ImageSpan Adds Monitoring Service to LicenseStream

Posted on 11/10/2008 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (0)

“Today, the marketplace is MySpace, YouTube and Google’s search engine. You should be putting your content in front of that transactional velocity,” says Iain Scholnick, chief executive officer and president of ImageSpan. The 5-year-old Sausalito, Calif., company offers transactional support for online content licensing and has just added a tracking service that monitors usage of such content.

At the core of the ImageSpan philosophy and business model is a seemingly simple premise: “You go where the business is being done. Today, it is being done not on a portal but in communities.” Scholnick elaborates: “Getty Images may own the traditional market, but the broader market has self-provisioned with Flickr and Photobucket. Existing portals are under pressure from a new way of distribution.”

ImageSpan was launched in 2003 to help content owners in an online environment increasingly defined by meta-search engines, special-interest communities and photo-sharing Web sites. Available since mid-summer, the company’s LicenseStream service converts content-sharing to commerce by providing a user who Googles an image with an easy way of licensing it, without having to involve the seller.

According to Scholnick, the problem of managing content online is the same for solo creators and companies like Disney: delivering content is easy; processing payment is hard. A content-licensing system has to support thousands of usage-driven prices, rights grants and royalty-sharing arrangements. While most image owners now understand that putting their content into the Flickrverse is now a necessity, it has to be done safely and efficiently—something for which the typical community Web site or photo-sharing network is not equipped. Neither is the solo photographer.

Available in tiers that accommodate solo practitioners and businesses, ImageSpan’s LicenseStream service enables users to register, describe, manage, publish, license and receive royalties on photo and video content. Annual subscription fees range from $39.99 to $99.99. ImageSpan also takes 5% to 10% of each transaction. The service automates many of the manual tasks associated with content licensing, saving time and improving efficiency of the process. LicenseStream can also be embedded into a branded site as a white-label managed service, similar in principle to how “archives” offered by other providers power individual photographer Web sites.

The newest addition to LicenseStream is a content tracker that Scholnick says expands on similar available services by integrating back-end workflow into content monitoring. While other companies locate instances of infringing uses and send their customers reports, ImageSpan has developed an automated collections process.

Another lesson learned from the market is not to come out of the gate in the fashion of the record industry, shouting threats and demands. While lawsuits remain an option, ImageSpan will first analyze the use and review the site to determine if it has e-commerce operations or otherwise generates revenue—for example, through advertising. Then, the ImageSpan subscriber can choose from a number of automatically generated email letters, which range from offering the infringer the opportunity to legally license the content to requesting a link back, inserting the content owner’s ad feed, sharing revenues or issuing a take-down request. ImageSpan also monitors to see when and if action is taken and reports back to the content owner. “The fee collected will not be $10,000, but it won’t be a $1 either,” says Scholnick.

In only five years in business, ImageSpan has built a solid reputation and appears to be financially stable—not a small concern given recent industry events. ImageSpan is an Adobe Solution Partner. It is also a charter Leadership Circle member of the Picture Licensing Universal System Coalition; ImageSpan provides technology services to the Coalition and uses PLUS standards in its own image-licensing services. The company’s technology has won awards, and its latest, second round of financing brought in $11 million in June.

Those considering ImageSpan’s services should also reflect on several broader industry trends: Online communities and community-driven stock-licensing businesses are booming, and overall demand for visual content is at an all-time high. Yet sales through the biggest traditional distributors are in a seemingly unending decline, and two recently launched image portals have failed in record-breaking time. Unlike those who won photographer-customers on an ideological platform of making the stock industry a better, fairer place, ImageSpan does not promise to bring the mountain to Mohammed. What it offers instead is a set of technological tools that are arguably better and more comprehensive than the still-standing competitive services—combined with a better reputation and a more precise understanding of the current business environment than many others targeting the same customer segment.

Copyright © 2008 Julia Dudnik Stern. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz


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