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Author Topic: Contributors' Collective  (Read 29352 times)

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« on: May 04, 2009, 12:03 »
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I'm becoming increasingly concerned regarding the way things have been going over the last few months at several microstock agencies. It seems that our value and our ability to control how are images are licensed, as individual contributors, is being slowly erroded.

We seem to be sliding inevitably into a situation in which almost all the power will be controlled by one or two huge players __ just as things have been for years within the traditional stock industry.

I know at one time we have speculated about the concept of contributors owning and running their own agency but back then it was only about us keeping a fairer share of the revenue our images generated. Now I'm starting to wonder if we need our own agency as an insurance policy against our work being packaged up and flogged off absurdly cheaply which increasingly seems to be the trend. I can't ever imagine that a 'union' would ever have enough teeth to be effective so that route is probably a non-starter.

Anyone else got any thoughts on this?


stacey_newman

« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2009, 12:17 »
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twice in one day I'm agreeing with you, wow ;-)

I think something like this is a great idea. but only if done well. really really really well. and there would have to be a legal agreement amongst members that selling the business after it gets going is never in the plans.

« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2009, 12:21 »
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I have thought all along that we should start our own site.  I don't mind paying a middle man when they provide a good service but I don't like taking 20% commission or 25 cents a sale.  The sites will want to make bigger profits in the future and one way to do that will be to take more from us.  That wouldn't be as easy if we had our own site and could deal directly with the buyers.

If there were enough of us interested and we could bring in some buyers, it might not cost too much to set up.  New sites don't work but if the contributors ran it with the buyers, I think it would succeed.

« Reply #3 on: May 04, 2009, 12:22 »
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I disagree that our value is being slowly eroded -I think it's happening quickly.

I've only been doing this a few months and I have a small portfolio.  My acceptance rate has been good, and my earnings have been dismal.  As a relative newcomer, all I see happening in microstock is a "race to the bottom" with agencies selling the same images to the same people and competing on nothing but price.  Keywording abuse has made searching tedious and frustrating.  The archives are flooded with boring, similar shots.  As buyers get turned off, prices will be lowered further.  

All we will see from these companies is a continuation these trends.  And all we can do is wait for a shakeout and a collapse.  Those millions of images already archived will not go away and will continue to be dumped on the market for years,  but maybe in time we can find new ways to market new images.

Creativity is the only answer. We need to come up with new image concepts and then not hand them over to the old agencies to sell for 10 cents.  Oops, it just went to 5...







stacey_newman

« Reply #4 on: May 04, 2009, 12:24 »
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without decreasing cost per image, how would we compete with the existing big wigs?

« Reply #5 on: May 04, 2009, 12:27 »
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without decreasing cost per image, how would we compete with the existing big wigs?

Err ... the big wigs don't own the content (at least the good stuff). We do.

stacey_newman

« Reply #6 on: May 04, 2009, 12:28 »
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I don't think it could be pulled off, good idea in theory. I don't see the same doomsday numbers and I don't even know that I would want to be part of running a company like that. traditional stock photographers said the same thing about microstock.

I just plan on evolving well.

« Reply #7 on: May 04, 2009, 12:31 »
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without decreasing cost per image, how would we compete with the existing big wigs?

We could sell for lower prices and still make more, as we wouldn't need to make profits for investors.  I think the best way to compete would be to upload lots of exclusive content and perhaps have a month of only uploading to our own site, to get the buyers interested. 

It would only work if all the big contributors were behind it.

« Reply #8 on: May 04, 2009, 12:33 »
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I disagree that our value is being slowly eroded -I think it's happening quickly.

I've only been doing this a few months and I have a small portfolio.  My acceptance rate has been good, and my earnings have been dismal.  As a relative newcomer, all I see happening in microstock is a "race to the bottom" with agencies selling the same images to the same people and competing on nothing but price.  Keywording abuse has made searching tedious and frustrating.  The archives are flooded with boring, similar shots.  As buyers get turned off, prices will be lowered further.

You only perceive "quickly" because you've been in a few months.  We've already risen from the bottom.  iStockphoto used to be free, after all.

Xalanx

« Reply #9 on: May 04, 2009, 12:38 »
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It would only work if all the big contributors were behind it.

I agree with this. However, the idea is great but it will take more than just a bunch of photographers to start this. And who's gonna take care of marketing stuff? A lot of hard questions are behind this initiative.

« Reply #10 on: May 04, 2009, 12:40 »
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You only perceive "quickly" because you've been in a few months.  We've already risen from the bottom.  iStockphoto used to be free, after all.

