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Author Topic: Food for thought...a (possible/probable?) future for microstock.  (Read 9245 times)

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« on: January 20, 2015, 16:18 »
+9
This is my guess.

Step 1) Agencies devalue imagery to the point where established contributors are no longer motivated to continue uploading.

Step 2) New contributors initially take their place while established contributors (who chose to continue in microstock) will start finding/making/building more lucrative venues to sell their new images via co-ops, self hosting, or collaboration with small groups of similar contributors.

Step 3) New contributors lose interest because income from small portfolios simply cannot justify the time/expense of creating quality images. Established contributors continue to receive residual income from old images while their focus for new images go to increasingly improving and growing new venues.

Step 4) New contributors cannot/will not provide high quality imagery and established contributors refuse to offer it to the subscription model. Newer venues slowly grow in size and viability but are not available to new contributors because established artists have learned the lesson about creating a higher barrier for entry.

Step 5) Customers start to realize that quality new imagery is no longer coming to the subscription sites and start looking for alternatives.

Step 6) Smaller new venues gain more and more market share while simultaneously limiting their contributor base.

Step 7) A new market evolves for quality/new imagery and the subscription model is relegated to generic easy to produce images.

Step 8 ) Established contributors are making enough on new venues to justify pulling their entire portfolio or at the least best sellers from subscription sites.

Step 9) See step 5

Steps 1-4 are already happening (Stocksy, Symbiostock, Creative Market, ?Privately in development)... when Steps 5 through 9 will happen is just a question of how long will it take.

Some new ideas will work (Stocksy, Creative Market) and some will stumble but pave the road for new ideas (Symbiostock). Regardless the new venues that are likely to be successful are the ones that are very particular about who gets in and who doesn't and the types of images and quality they offer. Gone are the days of building a site and people just join and upload. New venues will get content primarily based on relationships and reputation of existing contributors.

Stocksy and Creative Market both have funding but smaller collaborative efforts will have success as well... it will just happen slower. The true power for sales still lies with the artists and eventually contributors will start wielding it out of necessity. Trust is gone and as a result the next generation of agencies will be controlled by the artists and are likely to be far less shortsighted than the current generation of agencies.

Do I think the big 4 are going anywhere? No, they will serve the purpose of filling the generic content and the huge libraries they have will serve them for a long time. But without new content eventually they will start seeing more and more customers going elsewhere. Competing on price is a short term strategy and will eventually not work in the long run.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2015, 16:33 by chromaco »


« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2015, 16:29 »
+3
That's what will happen.  But it will take a long time - years - before any currently existing agency is ready to face it, and announce a change of direction accompanied by a "mistakes were made" speech.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2015, 16:36 by stockastic »

« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2015, 16:45 »
+2
I have always thought that a point would be reached where this thing would simply not be worth the effort to upload - even for the "weekend shooter" like me, never mind the pros, at which point content will start to go where it does remain viable.  If I were a betting man I'd say SS will probably react first to maintain content. We're not there yet so not holding my breath

« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2015, 17:10 »
+5
I have always thought that a point would be reached where this thing would simply not be worth the effort to upload - even for the "weekend shooter" like me, never mind the pros, at which point content will start to go where it does remain viable.  If I were a betting man I'd say SS will probably react first to maintain content. We're not there yet so not holding my breath
We're not there yet because there aren't enough alternatives but I'll ask a hypothetical question.
If you had an agency that paid 20 times more than SS but had 1/20th the sales who would you upload to first? In other words if you were earning $400 at SS over 500 sales or earning $400 at X on 25 sales which would be your preferred agent?
Would SS still look so good? Would IS, FT or DT?

I'm not on Stocksy or Creative Market but it sounds like they are pushing that barrier right now and I do get enough Symbio sales to make me seriously question the need for sub sites.

« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2015, 18:45 »
+7

If you had an agency that paid 20 times more than SS but had 1/20th the sales who would you upload to first? In other words if you were earning $400 at SS over 500 sales or earning $400 at X on 25 sales which would be your preferred agent?

