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Author Topic: Understanding what sells and why based on different companies  (Read 673 times)

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« on: November 27, 2021, 15:12 »
+2
Hey Folks,

Love to hear your thoughts on why images (i.e. Mothers Day images on Shutter vs Adobe) would sell five times more one site compared to another site. I would think Adobe and Shutter would be close?  The exact images(uploaded the same time, same keywords) would have such a huge difference in downloads?   Totally confusing to me. 


« Reply #1 on: November 27, 2021, 15:43 »
+5
The intersection of each agency's placement decisions (default search order, secret sauce algorithms for "best match"/"most relevant"/"relevance") and the sheer dumb luck of timing of initial purchases.

If you catch a wave (with a decent image; there's always a need to have reasonable content), sales beget sales (largely because that boosts placement at most agencies).

Everyone who licenses content would like to reverse engineer how sales are made, but my experience is that while there are some public guidelines - like Adobe's emphasis on the first 10 keywords or Alamy's starred keywords system - most of the necessary information is considered proprietary.

« Reply #2 on: November 27, 2021, 16:34 »
0
The intersection of each agency's placement decisions (default search order, secret sauce algorithms for "best match"/"most relevant"/"relevance") and the sheer dumb luck of timing of initial purchases.

If you catch a wave (with a decent image; there's always a need to have reasonable content), sales beget sales (largely because that boosts placement at most agencies).

Everyone who licenses content would like to reverse engineer how sales are made, but my experience is that while there are some public guidelines - like Adobe's emphasis on the first 10 keywords or Alamy's starred keywords system - most of the necessary information is considered proprietary.

Thanks Jo Ann. Do you think any favoritism as well? For some reason I just don't seem to fare well on SS. Maybe I am over thinking this matter  8)

« Reply #3 on: November 27, 2021, 18:35 »
+1
I think what does happen happens behind the scenes and it's both video and photos, we see everything that Jo Ann mentioned but what's harder to know is how all these deals and partner programs work.

The agencies have their terms of service and it allows them to do anything they want and change the rules on the fly.

You don't know what part of the world your content is ending up in because those partners are kept secret.

Here's a story from a Toronto media outlet on some snowy winter weather that's hitting this weekend, the photo is from (Photo by Zou Zheng/Xinhua via Getty)  https://toronto.citynews.ca/2021/11/27/snow-gta-weather-toronto/

China is a powerhouse and now their state media are supplying photos/video of news happening in Toronto via Getty and the local media are buying and using them, probably for a fraction of a penny and the photographer gets an even smaller fraction of a penny.

Getty obviously has a deal with them just like SSTK, Pond5 and Adobe have their deals.

If the event was in China I can see Toronto media buying from a stock site but Toronto snowstorm brought to you by Chinese media outlet via Getty appearing on Toronto's news? when the action is in Toronto not China?.

brb, gotta bang my head on the keyboard a little harder.




« Reply #4 on: November 27, 2021, 20:01 »
+6
... Do you think any favoritism as well? For some reason I just don't seem to fare well on SS. Maybe I am over thinking this matter  8)

Not sure what sort of favoritism you had in mind, but various theories about preferences for people or groups have been around since I started with iStock in 2004. When I was first with Shutterstock (same year) Jon was writing code as well as inspecting images and keeping the site running and growing was just about as much as Shutterstock could manage. Once iStock started exclusivity, they were quite open about preferred placement for exclusives, but even then, they needed to keep the site appealing to buyers and that limited how much preferring they could do.

There were  some of the lesser sites - Deposit Photos comes to mind - where they offered me preferential placement in search results and a boost up to a higher level if I'd upload my portfolio. I said no, because that seemed (a) such a terrible idea from a buyer's point of view and (b) a very short term perk as they'd be offering that to others who came after me who'd then push my images down in favor of theirs. I have no idea if they ever actually did rig the search - they could have just said they would and not follow through.

Years back Shutterstock did a deal for content with some large factory-like group and I remember another contributor being angry (via the SS forums) that Jon was betraying the contributors who had taken the agency that far by diluting their content's exposure in the collection. Jon didn't buy that and talked about growth benefitting everyone. Sometimes I think the pollution of the Shutterstock collection by removing the 7/10 admission criteria and accepting almost anything just to boost the collection size was a terrible anti-contributor move. Not secret or behind the scenes, but it really made it hard to maintain sales growth.

