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Author Topic: How to handle 100 Million files  (Read 8203 times)

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« on: July 15, 2011, 17:02 »
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Hi together,

I thought Id start a thread about the future. It wont be long and all the sites will have 100 Million files of all kinds of files types. How can this be organized? What is the best strategy for the buyer, the contributor, the agency?

Different agencies will come up with different strategies, but since we all face the same problem, I wonder if the community can add some brain power and ideas that might be beneficial for everyone.

We all know there is an oversupply of images and a lot of duplicated content (how many red roses on white do you need?). At the same time, contributors who want to offer a "complete" range of files in a certain subject to strengthen their profile and attract loyal buyers, dont like to have their shooting subjects limited because it is already on the site (but I want my red rose on white in my portfolio!). Buyers want an efficient search that is fast and gives results that are adjusted to their personal preferences (ideally search engines learning their taste, not having to turn a lot knobs and dials/buttons and sliders).

It is a difficult challenge.

Gettyimages just announced changes to their contract that will even allow RM content moved to RF if it doesnt sell (something I agree with and have signed the contract). On istock, I can move my slow sellers into the partner program and even deactivate them from istock altogether. Again something I support. We also have a dollar bin, although we cant add to it at the moment.

I dont know what other sites do, maybe someone can explain what their strategies are.

Personally I would propose to just separate the main collection from the personal portfolio. Files that dont sell over a given time frame should be removed from the main collection. Just like the dollar bin files are no longer visible in the search. However they could stay in the artists personal webshop, if he or she wants that. Or offer the possibility to remove and go to a different site.

Allowing the artist the freedom to handle his own portfolio is very motivating and helps to develop your own style and create a loyal following of buyers. The artist can also promote this personal portfolio through social media networks and his website. If the content gets spread around over many different sites, it becomes much harder to create a follwoing as an artist. Especially if some sites dont even show the name of the artist (or even attribute a wrong one).

I think you could easily remove 30% of files from the main collection, if they can stay in the artists portfolio. You could also add "Contributors choice" options for files that the artist thinks have to stay in the main collection. On istock E+ could serve that function.

A system like that can handle very, very large volume of files. If the non sellers are always removed from the main collection every three years, the collection would probably be very trim and up to date. You could even keep it roughly at the same files size. The personal portfolio can keep growing and the non sellers can also be added to another sales outlet if necessary. I mean how many pictures can you shoot over a lifetime? 30 000? Ive seen personal portfolios of that size, for a private portfolio, that isnt a problem. It would be the same like having your own webshop embedded in the agency.

What do you think??
« Last Edit: July 15, 2011, 17:14 by cobalt »


« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2011, 17:20 »
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I think that the size of the collections is irrelevant if you have great search tools. Google does a (largely) great job searching through masses of content and we don't care about the size of the pool of crud they searched, just about getting reasonable number of relevant results.

We have a number of legacy problems in existing collections - poor keywording and categorizing, for example - but I don't see size per se as a problem.

There have been lots of good ideas that appeared and then went nowhere: for example, a cross-agency search tool that put up a huge matrix of tiny squares of images in response to a search and you picked a few to seed a more targeted search of the type of thing you want. It was really surprising how you could rule out and rule in image candidates from small thumbs and then use the ones you like to get better results.

I don't know if any of the agencies have the market heft to do a really great search job - they're squeezing to get more profits now, not to invest in better search technology. Google could do the job, but I don't know if stock image/video/audio content is a big enough pie for them to want to participate.

« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2011, 17:24 »
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Interesting topic.  

Maybe it can't be done, i.e. maybe it's not possible to have an archive 10 times larger than what exists today,  and maintain any meaningful standards of quality, or make it searchable in truly useful ways.  Arguably, the big microstocks are already in some degree of chaos, and have tried to push 'crowdsourcing' too far.  Improving overall quality and searchability means investing time and money in skilled reviewers, keyworders and software developers - more than is being spent today.

I like the idea of an agency having both public and private collections although I'm not sure how I'd actually make use of it.  

« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2011, 17:37 »
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"I like the idea of an agency having both public and private collections although I'm not sure how I'd actually make use of it.  "

Well, for instance all the artists that shoot "lifestyle" or business. every year they have to create similar images of business teams, families having dinner, just to make sure the models are dressed in the latest style of clothes, hairstyle, home design and using the latest electronic gadgets.

Some images maybe so generic that they hav a very long shelf life (teenagers in jeans and T shirt sitting in a group and chatting) but other will look very dated after 3 years (mobile phones that look like bricks).

So when they stop selling you can still have them in your portfolio if you want them. Maybe a customer needs an older style (80ties revival party, insurance targeting seniors). If the buyer is loyal to you or likes how you shoot they will want to look at all your files first.

On the other side there are specialists, for instance someone who collects images from all the butterfly species of the world. With correct terminology, description etc...They would always just have a percentage of their files in the main collection (maybe the most beautiful, eye catching butterflies) but they wcertainly attract loyal buyers. If their slow selling files are removed their portofilio is weakened. Some very exotic, rare butterfly may only be bought once every 10 years. But the specialist will have it, the customer is happy he can find a real expert.

This also works for someone who shots landscapes or specializes in images from a certain region (traditional clothing, food, houses). They can happily shoot their region in all seasons, have images from all the festival (editorial, even video) but only a part of the portfolio will be in the main search. But over many years the personal portfolio can be properly developed with a lot of attention to detail. A large personal portfolio encourages to develop your own style, it will be less generic.

The agency then has more specialized, regional content they can add to galleries and lightboxes to promote to different customer groups.

etc...
« Last Edit: July 15, 2011, 17:46 by cobalt »

Ed

« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2011, 17:37 »
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My thoughts are there's a market for every image.

If Getty is so short sighted that they think older, retro images aren't going to sell, then more power to them - the same contributors will have those images listed on another agency and they'll get picked up there.  Wait, weren't contributors upset in 2006 or 2007 when Getty added retro images to the iStock collection for the first time?  Don't they keep doing that at iStock?  ;D ;D ;D ;D

There are always people rotating in and out of the agencies.  Images will come and go.  I contribute to multiple agencies to get my work out to the public and if an agency want's to trash it, then so be it....I'll sell it somewhere else.

I think that the size of the collections is irrelevant if you have great search tools. Google does a (largely) great job searching through masses of content and we don't care about the size of the pool of crud they searched, just about getting reasonable number of relevant results.

We have a number of legacy problems in existing collections - poor keywording and categorizing, for example - but I don't see size per se as a problem.

There have been lots of good ideas that appeared and then went nowhere: for example, a cross-agency search tool that put up a huge matrix of tiny squares of images in response to a search and you picked a few to seed a more targeted search of the type of thing you want. It was really surprising how you could rule out and rule in image candidates from small thumbs and then use the ones you like to get better results.

I don't know if any of the agencies have the market heft to do a really great search job - they're squeezing to get more profits now, not to invest in better search technology. Google could do the job, but I don't know if stock image/video/audio content is a big enough pie for them to want to participate.

I agree 100%

« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2011, 17:54 »
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"I think that the size of the collections is irrelevant if you have great search tools."

Id love a best match that is intelligent and learns buyer behaviour. If the buyer prefers cheap files, give him best match results with 80% cheap files, if money is no problem, increase higher priced content. If the software detects similar buying patterns between two customers, show each of them the files the other has bought like..."other customers also bought these files"...but you dont have to point them out in a special page. just add them to the mix.

Obviously add regional data etc...but I think many sites already do that.

So I agree that great search tools can handle many more files. maybe a combination of both - great search engine and personal portfolios could be combined.

Maybe then files wouldnt have to be removed from the site at all.

lisafx

« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2011, 18:02 »
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Good idea to start thinking about these issues now.  Saturation is already a huge issue and only going to get worse.  

I would probably start by evaluating all the "dead" portfolios.  There have to be many thousands of people who just aren't active on the sites at all anymore - portfolios sitting idle and ignored for years.  I would probably purge those of anything but exceptionally good or unique images.

