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Turning Pixsy Dust into Pay Dirt Pixsy CEO Chase Norlin is helping Websites to Monetize Traffic through Photo and Video Search

“If the Google model is so successful, it seems reasonable to think that everybody should be in the Google business.” — Pixsy CEO Chase Norlin

Before founding Pixsy, a media search platform that powers private label image and video search engines for website publishers, Chase Norlin virtually invented YouTube.  The year was 1998 and, to be precise, the company that served as the YouTube prototype was called ShareYourWorld.

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The home base for this particular company where users could upload, share, and even sell their videos, wasn’t in the fertile valley of Silicon Valley, CA, but on a houseboat just a few skips of a stone from the Fremont bridge in Greater Seattle.

The ripple in the pond which Chase instigated as founder of ShareYourWorld would eventually radiate to ever widening circles of video and image-based communities. So while the coinage of YouTube will have to go to founders Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, Chase Norlin was out in front of both of them, well ahead of his time, and YouTube’s as well.

Today, Norlin runs the fastest growing distributor of image and video search on the web. Pixsy powers private label image and video search engines for websites across different channels, such as entertainment, fashion, news, travel, and sports.  Image and video content is aggregated in the form of thumbnail images and distributed through a variety of publisher branded image and video search engines, portals, widgets, and thumbnail feeds.

Content providers benefit from the syndication of their thumbnails as a tool to acquire free traffic. Website publishers benefit from new search activity on their site, unique image and video content, and new targeted ad inventory.

Pixsy content is fresh since it is populated with the latest images and videos from RSS feeds, supplemented by its traditionally crawled material. With its focused, yet flexible inventory, Pixsy is able to customize complete vertical image and video search engines on material from any set of publicly available URL’s for any type of website publisher.

After being named one of Time Magazine’s Top 50 Companies of 2006, Pixsy was recently annointed as an AlwaysOn Hollywood 100 company.  Seattle24x7 reunited with Norlin for an update on how Pixsy is helping Websites monetize search traffic by turning Pixsy dust into pay dirt.

Seattle24x7:   What can you tell us about the Pixsy business model?
Norlin: We are essentially a media search platform.  All we do, all day long, is power private label image search for video search engines for any type of Website, no matter how big or small.

Seattle24x7:  How does image/video search fit into the search continuum?
Norlin: Image/video search is the fastest growing video consumer search category on the web.  We asked ourselves, “Why should Google, Yahoo, Ask Jeeves and MSN control all of the destination image and video search traffic on the web?  Image search should be in the hands of everybody if it’s the most popular consumer search activity.”  So we built a platform that enables anyone to basically run their own private label image and video search.  And what that does all day long is to generate new search activity and new ad revenue for those websites.

Seattle24x7:  How do you turn Pixsy search dust into pay dirt aka new ad revenue?
Norlin:   Search is measured by the number of search queries, and that translates into many different ways to monetize a search results page.  From pay-per-click to graphical ads to in-line text ads from smart companies like Kontera to video ads — you name it.  There are many different ways to monetize search.  Image and video search is a bolt-on to a website, creating new traffic and targeted ad inventory.

Seattle24x7: So Pixsy is the engine behind that search monetization?
Norlin:   We were recently described as the “Inktomi for media search”. It’s fairly simple. We license our platform out. Companies pay us a monthly fee. They keep all the ad revenue for themselves.  On that side of the house, we generate a decent amount of revenue.

Seattle24x7: And the other side is a revenue share model?
Norlin:   Yes.  Some partners say, “We’ll split the ad revenue with you if you build and host it for us.” The bottom line for Pixsy is either an ad revenue share or a licensing fee to gain access to our technology and our content.

Seattle24x7:  Is the solution self-served or custom crafted? Can I just log in and power up with Pixsy with no fuss?
Norlin:   Absolutely, That’s our automated product which we call PixsyPower, recently released in beta.   Anyone can sign-in and get their own image/video search engine or widget up and running on their site in a matter of minutes.

You can think of Pixsy as having two distribution models.  One is for medium-to-large websites where we provide vertical image and video search engines. That’s akin to an enterprise model.  Some of our recent announcements in that space have been with Quigo where we’re powering some of their publishers across their network.  There’s also Sonic Solutions, a publicly traded company.  We’ve also done Ritz Camera.  We enter into a relationship where each of these companies can license from us or; for the smaller companies, they can do a revenue share.

