Stipple Marketplace: the Next Generation of Image Licensing

Posted on 9/22/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Stipple Marketplace, the San Francisco based company with the goal of turning editorial images into e-commerce storefronts for consumers, has developed a system that allows publishers to earn money from the images they publish, not just sell ads around those images.

To see how this works go to The first images that come up are of Sophia Bush wearing a dress from BCBGMAXAZRIA. When any one of these images is uploaded to an online publication and the reader places her mouse over the image a black Stipple dot will appear. BCBG has agreed to pay a small fee for every click-through readers make to get more information. They will pay for click-throughs up to a maximum of $1,000. (This works in much the same way as Google Ad Words.)

Stipple collects these fees and shares a portion with the publisher. In some cases the celebrity in the photograph will also receive a share, Stipple keeps a share and the rest is paid to the image creator or the creator’s agency. Percentages vary with each deal. Given that there are so many hands in the pot the creator’s share of any individual sale is likely to be very small, but if there is enough volume the amount of money might turn out to be significant.

Currently the Marketplace has more than one million images in its database from many of the world’s leading photo agencies. It is adding 10,000 new images daily. Publishers can go to Stipple Marketplace and search for any celebrity. Stippled images come up first in any search. So far, only a small percentage of the images in the database have Stipple tags.

Stipple also offers a system where an advertiser can have an image tagged with a special discount offer. Customers can indicate that they “Want” or are ready to “Buy” a particular product. If they click “Want” the brand owner gets data on specifically who is interested in his product. If  the user chooses to “Buy” either directly through Stipple, or by using a discount code at a store, Stipple gets a percentage of the sale price. That money is shared with the image creator. To see a couple examples of how this works check out here and here.

Currently, on most web sites, if you see an editorial picture of a celebrity there is no way to know anything about the designer who created her dress, bag, glasses, earrings or shoes. With Stipple the reader can mouse over the image and small dots appear when more information is available.

When the company launched operations in May they were only accepting images from stock agencies. (See initial story.) Now they are ready to accept uploads from individual photographers. One cut of the fee is eliminated when photographers deal directly with Stipple rather than through a stock agency. Interested photographers should go to and click the bottom left button to sign up. Someone from Stipple will contact them to make sure that everything is in place for a successful collaboration.

Right now, Stipple is concentrating on celebrity photography, but if the concept takes off the company will likely expand to other products like home furnishing, kitchen utensils, sports equipment, etc. Any publication with a web site could use this service as a way to provide special limited offers to their readers.

Photographers need to recognize that for this to work their images must be in the Stipple database and properly tagged before editors start making their decisions as to which image to use and certainly before the images are published. Since publishers may earn revenue when they use tagged images it seems likely that they will begin to make decisions about which image to use based on whether, or not, the image has a Stipple tag. Using a non-tagged image is an expense, not a revenue stream.

Success will be very dependent on timely tagging of images by the brands. In the red carpet environment brands will often know when their product and services have made a public appearance, and thus can follow up quickly. However, if a celebrity is photographed on the street, brands and publicists may be less likely to be aware of the images until they are actually published. That may be too late. Independent photographers may need to become more aware of the products their subjects use and find ways to inform publicists when they are about to upload pictures that contain the publicists products. This may be necessary to maximize revenue from images. This technology may be more effective when there is enough time between creation and publication of an image to allow for development of an effective promotional strategy.
"Stipple changes the game for content publishers," said Lawrence Yee, Managing Editor of TooFab. "Stipple has evolved how images are licensed and monetized. Stippled images generate revenue without spamming our audience or sacrificing user experience. As a publisher, Marketplace opens up a whole new set of editorial possibilities."
Once an image is included in the Stipple Cloud, the image owner retains permanent, real-time control of the content layer on their images. Once an image is tagged, commerce, product credits, coupons, media, two-way information and advertising will all travel with Stipple images wherever they go online, generating engagement and real-time analytics. The interactive layer is completely spam-free and 100% user-initiated.
"The moment a photo is published on the web it's essentially dead for the photo owner," said Paul Harris, CEO of Pacific Coast News photo agency. "We lose control of our photos, we can't measure their performance, we can't monetize them and we can't engage audiences in conversations. Stipple forever changes the concept of an online image. Your images can remain your images forever. And yet the photos can still spread freely throughout the web, from site to site, and build larger audiences. Photo owners, content creators and marketers retain real-time control of their image's interactive content layer."

Copyright © 2011 Jim Pickerell. 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

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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