Chute's user-generated photo tool adds permissions, because that's what big brands want

By Erin Griffith , written on September 25, 2013

From The News Desk

User-generated photos is turning out to be a real business. New York-based Olapic has 38 employees and 60 clients, Percolate, which offers a variety of services, including user-generated photo permissions, has 60 employees, and Chute has 36. They've raised respective $6 million, $10.5 million and $9.72 million from investors.

Brands know something is happening with user-generated photos, and they're in the early stages of trying to figure out what they should do about it.

As I wrote in July:

The benefits of including user-generated images is that it keeps visitors on a site engaged for longer. Further, contributing their images on a brand’s site or social stream makes them feel engaged and loyal to the brand.
There are a variety of different approaches: Olapic focuses on commerce, integrating user-generated images from social media the same way they integrate reviews. Percolate helps brands pull user-generated images and use them for their own social media content. And Chute has specialized in media and publishing clients (it was part of the Turner Media Camp Incubator) and since expanded its client base to include brands, particularly for contests and campaigns.

Chute uses hashtags to collect user-generated images on behalf of its clients, which includes Vogue, Conde Nast Traveler, and Vanity Fair and puts them into a dashboard. The client can then use those images for everything from contests to social media, billboards and banner ads. Today, Chute adds a crucial function to its workflow -- tools that get permission from the user which took the photo.

For many brands, that permission is already implied. Users uploaded these images to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram, which means they already fall under the Terms of Service the user agreed to on each of those sites. Olapic, for example, believes that its images are kosher because they comply with the social outlet's Terms of Service and are culled around a hashtag that's promoted by the brand with the right messaging.

Chute co-founder Ranvir Gujral says the implied consent around hashtags is typically fine, and  Chute's early media clients, can easily claim fair use. However, it's not enough for big brands. "The biggest brands tend to be more conservative," Gujral says. "They want that extra step of, not only have you participated with the hashtag, but you also gave us express consent."

It's particularly important when Chute's clients want to put a user-generated image in an banner ad. We saw how freaked out Instagram users got when they thought Facebook would start using their images in ads without permission. Chute claims that user-generated images as banner ads (often in the form of a contest) can garner engagement rates that are three to four times higher than the industry benchmark. Now it has the right to use them.

Chute has 3500 developer clients which use its platform for free to pull in and manage UCG images and 100 enterprise clients who pay an annual SaaS license to use the software and run individual campaigns.

[Image via juokaz]