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Author Topic: Concrete Steps you can make to Change the Industry  (Read 9081 times)

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johngriffin

« on: September 09, 2010, 15:10 »
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I posted this on our blog but wanted to bring it up here.

http://blog.cutcaster.com/2010/09/09/photographers-frustration-and-a-path-for-change/

It feels like dj vu all over again, doesnt it?

Fall seems to be the season for falling commissions. Weve seen it in the past with the big boys and now even the smaller players as they drop the commission they pay to photographers without any worries. Who knows if the reasoning this time is the need to raise prices while decreasing payouts just to survive, the continuing indifference to their contributor base who grew the companies, so much supply that it doesnt matter if the companies piss off a few people because the majority will go along, venture capitalists swoop in to squeeze money out of their investment in a business at the contributors expense, a flat economy, or just plain corporate greed?

What can a photographer or photo buyer do you might be asking? Should a photographers union be organized to fight on behalf of buyers and sellers? We have those already and we still get these drops. Should you delete or stop uploading your portfolio? You might feel like you are one of a million and it would have no effect except on your income stream. Should they just shut up out of fear that Big Brother is watching and might shut down their account? I guess, I should get ready for my accounts to be shutdown at a few places after this post.

I am frustrated and mad. First, as a friend to a lot of the people who sell photos who get affected by changes like this and second as a business owner who is trying to compete in an industry where it feels like agencies do things behind a cloak of secrecy and then photographers go along with changes that suck for them and do nothing about it. Commissions are falling, agencies are lowering prices to compete, the industry has become stagnant with no real competition outside of a few companies that monopolize, there is a glut of supply and most photographers are mixed and feel disorganized on what course of action to take.

One thing is clear. We need to act now and we need change.

1. Remove any links you have to sites that lower payouts without giving you notice or keep the details hidden in confusing press releases. Dont market sites that dont care about YOUR bottom line.

2. Do link to sites from your blog, website or portfolio site that pay you higher commissions even if they have less sales for you. You need to turn the tide in favor of you and help the sites with less money that you trust get links. Dont stand idle while the established players lock you into this future.

3. Stop referring and directing buyers to your lower paying commission sites and start sending them to sites that pay you more commissions. Only you have the power to change this by sending buyers to your higher paying sites instead of going along with the status quo.

4. Start an upload embargo for 6 months to a year and dont upload new or exclusive content to sites that lower payouts without notice and discussions.

5. Upload to sites that have lower payout thresholds and commit to keep those limits low.

6. Dont go exclusive with one agency. Only go exclusive with certain new uploads that you know sell better at certain sites, which pay you a high commission rate

7. Delete your portfolio from sites that are non-transparent with commissions and pricing strategies

8. Tell a buyer how these royalty drops hurt your individual business and how they can get the same image for the same price at another site but that you get paid a higher commission if they buy from the newer, higher paying site. Photo buyers care so you need to let them know you are getting unfairly screwed and they can help change that without spending more time or money.

9. Commit to a new agency that you trust on a non-exclusive basis and support them with your uploads and, if you choose, a small amount of exclusive content so they have something unique to market. Write a blog article or post in a forum about the agency and why you chose it.

10. Convince one fellow photographer to act with you and take concrete steps TODAY towards changing your situation for the better.

Photographers and photo buyers have strength in numbers. It takes one person to start this and a community of people to cooperate in order to change and finish this. If you feel these commission drops are unfair and non-transparent then dont complain but ACT. Your actions will speak louder than any complaint.


Learn more: http://blog.cutcaster.com/2010/09/09/photographers-frustration-and-a-path-for-change/#ixzz0z45NSW1u
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« Last Edit: September 10, 2010, 14:34 by johngriffin »


« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2010, 15:30 »
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11. Sign up with Cutcaster!  :)

I'm making a joke, but even though I bailed on you John, I have always thought you were a good guy. I hope this helps your site grow.

« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2010, 15:30 »
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Good sound advice there John, thanks for writing it.

Unfortunately, from past experience, I'm just not sure how many of our fellow photographers have either the stomach for a fight or indeed the ability to resist the offer of a few $'s in the short-term no matter how damaging they suspect it might be to their long term business. So many have a history of writing strong words on a forum and then immediately capitulating behind the scenes.

I really do hope that this time they will be able to see how essential it is for us all to stick together __ and stick it up Istock.

No new uploads to Istock until our original terms and commissions are restored __ EVER. As the lowest paying agency out there it is not too much to ask is it?
« Last Edit: September 09, 2010, 15:33 by gostwyck »

rubyroo

« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2010, 15:34 »
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Yes, thank you John.  I always thought you were a genuine good guy too  :)

How's Cutcaster going these days btw?

