The never-ending effort to make every possible cent from Life magazine continues with today’s launch of the Life Photo Archive on Google (NSDQ: GOOG) a project nearly two years in the making. The 10 million-plus images — many of them iconic and 97 percent not available to the public before — will show up in searches through Google or directly through http://images.google.com/hosted/life, providing consumers with the kind of access that once was unimaginable. But Time Inc. and Google are looking beyond the cool factor to the revenue potential: Time Inc. wants to drive traffic to the upcoming Life.com joint venture with Getty Images (NYSE: GYI), while Google hopes to finally crack the problems of making money through image search. Time Inc. execs aren’t commenting on advertising but I’ve confirmed that the deal with Google includes revenue sharing for advertising. No confirmation, though, on when that will kick in.
Google has been experimenting with image search advertising but, much like YouTube video, so far hasn’t found the right equation. For now, the only obvious revenue stream associated with the archive is sale of “fine art” prints through Qoop.com — the Margaret Bourke-White photo of the Chrysler Building shown above runs $79.99-$109.99 with a black wood frame depending on the size. Google doesn’t get a cut of that. As for Time Inc.’s hopes, Life president Andy Blau explains: “We did this deal for really one reason, to drive traffic to Life.com. We wanted to make these images available to the greater public … everything else from that is really secondary.”
About the archive: Time Inc. describes it as “one of the largest scanning projects ever” with millions of images available today and the rest on the way. Some caveats: The images are free for personal, non-commercial use with Time Inc. retaining the copyrights and ownership — and its commercial syndication business. The archive only includes work that Time Inc. owns, so many images that have appeared in the magazine will not show up. (I worked with the magazine for many years and none of the art from assignments with non-staff photographers came up in searches.) The magazine’s collection primarily represents the work of roughly 100 staff photographers. Also, the entire archive won’t be posted. The hold-backs include some images from Nazi Germany, Blau said, and other photos deemed “extraordinarily graphic.” He doesn’t expect to post the Zapruder film of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, for instance.
Update: Over at the official Google blog, software engineer Paco Galanes writes that only 20 percent of the Life images are online. The post doesn’t mention advertising but does pitch framed Life prints as a holiday gift.
Photo credit: Margaret Bourke-White, View of the Chrysler Building which housed TIME offices from 1932-1938. 1937.