I would oppose having images that are on the servers but don't show in the searches.  Microstock is not the same as RM or expensive trad RF.  You don't recoup your production costs in a couple of sales.  For the prices we are getting for these images, it won't be worthwhile doing it at all if we can't count on continued exposure for good images, as long as they keep selling.  

By the same token, I don't think we should have to promote our own images.  That's what we pay our agents anything from 50% to (an obscene) 85% of the sales to do for us.  Marketing our work is their job, otherwise why have an agent at all?  Any marketing efforts I put forth are going to be directed to bringing buyers to my own site, not Istock or similar.  

I think JoAnn's solution is the only viable one for the long term.  The sites need to improve search engines - ideally in a way that best serves buyers, rather than short term profits.  Probably some mix of classic bestsellers along with an emphasis on newer, fresher images is ideal.  Before Istock stratified into collections, I think they were getting pretty close to an ideal search algorithm.

« Reply #7 on: July 15, 2011, 18:25 »
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I am only thinking of removing files from searches that dont sell (after 3,4,5, years) Just like you suggested to purge old portfolios. These would be automatically transformed into nearly 100% "personal portfolios".

The artist can then return if he wants to and add new content.

Maybe even have the possibility to add an old file to the main collection if suddenly it starts to sell again. 

« Reply #8 on: July 15, 2011, 18:41 »
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I am only thinking of removing files from searches that dont sell (after 3,4,5, years) Just like you suggested to purge old portfolios. These would be automatically transformed into nearly 100% "personal portfolios".

The artist can then return if he wants to and add new content.

Maybe even have the possibility to add an old file to the main collection if suddenly it starts to sell again. 

I think culling will be the way of the near future to push out the inevitable 100 mil threshold.  And I suspect that it will be done in more frequent periods, say non-selling in two years.  We're going to have to keep shooting, shooting, shooting to pipeline in new stuff to replace the culled images.  It will weed out the part timers and really only be aligned with those who can turn and burn.

lisafx

« Reply #9 on: July 15, 2011, 18:46 »
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I am only thinking of removing files from searches that dont sell (after 3,4,5, years) Just like you suggested to purge old portfolios. These would be automatically transformed into nearly 100% "personal portfolios".

The artist can then return if he wants to and add new content.

Maybe even have the possibility to add an old file to the main collection if suddenly it starts to sell again. 

I think culling will be the way of the near future to push out the inevitable 100 mil threshold.  And I suspect that it will be done in more frequent periods, say non-selling in two years.  We're going to have to keep shooting, shooting, shooting to pipeline in new stuff to replace the culled images.  It will weed out the part timers and really only be aligned with those who can turn and burn.

You are both probably right about culling.  Guess I had better bone up on some other job skills, because being pushed in to producing like a factory doesn't appeal to me at all. 

« Reply #10 on: July 15, 2011, 19:00 »
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I think that the size of the collections is irrelevant if you have great search tools. Google does a (largely) great job searching through masses of content and we don't care about the size of the pool of crud they searched, just about getting reasonable number of relevant results.

We have a number of legacy problems in existing collections - poor keywording and categorizing, for example - but I don't see size per se as a problem.
Exactly. Efficiently searching 100 million files is a technological "problem" which Google et al solved a long time ago. Is the World Wide Web 'oversaturated' with webpages just because there are billions of them?

« Reply #11 on: July 15, 2011, 19:02 »
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I am only thinking of removing files from searches that dont sell (after 3,4,5, years) Just like you suggested to purge old portfolios. These would be automatically transformed into nearly 100% "personal portfolios".

The artist can then return if he wants to and add new content.

Maybe even have the possibility to add an old file to the main collection if suddenly it starts to sell again.  

I think culling will be the way of the near future to push out the inevitable 100 mil threshold.  And I suspect that it will be done in more frequent periods, say non-selling in two years.  We're going to have to keep shooting, shooting, shooting to pipeline in new stuff to replace the culled images.  It will weed out the part timers and really only be aligned with those who can turn and burn.


You are both probably right about culling.  Guess I had better bone up on some other job skills, because being pushed in to producing like a factory doesn't appeal to me at all.  


