he forecast, ads bought via real-time bidding platforms (RTB) will represent 25% of all online display spending.

“Too many brands still think writing a big check to Facebook means you have a social strategy,” quipped Mediavest digital chief Amanda Richmond. Meanwhile, on Tuesday, news broke that one of her agency’s biggest clients, GM, has canceled its $10 million ad contract with Facebook, three days before the social network’s IPO. The big-check-to-Facebook strategy isn’t working for GM, apparently. (To which I say, that’s preposterous.)

The industry loves data (“consumer insights are the new black,” she said), and the ability to precisely target consumers based on that data. But while we’ve become good at precision ad delivery, “we also need to know what story to tell them.” We’re falling short on the creative side. (Related: Digiday polls some industry folks, including me, to ruminate on the flaws and virtues of the banner ad.)

And then from Luminate’s Bob Lisbonne (my boss): Welcome to the Imagesphere. In the Kodak Era we took pictures on birthdays and vacations. Now, with a camera in nearly everyone’s pocket there is a whole new dynamic around image content. Ten percent of the photos every taken by humankind were taken in the past 12 months (1000Memories). That’s Phase I of the Kodak-to-Imagephere migration: A massive increase on photo creation. Phase II: New platforms for sharing those images (especially Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr) have turned photos into the universal language for communicating in social media. What’s next? Phase III, Bob argued, will turn those static images into interactive experiences. The popularity of Pinterest, from anonymity to the third largest social network in a few short months, is one example. Luminate’s image apps, which are used by more than 100 million consumers, are another.

Sarah Bernard, social media director for the White House, seemed to support Bob’s theory that images are where it’s at. When asked what she’s learned from using social media for direct democracy, she joked that the best way to engage the citizenry about tax code would be to sneak in some fiscal policy on a photoblog dedicated to Bo the dog.

A few more of my favorite soundbites:

Publisher Strategy and the Image Explosion: Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Luminate


(Credit: Christina at Greige Design.)

It’s starting to feel like this photo frenzy isn’t just a passing phase. Maybe there’s some inescapable human affection for pretty pictures. We just can’t help ourselves.

As Antony Young, CEO of Mindshare North America, put it in his recent column for Ad Age:

We’re seeing a consumer movement toward a more visual culture brought on by technology and media. Smarter devices are prompting more occasions for people to create and consume visual content, while social media is encouraging that content to be shared on multiple platforms.

Facebook will tell you the same. When you talk to its executives or founders about the company’s inflection point, they’ll all tell you some variation of “It’s the pictures, stupid.” The Facebook community uploads 250 million photos a day, and one Harvard Business School study estimates that 70% of all activities inside the social network — from Liking and commenting to looking at friends’ content or uploading your own — revolves around photos.

Relative upstarts like Instagram and Pinterest are riding the image explosion too, bursting onto the scene with audience growth rates that are even steeper than Facebook’s or Twitter’s in their early years. Instagram went from launch to a million users in 2 months, and grew to 15 million by the end of 2011, at which point users were uploading 60 photos per second. Pinterest has grown from obscurity to 10 million pinners in 6 months.

There’s an underlying explanation for this image explosion, according to Shawn Graham at Fast Company: “Pinterest’s rapid ascent into the social strata has reemphasized something we’ve known since the day the first camera was invented way back in the 1800s — pictures matter.”

I’ll say! And we’re taking and sharing more of them than ever before. Ten percent of all photos taken by humankind were taken in the past 12 months.

Publishers are taking notice. Photo galleries have long been a staple of the user-experience at entertainment sites like Yahoo’s OMG and Entertainment Tonight. But news sites like CBS News and business publications from The New York Times to The Business Insider have gone photo-happy too. Readers process more information more quickly from images than from text, and thus images drive more audience engagement than text content. Everyone’s got an image strategy these days.

And like a publisher’s mobile strategy or social strategy, the image strategy needs to contemplate three elements:

1. Audience engagement.
How can images increase engagement among my existing audience?

Most publishers are making great progress on this front — investing in large, high-quality images on every page, and organizing clusters of them into galleries. The only catch is that sometimes the most “successful” images, the ones that are most effective at lighting up consumer interest, are also the ones that launch readers off your site. Your most passion-inspiring images drive visitors to Fox Sports to get an athlete’s stats, or to Wikipedia to get biographical info on a political figure, or to Macy’s or Gilt Group to shop for the fashions worn by a favorite celebrity. The image apps we create here at Luminate bring that content right into the image itself. If your happiest readers are using you own images to abandon you, it’s tough to argue that images should play a more prominent role in your digital publishing strategy — even if it’s the format your readers enjoy most.