It would depend on the other agency and my best guess as to their long term plans. If the alternative appeared to be a SS-wannabe who was just getting started with the SOD end of what Shutterstock sells (but which I thought was heading towards being the amazon of the stock imagery marketplace) then it'd be out of the frying pan into the fire and I'd probably stick with the abuser I know than try a new abuser :)

I'm not with Stocksy but I have a small portfolio at Creative Market and also one at Canva (it's not high price, but it's effectively low cost RM with an online design site, and I think that has lots of potential if they can make it all work for a large audience). I'm interested in trying new approaches, where they seem potentially viable. I'm interested in finding partners who are honest, competent and in it for the long haul.

The price per transaction isn't such a big issue for me - some people balked at 35 cents royalty on a $1 license at Canva, but this isn't at all the same as a RF sale via one of the agencies. (a) the buyer never gets your image directly, only their design and (b) each item they design requires a separate payment, rather than being able to re-use an image on multiple pieces.

I want a fair deal. I want buyers to get a fair deal. I'd like the agency/sales site to stick around and keep their promises. Good business can be built on such things.

The wasteland of the last decade in microstock (not to mention all Getty's acquisitions of stock agencies in the years prior) gives us lots of examples of what to avoid and what not to do :)

« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2015, 18:58 »
-5
to me , the bottom line each month is the only thing that matters. as JAS said, the details do not matter much , as more the long term integrity.  if i get a check each month for sales, i really don't care if it is for 20 cts or 200 dollars per sale. nor do i care if it is 90% commission or 20 % commission.
also i want to see a payout regularly, not the rip-off where each portfolio has a payout of 70 % or even 20 % and the agency keeps the money because we have not reached payout in 5 years,etc.
same for the nice logo or hot name. i remember when we first heard of a new company called yahoo, we all laughed. no one bought the stock except a handful of them and we were no longer laughing when they told us they bought yahoo stocks.
the name can suck all you want, but if you are crapterstock and you get me as much sales as shutterstock, i will move my work to be a crapterstock contributor .
but the way it is, i won't be the one holding my breath .

p.s. lol, i actually wrote the sh*t but it came out to read as crap, LMAO

« Reply #6 on: January 20, 2015, 19:36 »
+1
The bottom line is important, but not everything. If a site continually seems shady and moves the goalposts, etc. then I am unhappy with them and might not even work with them or may stop submitting or even remove images. I am much happier with .35 from Canva than I would be with .35 from some distribution deal where the buyer paid $35.

If there was another site w/ less sales but the same $ as SS, I'd upload there at the same time and be a lot happier. (some months Alamy does this, but over the long haul they don't).

I think things will trend the way the OP suggests, but it will take a long time and sites like SS will still get enough fresh content to be king for a long long time. (plus if they just churned their library they probably have plenty of buried content that would appear to be fresh).

« Reply #7 on: January 20, 2015, 19:53 »
+17
If you take the position that the commission per sale doesn't matter, you play right into their hands.  Because then they can always tell you You'll Make It Up On Volume.   

« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2015, 20:10 »
+9
I get what you say about a paycheck being a paycheck but I'll take 19 less sales for the same money every time. That's 19 less customers who want my image that might later on need to buy it at full price and 19 less "customers" that can give away my image for free. Less sales at a higher price is much more sustainable for me in the long term.

As far as trust...a smaller agency made up of contributors or owners I respect would be preferable to a corporation who takes everyone they can find.

« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2015, 20:39 »
+1
I get what you say about a paycheck being a paycheck but I'll take 19 less sales for the same money every time. That's 19 less customers who want my image that might later on need to buy it at full price and 19 less "customers" that can give away my image for free. Less sales at a higher price is much more sustainable for me in the long term.

As far as trust...a smaller agency made up of contributors or owners I respect would be preferable to a corporation who takes everyone they can find.

