Empower & Photrade.com – Advertising Around Photos Online

Friday, June 20, 2008
Cincinnati’s new photo-sharing Web site to have different focus Photrade.com allows users to sell pictures or advertising
Business Courier of Cincinnati – by Laura Baverman Staff Reporter

A homegrown Web company is out to capture the market of online photo sharers by allowing them to make money from their shots.

Launching this month, Photrade.com gives users three options for their photos. They can sell photos at any price with a stock license, share them in free albums or support them with advertisements that can generate revenue per views and clicks.

Photrade co-founder Andrew Paradies has been programming since age 6 and taking pictures since 12. He pursued a career in venture capital out of college so he could learn the financial ropes of a start-up business and gain contacts from investment firms around the country. The idea for Photrade came in 2005 after an introduction to co-founder Dan Preston through a mutual friend.

“We realized sharing photos is very easy. Wouldn’t it be great if making money off of photos was just as easy?” said Paradies, who left Fort Washington Investment Advisors last fall to pursue Photrade full time.

Preston is no longer with the company.

‘Exciting and sleepless time’
Despite the 180 or so photo sites that exist on the Internet, and the popularity of Flickr, Photobucket and SmugMug, he saw a niche in providing a unique set of protection and licensing products and a model that allows anyone to make money from their photos through ads or stock licenses. Photrade earns a percentage of photos sold and ad revenue generated.

“Just like eBay made millions of small companies through the Internet, we’re doing that for amateur and semi-professional photographers,” said Paradies, who has brought on a full staff of programmers, marketers and customer service reps since receiving funding from Mount Adams-based Empower MediaMarketing and Cleveland’s Flashline Partners in January. He now employs 10 in an office at the Hamilton County Business Center. He calls it an “exciting and sleepless time” since the beta version of the site launched June 10.

“We’re doing things no one’s ever done before. You don’t know how it’s going to turn out,” he said.

But photographers and advertisers are taking notice. Media buying firm Empower chose to invest in the company so it could be at the cutting edge of a potential new advertising vehicle for its clients.

“The Internet went from advertising around contextual content to video – they missed advertising around photos,” said Jim Price, the firm’s vice president of media innovation. “People go right to the photography in the middle of the page, not to the banner ads surrounding the page. This is an interesting concept, and no one out there is doing it.”

San Francisco-area photographer Lane Hartwell is more focused on the tools Photrade provides to professionals, like watermarking and methods of tracking and preventing copyright infringement.

“The idea is that every photo has a value to the owner and to somebody else,” said Hartwell, who recently saw one of her stolen photos in a music video. “It’s about education. You need to have a certain amount of language around photographs because they are so easy to steal.”

Over the next month, Photrade will release a suite of additional protection items. The site will allow photographers to choose from a series of templates to create their own sites. It will provide basic photo editing tools and additional options for sharing photos. A feature that would allow users to aggregate photos from other sites could be added, as long as Photrade is able to verify that those photos are not stolen ones.

And it will offer picture-in-picture advertising, technology for which a patent is pending, with the ability for users to earn money based on the number of views to a photo and clicks to a link beneath it.

Getting advertiser buy-in
The challenge for the company will be convincing advertisers that this model provides better click rates than traditional Google Adsense or banner advertising, said J.B. Kropp, a serial Web entrepreneur and senior vice president of product strategy at ShareThis.

“It’s a matter of introducing the right ad to the right person at the right time. If they can couple that with good images, it could be an interesting model,” he said.

For now, Paradies is drumming up interest in the site, which has grown to 3,000 users in the first week. To help the launch, he’s created a Spirit of Cincinnati photo contest. The winners’ work will be showcased at Photrade launch events June 27 and 28 at 1417 Main St. in Over-the-Rhine.

New Click
• Photrade.com will allow photographers to sell their photos or support them with advertising.
• A Spirit of Cincinnati photo contest will help launch the site.
• The winners’ work will be showcased at Photrade launch events.

lbaverman@bizjournals.com | (513) 337-9431
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