^^ Me either, it becomes work then.
« Last Edit: July 15, 2011, 19:09 by Mantis »

« Reply #12 on: July 15, 2011, 19:04 »
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Why cull anything?  Storage is dirt cheap and getting cheaper all the time.  It probably costs more to delete the file than it does to keep it indefinitely.

Processing power is likewise cheap and getting cheaper.  Server costs to support complex searches of massive databases isn't really an issue any longer.

As someone said, search algorithms can be refined to provide reasonable returns that match very closely the desires of the searcher, even for very large databases.  Of course that assumes agencies don't artificially skew algorithms to return results they want to sell rather returning what a customer is looking to buy (as we've seen one agency do to a rather ridiculous degree lately).  I don't think that's going to turn out to be a "sustainable" business practice in the long run.  People hate bait-and-switch.  

So, I just don't see any real reason to cull images.  As I said, I think the economics of the situation are rapidly approaching the point where it is too costly to cull images (if we haven't already reached that point).

The question worth asking is how contributors can generate significant incomes in an ever increasingly saturated market.

« Reply #13 on: July 15, 2011, 19:08 »
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I think that making a search that really works makes the total # of files irrelevant for the agency. If there are a million isolated apples and someone searches for isolated apple a good search engine would show them those apples and the buyer will buy. That makes a happy customer and a happy agency. Now the chance that my isolated apple will sell is pretty small, but that is how this works already.

The real problem will be fixing or culling the bad keywords. Either someone needs to actually do this, or they need to make a search engine that can somehow tell and deliver relevant content w/o pages and pages of near identical images.  DTs image flagging is one way to do it, but it doesn't seem like their program really works.

Someone else mentioned a field for what is actually in the image - that would be pretty nice, but who wants to go back and do it for the old images. It would be like istocks disambiguation mess, although if you pushed images w/o this field to the back of the search that would be a pretty good incentive.

Rather than having the search try to guess what you want based on previous experience, it would be nice to have the ability to have lots of settings and have them stay the way you set them until you reset them. So if you just want cheap files, you set it that way.

« Reply #14 on: July 15, 2011, 19:19 »
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I'm confused.  Isn't "turn and burn" a major part of the problem?

As to "our art", sorry guys but, figuratively speaking, micro is producing Widgets, with some very few exceptions.

 And technology is the enabler that has allowed this situation to occur.  Just as it has in almost all other industries.

I don't think there is a viable solution, except to wait until normal market forces sort it out. But I fear that is some way off yet.
« Last Edit: July 15, 2011, 19:25 by bizair »

« Reply #15 on: July 15, 2011, 19:44 »
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I'm confused.  Isn't "turn and burn" a major part of the problem?

As to "our art", sorry guys but, figuratively speaking, micro is producing Widgets, with some very few exceptions.

 And technology is the enabler that has allowed this situation to occur.  Just as it has in almost all other industries.

I don't think there is a viable solution, except to wait until normal market forces sort it out. But I fear that is some way off yet.

I was responding to a brain storming question that the OP posed.  How to handle 100 mil files.  So for me, all things being equal, culling may be a possible approach.  All things not being equal, meaning there evolves a technology that can streamline keywording, capital investment is a reality that new technology, some of these other suggestions are awesome. When I said turn and burn, I meant it in the context that "if they culled at a high rate (2 years) we'd, as contributors, would have to turn and burn images to keep up.  Part timers who simply could not produce in the volume they'd need to would (or may) give up.  It would change how images are produced, who images are produced by and, consequently, weed out a lot of the "noise" in current submissions.  Just my opinion, of course.

« Reply #16 on: July 16, 2011, 08:37 »
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I think if someone could devise a truly universal keyword template every stock shooter could host, and share, their images with the search engine and the related download and e-commerce software.


« Reply #17 on: July 16, 2011, 08:46 »
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Id love a best match that is intelligent and learns buyer behaviour. If the buyer prefers cheap files, give him best match results with 80% cheap files, if money is no problem, increase higher priced content. If the software detects similar buying patterns between two customers, show each of them the files the other has bought like..."other customers also bought these files"...but you dont have to point them out in a special page. just add them to the mix.

Obviously add regional data etc...but I think many sites already do that.


