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Author Topic: Sales dropping. Istock especially.  (Read 29450 times)

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Yuri_Arcurs

  • One Crazy PhotoManic MadPerson
« on: September 18, 2011, 02:38 »
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Surprisingly it looks like that my income for Sep this year will be below my Mar sales this year. This is the first time in five years of production and certainly not due to me not uploading enough images. I have asked around and the trend seems to be the same for most contributors, especially Istock exclusives. Istock seems very affected in both sales and overall income.
Shutterstock has gone up it seems but has the same low "per-item" commission. Fotolia is about equal and DT seems to go a little below (Probably because of the upload limit they have there)
What are your experiences..And explanations...


« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2011, 03:26 »
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This could be a very long thread  :)

« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2011, 04:27 »
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Could the flood of IS editorial pictures be pushing some of your files back in the search? Or could they just be putting customers off and sending them elsewhere?

Shutterstock is still making strong progress for me. DT is drifting along below its best but Fotolia is running at about 30% of where it was and I am contemplating pulling out completely, in view their overall behaviour and the now low return on effort.

« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2011, 04:34 »
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It could all be down to what I call BPS (big portfolio syndrome).  The bigger a portfolio gets, the less each image makes.  It's really hard to keep creative and not compete with your own images.  Buyers aren't going to look through all your portfolio, it takes too long.  There are more and more copycats producing similar images.  Most people see the effects of this after 4 or 5 years.  It gets harder and harder to increase earnings.

Istock seem to of been doing all they can to send their buyers elsewhere in the past few years.  Those that can't afford their higher prices have gone to the cheaper sites.  I get the impression that some buyers have gone back to the traditional sites, as the prices have become much closer over the years.  Contributors that are also buyers have seen commission cuts and price rises, not surprising if they are no longer enamoured with istock.

I'm sure there's lots of istock exclusives that are doing quite nicely and don't want to share that info with us.  It's really hard to tell if istock's problems are as extensive as it seems.

Shutterstock has improved but that seems to be mainly from pay per download sales.  I haven't seen a boost in subs sales.

It looks like Yuri is too big to see a large cut in commissions, just imagine how bad this is for the rest of us.  Falling sales and commission cuts are going to make a lot of people wonder if it's worth continuing with microstock.

« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2011, 05:00 »
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For me it has been a trend that has been evident for about 12 months. Both IS and FT appear to be losing ground whilst SS continues to grow. I think DT have a fairly loyal customer base so they are just about holding on to their share of the market.

I'd suggest that microstock's explosive growth over the last few years has probably peaked (it had to eventually). In the early days any agency that had enough marketing $'s to make it's presence felt was bound to find new customers and grow sales. Now it's not so easy.

We're probably just witnessing a more mature market in which the existing customer base is making informed choices on where to do their shopping.

Istock have been pushing up prices for years (to our benefit as well as theirs) and maybe they have pushed them a bit too far recently and are starting to pay the price? FT have acknowledged customer resistance to higher priced images by limiting or reducing them on several occasions. In contrast SS has always been acutely sensitive and careful with price increases. SS has a fairly basic but easy to navigate site which always works well and all images are priced the same. It might be as simple as that.

ShadySue

« Reply #5 on: September 18, 2011, 05:07 »
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Could the flood of IS editorial pictures be pushing some of your files back in the search? Or could they just be putting customers off and sending them elsewhere?
I wouldn't have thought so as they are totally different subject matter, therefore very unlikely to turn up in the same search.
For example: search 'businessman': lots of Yuri's on the first best match page, not one editorial.
(In addition, buyers can easily switch off editorials.)
« Last Edit: September 18, 2011, 05:16 by ShadySue »

Cogent Marketing

« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2011, 05:34 »
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I'm sure you've seen the iSP forum topic regarding August Yuri, http://www.istockphoto.com/forum_messages.php?threadid=333872&page=1 - there's 12 pages of comments basically stating the same thing, and you're right, most are exclusives voicing their disappointment.

No-one has a specific reason but the GROWING PORTFOLIO and problems with best match seem to emerge as valid reasons, sadly when these are mentioned they tend to be slapped down by Lobo, the admins don't seem to want people posting thoughts for the general downturn on sales - understandable I suppose as the other competing library admins reads the forum posts too.

On an infinitely smaller scale than yours, my sales in iSP and DT remain solid, relatively speaking, but my SS sales have gone up by 200% in the last two months - but with much smaller returns of course.