20X sales on 1 site equaling 1X sale on another site is a pipedream for most of us -- we have an example already in pond vs SS - I get $5-10 per sale on pond, so it's 15-25X what I get on SS;  but pond earnings are usually only 10-20% od what I get fom SS.  I don't see that changing  (we've already seen the demise of 3dstudio which tried this approach)

those with small 'high demand' portfolios may profit from this,  but many of us will still depend on fewer sales from a much broader selection.

« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2015, 21:06 »
+11
We argue about whether 10 sales at $10 each is better than 100 sales at $1 each.  But that argument is just a distraction from the real problem, which is microstock's totally dumb, obsolete, brainless "one size fits all" pricing model.  Of course, one price doesn't work equally well for everyone.  It depends on what you're selling.

This idiotic, simplistic system has been in place for so long that we've come to accept it, and the fact that we have no control over our pricing at these big agencies.  But that's not how it should be.

Go into an "Everything's $1" store and you'll see nothing but cheap products that were made to sell at that price. 

PaulieWalnuts

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« Reply #11 on: January 20, 2015, 22:37 »
+5
to me , the bottom line each month is the only thing that matters.

A lot of people focus on the bottom line and are noticing it continues to go down. Maybe there are other financial performance measures that we should also be concerned with.

Beppe Grillo

« Reply #12 on: January 21, 2015, 04:06 »
+1
This is my guess.


Step 4) New contributors cannot/will not provide high quality imagery and established contributors refuse to offer it to the subscription model. Newer venues slowly grow in size and viability but are not available to new contributors because established artists have learned the lesson about creating a higher barrier for entry.



I agree with all but not with the point 4.
Why new contributors  cannot/will not provide high quality imagery?
To be a new contributor does not mean to have no experience.
(Speaking about myself, I became a new contributor after 35 years of activity in advertising)

« Reply #13 on: January 21, 2015, 04:27 »
+2
If you had an agency that paid 20 times more than SS but had 1/20th the sales who would you upload to first? In other words if you were earning $400 at SS over 500 sales or earning $400 at X on 25 sales which would be your preferred agent?

I'd be on both :)  Apart from that, it's not an easy question to answer because one of the advantages of a site like SS is that the high sales volume tends to even out so that monthly earnings are regular, low volume sites deliver erratic earnings.
A real world comparison is between SS and Alamy. I've had months where Alamy has outsold SS but on average SS comes out well ahead. So far this month, SS has earned almost 10x what what Alamy has delivered - but that might change tomorrow.  Consistent income from month to month is important.

@Jo Ann - A wasteland for 10 years? In those 10 years it has bought me a house in the UK, lock, stock and barrel, at the cost of a fairly modest effort. It doesn't look like a wasteland to me.

« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2015, 05:17 »
+1
I have always thought that a point would be reached where this thing would simply not be worth the effort to upload - even for the "weekend shooter" like me, never mind the pros, at which point content will start to go where it does remain viable.  If I were a betting man I'd say SS will probably react first to maintain content. We're not there yet so not holding my breath
We're not there yet because there aren't enough alternatives but I'll ask a hypothetical question.
If you had an agency that paid 20 times more than SS but had 1/20th the sales who would you upload to first? In other words if you were earning $400 at SS over 500 sales or earning $400 at X on 25 sales which would be your preferred agent?
Would SS still look so good? Would IS, FT or DT?

I'm not on Stocksy or Creative Market but it sounds like they are pushing that barrier right now and I do get enough Symbio sales to make me seriously question the need for sub sites.

Since I'm relatively new (spring 2013) and realistically view microstock as .. a hobby (or something to pretend like I'm actually doing something) ... if I ever get my self-hosted site to work the way I want it to, and bring in enough revenue to sustain itself I will be entirely self hosted. It's bad to be paid a quarter for a product and even worse when you consider all of the thievery ...