When SS started doing corporate deals where the license terms and prices weren't transparent any more (and contributors asked) it wasn't clear what the selection criteria were for things shown to the corporate customers. The large SOD sales lifted overall RPD so it was a big part of making a decent return.

I know when Fotolia started in 2005 it was surprising to see what became a best seller there compared to the other agencies - possibly in their case it was how well they did in Europe because they built translated versions of their site so buyers didn't have to mess with everything in English.

Bottom line is that you can't do anything about any of the behind-the-scenes stuff, so there's not much point in fretting. Focus on your content and good metadata; keep an eye out for the agencies and their business practices though :)

« Reply #5 on: November 27, 2021, 20:18 »
+2
Sometimes I think the pollution of the Shutterstock collection by removing the 7/10 admission criteria and accepting almost anything just to boost the collection size was a terrible anti-contributor move. Not secret or behind the scenes, but it really made it hard to maintain sales growth.

Jo Ann, I believe that's when I first began to sour on SS. Not sure what year they made that change, but I do know I'd already been there for several years when that major policy change kicked in.

It was a point of pride back then to pass the 7/10 test, especialy when one made it on the first pass, as I did with a submission of 10 bird images, all of which were accepted. That gave me (and others too, I'm sure) a real sense of value and bragging rights.

But then to watch them open the floodgates to any and all comers with all kinds of duplicates and low-quality crappola  The pride of being a SS contributor fizzled, but there still were the frequent, high-value EL sales to soften the blow to the ego.

When those ELs went poof a few years later, the slippery slope began in earnest, ending (as we all know) 1.5 years ago. I left in disgust and never looked back.

But hey, Jon's a billionaire, so all's good! :D
« Last Edit: November 27, 2021, 20:22 by marthamarks »

Uncle Pete

  • Great Place by a Great Lake - My Home Port
« Reply #6 on: November 27, 2021, 20:33 »
+1
... Do you think any favoritism as well? For some reason I just don't seem to fare well on SS. Maybe I am over thinking this matter  8)

I can't see any reason why they would, but that doesn't mean they don't. If I was selling a commodity like images, I'd want the buyers to have the best experience, see the most desirable, and buy from me, not force them to see lesser or forced images, that aren't as good? Potentially losing customers to a place with a better quality selection.


There were  some of the lesser sites - Deposit Photos comes to mind - where they offered me preferential placement in search results and a boost up to a higher level if I'd upload my portfolio. I said no, because that seemed (a) such a terrible idea from a buyer's point of view and (b) a very short term perk as they'd be offering that to others who came after me who'd then push my images down in favor of theirs. I have no idea if they ever actually did rig the search - they could have just said they would and not follow through.


After the first 2,000 contributors or 5,000, doesn't matter, take this deal, no one would have any advantage, except DP of course who got all the people to upload their collection? Empty promise, no one could track what really happened. Sucker deal.

I don't see how passing a unreliable, test that was almost random, makes any difference to the final product, if IF review is actually measuring quality and not just numbers. If someone had one good image, what difference does it make if they passed a silly test or not. Reviews should have eliminated unsuitable and poor images. I think the review system is flawed and allowed the junk to pass.

Remember the old, if you fail, upload different images? Because people that didn't would get different examples accepted and some of the accepted ones rejected. How's that for a test to see if someone is qualified, when the system itself was broken.

Best answer is, we don't know, and they aren't telling. Yes, best keywords, best images, trending subjects, colors and subjects, words that are actually in the images. Don't try to trick the system, but play to the strengths of the search that favor our work.

My personal view is, I don't know why they would manipulate based on the artist, it doesn't make business sense to favor one of us over another. The agencies don't care a speck about us personally.

If the search is the same for all of us, and not fair, it's not fair for all of us, in the same ways.