Exactly. Yet already IS have sales of something like $150M pa of which only about $50M will be paid out to contributors. Potentially there is a huge amount of business out there.

batman

« Reply #11 on: May 04, 2009, 12:43 »
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If you're considering each of us owning our own site, then linking our whole community to each other, it could well work. Using the porn sites as a model. I know this may sound like dirty ole woman or man pervesion talk, but it isn't. According to a survey on the biggest business on www, porn stood the test of time best.
We, as photographers , could do with someone who knows how they worked at the beginning of www. We certainly do have the resources, as many of us are from different business fields, and to really make it work , it has to be someone very knowledgeable in IT, which I think we do have too, ie. Flemish, who else, I think Magnum,etc...
Well, keep talking. We are all fighting for the same cause. As much as it seems like we've been crapping on each other, we still come together as one force in the event of a threat. Much like War of the Worlds, sworn enemies become one to combat the extra terrestrial invaders. Only in our case, it's not extra terrestrial, it's macro invaders  8)

Keep talking people, I am all ears. Bat ones , lol.

« Reply #12 on: May 04, 2009, 12:58 »
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If you're considering each of us owning our own site, then linking our whole community to each other, it could well work.

I think that is a great idea!!!

donding

  • Think before you speak
« Reply #13 on: May 04, 2009, 12:59 »
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I think something needs to be done also. Most business flock to micro sites and really I am on two Macro site also and and sell very little. When I do it's a good pay off and you know when the photo is going, but in the long run the micro pays better. That was the only reason I broke down and went to micro. You'd really have to research the micro sites to get the true cost to the buyers in order to compete...as far as running it, that would be tough. It would require alot of time for someone. You would almost have to subscribe to be a contributor (not buyer but contributor) in order to finance the site and unless you can make enough off of the micro alot of photographers may not even be interested....I'm all ears also and I'd love to see some solution. Just don't know what ???

WarrenPrice

« Reply #14 on: May 04, 2009, 13:02 »
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I think we keep shooting ourselves in the foot.  Everytime a new site comes on line ... we attack it.  I saw CutCaster as just the right vehicle to fight against the monopoly.  It could only work, however, if everyone went exclusive there and quit uploading to Getty and Corbis.  

The approach we are talking about in this thread is like re-inventing the wheel.  If you want to fight the monopoly ... don't use them.  Unite behind an independant.


« Reply #15 on: May 04, 2009, 13:04 »
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While this sounds like a great idea, it has been discussed a few times over the last few years and nothing has ever come of it.  I had actually started down the path of creating a new site that would be fair to contributors, but after a few months I realized how much effort it truly was (and there is no guarantee of success).  I'm glad that I didn't go through with it because since then there have been dozens of sites that have come out of the woodwork and none of them have ever come close to competing with the big 5 (or 6 or 7).  I hate to be a naysayer, but I don't think that anything ever will come of this idea for a few reasons:

- First, to create a new site, someone has to create the infrastructure (both hardware and software).  There is an initial cost (both monetary and time) to setup a new site, especially one that needs to be able to handle the large workloads that stock sites can receive.  You would need high bandwidth, large hard disk capacities (on the order of multiple terabytes), redundancy (for 24x7 operability), a programming staff (to create the site and maintain it), a support staff, etc, etc.  If someone is going to put in their own time and money to start a new site, then they are going to want to get a larger slice in return.  Also, if they are going to do this, then why set up a new site for others to make a profit?  Why not just keep all of the profit for themselves?

- Second, sites already exist that offer a higher return, among them FeaturePics.  Contributors could band together and put up exclusive content on FP and support that site (or any other site that offers
better royalties), but most contributors don't support FP because of the low income that they receive.

- Third, why would contributors contribute exclusive content?  If the content was worthy of sales, most contributors would want it to be placed on the top sites, not a startup that has very little traffic and little sales.

There are other reasons as well, but these alone would probably kill any real effort.

IMHO, I believe that setting up some sort of association/union would be more likely, but it would need to be done correctly.


« Reply #16 on: May 04, 2009, 13:08 »
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I think we keep shooting ourselves in the foot.  Everytime a new site comes on line ... we attack it.  I saw CutCaster as just the right vehicle to fight against the monopoly.  It could only work, however, if everyone went exclusive there and quit uploading to Getty and Corbis.  

The approach we are talking about in this thread is like re-inventing the wheel.  If you want to fight the monopoly ... don't use them.  Unite behind an independant.

Then the independent gets successful, is bought out and you get screwed, or they screw you.


m@m

« Reply #17 on: May 04, 2009, 13:08 »
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How about!, and this idea is off the top of my head, so don't kill me over it!
If we contacted one of the low earning sites and make some kind of legal agreement with them (if they go for it of course), where it would be profitable for us as well as the site, and all of us start uploading all our new photos and take away the good stuff that we've been uploading to the big guys for pennies,  that way, they could take care of the marketing and day to day performance of the site and we would supply the product...I think buyers may tend to buy from that site instead of one of the large ones, since they will be bombarded with great quality photos that other sites will not have...what do you guys think?