« Reply #4 on: September 09, 2010, 16:33 »
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Yes, thank you John.  I always thought you were a genuine good guy too  :)

How's Cutcaster going these days btw?

I was wondering the same.. I got a few files there around 1k stopped once I got just 1 sale :P

« Reply #5 on: September 09, 2010, 18:08 »
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it is  fun!.. the only sale I had on CutCaster was in August last year, now had my second minutes ago...

Total: $1.17
Total Payout: $0.47

1250019030     2009-08-11 FIRST
1284073446     2010-09-09 SECOND

(does this mean 34M sales??)

TOTAL $1.54

eheheh thanks John!!!
« Last Edit: September 09, 2010, 18:10 by luissantos84 »

helix7

« Reply #6 on: September 10, 2010, 07:53 »
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3. Stop referring and directing buyers to your lower paying commission sites and start sending them to sites that pay you more commissions. Only you have the power to change this by sending buyers to your higher paying sites instead of going along with the status quo.


Best one on the list. And I'd add to it that when referring buyers to better sites, let those buyers know that they could be saving money by taking their business to these other sites. Typically we're going to be referring buyers away from istock in light of recent events, and frankly it's not hard to beat istock's prices these days. Especially when the search is so heavily weighted towards the high-priced exclusive content and Vetta collection. It's a selling point that other sites not only offer higher commissions but also charge customers less. Everyone wins.

« Reply #7 on: September 10, 2010, 08:15 »
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Finally all will be 0.30 or so subs, that's were clients aredirected.

« Reply #8 on: September 10, 2010, 08:25 »
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Finally all will be 0.30 or so subs, that's were clients aredirected.

Inclined to agree. The buyers are driving the value not the agencies or (unfortunately) the contributors. 'Twas and ever will be in most  retail businesses.

« Reply #9 on: September 10, 2010, 09:28 »
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The problem is essentially supply and demand.  The supply of images exceeds demand and therefore the agencies are free to reduce commissions.  As commissions are reduced, some contributors will move on to other endeavors and perhaps eventually equilibrium may be reached and prices may go up.  The simple fact is the agencies do not need to pay 40 or 50% commissions to attract contributors.  Management of corporations have a goal of maximizing profit and cutting commissions is certainly one of the ways to increase profit.  I suspect many of the traditional stock photographers could provide you a very detailed account of how the supply demand system works since as a result of micro stock, they experienced a similar phenomenon over the past five years.

My strategy is simply to make my work a cut above others and to utilize as large a sensor as I can afford. 

« Reply #10 on: September 10, 2010, 12:18 »
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The problem is essentially supply and demand.  The supply of images exceeds demand and therefore the agencies are free to reduce commissions.  As commissions are reduced, some contributors will move on to other endeavors and perhaps eventually equilibrium may be reached and prices may go up.  The simple fact is the agencies do not need to pay 40 or 50% commissions to attract contributors.  Management of corporations have a goal of maximizing profit and cutting commissions is certainly one of the ways to increase profit.  I suspect many of the traditional stock photographers could provide you a very detailed account of how the supply demand system works since as a result of micro stock, they experienced a similar phenomenon over the past five years.

My strategy is simply to make my work a cut above others and to utilize as large a sensor as I can afford. 

It's still a fine balance __ the agencies themselves also need to produce the sales before too many will want to upload to them. I'm only with 6 agencies although I know there are at least another 10 out there but the reported returns are so low that I can't be bothered.

« Reply #11 on: September 10, 2010, 12:31 »
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The problem is essentially supply and demand.  The supply of images exceeds demand and therefore the agencies are free to reduce commissions.

No, that is only true with physical products. With digital products there is no reason to give smaller comissions even if sales per image decrease: only the amount of sales will be less but the percentage can stay the same. That's because the only cost of the over-supply is just some server space. They can also free some of the space by removing images that doesn't sell, but still no reason to touch the royalty percentages.
« Last Edit: September 10, 2010, 12:33 by Perry »

« Reply #12 on: September 10, 2010, 12:40 »
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The problem is essentially supply and demand.  The supply of images exceeds demand and therefore the agencies are free to reduce commissions.  As commissions are reduced, some contributors will move on to other endeavors and perhaps eventually equilibrium may be reached and prices may go up.  The simple fact is the agencies do not need to pay 40 or 50% commissions to attract contributors.  Management of corporations have a goal of maximizing profit and cutting commissions is certainly one of the ways to increase profit.  I suspect many of the traditional stock photographers could provide you a very detailed account of how the supply demand system works since as a result of micro stock, they experienced a similar phenomenon over the past five years.

