It’s not easy for publishers to make money online. Competition for eyeballs and ad revenues is fierce, so website owners need to be savvy to any possible avenues for monetisation.

Taggstar aims to give publishers a new way of monetising images by adding layers of content to make them interactive and shareable.

The company is already working with a wide range of media partners including MSN, Sky Living, The Telegraph, Hearst Magazines and The Independent, and last month launched a public version of its technology platform. 

Early engagement rates have been consistently high, ranging from an average of 12% to almost 40% for certain high profile celebrities.

So to find out more about how Taggstar works and its plan for growth I spoke to CEO and founder Fraser Robinson…

In one sentence, what is Taggstar?

Taggstar lets publishers add layers of content to their online images, making them interactive and shareable.

What problems does Taggstar solve?

Images are often the most eye-catching and valuable piece of real estate on a web page but they traditionally remain un-interactive, unexplored and underused.

For publishers, this can be such a missed opportunity, particularly as we are seeing an image explosion across the social web.

Taggstar seeks to open up the untapped potential that exists within online images.

At the heart of the Taggstar platform lies the ability for publishers to bring their images to life, layering them with related links and multimedia content which invites readers to engage more deeply with the visual content on a page.

Taggstar also creates the ability for people to share and interact with snippets of information within an image, as well as the whole image. 

For example, you are reading an article online, and a detail within an accompanying image jumps out at you. Maybe it’s a Gucci handbag that you know your girlfriend would adore, and you want to quickly share just that part of the image with her via Facebook, tagging her within it. 

The Taggstar platform enables a user to do just that, quickly and easily, within the image, with no need for other applications or pieces of software.

Additionally, as online publishers increasingly search for new revenue streams, Taggstar opens up new opportunities for monetisation. Publishers can make their image galleries ‘shoppable’, with links that lead to ecommerce sites. 

They can create ‘exact match’ links with a ‘buy’ button, replicating the ‘Get the Look’ concept that is already happening within print. 

Taggstar’s proprietary image search technology is able to scour hundreds of thousands of product images from its network of over 200 retailers, and display the best results based on colour, pattern and style. 

The traffic they generate can turn into affiliate commissions, sold on a CPA basis, creating one more much-needed revenue stream for publishers with a high enough volume of traffic.

When and why did you launch it?

Taggstar was founded in 2010, and the platform launched publicly in September 2012.

Questions like “where can I get one?”, “who is that?” or “how can I share it with a friend?” are often asked of images and there didn’t seem to be a good solution to solve that problem. 

That, combined with the fact that most ‘real world’ (i.e. offline) newspapers and magazines had for years been using images to inspire sales with ‘get the look’ and so on, led us to start work on technology to fill that need.

From a macro market perspective, it was a confluence of factors that led to the idea for Taggstar initially. 

Online retail was starting to gain meaningful traction, publishers (i.e. online magazines) were seeing growth in traffic but pressure to monetise effectively and broadband penetration meant bandwidth hungry content like images and video could have a greater presence on a website.

How are you funding the company?

Taggstar is backed to the tune of £1.6m. Investors include Rob Hersov (Founder of Sportal and Marquis Jets), Sir Stuart Rose (Former Chairman of M&S), Dr Thomas Middelhoff (Former Chairman of Thomas Cook and CEO of Bertelsmann), and Ariadne Capital’s ACE Fund.

Who is your target audience?

The Taggstar platform is available to all online publishers, including bloggers.

Currently we’re most active within the fashion segment, but we have the ability to quickly move into other verticals with categories such as interiors, sport, travel and automotive scheduled for launch soon.

What are your immediate goals?

We’d really like to see Taggstar being used on as many websites as possible, and in a wide variety of ways. 

Our product leaves a lot of scope for creativity and one of the things we’ve enjoyed most is seeing the different ways it can be used.

What were the biggest challenges involved in building Taggstar?

Gaining initial momentum is always hard work, but I actually think the biggest challenges lie ahead.

How will the company make money?

Taggstar makes money in two ways: 

  1. When a tag connects a product in a picture to a shop where that product is for sale, we make a commission on that sale. 
  2. We offer display advertising opportunities in or around the images on a website using our technology. All revenue is of course shared with the publisher.

Who is in the team and what does it look like?

I’m founder and CEO of Taggstar. Formerly I was managing director, commercial and media, at for seven years. 

During my time there I was fortunate to work with a huge number of highly talented engineers and digital experts and the initial Taggstar team was made up entirely of employees.

Today, the team has expanded, but remains primarily a technology company and the team makeup is heavily skewed in that direction. 

We are in the process of building up our media team however, so that mix will soon shift.

Where would you like to be in one, three and five year’s time?

One year: the next year will see a huge amount of advancement both in terms of product and distribution. 

I can’t say too much about the product for obvious reasons, but international expansion is an important part of our strategy and a year from now I expect to see Taggstar running on sites all over the world in multiple languages.

Three years: years 1-3 will be important high-growth ones and at the end of year three, we would like to see Taggstar with a very strong presence across tens, if not hundreds of thousands of websites globally.

Five years: five years is almost too far to imagine in the digital space, but the goal is to be the global leader in interactive image technology. 

From a consumer perspective, we’d like Taggstar to become a normal and expected part of the online journey, much in the same way that Facebook ‘like’ and ‘tweet’ buttons have become standard site features.