2. Audience acquisition.
How can I convert that engagement into sharing?

Facebook and Twitter buttons are a start. Feeding image content into Instagram (as well as Facebook and Twitter) is another way for publishers to amplify their investment in images: It puts them inside social networks where the sharing activity is happening. According to Sharaholic Pinterest is driving more referral traffic than G+, YouTube, LinkedIn and Reddit combined. Pinterest makes “pinning” and saving images easy for users of its browser extension, and its integration with Facebook drives new eyeballs to those images (though not all those eyeballs convert into clicks back to the original publisher’s site). Luminate’s social apps are another approach. Rather than waiting for readers to download the Pinterest applet, publishers can present all of their readers with apps attached to each image. Several of Luminate’s apps, for example, facilitate positional image-sharing — attaching a comment to the part of the image he or she wants his friends to check out.

3. Revenue.
How does the strategy help me make more money?

One approach that’s gaining traction among smaller sites: Just put ads at the bottom of images, the image equivalent of the overlays at the bottom of YouTube videos. As long as the ad message inside the overlay is highly relevant to the image content, overlays are a reasonable approach. An even better approach, I’d argue, is delivering advertising that’s attached to a user-initiated bonus content experience. If a brand sponsors relevant content and services that enhance an image, the reader is much more likely to pay attention.

(A version of this post appears at Ad Age, under the headline In An Age of Pinterest, Instagram, Marketers Need An Image Strategy. And if you live in a rainy part of the world, Om Malik recommends you add this post to your weekend reading list. Thanks, Om!)

Luminate Launches App Store for Image Apps

In the words of Bob Lisbonne, CEO (and my boss) at Luminate: “The most successful technologies ultimately evolve into platforms.”

Today we announce a $10.7 million Series C financing lead by Nokia Growth Partners to accelerate our mission of making images interactive. Last summer we launched a platform for image applications, and today we’re unveiling an app store (and 11 new apps) to help publishers find and enable the apps that will best engage their respective audiences. From Luminate’s CTO Jim Everingham on our blog:

There are currently more than 3 trillion images on the web. More square inches of browser real estate have been dedicated to images than to text in recent years. But for the most part, images have been ignored by technologists. Our company recognized the power of images to evoke imagination, emotion, spark curiosity and connect us with each other. We also saw the potential for images to do more, in fact, so much more that we believe no one company will be able to dictate what ‘making images interactive’ actually means.

So if we can’t define it, how can we achieve our vision? By powering the ideas of others and focusing on delivering a rich platform upon which to build relevant functionality. That is how we can fuel the change we desire.

Or as Bambi Francisco Roizen puts it at VatorNews: “Let’s face it. We’ve gotten to the point where a static image online just feels old school. If you can’t manipulate it, expand it, or dig a little deeper into the subject matter, it feels like we’re not taking advantage of what the Internet can offer.”

For you Pinterest fans out there, FastCompany explores “Beyond Pinterest: Luminate Harnesses The Power Of Truly Interactive Images.”

Imagine visiting a website and stumbling across an image of a beach in Maui. From that image, you’d be able to access a Wikipedia page about it, share it with your friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter, make travel arrangements, and even pull up related images using Bing’s image search capabilities — all formatted so you don’t have to leave the image or open up five different new browser windows. The latest round of apps being introduced by Mountain View-based startup Luminate make it possible to enrich photos with functionality like never before.

A roundup of some of the new apps from Forbes:

With the new app store, Luminate is making it possible to add a wide range of contextual information for images. Publishers can select any of these apps and add them to their images. For example, a Bing image search app shows related images, a YouTube app shows trailers related to actors in an image, an Amazon app gives links to purchase MP3s related to a musician in an image, a Netflix app shows related movies that can be watched, Celebuzz includes news about celebrities and Wikipedia shows related entries from the online encyclopedia. The icons for these various apps will only show up if there is relevant content for the image being displayed. The company uses image-matching technology to identify the objects inside of images.

The Examiner.com’s take on the user experience:

Luminate enables online publishers to turn stagnant images into compelling and interactive pieces with unobtrusive, in-photo applications. Utilizing a unique combination of crowd-sourced experts and patent-pending algorithms, online images are identified and curated for a compelling user experience.

Other press:

FastCompany
CNET
Portfolio
AllThingsD
VentureBeat
Mediapost
TechCrunch
San Jose Business Journals