« Reply #7 on: September 18, 2011, 05:45 »
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istock is going downhill, it's a clear trend if you look around.

The worst is not that istock is going downhill but the way they are going down. They want to push contributors down with them.

As they fall they try to squeeze more and more, leaving a trail of lower earnings and low commissions for all contributors. A clear sign for other agencies that they can lower commissions without fear.

Shutterstock is growing every day.
Dreamstime is growing the slowest.

Fotolia just wants to be the cheapest of them all.

« Reply #8 on: September 18, 2011, 05:51 »
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Ok some thoughts:

1. The best match at Istock has been changing over the last month or so, either intentionally or unintentionally. That is going to have an effect on sales. There were a few days where we had some really unusual results coming up - that's going to have an impact, and was probably especially prominent for the high volume searches.

2. Microstock is maturing, and that is going to be felt at iStock first through being the oldest microstock with the most developed customer base. There will be a point where those with large portfolios just won't be able to achieve growth through further portfolio increases - at best you'll be able to stem losses or reach an equilibrium. Some here realise that, but the question is really where is that point, and what to do about it.

3. The above is exacerbated when there are multiple contributors producing the same "look" in volume - the pie ends up being carved up in different, but overall smaller portions.

4. In some ways what happens at iStock will also happen in other agencies - by virtue of being first to the market. Its just not possible to continue to increase sales long term in excess of the increase in quantity of images supplied.

5. At the moment, old files that became successful at the "peak" are still protected in the best match - if there's any change to that situation, there's some potentially massive falls in store for those that are doing best at the moment. Many popular searches don't have any material from the last 12 months or more.

6. For Yuri specifically: your old material is performing relatively better in the overall search compared to the new material - compare a search for "business" where you get 31/200 in the regular best match. Filter that down to the last 6 months and it goes down to 1/200 or 5/200 if you filter out Vetta, Agency and Exclusive +. Obviously theres both the effects of improving standards from the competition, volume of material with a very similar look and the favouring of Vetta & Agency all working against you in such searches.

« Reply #9 on: September 18, 2011, 05:54 »
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Maybe I'm not typical, but iStock going downhill isn't a trend for me.

Obviously I'm a minnow compared to Yuri, but if September continues in the same vein as it has so far it'll be another BME for me in income, though not in downloads.  And that's despite my having dropped a royalty level since last year.

« Reply #10 on: September 18, 2011, 06:05 »
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Maybe I'm not typical, but iStock going downhill isn't a trend for me.

That's probably because you've increased your portfolio size by about 50% in the last 12 months. It would be astonishing if you hadn't experienced growth under those circumstances.

« Reply #11 on: September 18, 2011, 06:13 »
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My royalty figures are fine.

If you're very concerned, you may want to stop by the discussion forums more often to participate and contribute.  One factor we've discussed is whether images factories churning out large amounts of content and putting it on every possible site is good for the micro industry as a whole.  Thoughts?

« Reply #12 on: September 18, 2011, 07:26 »
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In addition to all the excellent points mentioned above, there is also the fact that images are turning up more and more on piracy sites, offering high resolution images for free. Even Sean has found his images floating out there.

There is a large contingency of people who don't steal images and will go to the agencies and purchase the proper license, but there's an even bigger contingency in the world who think it's OK to take for free whatever is on the internet. And there has been an amazing number of so-called "wallpaper" sites offering high resolution images propagating faster than bunnies.

I have to believe that this is going to seriously affect everyone's sales, on all the agencies.

« Reply #13 on: September 18, 2011, 07:33 »
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Is exclusive here; sales on the rise this month after a weak August. But they should rise more, current best match doesn't help much exclusives.

ShadySue

« Reply #14 on: September 18, 2011, 07:47 »
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Is exclusive here; sales on the rise this month after a weak August. But they should rise more, current best match doesn't help much exclusives.
Totally the opposite here: sinking fast after a very good August.

lisafx

« Reply #15 on: September 18, 2011, 08:29 »
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Ok some thoughts:

1. The best match at Istock has been changing over the last month or so, either intentionally or unintentionally. That is going to have an effect on sales. There were a few days where we had some really unusual results coming up - that's going to have an impact, and was probably especially prominent for the high volume searches.

