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The Stipple Effect and the Growth of Image Tagging

Posted on 12.13.2012

Image tagging services make it possible for content publishers to monetize their pictures by making them more interactive, and as social media sites like Pinterest and Facebook make it increasingly easier to share images across the Web, marketers are growing more interested in finding ways to advertise or even sell products from inside their photos.

Stipple is the industry leader in image tagging, boasting a roster of major clients that includes Zappos, Nike, Nordstrom and L’Oreal. It’s also the only service that has been able to accurately tag images at the enterprise scale without relying on gimmicks. Currently, the company estimates that it will have tagged and made “monetize-able” over 100 million images with 100 percent accuracy by the end of 2012.

This extreme growth hasn’t gone unnoticed, and just yesterday it was announced that Stipple had received an additional $3 million in funding from Sands Capital in order to “accelerate its growth and product innovation.”

Just last month, Stipple was responsible for tagging an impressive 12 million images, but that would quickly be overshadowed, as now the company is on pace to tag over 80 million photos by the end of December. When asked about what has helped propel this surge in image tags over the last year, CEO Rey Flemings said the company’s success was all about providing its clients with the ability to scale to tag a lot of photos accurately so that those tags follow the images as they get shared across the Web. Moreover, it doesn’t hurt that Stipple is the only image tagging service to have attempted (and succeeded at) such a feat.

“At the end of the day, the challenge isn’t in helping people tag photos,” says Flemings. “It’s all about distribution.”

As part of the company’s push for greater distribution, it recently integrated with Twitter to bring its interactive images to the social network’s content stream, which could be one of the first steps towards unlocking in-stream commerce on Twitter.

Much of Stipple’s success can, and has, been attributed to its ability to scale to meet the image tagging needs of all of its clients. When the company launched, it wanted to help “solve the image problem,” and now it has done that for some of the largest brands in the world. Some of its clients have thousands, if not millions, of images that need to be tagged, and Stipple is able to help them do that not just with a streamlined, automatic process, but also with 100 percent accuracy across distribution channels, which his of utmost importance considering how often images are shared on the Web.

 “[Stipple] builds a bridge between our product images on others’ websites and our own, with no human interaction, unprecedented accuracy and at scale,” says Greg Colando, President of FLOR.

Now with a significantly fatter wallet, Stipple is looking ahead to 2013 and hoping to build upon, and increase, its impressive numbers from 2012. That means growing its current database of images and expanding its client base to include even more enterprise-level brands. It also means hiring more staff members, particularly engineers and sales representatives. That is on top of the two big hires the company just announced: Darr Gerscovich (formerly of LinkedIn and Yahoo!), who will run Stipple’s marketing organization, and Stephanie Palmer, who will be in charge of working directly with the company’s growing network of publishers.

It seems safe to say that affiliates and advertisers may want to keep an eye on Stipple in 2013, particularly if they’re looking for a way to turn their images into money. And who wouldn’t like to do that, right?


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