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Luminate Launches Image App Platform: Press Round-Up

“Pixazza is dead. Long live Luminate,” says Kara Swisher at All Things D. “You don’t have to twist your tongue pronouncing Pixazza anymore,” quips Alexei Oreskovic in his Reuters story. My favorite comment on the name-change, though, comes from The Inquirer: “Online image monster Pixazza is no more, in its place stands Luminate, the same company but with a name that does not look like a Scrabble accident.” Mind you, a 7-letter Scrabble accident that’s worth 84 points*, plus whatever triple-letter scores you might play — but still.

VentureBeat spells out the Luminate mission nicely:

“Mountain View, Calif.-based Luminate wants images to be a gateway for accessing rich and relevant content; images can become more than visual stimuli. Images can become a canvas to shop, share, comment, examine, curate, search and socialize…. Luminate wants app makers to use their imagination in creating apps that use the images as springboards into something cool.”


(Luminate CEO Bob Lisbonne.)

“If a picture is worth a thousand words, it’s now worth even more,” says Creative Strategies analyst Tim Bajarin in USA Today. Facebook’s Elliott Schrage (a Luminate advisor) tells the Mercury News that a better reinterpretation of the expression might be: “If a picture’s worth a thousand words, now it can be worth a thousand links.”

Colleen Taylor summarizes the first batch of apps for her GigaOM story: “Luminate’s new platform will host applications that provide additional info about any kind of picture published online, such as stats for a professional athlete pictured in a sports story, a geo-tag of where a photo was taken, or a movie trailer related to a certain image.” Austin Carr at FastCompany says the social sharing tools are especially interesting: “Using the Twitter app, for example, users can select a section of the image, write a comment, and that text will appear as a superimposed annotation on top of the image, ready to be shared via tweet.” Faith Merino at Vator News says her favorite is the public-service (PSA) app that connects news images of natural disasters with associated relief organizations.

In an interview with David Kaplan at PaidContent, I suggest that images might be the next big Internet trend. He too sees evidence (Google’s recent acquisition of PittPatt, for example) to support that idea.

The headline over Anthony Ha’s story at Adweek is “Google-backed Luminate Turns Pictures into Interactive Moneymakers.” In an interview with Forbes, Luminate founder and CTO Jim Everingham explains the logic behind those moneymaker plans: “Luminate’s ad units … counter ‘banner blindness’ where users ignore online ads. Because people are paying attention directly to an image when they see the ad, which is directly related to the ad, it gets strong response.”

Lots more in Leena Rao’s interview with Luminate CEO Bob Lisbonne at TechCrunch.

“A year or two from now,” says Bob in an interview with Ari Levy at Bloomberg Businessweek’s, “if a consumer mouses to an image and nothing happens, they’ll think the site is backwards.”

*UPDATE: It was brought to my attention that Scrabble has only one Z, which means the second Z would need to be a zero-point wildcard. Bummer! That means Pixazza would only get you 74 points, before multi-letter or multi-word accelerators.

Pixazza Is Now Luminate

Today we’re launching the world’s first platform for image applications — and a new name and logo to boot. Pixazza is now Luminate, and the first batch of image apps to launch on Luminate’s platform, according to TechCrunch, “will span a number of categories including commerce, information, social, organization, advertising, navigation, public service, and presentation.”

USA Today explains how it works:

“If you went to teen gossip site Just Jared on Tuesday and moused over an image of Angelina Jolie, you could have learned how to buy similar sunglasses and sweater at Nordstrom.com. Go there today, and there are also tabs for Facebook and Twitter comments, annotation by the publisher (perhaps a comment on Jolie’s hairdo), the ability to share the picture (or even a portion), shopping info and a Google ad.”

The Luminate icon indicates an image is interactive.

Mousing into an interactive image will reveal, at the bottom of the image, a tray of applications — social sharing tools, additional editorial content, and a carousel to browse through and shop for products inside the image. The next dozen applications will launch in the coming weeks.


A commerce app called Products enables consumers to mouse over the image and interact with tags on the picture.


An information app called Annotation allows publishers to quickly and easily tag any spot within an image and add information relevant to that image.

Inspiration by House Beautiful, Colors by Glidden

Time to spiff up your pad? Hearst’s House Beautiful and Glidden paints want to make it easy on you.

