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SpyMedia offers online spot market for photos

San Jose start-up Spymedia is offering an online spot market for photos, where a buyer can set a price for a photo they want someone to shoot -- and sellers can set prices for the photo they want to sell.

There are professional media agencies that do this sort of thing, but few, if any Web-based platforms like SpyMedia's where anyone can go and buy or sell. It is one more example of how the Internet is shaking up the media world.

We mentioned the San Jose-based Spymedia before, when it emerged as the cleanest company of eight we looked at during a conference a few months ago. It is run by 23-year-old President Bryan Quinn. He and a few others have bootstrapped the company so far (they haven't taken venture backing yet), though Bryan suggested in a phone call yesterday that the company may be ready to raise venture capital -- to stay out in front.

SpyMedia started by helping photographers, both amateur and professional, license their photos online. Today it gives buyers the ability to register a "bounty" call -- an offer, for example, to pay someone $10 to go out and take a photo of the old place in Brooklyn where they used to live. Another company, NowPublic says it is moving toward this sort of model, but hasn't released its product yet.

Spymedia has introduced a lot of new features. It lets buyers and sellers talk back and forth about terms before finishing a transaction. It makes money by charging 35 percent of all photo sales -- so the company has a business model aside from ads, unlike most other new Internet companies.

It has the latest Web 2.0 doodads, letting people mark photos as their favorites, and then inserting them in a slideshow, called a "SpyStream" which they then can post at their profile pages at social networking company MySpace or elsewhere. As you add photos to your favorites at SpyMedia, your slideshow widget at those other sites updates automatically (Sidenote: Almost every start-up we talk with seems to be building tools compatible with MySpace right now. You probably knew that, but this trend is taking on phenomenal proportions.) You can email photos to your friends. You control all these actions from your home page tab (click on image to enlarge).

It serves both small-time bloggers, who can look for a photo by publishing a public bounty, so that any photographer can fulfill the assignment; and large media companies, so that newspaper companies can issue a private bounty, submitting an assignment to a select group of pre-chosen "tagged" professional photographers.

We like this company's features. The next step is to see whether it makes any serious traction in photo sales. It provides a useful service, and we so no reason why SpyMedia can't succeed.

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From: Photography
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Tracked: August 3, 2006 7:14 PM


A friend and I discussed similar ideas a few years ago. One challenge we identified - keeping the market from moving to its lowest denominator, i.e. porn. Will be interesting to watch.

The "bounty" call seems like it could get scary. Sure, no harm in taking pics of the house in NYC, but what about pics of people who don't want their picture taken?

Buck on July 31, 2006 4:28 PM
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Although if you enourage the lowest common denominator, think of the money you could make... but porn is more of a commodity.

I'd think the bigger problem is the fact that information is almost free, so the value add here is either in bounty photos or in getting high-res prints physically delivered. After all, I can google bluebonnets and get all the pictures I want. Bounties might or might not be a big market.

Will on August 1, 2006 3:12 AM
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A few years ago I looked at a company called Digital Railroad (http://www.digitalrailroad.net/corpsite/) that was going after the stock photo market in an attempt to take on Getty Images. What was appealing about this service is that it didn't introduce radical changes in the way photographers, or agencies for that matter, went about their business, but rather focused on providing an efficient online marketplace that disrupted the status quo by enabling buyers and photographers to do business directly. Don't know how well they are doing but it appears that they have been getting traction.

Jeff Nolan on August 1, 2006 8:11 AM
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Looks like an interesting service. We have lots of real estate agents that have specific photo needs but can't always find what they want.

Ubertor on August 2, 2006 7:26 PM
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