2. Microstock is maturing, and that is going to be felt at iStock first through being the oldest microstock with the most developed customer base. There will be a point where those with large portfolios just won't be able to achieve growth through further portfolio increases - at best you'll be able to stem losses or reach an equilibrium. Some here realise that, but the question is really where is that point, and what to do about it.

3. The above is exacerbated when there are multiple contributors producing the same "look" in volume - the pie ends up being carved up in different, but overall smaller portions.

4. In some ways what happens at iStock will also happen in other agencies - by virtue of being first to the market. Its just not possible to continue to increase sales long term in excess of the increase in quantity of images supplied.

5. At the moment, old files that became successful at the "peak" are still protected in the best match - if there's any change to that situation, there's some potentially massive falls in store for those that are doing best at the moment. Many popular searches don't have any material from the last 12 months or more.

6. For Yuri specifically: your old material is performing relatively better in the overall search compared to the new material - compare a search for "business" where you get 31/200 in the regular best match. Filter that down to the last 6 months and it goes down to 1/200 or 5/200 if you filter out Vetta, Agency and Exclusive +. Obviously theres both the effects of improving standards from the competition, volume of material with a very similar look and the favouring of Vetta & Agency all working against you in such searches.

All really excellent points Holgs.  I highlighted those I think are most responsible. 

It seems to boil down the the dreaded "point of diminishing returns", that gets discussed around here fairly often.  A number of us with mature, and relatively successful portfolios have already experienced this.  You reach a point where you cannot increase your output quickly enough to keep pace with the growth of the libraries.    For a one person shop like me, this point was reached last year, when for the first time I started seeing consistently lower sales than the same months the prior year.  It only makes sense that for a business with Yuri's output it would take longer to hit the wall.

I believe the reason we are seeing growth on some sites and big declines on others is due to migration of customers, rather than attracting new customers. There doesn't appear to be enough (or any?) growth in the customer base to absorb all the millions of images that keep flooding on the sites. 

And finally, I think that in Yuri's case specifically, his brand has been diluted by the large numbers of people who have learned to reproduce the look and feel of his images.  I used to be able to spot a Yuri Arcurs image a mile away, but now there are so people producing similar images, it's impossible to tell. 

« Reply #16 on: September 18, 2011, 08:55 »
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Is it possible that the agencies are content with the amount of money they are earning and are simply less interested in growing the customer base?

Istock especially for many months actively pushed customers away when they put all V/A in front of best match without a price slider. You have to be doing extremely well, to afford the luxury of "getting rid of customers". After all everyone knows how extremely difficult and expensive it is to win them back.

I mean, if they all get a decent salary and returns - who is going to push an agency to grow?

The smaller agencies will be interested in growing and increasing market share, but the bigger agencies? Once they have an established base, they might decide it is "good enough" for them, why try to conquer the world?

And it is obvious that the world market and demand for images is not shrinking. Not for a long time. But going into other countries and cultures isnt easy and I wonder how many of the agencies have a truly global outlook (beyond the English language world and western culture).

For example: in 2010 istock made an amazing Lypse event in Japan. They created truly beautiful and high quality content. But if you look at the lightbox, the number of downloads seems low to me, especially if you ignore the more generic cityscape images.

http://www.istockphoto.com/search/lightbox/9363475/#1828fd50

I dont know how big the market share of istock in Japan is, but in a country with 130 million people and obviously lots of web designers and money I would have expected these images to sell in much higher volume.

Again, I dont know the market, but I really wonder if istock is the No 1 design resource for webdesigners in Japan.
« Last Edit: September 18, 2011, 09:08 by cobalt »


ShadySue

« Reply #17 on: September 18, 2011, 09:36 »
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Is it possible that the agencies are content with the amount of money they are earning and are simply less interested in growing the customer base?

Or maybe they think it's easier just to squeeze the contributors to get money rather than go to the bother/expense of gaining new customers?

(slightly OT, when checking something else, I noticed I've had no 'extended guarantee' ELs noted this year. Not that it means a cent of difference to me, but I wondered if others were noticing the same. Last year, some poor buyers were suckered into buying Extended Guarantee ELs on some of my files like random flowers or landscapes etc., and I felt very sorry for them, sure that they'd been scared into buying them. Two in particular were very large $$ values for the size bought, and I was pretty sure that they were new buyers, who had originally bought a bundle of 10 to try the site out, then been scared into buying extended guarantees, and probably never came back. (And yeah, I know they don't care about small buyers; but don't a lot of people check out a new site with a small purchase first?)
« Last Edit: September 18, 2011, 10:04 by ShadySue »

« Reply #18 on: September 18, 2011, 09:55 »
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Unfortunately Im experiencing a similar pattern. I had a good year until June, but then there were very bad July and August, and now the sales dont seem to pick up like they used to. Many of the reasons have been named I think, but it seems were also heading into a new economical state - people are waiting what will happen. And the first things being cut are always marketing budgets.

