Unless you don’t mind stealing other people’s work, using Flickr to find images available via the Creative Commons license is the easiest way to source pictures for blogging. While services like Getty are available, I’ve personally never spent a dime for an image in an article I’ve written — it’s always been easier to do a quick search on Flickr or to shoot my own photos. Photo-sharing service EyeEm wants to offer publishers an option somewhere in between Flickr and paid photo services, and it’s partnering with the Huffington Post to roll it out.
This week, EyeEm expanded its partnership with HuffPo, which previously consisted of the service’s competitive “Missions.” In addition to those time-based challenges, EyeEm users can now see what kind of content HuffPo reporters are interested in and submit their work if they think it fits the bill. For those who think their own stories might interesting to the site, EyeEm has launched a “Huffington Post Stories” album that anyone can submit photos to with descriptions of the broader story they’d like to tell. The startup says it’ll monitor that album for cool tidbits and connect photographers with the publication when it finds something worth expanding into a longer blog post.
While EyeEm’s partnership with the Huffington Post is a great opportunity for the photographers who do end up getting their photos credited on the site, I think it’s more interesting as an indicator for the direction the startup would like to go over the coming months.
All signs seem to indicate that EyeEm wants to be the next generation of stock photography. Since March of this year, the company has offered a collection of images shared on the service as a collection on Getty Images. That always felt like an in-between step, a way for the service to provide the top-notch photographers in its community a wider reach as it builds out the EyeEm Market.
The current method of rounding up content for the Huffington Post also gives off that awkward vibe of being a solution bridging what its users are comfortable with and that end goal. I could very well be wrong on this, but it seems to me that the ideal solution for EyeEm is to have even closer integration with its media partners — instead of putting up a blog post or a new challenge every few weeks, HuffPo reporters and editors could somehow generate their own challenges (or even send notifications to EyeEm power users) asking for the kind of photographs they’re looking for and immediately sift through photos on the service.
EyeEm could further differentiate such a service by making the process of choosing the right picture simpler for journalists. I’ve chatted with several of my colleagues about this topic, and anecdotally, most agree that the tagging and search functions in content management systems and stock photo services are generally horrendous. Even on Flickr, where millions of photos are available for free, you basically have to offer the search gods a sacrificial lamb if you want to get anything decent in a few minutes of browsing.
Just last month, EyeEm announced that it acquired Sight.io, a computer vision startup, in order to improve photo search and discovery using machine learning. If I’m right about the direction the startup is moving in, taking the effort out of finding the right photos might be the factor that really puts EyeEm ahead of its old-school competition.
(Full disclosure: The Huffington Post, like TechCrunch, is owned by AOL.)