Here’s how it works. Check out the photo flipbooks in House Beautiful’s Decorating section, mouse over an image you like that says “Find Your Color Inspiration,” and Glidden presents an information card that tells you the colors you need to make your house look like one that belongs in the pages of, well, House Beautiful.

Here’s how it works behind the scenes. House Beautiful creates the photos, Glidden makes interior paints in lots of stylish colors — Apricot White, Marshmallow White and Sweet Baby Boy, to name a few — and then the home-decor category experts at Pixazza Luminate tag walls and other surfaces inside the photos and match them to Glidden paint colors.

So get cracking, ChasNote readers. Especially those of you in the US: You have a long-weekend ahead of you, and no excuse for not working some Marshmallow White into your life.

Making 4 Trillion Images Interactive

Earlier this month, in the lobby of Federated Media’s CM Summit, I chatted with Scribe Media about Pixazza, interactive images and startups.

“An increasing amount of content is being built around photos to enhance stories and increase engagement. Pixazza has looked through the eyes of consumers viewing your images and see they want more than just a limited, static experience. How much of an opportunity does this create for brand advertisers? Chas Edwards, CRO of Pixazza, states that 20% of those presented with interactive images engage with that additional content. He reports 100 million daily interactions by 150 million monthly uniques, with 100 publishers signing up daily for Pixazza.”

More at Scribe Media.

Inspiration to Action: Hearst and Pixazza Partner to Bring Interactive Images to House Beautiful and Redbook

Fashion and design magazines have always used their pages, and especially their photography, to inspire. In some cases the inspiration hits readers, who seek to imitate the beautiful people, clothes, hairstyles and decors that are profiled. In other cases it’s advertisers and retailers that find inspiration, manufacturing and pitching similar products that will be accessible to a wider audience of consumers.

Vintage L'Oreal Ad from Harper's Bazaar 1961
(Vintage L’Oreal ad in Harper’s Bazaar from 1961.)

I couldn’t track down the first appearance of a “get the look” feature in an American magazine, but as far back as the late 19th century French fashion houses recognized (to their dismay) that commercial retailers were lifting their styles and converting them into mainstream product offerings.

“French design and the superior craftsmanship employed in its realization had always guaranteed access to the world’s luxury markets for all of the decorative arts, including the couture. At the beginning of the twentieth century, however, revival styles were common in France, and even art nouveau, created in the 1880s in an attempt to develop a French style competitive with the English arts and crafts aesthetic, was suffering from the omnipresence of cheap machine-made copies.”

For at least my entire lifetime, the editors at leading fashion and entertainment publications have supported the trend by helping readers dress like the beautiful people. Maybe you’re unable to get Vera Wang to sew you a custom-made gown, they imply, but here are some made-to-wear alternatives that affect a similar look.

Pixazza on Redbook

So perhaps we’re due for a digital make-over — some internet magic that makes it easier for magazine readers to look at inspiring photographs and turn that inspiration into action with a single click. Today Pixazza and Hearst Digital Media announced a partnership to help readers of House Beautiful and Redbook find products (or ones that are visually similar) that are featured in the magazines’ photos. Readers who mouse over images marked with a “Get This Look” icon are presented with an information card that links to products in the picture and advertising offers that are relevant to content tagged inside the image.

“We look for those marketing opportunities that are disruptive, unexpected and true to the brand voice. At the same time, though, any advertising medium must work toward getting do-it-yourselfers going by moving them from inspiration to action,” says Rob Horton, vice president for marketing for Akzo Nobel Paints, maker of Glidden Paint and the maiden sponsor of interactive images on House Beautiful. (More at the NYT’s Media Decoder blog.)

The Pixazza approach uses freelance shopping experts to tag objects inside the image. That’s different in two ways from the traditional magazine approach, where a staff editor finds the “similar look” content. One, the crowdsourcing approach is faster and easier to scale — Pixazza’s shopping experts are tagging images that are viewed 3 billion times per month (and it’s still a relatively small team of taggers). Two, the concept of tagging things inside the image — creating a database of products and brands and even lifestyle attributes such as “is she wearing exercise clothing?” — opens the door to a more versatile suite of applications. “Get the Look,” certainly, is a popular one. But that’s only the beginning.

