The image discovery market can be categorized as the marketplace governed by watermarking and image matching technology, which enables a few use cases to be pursued in narrow verticals, largely tracking for unauthorized use. Other use cases are metering content aggregators for use/automated billing, de-duping services, and search platform enhancements (finding similar images). Most businesses have set up shop around the unauthorized use, like PicScout, LTU and Digimarc, which are focused directly on B2B/B2E solutions, but few have been successful in penetrating the long tail of users – as in thousands of pro-sumer photographers – and very few have been able to both develop and leverage their core technology to expand into business intelligence and consumer markets (the closest to date being Stipple, which focuses on providing content metrics/solutions to content creators and publishers).
Still, visual media matching technology has to date orbited around markets where there’s money, which is largely video broadcasting and OTT usage (the entertainment market). Technology here is focused as a value-add to current platforms and products, less concerned with market development and expansion than satisfying a migrating consumer base to multi-platform experiences.
The challenge in exploiting image matching technology isn’t identifying potential markets for engaging users, but in building a scalable system with attractive enough margins and, to some degree, throwing the dice at the wall – something that existing services wrapped up in infringing use are loathe to do. The frame of reference needs to change from a DRM and copyright perspective to a CMS/BI one; where points of engagement multiply and where illustrating ROI is suddenly not a conversation about theft with the potential of return (and a very manual and judicial process), but a conversation about who is using what and how – business intelligence that forms effective business strategy.
Many new startups (perhaps like Placemeter and IMRSV) will proceed to erode what toehold existing business solutions have by effectively doing an end run around them, as the points of consumer engagement will facilitate the type of rapid product development that’s been elusive – or too distant – for too long.