« Reply #7 on: November 27, 2021, 20:52 »
0
... Do you think any favoritism as well? For some reason I just don't seem to fare well on SS. Maybe I am over thinking this matter  8)

Not sure what sort of favoritism you had in mind, but various theories about preferences for people or groups have been around since I started with iStock in 2004. When I was first with Shutterstock (same year) Jon was writing code as well as inspecting images and keeping the site running and growing was just about as much as Shutterstock could manage. Once iStock started exclusivity, they were quite open about preferred placement for exclusives, but even then, they needed to keep the site appealing to buyers and that limited how much preferring they could do.

There were  some of the lesser sites - Deposit Photos comes to mind - where they offered me preferential placement in search results and a boost up to a higher level if I'd upload my portfolio. I said no, because that seemed (a) such a terrible idea from a buyer's point of view and (b) a very short term perk as they'd be offering that to others who came after me who'd then push my images down in favor of theirs. I have no idea if they ever actually did rig the search - they could have just said they would and not follow through.

Years back Shutterstock did a deal for content with some large factory-like group and I remember another contributor being angry (via the SS forums) that Jon was betraying the contributors who had taken the agency that far by diluting their content's exposure in the collection. Jon didn't buy that and talked about growth benefitting everyone. Sometimes I think the pollution of the Shutterstock collection by removing the 7/10 admission criteria and accepting almost anything just to boost the collection size was a terrible anti-contributor move. Not secret or behind the scenes, but it really made it hard to maintain sales growth.

When SS started doing corporate deals where the license terms and prices weren't transparent any more (and contributors asked) it wasn't clear what the selection criteria were for things shown to the corporate customers. The large SOD sales lifted overall RPD so it was a big part of making a decent return.

I know when Fotolia started in 2005 it was surprising to see what became a best seller there compared to the other agencies - possibly in their case it was how well they did in Europe because they built translated versions of their site so buyers didn't have to mess with everything in English.

Bottom line is that you can't do anything about any of the behind-the-scenes stuff, so there's not much point in fretting. Focus on your content and good metadata; keep an eye out for the agencies and their business practices though :)

Thank you so much! This is really good insight!

Uncle Pete

  • Great Place by a Great Lake - My Home Port
« Reply #8 on: November 27, 2021, 20:52 »
+1

It was a point of pride back then to pass the 7/10 test, especialy when one made it on the first pass, as I did with a submission of 10 bird images, all of which were accepted. That gave me (and others too, I'm sure) a real sense of value and bragging rights.


Passing on the first test should be a point of pride. I can agree that passing based on one image is weak, but as I've repeated, if the reviews are real and judging of each image is based on the quality of that image, no test is needed.

IS used to have a test, and fairly strict reviews. Most of the rest, never had a test to pass. Anyone could throw anything at them, what passed was accepted. No qualification or skill review. Some did lower the uploads allowed, based on accepted/rejected percentages. The much hated, Alamy, one fail all fail, for every batch, always intrigued me, as the pass fail test, never ends.

What was the test for DP, FT, CS, Bigstock, Lucky Oliver, Mostphotos, or the rest, I don't remember one. (but I could have forgotten) I passed every agency except SS on the first try because I only uploaded what I had already had passed on the smaller places. HA... I was so wrong.

But also NO, not much or possibly nothing I did back then would be as good as your nature and bird images. I mean image quality overall. Oddly one of my first ten is still a top ten selling image for money, on SS.

« Reply #9 on: November 27, 2021, 20:55 »
0
all good points! Yeah, not having an entry test allows tons of bad images. I've seen my share of image that without a doubt they are just walking around shooting anything with their cell phone. 

« Reply #10 on: November 28, 2021, 15:10 »
+2
Hey Folks,

Love to hear your thoughts on why images (i.e. Mothers Day images on Shutter vs Adobe) would sell five times more one site compared to another site. I would think Adobe and Shutter would be close?  The exact images(uploaded the same time, same keywords) would have such a huge difference in downloads?   Totally confusing to me.

Different agencies can have different types of buyers, different algorithms (some favour older images, some fresh stock, etc, etc), also a number of other factors at play. For example, the first image (from a new batch) to sell on one agency, and given a big boost in search placement, can perform differently on other agencies - depending solely on what was the first one purchased.
« Last Edit: November 28, 2021, 15:14 by Annie »

« Reply #11 on: November 28, 2021, 15:19 »
+1
Sometimes I think the pollution of the Shutterstock collection by removing the 7/10 admission criteria and accepting almost anything just to boost the collection size was a terrible anti-contributor move. Not secret or behind the scenes, but it really made it hard to maintain sales growth.