For 2014 my passive income (microstock, blog and whatever else) probably accounted for ... like 5% of my total income ... but, I used to like playing around in illustrator, and drawing silly cartoons n crap. Getting involved in stock has kind of ruined that, as well as given me a false sense of ... worth? or ... doing? idk ... if I spend 10 hours on a few illustrations there's a high probability that they'll make me $.50 over the course of a whole year ... Might as well just run to the office, clock in ... and go to lunch. ;)

« Reply #15 on: January 21, 2015, 05:24 »
0
If you had an agency that paid 20 times more than SS but had 1/20th the sales who would you upload to first? In other words if you were earning $400 at SS over 500 sales or earning $400 at X on 25 sales which would be your preferred agent?

I'd be on both :)  Apart from that, it's not an easy question to answer because one of the advantages of a site like SS is that the high sales volume tends to even out so that monthly earnings are regular, low volume sites deliver erratic earnings.
A real world comparison is between SS and Alamy. I've had months where Alamy has outsold SS but on average SS comes out well ahead. So far this month, SS has earned almost 10x what what Alamy has delivered - but that might change tomorrow.  Consistent income from month to month is important.

@Jo Ann - A wasteland for 10 years? In those 10 years it has bought me a house in the UK, lock, stock and barrel, at the cost of a fairly modest effort. It doesn't look like a wasteland to me.

Ok, so you contribute on SS, Alamy, DT, iStock...where else? do share ... and congrats! :-)
« Last Edit: January 21, 2015, 05:27 by SSContributor »

« Reply #16 on: January 21, 2015, 05:30 »
+4
Ok, so you contribute on SS, Alamy...where else? do share ... and congrats!
SS, Alamy, DT, iStock, 123, Bigstock, Canstock, Veer, Fotoarabia, Depositphotos ... but SS, iStock, DT and Alamy are the backbone of that. I was on Fotolia but I dumped them when I couldn't stand their behaviour any more.

I suppose I should add that I don't believe I could make anywhere near as much as I have done if I was starting out today. I got in on the ground floor.
« Last Edit: January 21, 2015, 05:35 by BaldricksTrousers »


« Reply #17 on: January 21, 2015, 06:34 »
+1
Ok, so you contribute on SS, Alamy...where else? do share ... and congrats!
SS, Alamy, DT, iStock, 123, Bigstock, Canstock, Veer, Fotoarabia, Depositphotos ... but SS, iStock, DT and Alamy are the backbone of that. I was on Fotolia but I dumped them when I couldn't stand their behaviour any more.

I suppose I should add that I don't believe I could make anywhere near as much as I have done if I was starting out today. I got in on the ground floor.

Thanks!
Sorry for being totally nosey, but I guess you have been doing this full time last 10 years?

« Reply #18 on: January 21, 2015, 07:07 »
+2
Ok, so you contribute on SS, Alamy...where else? do share ... and congrats!
SS, Alamy, DT, iStock, 123, Bigstock, Canstock, Veer, Fotoarabia, Depositphotos ... but SS, iStock, DT and Alamy are the backbone of that. I was on Fotolia but I dumped them when I couldn't stand their behaviour any more.

I suppose I should add that I don't believe I could make anywhere near as much as I have done if I was starting out today. I got in on the ground floor.

Thanks!
Sorry for being totally nosey, but I guess you have been doing this full time last 10 years?

Well, I haven't been doing anything other job for most of that time but I've only generated about 600 stock pictures a year on average, so I haven't really been over-exerting myself.

« Reply #19 on: January 21, 2015, 07:59 »
+2
Ok, so you contribute on SS, Alamy...where else? do share ... and congrats!
SS, Alamy, DT, iStock, 123, Bigstock, Canstock, Veer, Fotoarabia, Depositphotos ... but SS, iStock, DT and Alamy are the backbone of that. I was on Fotolia but I dumped them when I couldn't stand their behaviour any more.

I suppose I should add that I don't believe I could make anywhere near as much as I have done if I was starting out today. I got in on the ground floor.


SALUTE!!

