Last week, Getty Images announced a significant change in how people will be able to access their vast library of stock photo images. This move is another example of how traditional businesses models transform as the world continues to move to digital content. With the changes they have made, Getty Images will allow certain types of online properties to use their code to embed their images on websites free of charge from their library of stock photos. Wait. Did I say free? Well … there is no such thing as a free lunch (or a free Getty Images photo for that matter). This is my assessment of what this announcement means for marketing practitioners.
I believe it positions them to become a very large player in big data. They will use these embedded images to create one of the largest data mines in the world, building massive anonymous profiles or groups of users with shared interests. This data could be licensed for targeted advertising or passed to real time bidding platforms for better ad targeting. In addition, Getty Images could transform itself from a photo selling site into one of the world’s most comprehensive online data aggregators almost overnight. Imagine all of those free photos acting not only as a giant data mine, but also as a targeting/retargeting pixel, and a universal beacon for multi-site data analytics. With this capability, they would have their ‘eyes’ on all of this and have the ability to sell the data or add content to their library on behalf of advertisers. Imagine Mercedes or Coca-Cola adding photos to Getty’s library that serves up retargeting or analytics anytime that photo is embedded on someone’s web site.
Historically, Getty Images licensed their photos and multimedia in a variety of ways to be used mainly as stock content for business and advertisers. In addition, they would chase after online properties that infringed on their copyrights and collect hefty punitive damages. In fact, they are so pervasive that I do not think you can watch cable TV without seeing at least one of their images on the screen. In addition to selling images, they also are on the cutting edge of image search technology. For example, they own picscout.com and are clients of tineye.com (how do you think they systematically find those infringing images?)
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