Jo Ann, I believe that's when I first began to sour on SS. Not sure what year they made that change, but I do know I'd already been there for several years when that major policy change kicked in.

It was a point of pride back then to pass the 7/10 test, especialy when one made it on the first pass, as I did with a submission of 10 bird images, all of which were accepted. That gave me (and others too, I'm sure) a real sense of value and bragging rights.

But then to watch them open the floodgates to any and all comers with all kinds of duplicates and low-quality crappola  The pride of being a SS contributor fizzled, but there still were the frequent, high-value EL sales to soften the blow to the ego.

When those ELs went poof a few years later, the slippery slope began in earnest, ending (as we all know) 1.5 years ago. I left in disgust and never looked back.

But hey, Jon's a billionaire, so all's good! :D

I find no pride in continuing with SS but I do for the money. You're right, ELs poof, duplicates and low-quality crappola policy changes lowered the standards.

« Reply #12 on: November 28, 2021, 15:27 »
+2
Sometimes I think the pollution of the Shutterstock collection by removing the 7/10 admission criteria and accepting almost anything just to boost the collection size was a terrible anti-contributor move. Not secret or behind the scenes, but it really made it hard to maintain sales growth.

Jo Ann, I believe that's when I first began to sour on SS. Not sure what year they made that change, but I do know I'd already been there for several years when that major policy change kicked in.

It was a point of pride back then to pass the 7/10 test, especialy when one made it on the first pass, as I did with a submission of 10 bird images, all of which were accepted. That gave me (and others too, I'm sure) a real sense of value and bragging rights.

But then to watch them open the floodgates to any and all comers with all kinds of duplicates and low-quality crappola  The pride of being a SS contributor fizzled, but there still were the frequent, high-value EL sales to soften the blow to the ego.

When those ELs went poof a few years later, the slippery slope began in earnest, ending (as we all know) 1.5 years ago. I left in disgust and never looked back.

But hey, Jon's a billionaire, so all's good! :D

I find no pride in continuing with SS but I do for the money. You're right, ELs poof, duplicates and low-quality crappola policy changes lowered the standards.

Alan, if I had to do this for a living, I'm sure I'd still be at SS.

However, there's one great blessing that tends to come with age you just don' gotta do nuttin' you don' wanna do. :D

« Reply #13 on: November 28, 2021, 15:30 »
+1

It was a point of pride back then to pass the 7/10 test, especialy when one made it on the first pass, as I did with a submission of 10 bird images, all of which were accepted. That gave me (and others too, I'm sure) a real sense of value and bragging rights.


But also NO, not much or possibly nothing I did back then would be as good as your nature and bird images. I mean image quality overall. Oddly one of my first ten is still a top ten selling image for money, on SS.

Thanks for that, Pete. Coming from you, especially, the compliment is much appreciated!

« Reply #14 on: November 29, 2021, 04:31 »
0
... Do you think any favoritism as well? For some reason I just don't seem to fare well on SS. Maybe I am over thinking this matter  8)

I can't see any reason why they would, but that doesn't mean they don't. If I was selling a commodity like images, I'd want the buyers to have the best experience, see the most desirable, and buy from me, not force them to see lesser or forced images, that aren't as good? Potentially losing customers to a place with a better quality selection.


1. They want to keep the contributor from going Istock exclusive (these deals are made with large productions and they mean a lot to SS)
2. They want to motivate him (her) to produce even more (they are capable to produce more, these are factories that can just expand the business, if it is profitable).

Uncle Pete

  • Great Place by a Great Lake - My Home Port
« Reply #15 on: November 29, 2021, 15:21 »
0

It was a point of pride back then to pass the 7/10 test, especialy when one made it on the first pass, as I did with a submission of 10 bird images, all of which were accepted. That gave me (and others too, I'm sure) a real sense of value and bragging rights.


But also NO, not much or possibly nothing I did back then would be as good as your nature and bird images. I mean image quality overall. Oddly one of my first ten is still a top ten selling image for money, on SS.

Thanks for that, Pete. Coming from you, especially, the compliment is much appreciated!