I, personally, don't really like when things are decided for me. I'd rather make my own choices on what price range I want to see, I really don't want suggestions as to what other similar-minded people are buying (though that could be useful in what to avoid, LOL), and I think regional data/localized searches are somewhat useless in this global world. Designers have customers the world over. I don't know of anyone who designs solely for their "region".

« Reply #18 on: July 16, 2011, 09:23 »
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I agree that all options should be available for you as a buyer to set the way you like. But why should you get the same initial best match like someone in China? Or Africa?

I am thinking of general searches like "business team" where a buyer in China probably cannot use a best match that serves up all American business teams. I know this buyer could add "chinese" to his search, but how many people will do that? What if he compares the results to a chines stock house that immediatly gives ethnic results and where he would add "american" if he wants to target the US.



 

« Reply #19 on: July 16, 2011, 09:32 »
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I, personally, don't really like when things are decided for me. I'd rather make my own choices on what price range I want to see, I really don't want suggestions as to what other similar-minded people are buying (though that could be useful in what to avoid, LOL), and I think regional data/localized searches are somewhat useless in this global world. Designers have customers the world over. I don't know of anyone who designs solely for their "region".

I agree. I don't mind choices, but I wouldn't want to see images from the collection being hidden from me just because someone else thinks that today I am still looking for an inexpensive image, or an image from my region, etc.

I don't think searches are ever going to be perfect for everyone on a global level.

« Reply #20 on: July 16, 2011, 09:54 »
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I agree that all options should be available for you as a buyer to set the way you like. But why should you get the same initial best match like someone in China? Or Africa?

I am thinking of general searches like "business team" where a buyer in China probably cannot use a best match that serves up all American business teams. I know this buyer could add "chinese" to his search, but how many people will do that? What if he compares the results to a chines stock house that immediatly gives ethnic results and where he would add "american" if he wants to target the US.

What if I have a client in China or Africa though? Or what if someone in China has an American client? I don't like all these assumptions that are made about people. If I want Chinese or African or American, I can search for it. I don't want someone who thinks they know my business and my clients better than me making decisions for me.

« Reply #21 on: July 16, 2011, 11:37 »
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The real problem will be fixing or culling the bad keywords. Either someone needs to actually do this, or they need to make a search engine that can somehow tell and deliver relevant content w/o pages and pages of near identical images.

Someone else mentioned a field for what is actually in the image - that would be pretty nice, but who wants to go back and do it for the old images.

Actually cleaning up keywords would take money because you have to pay skilled people, and so far the microstocks haven't made that investment. They've tried various schemes to get contributors and/or buyers to do it for nothing, and they haven't really worked.

« Reply #22 on: July 16, 2011, 12:03 »
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"I don't want someone who thinks they know my business and my clients better than me making decisions for me."

best match is always an assumption of what you might like. That is why it is called best match.

What you see in the search now, is what the company thinks you will like to buy. There is programm that goes over the hundred thousands of files that are in the database and comes up with a selection for you.

All stock sites do this now.

Cas, I have a question: how often do you as a buyer go to the artists portfolio? Do you ever look at their landing page? Do you read the artists bio? Do you look at their lightboxes? Do you bookmark an artist and make notes about their speciality?
« Last Edit: July 16, 2011, 12:06 by cobalt »

SNP

  • Canadian Photographer
« Reply #23 on: July 16, 2011, 12:04 »
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I don't think the size of the collection is irrelevant. it is already clear that some files uploaded never see the light of day if an unfavorable best match shift happens shortly after they're uploaded. in some open discussions with more experienced contributors and TPTB, it has been loosely acknowledged that some files never ever come up again in best match.

in a perfect model that does not risk cannibalization of sales, I'd like to see poorly performing files separated as you stated Jasmin--into tiers of collections. after x number of years without performance, move those files into reduced pricing tiers and entirely out of the main collection. This shouldn't however be the purpose of the partner program....as long as sites like shutterstock include all levels of content--good and bad--a partner program model that includes only bargain images will never be able to compete. unless you argue that iStock castoffs are better than SS quality content (which does not seem to be the case).

the iStock collection is FAR too large now. it doesn't make sense as a contributor to cull your own images if they're not culling the entire database...because then you potentially lose out in best match shifts that favour older content, and that happens quite often IMO.

I don't like the idea of a separate site with its own search (essentially the PP sites)...because that potentially pulls buyers away from iStock content. so a dollar bin type collection on the main site would be my preference, however, with files culled from the main collection and showing only in the dollar bin.

« Reply #24 on: July 16, 2011, 12:14 »
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Actually I dont think there are too many images on the sites. Quite the contrary, i think there is loads of stuff missing.

Think of how many different jobs there are in the world? Just count the different areas a medical doctor can specialize in? Or a gardener? Or a builder? Or restaurants???

All the different professions and all the different business of the globe need stock images for their advertising. Many need very specific images, showing regional content (people, locations) Others always need the latest technical gadets or clothing styles.

All the different festivals of the world? Even Xmas is celebrated differently around the world.

Or family relationships? Images that make you feel "at home" will be very different across the globe.

But many of these images will not sell in the high volume necessary to keep them in the main search. And buyers in emerging markets will also not want to pay higher prices for a rare image. anyway, it can be supplied  from a local artist with regional production costs.

So I believe it will become very important to develop the "local face" of a website. I know istock can be searched in 12 different languages and in some countries they have their own office (and newsletter etc...).

I predict that the regionalization of the agencies will become a lot more important in the future.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2011, 12:18 by cobalt »

« Reply #25 on: July 16, 2011, 13:58 »
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"a partner program model that includes only bargain images will never be able to compete"

I agree, especially if they are trying to position Thinkstock as a viable alternative to Shutterstock. Personally I wouldnt mind adding some of my newer files, if I get the option. The non exclsuives already have all fresh files there.

Otherwise any "bargain" outlets can have older and non selling files. I mean, that is why they will be cheap. But i didnt see Thinkstock as a place for old files.

Do you think old files really have to be moved to another site? Couldnt it all be under the same brand?

is the dollarbin such a threat to the regular collection?

I am worried that supporting many, many different sites is extremely expensive, and leads to weakening of the brand. I think this is Seans main argument against the PP program, in addition to his objection to subscriptions in general.

The problem I see is that you cant predict where customers go, if they cant find what they want on your site.

Instead of the "bargain" site you are preparing for them, they might decide to go to the competition.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2011, 14:03 by cobalt »

« Reply #26 on: July 16, 2011, 14:04 »
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Another question:

Amazon and iTunes must have lots more products than we have files.

any other commercial sites that have to handle large number of files and sort them for their customers?

Is there anything we can learn from them for stock sites?
« Last Edit: July 16, 2011, 14:17 by cobalt »


SNP

  • Canadian Photographer
« Reply #27 on: July 16, 2011, 15:53 »
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I think regional content is going to be even more developed. I'm not sure it's always going to be a great thing. Is it the goal to cover every single type of festival/corner of the world? Or is it the goal to sell heavily into markets that buy stock images? iStock certainly seems to be doing a lot in the way of getting into countries and producing culturally/regionally specific content (particularly look at the new lypse requirements limiting attendance to relatively local contributors ).

despite that, I do think there are too many images in the collection and that as a result many are never found, even if salesworthy. I think it's important to upload strategically because of the 'luck-of-the-draw' impact of uploading just before a disadvantageous best match shift. I think it's up to contributors to strategize as much as possible in order to get our work seen. but we're all at the mercy of the massive collection.

SO, I don't pretend to know enough about the ins and outs of the industry on the whole to predict what exponentially growing collections will do to us. but I think we're all seeing the effects of the database growing at a much faster rate than our portfolios. it means we have to run faster and faster to stay in the same place.

« Reply #28 on: July 16, 2011, 15:59 »
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Not necessarily. There is a huge world of business people who have never heard of stock. Certainly here in Germany there is loads of room to grow. The webdesigners of the world may know about stock sites, but all the smaller business companies?

I know that many people steal images from the web, but once the time you spend searching for the right file from image sites like flickr is more expensive than going to a stock site...plus whenever countries start paying attention to digital content rights.

