Can a startup make money sharing GIFs? Tenor wants to find out.

Comment

Image Credits:

Over the past several years, GIFs have emerged as a pervasive form of visual communication and self expression across multiple communication channels: They have found their way into our texts, our Tweets, our Messenger chats, and definitely into our Slack channels.

But like most new forms of media and communications, GIFs have thus far struggled to find a business model that matches their ubiquity. GIF-sharing startup Tenor hopes to change that, by partnering with media companies, brands and advertisers to help them build and distribute GIFs users will love — and hopefully make a few bucks along the way.

Tenor (neé Riffsy) makes a popular mobile keyboard that allows users to easily search for and share GIFs in whatever app they might be using at the moment. It also has an SDK to enable third-party developers to add GIF sharing into their own apps. So far that functionality has been adopted  for use in apps and services that include Apple’s iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Facebook comments, WhatsApp and Twitter, among others.

Thanks to its own keyboard and integration with other apps, Tenor has more than 200 million monthly users and processes more than 200 million daily search requests for GIFs. With that scale, the company is looking to monetize an active audience of users searching for apps to best express whatever emotion they might be feeling at the moment.

But how do you do that? Well, if you’re Tenor you try to find media companies and brands that are thirsty for new ways to connect with consumers and who want to associate their goods and services with the emotions linked to the GIFs their customers are sharing with friends.

To aid in that pursuit, the company has hired media exec Jason Krebs as its chief business officer. Krebs was most recently head of sales for Disney’s Maker Studios and has spent the last couple of decades in digital media. All this time he’s been helping brands and advertisers understand the huge audiences they can get in front of with limited ad dollars, all thanks to new forms of media distribution.

After pitching every new type of ad unit under the sun, from digital display to online video to influencer marketing at places likeTremor Video, Conde Nast Interactive and NYTimes.com., Krebs is now tasked with getting marketers to understand GIFs.

But Krebs has some good things going for him. For one, there’s the scale thing we talked about up a few paragraphs above.

He’s also got Tenor’s ‘Insights Engine’ on his side. That tools lets anyone — not just marketers! — to get real-time data on how users are interacting with the company’s GIF search engine and what they’re sharing. 

Theoretically that tool will allow brands to better understand what Tenor users care about at any given time. Using its data, brands will be able to pay Tenor to give priority to GIFs they make in the app’s search results. And hopefully, if those GIFs are compelling enough, consumers will share those branded messages with their friends.

It’s a pretty novel message to marketers. “No one takes a screenshot of a display ad and shares it with their friends,” Tenor CEO David McIntosh told me, in what is perhaps the understatement of the year. But with Tenor, people could be sharing ads just the same.

That said, there’s still a lot for Tenor and its advertisers to figure out. Will marketers be up to the task of learning a whole new way of communicating with a whole new medium of communication? (Yes. The answer is always yes.)

Are GIFs here to stay? Or are they just another passing fad like AOL or Snapchat, things teenagers thought were cool until their parents started using them? (Tough to say.)

How is Tenor planning to charge for access to its huge, highly engaged audience? Will it do so on a per-impression or a per-engagement basis? (TBD.)

And how will brands know that these sponsored GIFs worked? (Also TBD.)

Finally, what makes a good GIF? (It’s kind of like art or porn. You just know it when you see it.)

These are all questions Tenor will face as it tries to get brands on-board, Krebs acknowledges. But that guy could probably sell a ketchup popsicle to a woman wearing white gloves in the middle of July. If anyone can figure it out, he will.

More TechCrunch

Tags

Jolla has taken the official wraps off the first version of its personal server-based AI assistant in the making. The reborn startup is building a privacy-focused AI device — aka…

Jolla debuts privacy-focused AI hardware

OpenAI is removing one of the voices used by ChatGPT after users found that it sounded similar to Scarlett Johansson, the company announced on Monday. The voice, called Sky, is…

OpenAI to remove ChatGPT’s Scarlett Johansson-like voice

Consumer demand for the latest AI technology is heating up. The launch of OpenAI’s latest flagship model, GPT-4o, has now driven the company’s biggest-ever spike in revenue on mobile, despite…

ChatGPT’s mobile app revenue saw biggest spike yet following GPT-4o launch

Dating app maker Bumble has acquired Geneva, an online platform built around forming real-world groups and clubs. The company said that the deal is designed to help it expand its…

Bumble buys community building app Geneva to expand further into friendships

CyberArk — one of the army of larger security companies founded out of Israel — is acquiring Venafi, a specialist in machine identity, for $1.54 billion. 

CyberArk snaps up Venafi for $1.54B to ramp up in machine-to-machine security

Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage…

OpenseedVC, which backs operators in Africa and Europe starting their companies, reaches first close of $10M fund

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

24 hours ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

3 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

3 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake