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Author Topic: Are we doomed by the law of diminishing returns ..  (Read 13903 times)

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michealo

« on: January 25, 2008, 06:22 »
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Are earnings going down because the barriers to entry to submitting microstock are so low, a $500 dollar SLR, internet connection and some time to take and process shots?

Are buyers keeping pace and are their budgets keeping up?

Every new contributor means the overall pot has to be divided up even more, contributors talk of feeding the animal on Shutterstock isn't that was its about everywhere e.g.

Say you had 1,000 shots on stock when they had a million and you add another 500 - they hit 1.5 million, your image has no better chance of being found but you have put alot of effort in

Yuri has seen this effect already and many other contributors have spoken of increasing portfolio sizes and static earnings.

What do you think?


« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2008, 06:30 »
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My earnings are still going up, there was a slow down but it seems that is usual for this time of year.  The same thing happened to me last year and then sales picked up well in the spring.

There are lots of people uploading images but how many can produce quality and quantity?  I think it is still a low proportion of the contributors that make most of the money.

Yuri has a huge portfolio and it must be hard to increase earnings when he already has that many great images.  I hope I have that problem one day :)

« Reply #2 on: January 25, 2008, 06:43 »
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I think Quality will always prevail over quantity. It dosen't matter how many images you have in your portfolio, the cream will alway rise to the top.

I have noticed a slow down over Christmas my sales dropped to about a third of the normal figures but the back end of January has really picked up and for about a half of the sites I submit to I will have a record month (but sadly not shutterstock).

« Reply #3 on: January 25, 2008, 07:06 »
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I think Quality will always prevail over quantity. It dosen't matter how many images you have in your portfolio, the cream will alway rise to the top.

I have noticed a slow down over Christmas my sales dropped to about a third of the normal figures but the back end of January has really picked up and for about a half of the sites I submit to I will have a record month (but sadly not shutterstock).

I don't see any signs of a saturated market yet, and as long as the advertising (and more buyers) can keep growing, so will our earnings.  Stock sites are also raising there prices which means more $$ for us.

As nicemonkey said, cream will rise to the top, good pictures will always sell well.  the poor pictures will probably get less downloads than they used to... since there is more 'poor picture' competition

« Reply #4 on: January 25, 2008, 07:58 »
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I think Quality will always prevail over quantity. I

I agree with that and I guess almost everyone would,too.but I believe there are also some other factors that has impact on sales especially search engines in other words they could make your work more visible to buyers  or vice versa also keywording is I think another 'key' player that has certain impact on sales  as we all know.
back to the main question of the topic :no I don't think equipments becoming cheaper would make a significant change in the market, to my point of view.

PaulieWalnuts

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« Reply #5 on: January 25, 2008, 08:31 »
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I feel contributors are mainly in control of their earnings and returns. There will always be buyers who have a need for images and eventually the industry will stabilize. Until then, it will be an interesting ride.

A high percentage of $500 DSLR toting newbies give up from being rejected too many times or no sales. Or they continue submitting to sites where there aren't any buyers. Either way, the euphoria wears off.

Search engine tweaks are increasingly geared toward pushing viable images that have high view/sales ratios to the top while the others get pushed down into the abyss.

Also, the current state of the economy (at least from my view here in the US) will be pushing down marketing budgets which will drive buyers to more affordable options for their clients.

Overall I think there's plenty of demand. Entrepreneurial contributors who are driven, insightful, adaptable and committed will see improvements in overall earnings and returns even if the market does get saturated.



« Reply #6 on: January 25, 2008, 08:53 »
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In time of economical crisis, advertsiment is the only option for companies that don't have the space to reduce their prices too much.

So I don't think there will be a long-term decrease of the market, I think it will be opposite instead.

« Reply #7 on: January 25, 2008, 10:38 »
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I'm seeing direct results from saturation in the market. I have a little over 300 images on IS, DT and SS and really wasn't all that active last year until recently started uploading again heavily.

In terms of downloads, I was getting way more across the board 18 months ago on a portfolio with less than half the images. Earnings peaked in January last year, almost double what I'm getting now. This just around the time of some major search engine changes. I had an image go to flames in a couple of months, only to have them change the engine and have only 3 downloads in ten months. I think it proves that you need to keep uploading and can't sit on your portfolio.

Part of it is my problem because I hadn't been able to give it the attention I think I can to get to the next level. But hopefully that will change here soon...

DanP68

« Reply #8 on: January 27, 2008, 16:36 »
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Search engine tweaks are increasingly geared toward pushing viable images that have high view/sales ratios to the top while the others get pushed down into the abyss.



You mean high sales/view ratios, right?  If I do a Best Match sorting of my portfolio at iStock, I find it is almost a perfect sales:views ratio sort.  Obviously total sales and recency of upload give a boost too, but not nearly as much as sales:views.  Really there does not seem to be much to "figure out" when it comes to the IS best match, although there are many threads where people try to demystify it.

« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2008, 16:45 »
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It's been a while, but a bunch of us on the Yahoo Microstock group tried to see what influenced IS Best Match searches. It seems to be decent keywords and description, obviously. Then there were more esoteric things like newness, ratings and exclusivity. One thing we figured out after twiddling bits on a few images for a while was that there is some type of hidden ratings systems that the Inspectors must apply. When all other elements are the same, except for the actual image and one is top in best match and another is down 50 pages, then there is something else behind the scenes.

Clearly, you are in control of your destiny in Microstock, but I think the days of easy money are over.  The laws of dilution are taking effect and I don't think that there are enough new customers to offset the surge in uploads. Not sure what is going to happen. Too much choice leads to frustration on the buyers end and too many photographers lead to fewer and fewer downloads. Not sure what is going to happen, but something will give eventually.

« Reply #10 on: January 27, 2008, 17:22 »
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It's been a while, but a bunch of us on the Yahoo Microstock group tried to see what influenced IS Best Match searches. It seems to be decent keywords and description, obviously.

There's no way keywords and description can directly influence Best Match.

DanP68

« Reply #11 on: January 27, 2008, 17:33 »
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That's kinda round-about logic.  best match is applied to search results after keywords are used. 

But I definitely agree with Zorki.  You have a lot of control over your own destiny, but there are diminishing returns.  When I first joined Shutterstock in August 2007, my first image uploaded had an ID which rounded to 4.3 million.  My last accepted image a few days ago had an image ID which rounded to 8.8 million.

That's 4.5 million submissions in a shade over 5 months!  Obviously only a fraction made it online, which shows how difficult it is for new/inexperienced contributors.  But that is a ton of submissions to swim upstream against.

« Reply #12 on: January 27, 2008, 19:55 »
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I think there is only growth potential with the major players, I think micro has not tapped into some markets as deeply as they could, Asia in paricular stands out.

« Reply #13 on: January 27, 2008, 20:10 »
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That's kinda round-about logic.  best match is applied to search results after keywords are used. 

Well obviously.  Best match is just a sort method applied after the keyword match search.  Same as "most downloads","age", etc.

DanP68

« Reply #14 on: January 27, 2008, 23:07 »
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It probably was as clear as mud since I didn't quote Zorki, but I was actually agreeing with you Sean.  There's always a first time.   :D

« Reply #15 on: January 28, 2008, 02:48 »
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Well obviously.  Best match is just a sort method applied after the keyword match search.  Same as "most downloads","age", etc.

It may be bit complicate than that. Not sure if it applies on MS as well but I would guess so.

In general, you may be searching using more keywords than just one. If you don't specify that the result must contain only entries having all keywords (most search engines have a way to do this by say using + sign but on default they return results that match just one of you keywords). So you may end up with say 10 entries having all the keywords, 10 entries having one less than that and so on.

How do you sort this when you want to apply other criteria such as views, downloads, ratings? One option is to give the keyword match the absolute priority. In this case you would be right. However it is not the only option and I would believe that in fact the sort by best match actually depends on how many keywords from the search you matched and that this mixes with other criteria that applies during the mix.

« Reply #16 on: January 28, 2008, 02:50 »
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One thing we figured out after twiddling bits on a few images for a while was that there is some type of hidden ratings systems that the Inspectors must apply.

Were these pictures of one contributor? I would think that there are many other options that may be used as criteria during the best match. On of them may be the author rating computed on based on various things.

« Reply #17 on: January 28, 2008, 04:29 »
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It probably was as clear as mud since I didn't quote Zorki, but I was actually agreeing with you Sean.  There's always a first time.   :D

Sorry - I wasn't paying attention to the author of that one - thought it was the same :)

« Reply #18 on: January 28, 2008, 04:30 »
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So you may end up with say 10 entries having all the keywords, 10 entries having one less than that and so on.

How do you sort this when you want to apply other criteria such as views, downloads, ratings? One option is to give the keyword match the absolute priority. In this case you would be right. However it is not the only option and I would believe that in fact the sort by best match actually depends on how many keywords from the search you matched and that this mixes with other criteria that applies during the mix.

I'm just talking about iStock, since that is the only place I know of with "Best Match".  The search returns all matches for all the keywords, and then it is sorted by your choice of sort.

« Reply #19 on: January 28, 2008, 10:13 »
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One thing we figured out after twiddling bits on a few images for a while was that there is some type of hidden ratings systems that the Inspectors must apply.