China, India, South America, Middle East???

« Reply #29 on: July 16, 2011, 17:58 »
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"I don't want someone who thinks they know my business and my clients better than me making decisions for me."

best match is always an assumption of what you might like. That is why it is called best match.

What you see in the search now, is what the company thinks you will like to buy. There is programm that goes over the hundred thousands of files that are in the database and comes up with a selection for you.

All stock sites do this now.

Cas, I have a question: how often do you as a buyer go to the artists portfolio? Do you ever look at their landing page? Do you read the artists bio? Do you look at their lightboxes? Do you bookmark an artist and make notes about their speciality?

I always thought best match should fit the keywords that one uses to search most accurately. It clearly is not that, however, but by the name of it, I think that is a safe guess to make.

Yes, I do make not of certain artists if I notice they have a lot of what I like. I will search their portfolios as well. On more rare occasions I will look at their lightboxes.

« Reply #30 on: July 17, 2011, 11:30 »
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This is an issue not only for siock photography, but to any kind of application where you have lots of data - websites, of course, also many separated databases and servers within an organization.

Anyway, I am ok that old non-selling images may be even discarded like some sites already do. The only thing that scares any of us is how dependant we are on the site search swings. I used to have one image selling very well in IS (for my standards) and then out of nowhere it stopped selling.

Keyword spamming is impossible to avoid, given that we can always edit them. Keyword categories like Alamy uses is an intelligent choice to help the search engine, but it's too late to apply that in the micros (remember the pain when disambiguation was introduced?).

I also believe that the search engine is the solution. Search for "blue hat", "soccer ball" or "USA flag" in IS, DT and FT and see who has the best results.

The idea of regional tweaking is interesting. If I am a buyer in Brazil and I search for "football", I want soccer football, not US football. I guess the same apply for most European buyers. BTW, I went to all three sites in portuguese and IS did not find anything with "futebol"?  ???

SNP

  • Canadian Photographer
« Reply #31 on: July 17, 2011, 11:39 »
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^ good example (brazil = football/soccer). regional searching seems like a good idea, but it makes me a bit nervous anytime they talk about any kind of major change to the search. if they are pushing regional results, I hope they keep the results a mixed bag with some regional but some more universal results i.e. Brazilian designers may indeed be looking for American football images rather than soccer when they search (maybe not in this example but you know what I mean hopefully).

the search on iStock seems to be working quite well these days. I perform test searches each week just to keep an eye on best match and my portfolio, new upload placements etc....and the search is working tickety boo. it's fast and drilling down goes quite smoothly compared to just months ago.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2011, 12:09 by SNP »

« Reply #32 on: July 17, 2011, 11:58 »
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Ive been looking a lot at the itunes and amazon stores and wondered what we can learn from it. The most important insight it gave me how extremely important it is to establish yourself as a "brand", as an artist, so that people remember your name, your portfolio, your style.

No matter how many artists there are in the itunes music store - there will also be new songs and new bands and their success in the store is directly linked to the strength of their brand.

Musicians of course do a lot of outside efforts to create a following - concerts, events, interviews, website, fan events. But they always have a recognizable style. Billy Ido did make a Xmas Cd, but usually they stay within one genre with recognizable elements.

But for the stock artist I think it is important to really see your portfolio as your webshop, that you want to draw your own loyal following of buyers to. Even if people try to copy your style, you will still be way ahead of them if you offer a very comprehensive, well executed portfolio in your favorite subject. If you move deeper and deeper into a theme either by subject (everything about animal vets) or a special style (all grungy food shots) it should help your portfolio survive longterm.

You can even combine different file types (photo, video, vector...) around a certain subject or a certain style.

Doesnt mean, you cant shoot other things in between, but a speciality is important.

From this I would suggest that it is in the interest of the agencies to strengthen the customer awareness about the individual artist. Many customers are not even aware that the images, like music, are produced by individual artists. When I started buying images, I thought the images are produced by the agency. And apparently Getty has a large collection of images that were shot for them.

So just like world of music can survive with a sheer endless number of songs because we all have different music tastes, I think stock sites can hold a huge number of content to cater to different visual tastes.