Seattle24x7:  How are you acquiring the image/video assets?
Norlin: We have many different methods for acquiring image and video thumbnail material across the internet.  One is through content partnerships. Another is through our proprietary spiders that crawl the web to find image and video content.  Another is through specialized spiders that crawl and aggregate media from our RSS feeds.  Finally there are large data feeds from providers.  So, there are multiple methods for acquiring content.  But our focus is squarely on the verticals that matter from a consumer search prospective.

Seattle24x7:  What are the primary areas of focus?
Norlin: We are very deep in the categories of news, sports, entertainment, celebrity, travel, viral videos, music, and more.

Seattle24x7: Does your spider have a name?  Is it “Pixsy Spider”?
Norlin:   It does, it’s called “The Reaper”.

Seattle24x7:  Do you view Google Images or YouTube as competition?
Norlin:   We don’t consider them competition because they’re not in the business of powering image and video search for website customers today.

Seattle24x7:  Although, with Google, you can create a custom search engine…
Norlin:   Correct, you’ve got automated, vertical, custom search thru Google Co-op, Yahoo Search Builder, etc…  But that’s vertical custom text search. The day that they add images, that may be a competitive idea; but certainly not until then.  And even then it will be difficult to compete with our large entrenched publisher network.

Seattle24x7:  Which metrics have meant the most to you? Number of users?  Number of searches?  Recognition?
Norlin:   I think the growth of the network overall. Time magazine was a huge validation for us art the end of 2006.  It put us on the map.  But, it’s the uptake in customers wanting image/video search and that translating into fast growth in daily search query volume that gets us the most excited.

Seattle24x7:  What kind of pace are you on?
Norlin: Our current internal projections are that we will surpass the size of Ask Jeeves in daily search query volume in approximately 18 months.  That’s 13 million searches a day.  They’re the number 5 search provider on the Web. We feel that we’re on target to achieving that objective, from what we’ve seen already in our growth.

Seattle24x7: That speaks volumes about the power of image search?
Norlin: While image search is 10% of Google’s traffic, it’s 100% year over year growth.

Seattle24x7:  What kind of analytics have you done?  Can you make determinations on what are the most popular images or most popular image searches?  Do you have a Top 10 list?
Norlin:   Yes, it turns out that we have built a pretty robust analytics platform at least partly by accident.  So, any partner who uses our image/video search platform can discover in real time “What people are searching for on their site as it pertains to photo and video content.”  They can actually re-tweak their site towards it.  For example, you wake up in the morning and see that everyone is searching for Anna Nicole Smith, and you know that you’d better start doing something about it.

Seattle24x7:  AOl seems to be making a major push in broadband video, having once acquired Seattle’s Singingfish network?
Norlin: If you look at AOL’s new search, I think it one of the most impressive on the web.  The idea of Full View is really interesting. <search.aol.com>  By blending image/video content with the result set,  it fosters a more powerful user rich media search experience.

Seattle24x7 The AOL search results are enhanced by Google, but this part of the technology is from AOL?
Norlin:   Correct.  They’ve obviously used Google for algorithmic search, but they’re blending in video in a very compelling way.  My prediction is you’re going to be seeing a lot more of this from other major search providers in the future.

Seattle24x7: What intrigues you the most about the search industry right now?
Norlin:   I believe we’re witnessing a major trend in terms of the “Googleization” of search, meaning the way that Web properties are looking for new tools and technologies to create and retain traffic and drive new ad inventory.

The ad networks are realizing that they need to offer a menu of organic services, not just ad monetization, to publishers in order to help them create new traffic and revenue for their clients, and in order to effectively compete with Google.  Image and video search are two types of these powerful consumer tools. Private label social networking and video sharing platforms are others.

The key trend is that almost every website is ultimately seeking to become a mini-Google in terms of the depth and depth of services they offer to their end users.

Seattle24x7:   Timing is critical.
Norlin:  Timing is absolutely everything.  I built and created the first YouTube video sharing site on the web in 1998-1999 and it meant nothing at that point in time.  We had Sequoia Capital pretty much laugh us out of their office.  They thought it was the silliest idea they ever heard.  However, they ultimately ended up being the key backer behind YouTube.

Success on the web today is about great technology + business model innovation + speed to market + reach + fantastic timing.  That’s almost too much stuff to remember, like all the tips floating through your head during a golf swing.  Bottom line, keep it simple, build something that people want. [24×7]


Larry Sivitz is the Managing Editor of Seattle24x7.