Digital Images Come to Life

By: Nu Yang

Digital Images Come to Life

As social engagement becomes standard procedure, publishers are looking for platforms that will create interactivity. With the increase of photo essays and galleries on publishers’ websites, a company such as Luminate can help those static images come alive.

Launched in 2008 and based in Mountain View, Calif., Luminate was developed by engineers associated with Netscape and LiveOps. According to Luminate, its vision is to make every image on the Web interactive by identifying content and visual cues inside individual images.

Chief revenue officer and head of publisher development Chas Edwards said that consumer interest in pictures is very high, with 3 trillion images already online, and 350 million being added daily. Luminate currently serves 5,000 publishers, including Yahoo! and Hearst Corp.

To sign up, publishers create an account at, upload their images, add a line of Javascript to their Web pages, and Luminate does the rest. Each time a publisher uploads a new image, Luminate is notified. Edwards said Luminate uses an algorithm approach to identify what is inside the image. Luminate also employs independent contractors to put together some of the content.

Publishers select the annotations they would like for their images. For example, Edwards said, a Get the Look app can reveal in a photo gallery the brands celebrities wore at a red carpet event and where to the buy the products. Another example would be sharing informational content, such as a player’s statistics in a sports photo. Yet another app can pull related tweets about the image.

“We see 20 million unique photos a month,” Edwards said.

Luminate also processes archived photos that are up to seven days old. Although photos usually are consumed in their first 50 hours online, if a photo that has been dormant in an archive starts to see a spike in pageviews due to sharing on social media or another site, Luminate gets notified right away. That image is then quickly processed in real time. Edwards said this entire process allows Luminate to update photos, sometimes even before a publisher sees that spike in traffic. Luminate also provides an analytics dashboard to publishers to check on traffic, engagement, and revenue.

Publishers can earn revenue through Luminate through visitor clicks on ads, ad impressions, and earnings that come from purchases made on the advertiser’s website after the visitor clicks. Luminate splits revenue from impressions, clicks, and sales with the publisher. Publishers using Google AdSense can still use Luminate on their site.

Edwards said publishers using Luminate have seen time spent on the site increase by six seconds. “It has reduced the rate of people abandoning (their) site, because a picture invites them to stay and Luminate brings more of a connection to the image.”

Edwards said what makes Luminate stand out is its scale. It is available in HTML 5 and works in all browsers and devices.

With online trends changing rapidly, Edwards said the growth rate of images shared on social media and mobile devices is higher than other trends.

“Traditional publishers like Hearst are seeing they can’t just put their print product online and call it a Web experience,” he said. “They’re all realizing photo content is more popular in the digital environment … and there is a business model with photos.”

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