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« Reply #20 on: January 21, 2015, 08:08 »
+1
Thanks for the illuminating and nice analisys chromaco :-)

« Reply #21 on: January 21, 2015, 08:39 »
+1
I get what you say about a paycheck being a paycheck but I'll take 19 less sales for the same money every time. That's 19 less customers who want my image that might later on need to buy it at full price and 19 less "customers" that can give away my image for free. Less sales at a higher price is much more sustainable for me in the long term.

As far as trust...a smaller agency made up of contributors or owners I respect would be preferable to a corporation who takes everyone they can find.

In all honesty, I  had my hopes with P5, but after this recent swanky new office in posh Soho and VPs appointments I lost my faith in it. Or they just fooled us about how artsy they were. No idea...but by looking at a top tier and corporate success, I think smaller scale of micro stock business is not going to work. I wish I am wrong.

« Reply #22 on: January 21, 2015, 09:00 »
+1
I get what you say about a paycheck being a paycheck but I'll take 19 less sales for the same money every time. That's 19 less customers who want my image that might later on need to buy it at full price and 19 less "customers" that can give away my image for free. Less sales at a higher price is much more sustainable for me in the long term.

As far as trust...a smaller agency made up of contributors or owners I respect would be preferable to a corporation who takes everyone they can find.

In all honesty, I  had my hopes with P5, but after this recent swanky new office in posh Soho and VPs appointments I lost my faith in it. Or they just fooled us about how artsy they were. No idea...but by looking at a top tier and corporate success, I think smaller scale of micro stock business is not going to work. I wish I am wrong.

They still pay us 50%. Most other agencies cut our commissions so they can use OUR MONEY to fund posh quarters and fancy, expensive titles. I give P5 credit for not using us as the pawns to pay for their luxuries.

« Reply #23 on: January 21, 2015, 09:11 »
+1
I get what you say about a paycheck being a paycheck but I'll take 19 less sales for the same money every time. That's 19 less customers who want my image that might later on need to buy it at full price and 19 less "customers" that can give away my image for free. Less sales at a higher price is much more sustainable for me in the long term.

As far as trust...a smaller agency made up of contributors or owners I respect would be preferable to a corporation who takes everyone they can find.

In all honesty, I  had my hopes with P5, but after this recent swanky new office in posh Soho and VPs appointments I lost my faith in it. Or they just fooled us about how artsy they were. No idea...but by looking at a top tier and corporate success, I think smaller scale of micro stock business is not going to work. I wish I am wrong.

They still pay us 50%. Most other agencies cut our commissions so they can use OUR MONEY to fund posh quarters and fancy, expensive titles. I give P5 credit for not using us as the pawns to pay for their luxuries.

Let's sit and watch...they all claimed to be "the good guys" until they gain our trust and get greedy....time will tell!

« Reply #24 on: January 21, 2015, 10:30 »
+3
This is my guess.


Step 4) New contributors cannot/will not provide high quality imagery and established contributors refuse to offer it to the subscription model. Newer venues slowly grow in size and viability but are not available to new contributors because established artists have learned the lesson about creating a higher barrier for entry.



I agree with all but not with the point 4.
Why new contributors  cannot/will not provide high quality imagery?
To be a new contributor does not mean to have no experience.
(Speaking about myself, I became a new contributor after 35 years of activity in advertising)

I stumbled across Dreamstime in 2008 and decided to upload 15 images or so off of my hard drive. Two weeks later I had made 34 cents so I quit. I checked back 6 months later and was amazed to find I had made $95. That was my motivation to keep uploading. What I know now is that almost all of those initial sales were from 1 single image that was unique and the only one of its kind on any of the micros. It is also an image that today couldn't even make it through the inspection process. How likely is that story in 2015?

I am certain that new contributors are capable of creating amazing work. The question is why would they do it? Let me put it this way... in the near future those that are capable of making those images probably won't for subscription royalties and those that are willing to sell at that pricing probably can't make the images.


 

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