There are still predictions of some people - even from inside the Stock Photo Industry - that what happened to the Music (Napster et.al.) and Film Industry (P2P) somehow finally will occur in the Stock Photo Industry (see the last paragraphs of this posting). From our POV this is obviously pure nonsense as you can not compare - finally, those old buzzwords - B2C to B2B.
In late 2001 there had been a San Francisco-based startup (sorry, no link, they´re gone) on our radar dealing with images in the P2P-area entering the business hemisphere with this idea; they even got VC for it. History.
In addition to it - and besides the two Super G - there is a strong good old boys network in the background with the deeply felt desire: "Don´t change anything! Don´t break up our consensual atmosphere! The wind of change? Yes, only in our pockets! Thumbs up!"
But from time to time new heroes - some wannabes, some real - arise.
Contentbiz - a marketingsherpa publication - has published a long article "How istockphoto.com Sells $4,000,000 Photo Downloads Per Year at $1 Each" that deals with a new company: istockphoto.com. Wannabe or real hero? Discover it yourself.
Basic facts: Founded in 2000 by some "Colorado-based photography nuts", photographers can upload their images to the istockphoto database for free. If a pix is sold, the photographer gets 10 cents (don´t blame me). And photobuyers can buy their high-resolution stock photography for just $1.50 each. They call their company the "designer´s dirty litte secret".
Executive VP Patrick Lor declares istockphoto wiped out two flaws: for the photographer the inventory growth barrier and for the photobuyer the pricing barrier. "The goal was to democratize both ends of the business". To maintain the quality of their stock pool, istockphoto has a three-step quality-assurance system (please see the original article).
The company has an in-house team plus 20 volunteer "image inspectors" reviewing an average of 3,000 new photos per week; about 1,500 are accepted. Right now the database is hosting about 110,000 images.
VP Lor states that istockphoto.com is selling $20,000 of photos per day currently: "We sold 44.52 gigabytes yesterday and the average download ranges from 100k to eight meg. You do the math. Our growth numbers are something like 25-45% month on month growth. It's something like 600% per year. We have a bunch of A-list clients, big Fortune 500 companies have accounts with us. Art directors set up accounts and give their designers all access to it."
This would in fact yield a yearly revenue stream of a least $4,000,000. There are some well-known stock agencies who would love to see these numbers at the end of the year.
The next target is a deeper penetration of the (photobuyer) designer market. And afterwards - hello Corbis - the self-publishing consumer marketplace: "This is a business model with almost zero limitations."
If you think with this business model the quality of the images can be only be crap - take a look at the istockphoto.com website. Amongst a lot of everyday stuff there are some stylish cutting edge images - of course not the Getty/Taxi style of being hip, but this is not the only way to see things.
istockphoto.com has a sister company, istockpro.com - also located in Calgary, CA, sharing the same telephone line - with a nifty colorsearch™ image search technology. Yeah, that "pro" at the end: the price structur is totally different in terms of money (mainly starting at $69.99 up to about $249.99), so are the contributors (f.e. ImageSource, ThinkStock, Brand X and obviously some self-produced material) and therefore the overall photographic image quality. Whereas istockphoto.com is a bit like pearl fishery. But to be honestly true, after a little research and some queries in both databases with the same keywords: there are some pearls at istockpro.com. At incredibile low prices.
"Before I offer my feedback, let me first say that I consider myself an amateur at photography. I'm still working with a 2 megapixel camera that I got for Christmas two years ago.
Regardless, I started posting my decent photos on IStockphoto.com back in early November. (Istockphoto is a site that sells stock photographs from various photographers.) More than financial gain, my goal was to see if I could get my daughters lovely face featured on a few web sites or advertisements.
Istockphoto pays you a pittance (I could probably find more change just walking down the street!) but that's besides the point. In the 4 months my 18 measly photos have been posted there, I've earned over $1,000.
Not from people downloading my pictures on Istockphoto (where I've not even earned $20). But because I've had companies who have wanted to license my pictures for advertisements. Just this month an ad agency in Canada used one of my photos in an ad for drug manufacturer Glaxo Smith Kline. The ad was featured in 3 different newspapers, with possibly more to come.
Yeah... one of my 2 megapixel pictures that they originally saw on Istockphoto. They came to me, and asked me for my rates. And this isn't one of those 'few and far between' opportunities. I get at least one of these every month.
I think I'm doing pretty well considering the fact that I've got an okay camera, no web site, and only 18 pictures that I'm promoting.
My point is this, if you want to sell stock, be willing to explore EVERY avenue on the web.
Get you own site, promote the heck out of it. Try Google AdWords, if you want immediate exposure on Google. Submit your work to clearinghouse sites like Istockphoto. (Once you register, you can post a link to your web site within your profile.) If you've got the skills, try the more professional sites like Istockpro.com or Corbis.
If you've got a presence in several locations, you'll be hard to miss. This is especially true if you specialize. (My niche is young people of color.)
Anyway, that's my take on the situation. I welcome feedback and questions.
But keep mind, that none of "istockphoto.com's participating photographers are making a full-time living from the site." I still wonder that there is no discussion at Editorialphoto.com regarding the business model istockphoto.com is pursuing and the threat it definetely can become in the future for some pros. We´re watching another east-european agency with a similiar business model; we´ll be back in a few days with a comparison and an overview "What are the consequences for the rest of us?"
This [email protected] finally comes up with a related link - to Phototalk. Shortly after mentioning Gettyimages. We´re online since two weeks, we´re doing this for the fun of it. Big thank you! We have however to disclose that this website is *NOT* related to any company in terms of money, interests etc. in any way.