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Ginipic: Image Search on Steroids

by Brian Blum on December 24, 2009

in Entrepreneurs,Home,Israel,Products

GinipicIt’s happened to all of us at least once or twice in our careers. We’re writing a school paper or updating a website and we need a photo or graphic image to illustrate a point.

That usually entails searching a number of different photo sharing sites such as Google Images, Flickr, TwitPic, PhotoBucket, and others. Once you’ve found the picture you want, you have to click through to see the full size image, right click to download it, then choose Import to paste it into your Word document. And that’s assuming you’ve received the copyright clearance to use it.

What if you could do all this in 2 steps? That’s the idea behind Ginipic, a small Israeli startup with a big idea. Enter a search term and the Ginipic application crawls 15 different web-based photo sharing application. The software then presents the results on a single screen.

That’s already a big improvement from Google’s image search, which only displays a maximum of 25 photos on a page, requiring users to click the “Next Page” button repeatedly.

Ginipic will even search your own computer.

Once you find the image you want, simply drag and drop it into the application you’re using – whether that’s Word, PowerPoint or an email program. The Ginipic application is designed to work “side by side” with other programs to help eliminate switching back and forth between screens.

Ginipic shows copyright details and a photo’s Creative Commons status to keep you from inadvertently infringing (a dollar sign and a large “Buy Now” button appear when an image isn’t free).

Other goodies include the ability to instantly share images on social networks, set an image as your desktop background, and save it to a built-in “lightbox” that contains only those pictures you’ve selected to view.

The service is the brainchild of three young Israeli entrepreneurs and childhood friends from Even Yehuda: Lior Weinstein, Noam Finger and Orr Sellah (who, not coincidentally, are also the only employees in the company). Ginipic has taken on no investment to date but is currently looking.

Ginipic is entirely free right now and, unlike other web services that pitch a paid premium version, the company’s business model is to cut “white label” deals that will give an existing photo sharing site Ginipic’s functionality but with the partner’s branding. Ginipic is also in talks with several advertising agencies to update their aging interfaces for image search.

CEO Weinstein told me that Ginipic is looking for deals in the $10-30,000 range rather than with big players who might pay in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. We asked him why. “We wanted to bring the product to market as fast as possible,” he said. “With a $100,000 deal, there are endless meetings. And for that price, a big company will always consider building it in-house. At $10,000, it’s not a problem.”

Weinstein said the idea for Ginipic actually came to him in a dream. “I was working on a big paper in a classical studies course” at Tel Aviv University, he said and needed pictures of ancient Greek and Roman statues.

Exhausted, he fell asleep one night and dreamed of dragging pictures directly from the photo sharing websites he visited into a Word document. Two weeks later, a mock up was done and the company was on the fast track to development.

Ginipic is not a web application but a download and it works on Windows only (bad news for all the creative types and increasing numbers of students who use Macs). Why the download? we asked Weinstein, aware that this is often a barrier to usability for many wary web denizens.

That was the only way to enable the drag and drop functionality. You can’t go direct from web to Word, nor can you search your own computer, Weinstein explained. Fortunately, the software itself is small – only 4 MB – making for a relatively painless installation.

I asked Weinstein about Ginipic’s product management process. There wasn’t much, he said. The team just jumped in and started coding. After about a month, “we did a proper product plan,” Weinstein said, with a feature roadmap and competitive analysis.

As with many self-funded startups, the “go for it” approach can be effective. Weinstein warned against “feature freeze” where you plan too much and never get the product out the door because there’s always one more feature to add.

Ginipic also used an interesting tool for soliciting customer feedback. UserVoice puts a small tab on the left side of every screen on the site. Clicking allows users to vote on which features they’d most like to see (a Mac version leads the list). The service is free for 100 votes per month. It ramps up rapidly from there to a max of $589/month for all the bells and whistles.

Weinstein said that after all the feedback was in, the team was pleased that there were no additional features they hadn’t originally thought of. UserVoice helped mainly in ranking what functionality should be rolled out first.

Ginipic is not without competitors. Meta-search services like Copernic have been around for years, and Microsoft Office’s Clip Art tool is already built into Word (“although no one uses it,” Weinstein mused). Other sites, such as CoolIris, are more about enjoying images online than searching them, Weinstein pointed out.

So far, in the 9 months since Ginipic launched, it’s signed up over 100,000 users “on $0 advertising,” Weinstein said. Approximately 25 percent of those are active users.

Among the services with which Ginipic works are DeviantArt, Flickr, Picasa, Google, Fotolia, Bing, PhotoBucket, SmugMug, Yahoo, Dreamstime and Crestock.

I use a Mac, so I personally won’t be able to give Ginipic a spin anytime soon but I’ll recommend it to my PC-using friends.

A version of this story originally appeared on Israel21c.

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Have you ever wanted to place a note in the Western Wall but couldn’t afford the ticket to Jerusalem? Now you can tweet it.

It’s traditional to place short notes in the cracks of the Western Wall stones asking for health, livelihood and other personal requests. Now, a new Israeli Web site launched two weeks allows petitioners to submit their prayers or wishes via Twitter. The notes are then printed out and regularly taken to Jerusalem’s Old City.

Twitter is ideal for such a service: the 140-character limitation forces the religiously-minded to keep their requests short. It also allows site founder, Alon Nir of Tel Aviv, to consolidate a number of messages onto a single sheet of paper.

Nir doesn’t see the project more as cultural than religious. “I thought of it after understanding Twitter’s power and wondered what I could do with it,” he said. “So I linked the Western Wall to the millions using Twitter.”

One drawback: since the service uses Twitter, the notes are all public. Didn’t we all learning that telling someone what you wish for means it won’t come true?

The site is at http://www.tweetyourprayers.info/. You can follow the service at http://twitter.com/TheKotel (Kotel is the Hebrew for Western Wall). The site already has 546 followers.

For more articles on newspapers and classified advertising, visit the industry experts: AIMGroup.com.

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Charging for Content: FT.com Editor Weighs In

by Brian Blum on July 20, 2009

in Home

The U.K. Financial Times’ editor Lionel Barber said during a public speech last week that he confidently predicts “that within the next 12 months, almost all news organizations will be charging for content.”

“News organizations with specialist skills and knowledge have the opportunity to thrive. The mediocre middle is much more at risk,” he continued.

What would make a news organization more distinctive? “It could be sports or celebrity coverage or simply a long-standing reputation for standing up for the common man – or woman,” Barber said. Once the niche is determined, it will be critical “to establish an online platform capable of charging for content, whether on a payment per article basis or a package subscription.”

Barber lauded FT.com’s frequency model, “whereby a limited number of articles on the web are offered as free ‘tasters’ before users are asked to subscribe.”

He ended with a cautionary note: “Without new revenue streams, quality journalism will wither.”

You can read the full transcript of Barber’s speech here.

For more articles on newspapers and classified advertising, visit the industry experts: AIMGroup.com.

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How to Block Google From Indexing Your Site

by Brian Blum on July 19, 2009

in Home

As newspaper chains and agencies like the Associated Press complain that Google News has been aggregating their content thereby hurting monetization opportunities, a Google exec says: “grow up.”

Josh Cohen, senior business product manager for Google, writing on Google’s public policy blog, explained that if you don’t want your content to show in search results or on Google News, you can put a simple piece of code on the site that will block Google from indexing the article.

For all you techies, just add <meta name=”googlebot” content=”noindex”> to a page and that’s it.  It’s called the Robots Exclusion Protocol and it’s been in use for more than 10 years.

(It’s something by the way many good blogging systems like WordPress have been able to do with free plug-in’s for years.)

Publishers can even require that the material Google indexes can be removed after a certain date (say, when it gets archived and goes behind a pay wall). You simply add a specification to the page reading “unavailable after,” Cohen went on to explain.

Cohen started off his post by quoting a declaration from a group of European newspaper and magazine publishers stating that they “no longer wish to be forced to give away property without having granted permission.”

“We agree,” he responded, “and that’s how things stand today. The truth is that news publishers, like all other content owners, are in complete control when it comes not only to what content they make available on the web, but also who can access it and at what price. This is the very backbone of the Web.”

Frankly, we don’t understand what all the fuss is about. Having content show up on Google News and point back to the original story seems like a way to increase traffic and generate revenue. Bill Grueskin, dean of academic affairs at Columbia University Journalism School and former deputy managing editor for The Wall Street Journal, said the same in an interview at PaidContent.

“Yes, it’s hard on the ego to watch another site get credit for your hard work, but is it really hurting the bottom line?” Aggregators are possibly “saviors” for drawing eyes to news sites, Grueskin said.

For more articles on newspapers and classified advertising, visit the industry experts: AIMGroup.com.

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