Edited: GeoPappas, I upload to FP and lately I've being getting some good sales there, not in quantity but in commisssion, they could be a perfect candidate to contact.
« Last Edit: May 04, 2009, 13:15 by m@m »

batman

« Reply #18 on: May 04, 2009, 13:18 »
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If you're considering each of us owning our own site, then linking our whole community to each other, it could well work.

I think that is a great idea!!!

actually it was one of my ex students who told me about it. at the u, he did a thesis on the porn industry and how individual girls (most ex showgirls, ladies of the nights,etc..) would be running their business. all without the help of their pimps or agents. when he mentioned this to the class, they all laughed at him.
by the time he finished his presentation, no one was laughing.

Believe me, none of these girls who started out in the advent of www was making 25 cents per download. and today some of them are truly enterprises with their own fashion shop, merchandising stores,etc...
It isn't a dirty thing, it's real effective marketing and a true community in the sense of the business world. A model to emulate? I should think so.

« Reply #19 on: May 04, 2009, 13:19 »
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How about!, and this idea is off the top of my head, so don't kill me over it!
If we contacted one of the low earning sites and make some kind of legal agreement with them (if they go for it of course), where it would be profitable for us as well as the site, and all of us start uploading all our new photos and take away the good stuff that we've been uploading to the big guys for pennies,  that way, they could take care of the marketing and day to day performance of the site and we would supply the product...I think buyers may tend to buy from that site instead of one of the large ones, since they will be bombarded with great quality photos that other sites will not have...what do you guys think?

Edited: GeoPappas, I upload to FP and lately I've being getting some good sales there, not in quantity but in commisssion, they could be a perfect candidate to contact.

I did think myself that buying out an existing agency might be the way to start. Unfortunately all of the established ones would be way too expensive so it would have to be a failing one. I'm sure most of them fail due to lack of capital for marketing, etc.

batman

« Reply #20 on: May 04, 2009, 13:22 »
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Then the independent gets successful, is bought out and you get screwed, or they screw you.

ah yes sjlocke, but for now, looking at your perogative, which is the lesser of the two evils? we know for a fact , Gxxxx has f'ked you up, but we don't know for a fact if say, JG of Cut will do the same.  One is real, the other is hypothetical.

WarrenPrice

« Reply #21 on: May 04, 2009, 13:23 »
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We need to know HOW a buyer decides which site to use.  I have a friend who is a small time buyer.  When I asked him why he chose iStock, he didn't have a good answer.  It was more like, "Which others are there?"

He had never heard of DT, or FT, of BS, or ShutterStock.  

Are there any buyers paying attention to this thread?  Is there any good answer to the question?


batman

« Reply #22 on: May 04, 2009, 13:27 »
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Are there any buyers paying attention to this thread?  Is there any good answer to the question?



Yes, let's look at it this way buyers! If ,like magnum said, I repeat, if I am going to end up getting 03 cents for my work, I would rather leave those images on my hard disk than take your bloody 6 cents and shove it up your know where. 8)

« Reply #23 on: May 04, 2009, 13:30 »
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actually it was one of my ex students who told me about it. at the u, he did a thesis on the porn industry and how individual girls (most ex showgirls, ladies of the nights,etc..) would be running their business. all without the help of their pimps or agents. when he mentioned this to the class, they all laughed at him.
by the time he finished his presentation, no one was laughing.

Believe me, none of these girls who started out in the advent of www was making 25 cents per download. and today some of them are truly enterprises with their own fashion shop, merchandising stores,etc...
It isn't a dirty thing, it's real effective marketing and a true community in the sense of the business world. A model to emulate? I should think so.

You may have hit upon a possible solution there. I was thinking down the line of Wikipedia being self administrating and staffed by volunteers, etc. If every contributor effectively had their own site, set their own prices and was self-editing ...

« Reply #24 on: May 04, 2009, 13:31 »
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How about!, and this idea is off the top of my head, so don't kill me over it!
If we contacted one of the low earning sites and make some kind of legal agreement with them (if they go for it of course), where it would be profitable for us as well as the site, and all of us start uploading all our new photos and take away the good stuff that we've been uploading to the big guys for pennies,  that way, they could take care of the marketing and day to day performance of the site and we would supply the product...I think buyers may tend to buy from that site instead of one of the large ones, since they will be bombarded with great quality photos that other sites will not have...what do you guys think?

Edited: GeoPappas, I upload to FP and lately I've being getting some good sales there, not in quantity but in commisssion, they could be a perfect candidate to contact.

Great idea!

A 50% commission would be fair, in my opinion

PhotoDuneMicrostock Insider

 

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