Typical Lifespan of a Web Image: 2-3 Days

Image Entropy for April 2011

Pixazza’s chief scientist Anton Kast uses the above graph to illustrate his analysis of image entropy, a term he borrows from thermodynamics that, in this case, refers to the distribution of imageviews over time. High entropy on a particular image would mean its total imageviews are evenly distributed over time. Low entropy would mean an image gets all its attention over a short period of time, and after that initial burst is largely ignored. There are more than 3 trillion images online, and 200 million new ones posted each day to Facebook, but how should we track viewership or or engagement with those images?

“What is the real, practical scale of images on the web? Which images are people really interacting with, and how much?

“At Pixazza, we have a window into this question. Pixazza technology is applied to images that are viewed more than 100,000,000 times per day. We need to know which images are transient and which get stable traffic, because it is the basis for many of our statistics and optimizations, such as our ad targeting.”

It turns out — at least among the April 2011 data set — that most images get the bulk of their views in the first 3 days they’re online. But at the same time, taken together, there’s a gianormous amount of views on older images. Say one percent of those 3 trillion images is viewed once each day by one person. That’s 900 billion imageviews a month.

Interactive Images Now Serve Up Video Content Too

Pixazza’s information cards — which reveal content and links related to products inside the image — now allow for video content right inside the card.

Standard Pixazza Info Card

The first video to be distributed in a Pixazza info card is a trailer for Universal’s Bridesmaids. The trailer is incorporated into info cards that launch alongside pictures of famous couples on entertainment sites partnered with Pixazza, such as Access Hollywood, OK Magazine, Just Jared, Celebuzz, Gossip Center and others. Readers of those sites will still “Get the Look” when they interact with an image — the content at the core of each info card is products that are visually similar to those in the image, as determined by Pixazza’s community of category experts — and will also be presented with an embedded video in the sponsored section of the information card. User controls allow viewers to turn on sound and to expand the video player.

Video Card Sponsored by Bridesmaids

What’s behind our thinking here? Two trends that seem at odds with one another.

Recent developments show that marketers are so eager to distribute their video ads that they’ve starting to paying consumers to watch them. Facebook has announced its system to award Facebook Credits to members who watch video ads, and some industry-watchers say others will follow suit. At the same time, recent research from Accenture (among others) shows that the vast majority of consumers (at least 75%) are viewing and interacting with online video.

Maybe consumers don’t like the quality of advertiser videos. Some ads, certainly, are just plain bad. But plenty of others are the kind of entertaining content that compel us to share them with friends. So perhaps another issue is that the right video ads aren’t finding interested consumers at the right time. In other words, maybe it’s a targeting problem.

We’re hoping these video-enabled cards might help with that problem. If objects inside images (tagged by real, live humans) can create a relevant connection between an ad and a consumer’s intent — the right video to the right viewer, sometimes a video that was created by an advertiser — it might just turn into a channel where 140 million people watch video ads without anyone having to bribe them to watch.

Related article at Digiday, Are Photos the Next Stop for 30-Second Spot?.

Terry Murphy Joins Pixazza as CFO

Terry Murphy

Welcome aboard, Terry!

“Pixazza, a Google Ventures-backed photo tagging service that has been compared to an ‘AdSense for Images,’ has hired a new executive officer today, appointing Terry Murphy has Chief Financial Officer. The company has also surpassed 100 million unique visitors per month, which is up from 70 million unique visitors per month in March.”

More at TechCrunch.

Facebook’s Elliot Schrage Takes Board Role at Pixazza

Elliot Shrage

From AllThingsD:

“Yesterday, BoomTown posted a video interview with Pixazza CEO Bob Lisbonne about the photo tagging service that has nicknamed itself ‘AdSense for images.’ Now, the Mountain View, CA, start-up has added someone who might know a thing or two about it. Former Googler Elliot Schrage — who is now Facebook’s global communications, marketing and public policy head — is joining Pixazza’s board as a strategic adviser and observer.”

From Bob’s post at the Pixazza blog:

“Elliot’s current role as vice president of global communications, marketing and public policy at Facebook, coupled with his previous experience as vice president of communications and public affairs at Google, make him an ideal resource as we work to change the way consumers interact with images on the Internet. In an auspicious coincidence, Elliot previously served as the senior vice president of global affairs at The Gap — one of Pixazza’s long time advertisers.”

Welcome, Elliot!

Rockstars and the Broken Parts of Online Advertising


Watch live video from #theCube from SiliconANGLE.tv on Justin.tv

My favorite part is 52 minutes in, when the handsome and hirsute Ben Roodman refers to me as a rockstar. Ben, the drinks are on me!