Thank you, but you earned that, I just saw the results. By the way, my images, mostly, are still pretty poor examples of "good" Microstock.

I liked your other comment, below, and it fits me well. In my case almost nothing, because I still work for someone else in the Summer.

However, there's one great blessing that tends to come with age you just don' gotta do nuttin' you don' wanna do. :D

« Reply #16 on: November 29, 2021, 19:45 »
+2
I think there are many factors out of the artists control that goes into images taking off or languishing. Mostly issues of timing and early sales, but also if the site feeds different content to buyers based on location (of the buyer or the photographer). A lot of it is just the sites secret sauce that might include such things that really don't usually matter like camera, image size (as long as it is big enough), location, how a port does overall, age of the image, how many uploads you have made recently, your acceptance ratio, etc. The big sites probably do a lot of A/B testing and tweak the search continuously. I'm pretty sure that if you could upload the same image through different accounts or at different times (or even at the same time) they would do very differently.

Still - good in demand images will generally do better than crappy images and a port full of the former will definitely outperform a port of the latter, That doesn't mean that one mediocre image might not vastly outperform another one for no apparent reason.

I doubt they have much overall pushing of specific ports up or down, although they certainly could if they wanted to. Personally I think they should push spammers down, but that doesn't seem to be something they really care about.


« Reply #17 on: November 29, 2021, 20:04 »
+1

I doubt they have much overall pushing of specific ports up or down, although they certainly could if they wanted to. Personally I think they should push spammers down, but that doesn't seem to be something they really care about.
[/quote]

These agencies are all startups and I don't think they could run a lemonade stand for profit as they are obsessed with the race to the bottom let alone tweak search results, I'm sure they do but they probably hire a few data scientists to overthink everything in the process and well...they're startups, they don't have the most basic common sense.

Each agency's software and algorithm probably runs a little different so probably no point it trying to figure it out, this is an industry with ZERO transparency.

You can't get any answers on anything from them. They're physically incapable of answering a question let alone truthfully.

Uncle Pete

  • Great Place by a Great Lake - My Home Port
« Reply #18 on: November 30, 2021, 12:24 »
0

Each agency's software and algorithm probably runs a little different so probably no point it trying to figure it out, this is an industry with ZERO transparency.

You can't get any answers on anything from them.

Straight and simple, yes to that.

Different agencies can have different types of buyers, different algorithms (some favour older images, some fresh stock, etc, etc), also a number of other factors at play. For example, the first image (from a new batch) to sell on one agency, and given a big boost in search placement, can perform differently on other agencies - depending solely on what was the first one purchased.

Lovely point about if an image from a batch gets a download on one place, it will rise, and if a different one on another site, that will give it a boost.

Hey Folks,

Love to hear your thoughts on why images (i.e. Mothers Day images on Shutter vs Adobe) would sell five times more one site compared to another site. I would think Adobe and Shutter would be close?  The exact images(uploaded the same time, same keywords) would have such a huge difference in downloads?   Totally confusing to me.

Short and sweet, Adobe doesn't have the same clients as SS. More people on Adobe are locked into the CC packages and linked to our portfolios, plus that corporate unlimited deal, and in my opinion these people are more likely to be creatives and designers. So that kind of image will sell better on AS.

SS subscriptions can be anything anywhere, but there seem to be more high volume subscriptions, based on what we get paid for downloads, and these people seem to take more photos of objects and illustrative images, not designs and illustrations?

A picture of an Atlantic Salmon on ice, will sell better on SS and an illustration of a musical background will sell better on AS, but the point and what you asked, they will not be equal on both. One might excel on one site and be average on the other.

IMHO I think there's more to who the buyers are, and what they download,  than agencies playing God with our individual images or sellers as individuals. It's in their best interest for agencies to let the cream rise to the top, as their buyers naturally select what is a best image. The agency would profit most, if the best images, from the buyers point of view, are displayed more towards the front of searches.

Directly answering Mother's Day Images on which site, it depends on what they are? Illustrations maybe Adobe, backgrounds (which might be equal), or photos of Mothers in settings, maybe SS. Just to add, iStock seems to be more news and media oriented, they might have a different set of images that are more likely to be selling on their sites.


 

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