Digital Publishing Guest Columns
5 mins read

Why is image streaming the next logical step for the publishing industry?

Image streaming can increase public trust in online images while simultaneously helping publishers guarantee their authenticity

In recent years we’ve seen the huge growth of streaming platforms, with many consumers now relying on services such as Amazon Prime, Spotify, YouTube, and Netflix to watch video content or listen to music. However, the way people upload and use images online has mostly remained unchanged, specifically using formats such as JPEG that can easily be stolen, manipulated, and misused. In fact, it’s estimated that 2.5 billion images are stolen online every day. Not only does this leave image owners struggling to get by from the loss of licensing fees, but it also threatens the reliability and veracity of online images.

Fortunately, technology has evolved alongside this: all publishers need to do is hop on board. Streaming protects against theft and misuse by allowing images to be embedded with a line of code. This prevents unlawful sharing, downloading, and tampering, and can also help publishers to avoid any litigation fees if an image is used without the appropriate license. But how does the tech work in action? And what are the actual benefits for publishers?

Stalling the spread of fake news

There is one major problem related to image theft we need to address first, and it goes beyond the harm it does to individual creators, who have seen revenues from their work fall at a dramatic pace over recent years. At the other end of an image’s journey, we need to consider one of the fundamental challenges to democracy right now: the proliferation of fake news, deepfakes, and the detrimental impact this has on media credibility.

Streaming technology can be a significant tool for combating fake news by allowing accurate and reliable information to be appended to images. It helps to build a more equitable and transparent media environment, and protects citizens and publishers from the risks and liabilities of incorrect news and tampered images.

Elevating quality and boosting engagement: the power of streaming

As well as protecting against fakes and protecting publisher reputations, image streaming delivers when it comes to improving content engagement and, therefore, dwell times and page yields.

The technology enhances user experience by facilitating engagement and interaction. This starts with particularly detailed images of up to 100 megapixels, which allows images to be enjoyed in full screen with Hyper Zoom technology to display the finest details, while integrated captions provide information on the image and its owner or creator.

Image-streaming technology also benefits publishers by incorporating analytical abilities that allow them to measure and evaluate image performance and trends. An image’s engagement can be tracked, and this can reveal how users interact with it, whether they viewed the image in full screen or with Hyper Zoom, and the image’s average viewing time among many other things. This, of course, also means that publishers can see which images receive the most engagement, which in turn allows them to understand what particular content resonates with their audiences the most.

New contextual advertising revenue streams

Streaming can also provide publishers with new incremental revenue streams from the placement of contextually relevant advertising within images. Furthermore, by streaming advertising creatives into these high-impact spots, much higher CPMs can be achieved than with traditional banner ad placements. Detailed metadata for all images, meanwhile, which is provided by the image owner, can give publishers the peace of mind that many brand safety solutions can’t, while also serving ads that are highly relevant to the content, creating an enjoyable ad experience for the end-user. 

The nuts and bolts – how does it work?

First and foremost, streamed images feature an interactive element that allows captions, sharing controls, and CTAs to be included as standard. Unlawful attempts to copy images, such as through right-clicks and common screenshot methods, are intercepted, and these actions trigger a copyright warning message that obscures the image. This has the added benefit of raising awareness around copyright restrictions while simultaneously putting an end to image piracy.

When we build a more consistently transparent and informed media ecosystem, we begin to see how this injects quality and fairness into every level of the media structure. For example, aside from benefitting publishers and users with more reliable and engaging images, and advertisers with more accurate contextual targeting, image streaming can also give image owners full visibility of how and where their content is being used online, completing the loop and ensuring they are fairly compensated for their work.

Let’s consider an example: an interactive Motorsports Rewards programme, which was advertised through an image owned by the same company, streamed on a Formula 1 website. The content owner has benefited from advertising its own image, with all the relevant image details available to the viewer, on a highly relevant website with an audience that is likely to engage with the ad. This boosts its impact and helps to increase ROI.

This is all very easy to do, too. All you need to do to embed a streamed image is to copy a line of code and paste it into the HTML or text editor in a CMS. Try it here using this script:

<script src=”https://embed.smartframe.io/7d0b78d6f830c45ae5fcb6734143ff0d.js” data-image-id=”amsterdam_1625126591981″ data-width=”100%” data-max-width=”4500px” data-theme=”smartframe-pr”></script>

Where does this leave us?

Image streaming can increase public trust in online images while simultaneously helping publishers guarantee their authenticity. The combination of human- and AI-powered image analysis alongside photo library metadata improves the quality of contextual advertising, which in turn safeguards brand reputation.

Comprehensive image details, which stay with the image wherever it travels, provide context and help to create a media environment where readers can trust what they see. The added engagement and functionality features improve user experience which benefits everyone: readers, publishers, brands, and advertisers. Protection against image theft and manipulation keeps audiences and publishers safe, while also supporting a more transparent ecosystem, while additional revenue streams for publishers and content owners means that everyone earns what they deserve.

Seems logical, doesn’t it?

Rob Sewell
CEO, Smartframe Technologies


SmartFrame is a secure, embeddable, trackable and interactive online image standard, that grants you unprecedented control over your content, brand protection, a fantastic user experience, increased traffic and business growth. SmartFrame is backed by a diverse network of independent investors, which includes prominent names from the likes of Fidelity Investments, Jupiter, Hermes, Findlay Park, J.P. Morgan, Credit Suisse, UBS and Northern Trust, as well as leading UK government advisors and renowned business leaders.