Were these pictures of one contributor? I would think that there are many other options that may be used as criteria during the best match. On of them may be the author rating computed on based on various things.

No, they were from several contributors. We did the same thing to an image (same name, description, keywords) and they were all over the place in the search engine. So... I leave it to your imagination... there is something else the engine is ranking them on.

Sean hates it when we trying to pull back the curtain and try and find out what is going on...

helix7

« Reply #20 on: January 28, 2008, 11:06 »
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...Yuri has seen this effect already and many other contributors have spoken of increasing portfolio sizes and static earnings...

No offense to Yuri, but the guy is a freak (in a good way). His problems in microstock are problems that most of us know nothing about, because he operates on a totally different level.

I think generally speaking, earnings haven't changed all that much across the board, and they won't any time soon. Within the business I have a theory that there may be a shift away from subscription sites and the sites that sell based on credits are seeing more growth. But in microstock as a whole, things aren't bad and we are still in control of our own futures and earnings. Guys like Yuri are in a different boat and face challenges we don't even have to consider when it comes to maintaining or increasing earnings.


« Reply #21 on: January 28, 2008, 11:54 »
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Sean hates it when we trying to pull back the curtain and try and find out what is going on...

No I don't.  Of course there are lots of things in there, but keywords and description ain't one of them.  Or two of them.

« Reply #22 on: February 01, 2008, 12:05 »
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A high percentage of $500 DSLR toting newbies give up from being rejected too many times or no sales. Or they continue submitting to sites where there aren't any buyers. Either way, the euphoria wears off.


The thing is a lot of the "newbies" toting $500 DLSR's are in fact not newbies.  Newbies to stock, yes, but not to photography.  Sure there will be the ones that get a new camera and go straight to stock, but I think a lot of them are people that have spent an enormous amount of time at Flickr, that have an understanding of what a good picture is and how to take one, not just sharpness, but color theory, composition, and interesting content, and thumbnail photography (must look good as a thumb to be noticed), understanding proper exposure and DOF, maxing out the cameras ability (exposing to the right, etc..), many with pro level PS skills or beyond, and have already made the jump to fine art photography somewhat but are looking for another easy revenue stream to do nothing more than upgrade their equipment to let their expensive hobby pay for itself.  The big adaptation for these people is noise and different content type.  The big problem is these folks are used to basically giving away their pictures for free, used to rejection (little interest in a picture on Flickr), and have no need to make any sort of living from it, so for them quality will be higher than quantity.

This was my vector to stock, and though I have very little in the way of a stock portfolio yet (almost all of my good ones have little stock use, fine art yes, but not stock), I can easily look at a picture and tell if the composition is a joke, the WB is dead on, the color saturation is good, the photo is interesting, etc...  I have literally viewed and commented on 10's of thousands of pictures (commenting on others work and seeing the comments of others is often the best way to train your eye), from good to bad, and taken 10's of thousands of pictures myself to learn the craft, in the last year alone.  Learning to take noise free images is a new challenge, but not difficult at all compared to the other hurdles of learning photography.  A $500 SLR paired with a good couple of lenses (not necessarily $$ either, like a Canon 50) and an external flash can take a darn good picture, whether for stock or not, when the user knows how to use it right, and many stock "newbies" are quite skilled in this respect. 

Flickr has created an enormous group of very skilled amateur photographers used to giving away pictures, and is causing the skill level of the average amateur to jump sky high, as they find their way to stock, the sheer numbers of these people have the ability to easily dilute the earnings of those already there.

PaulieWalnuts

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« Reply #23 on: February 01, 2008, 13:07 »
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Waldo, your response implies I'm discrediting or downplaying the skills of new contributors, which I'm not. I'm sure there are a ton of talented new contributors.

I've seen evidence that many new contributors "give it a try". When they find out it can become a second 40 hour full time job that constantly rejects their best work plus earns them next to nothing for the first few months, they give up.

It is what it is. I believe a high percentage of microstock newbies, both new and seasoned photographers, give up after they see the enormous level of effort and initial low return. It's pretty clear the people who have the right skills plus commitment are getting somewhere with this.

I'd love to see some stats from each of the sites what percentage of user accounts that are older than six months and have less than 25 or 50 images.

« Reply #24 on: February 01, 2008, 19:40 »
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This is where I think Microstock makes the bulk of their money on abandoned accounts. There are literally millions of images across all of microstock just sitting there collecting downloads and the owners got bored or frustrated without getting a fast payout. I forced myself through my first 100 uploads and while I don't even consider it a 2nd source of income, it does buy all my equipment. But I have more time on my hands and I'm uploading more than I have in a year.


 

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