That being said, I like most of you am pretty sure iStock lost a lot of customers due to their search policy. We told them it would happen, but they didnt listen - very bad for all of us, including istock.
Now they are trying to get customers back but it will take a lot of time and effort. They are announcing some quite good ideas - unfortunately way before they are able to implement them, giving the competition time to work on the same ideas simultaneously. Sad for me being an exclusive.

For the moment Im putting quite some efforts into marketing my company to become stronger on the assignment side of business. It seems Ive been concentraing too long on stock. It has become hard to break even with model costs and such in a timely manner when doing stock shootings. If the trend continues it might not be worth shooting for stock anymore.

And something very specific to you, Yuri. While I admire your work I think you spent too much time teaching the competition. It sure was good to become popular and such, but in the longrun it might not have been the best idea.

« Reply #19 on: September 18, 2011, 11:34 »
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I can't really offer any useful comparisons as I'm still in transition (from exclusive to non).

I will say that SS has been doing very nicely and that the percentage of OD and ELs really helps to bring up the returns. IS has been highly erratic - some decent days and some weekdays that look more like a bad weekend. It seems as if they're doing particularly poorly in Europe (based on the money I see when I get up in the morning on the West Coast of the US when Europe's business day is almost over.

September is half over, but right now the IS earnings are less than half of August's - it's never been like that in the past. SS September earnings so far are 68% of August suggesting September will be stronger.

I think that under H&F's thumb (via Getty) IS has been making moves that are not customer focused in any way and have such a short-term profit mindset that they're hurting the business. The continued software eff ups and the long time before what's broken gets fixed don't help. Even loyal customers, eventually, get to a point where they've had enough.

The dropping download numbers (look at the monthly sales threads on IS) are not a good sign, even if there's a temporary sweetener of some higher priced sales.

« Reply #20 on: September 18, 2011, 11:45 »
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I'm not seeing much difference in any of the sites except for Fotolia which earning are down to 30% of what they were this time last year. Fotolia went from being my highest earner to 4th place virtually overnight  and  are now earning me only double 123rf or Bigstock earnings instead of 10 to 15 times more.
 IS has stayed pretty consistant over the last 3 or 4 years.  I don't sell nearly as many images as I did 3 or 4 years ago but earn more per image so  earnings have been pretty constant.    

lthn

    This user is banned.
« Reply #21 on: September 18, 2011, 11:54 »
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Istock is losing customers, and the problem with SS is that since there is no upload limit you gonna find a lot more ppl with similarly large collections, and pretty good quality too. It's simply oversupply

« Reply #22 on: September 18, 2011, 12:01 »
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Is it possible that the agencies are content with the amount of money they are earning and are simply less interested in growing the customer base?

No, not the way they are behaving. SS is growing its business and iS and Fotolia are trying to squeeze pennies to boost their profits.

« Reply #23 on: September 18, 2011, 12:21 »
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have nothing worth enough to say but will keep on reading

(HEY after 4 years and 11 months growing and now 1 down.. I understand but it doesnt mean much unless you have been dropping for the all year)

microstockphoto.co.uk

« Reply #24 on: September 18, 2011, 12:58 »
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My experience is that my earnings stopped growing significantly since April 2010 but I can't find a single reason.

On the negative side:
- commissions and sales are going down at all major sites - except Shutterstock;
- for us Europeans, the USD vs EUR exchange rate is not helping at all;
- on some sites newer pictures are not selling at all;

On the positive side:
- middle tier are doing well;
- low earners are not so insignificant (about 7% of total earnings); submitting to low earners has been more profitable than shooting new pictures lately. But it's not enough to counteract.

But I am afraid there's also an important issue which has nothing to do with the general situation: it's impossible to keep growing at the same pace as stock libraries; most active contributors on this forum have been doing microstock for at least 4 or 5 years (some more) and the wall may be near for us.

September 2011 is especially bad - even compared to August.

But people will always need pictures and stock is not over.
« Last Edit: September 18, 2011, 17:12 by microstockphoto.co.uk »


 

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