PicApp, a San Francisco-based company is offering copyright news and stock photos from large photo banks like Getty Images and Corbis for free. The company is likely to announce availability of its public beta service later today.
The photos are displayed in a flash media file and can be embedded on any web page, just like YouTube. PicApp makes money off contextual advertising it embeds in the photos, and in turn shares it with the photo agencies. The new service is a sign of how tough things are in the stock photography business, where new and low cost competitors are emerging thick and fast, and challenging the old dogs like Getty Images.
PicApp’s business approach could be best described as “making lemonade when life serves you lemons.” It’s parent company is Israel-based PicScout which has technology that helps image copyright owners identify the copyright infringements online. Eyal Gura, CEO of PicScout told us that there are millions of photos that get taken from the sites of big photo agencies and show up on the web (replete with watermarks.) Litigation seems like a losing battle, but free ad-supported photos is worth a shot.
While most of us tech bloggers don’t have a pressing need for news photos to accompany our posts, the service can be useful for small websites and blogs that follow politics and news. Hollywood gossip blogs could find use for PicApp.
That said, PicApp will need a very large number of embeds in order to bring any meaningful revenues. I think it is a challenge that has confounded all “embed”-based businesses. On the other hand, larger sites that can provide large traffic volume like PopSugar and Defamer can afford to pay for the photos and use that as a way to stand out from in an increasingly crowded market place.
Update: Michael Arrington wrote about GumGum that has taken a similar approach to the stock photography market place.