My strategy is simply to make my work a cut above others and to utilize as large a sensor as I can afford.  

Asside from the asenine ways of IS management I believe they are committing a truly horrible strategic mistake long term and short term. What appeals to anybody submitting to IS is their large base of buyers. Right. Now. What appeal to the buyers? IS has a large, DIVERSE, and relatively well curated database. So if you, as a buyer need the odd picture of "god knows what" chances are high IS has something for you - because many niche contributors are indeed lower volume exclusives that usually hold full time jobs that often afford them the unique access required for some of these more obscure subjects. They do not have the energy to contribute to many sites and therfore truly appreciate the perks for their work. I believe these low volume niche contributors are indeed the most likely ones to jump ship because 1. they can. 2. They only have to port a rather small portfolio to another site.
Just my $0.00

« Reply #13 on: September 10, 2010, 13:56 »
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The problem is essentially supply and demand.  The supply of images exceeds demand and therefore the agencies are free to reduce commissions.

No, that is only true with physical products. With digital products there is no reason to give smaller comissions even if sales per image decrease: only the amount of sales will be less but the percentage can stay the same. That's because the only cost of the over-supply is just some server space. They can also free some of the space by removing images that doesn't sell, but still no reason to touch the royalty percentages.

There is no difference whether the product is physical or intangible.  If supply exceeds demand prices go down.  You can employ all the logic you want but there are too many contributors and many of them are willing to produce images for far less than 40%.  To put it another way, by lowering commissions, iStock is signaling they have an abundance of images and the product produced by contributors is consequently worth less.  Classic supply and demand.

Any contributor who is trying to justify the present commission structure by looking at iStock's costs (such as server space) is missing the point.  There are simply too many contributors producing too many images resulting in agencies being able to increase their profit by reducing commissions.  The goal of any for profit corporation is to maximize profits for its shareholders.  That is done by increasing revenue (growing the company) and reducing expenses (such as royalty expenses).

« Reply #14 on: September 10, 2010, 14:14 »
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Good point. If you think IS has enought isolated caucasian businessman pictures you are right and this motive indeed is basically a commodity that is subject to supply and demand dynamics. My points is that it is the combination of most generic motives in high quality PLUS the well annotated niche pictures supplied by exclusives that make IS so attractive to buyers. IS management is risking that unique source material to go to other agencies thereby loosing some of their biggest draw - because IS is certainly not going to compeet on buying price.

« Reply #15 on: September 10, 2010, 14:18 »
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Good point. If you think IS has enought isolated caucasian businessman pictures you are right and this motive indeed is basically a commodity that is subject to supply and demand dynamics. My points is that it is the combination of most generic motives in high quality PLUS the well annotated niche pictures supplied by exclusives that make IS so attractive to buyers. IS management is risking that unique source material to go to other agencies thereby loosing some of their biggest draw - because IS is certainly not going to compeet on buying price.

If I am right, you will soon see the other larger stock agencies doing exactly the same thing.  Time to get used to 20% with perhaps a premium for the Vetta and other elite collections. 

« Reply #16 on: September 10, 2010, 14:23 »
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If I am right, you will soon see the other larger stock agencies doing exactly the same thing.  Time to get used to 20% with perhaps a premium for the Vetta and other elite collections. 

Wow, way to cheer me up. Thanks



« Reply #18 on: September 10, 2010, 14:55 »
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Quote from: dschagun on Today at 14:18
If I am right, you will soon see the other larger stock agencies doing exactly the same thing.  Time to get used to 20% with perhaps a premium for the Vetta and other elite collections. 


 I COMPLETELY DISAGREE WITH THIS. It's not time to get used to that at all.

What have people done proactively besides post in forums and listserves about this problem. Has anyone removed links or set buyers to other sites?

Do you really think you can organize the hundreds of thousands contributors to demand higher commissions?  Cannot be done.  There are only three viable alternatives:

1)  Contributors directly market their images or form coops to sell images thereby eliminating the middle man
2)  Get used to 20%
3)  Quit

I can assure you that the other sites will be following iStock's lead.  iStock has the same supply and demand problem the contributors have.  There are too many agencies which is ultimately going to result in the reduction of costs to purchase images.  A double whammy for contributors as their lower percentages are now calculated on lower prices.

Microbius

« Reply #19 on: September 10, 2010, 15:41 »
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People don't have to be that organised, all they have to do is stop buying from sites that screw them, advise others to do so, stop pointing people to those sites. Don't forget a lot of submitters are also the designers that buy from the sites.


 

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