On istock we already have "friends" what used to be called creative network. But unfortunately a lot of the networking in the visual community is moving towards facebook. This is good for facebook, but not for the traffic on istock. Nobody is going to search facebook for stock artists.

In general I hope agencies encourage both buyers and sellers to spend as much time on the site as possible. That will again minimize the risk of the buyers going elsewhere. And for the artist it might be helpful if they received more information about their customer type. For instance we could be given information in which countries our images were sold. Or at least the information: private buyer/commercial buyer.

We could use this information to become more aware who our buyers are and target them better. Not just with images, but with all social media. For instance, if I know my Xmas images where mostly being bought by private individuals, I would maybe create blog posts about private christmas ceremonies, home decoration etc...if my buyers are more commercial clients, I could create a blog post that focusses on easy xmas cards for companies (just an example, you can probably come up with something better).

So encouraging the artists to think of their "brand" and to educate the buyers that they are working with as individual artists encourage both to interact, could help manage huge amounts of images.

You go from just "doing searches" to matching up "visual interest groups".

So the networking function should be encouraged and enhanced, looking at the circles on google seems like an interesting soltuion. Otherwise - how about allowing buyers to collect artists with personal notes somewhere. And please add a simple anonymus "follow" function. As a buyer I dont always want to "network". Sometimes I just want to follow without being seen (and without announcing to a competing webdesigner which artists I prefer).
« Last Edit: July 17, 2011, 12:21 by cobalt »

SNP

  • Canadian Photographer
« Reply #33 on: July 17, 2011, 12:40 »
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it may be obvious to compare iStock/getty to Amazon or iTunes...but I really don't think you can. there are more reasons, IMO, that they are incomparable than reasons you can compare them. to start with, Amazon and iTunes have universal demographics (I'm not referring to regions only) but ages, subgroups according to genre or product category...not to mention cross marketing platforms with companies like Airmiles and Aeroplan etc.

Amazon does not have a direct relationship with its sellers either. As an author, my publisher didn't sell my book directly through Amazon, but instead used one of many distribution firms that supply Amazon and provide logistical support. In fact, as much as it's important to have presence online, publishers take a big hit when selling via Amazon/Indigo/Barnes and Noble due to the middle man's take.

iTunes - well, you'd have to taken into account all the product tie-ins and that their target demographic (everyone, but primarily teens and young adults) is the most lucrative on the planet.

Where I think we can compare iTunes with stock is that artists on iTunes (their labels actually) do so much of the marketing. As artists, I think it's important to market ourselves and the sites we sell through. I certainly do this as much as possible but could always do more of it.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2011, 13:07 by SNP »

« Reply #34 on: July 17, 2011, 12:51 »
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Regarding learning from the way Amazon's search handles millions of books, actually Amazon may be learning from microstock.

Amazon did not have a 'real' keyword search for paper books - when users searched for books by keyword, the search engine searched using only the title and subtitle/description of the book. Authors/publishers did not submit lists of keywords the way that we microstockers do.

Now Amazon is allowing users to 'tag' products with keywords. Something like the way that iStock tried to use submitters to crowdsource the keywording of images in the 'disambiguation' program.

« Reply #35 on: July 17, 2011, 13:11 »
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Brazilian designers may indeed be looking for American football images rather than soccer when they search (maybe not in this example but you know what I mean hopefully).

Sure, but then one would look for "futebol americano", as we call it. In this aspect, I would expected IS to do a better job with its CV. An image tagged "soccer" would be translated as "futebol", and one tagged "football" would be translated "futebol americano". But then the bikini you call thong here is "fio dental" ("dental floss"). :D  Someone typing "fio dental" might be looking for the bikini or the tooth cleaner, but wouldn't be surprised with any of these results.

It is still an issue however that a UK buyer wants soccer if he types "football". I guess there are many English words with completely different meanings. We have this problem with Portugal too.

SNP

  • Canadian Photographer
« Reply #36 on: July 17, 2011, 13:25 »
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Sure, but then one would look for "futebol americano", as we call it. In this aspect, I would expected IS to do a better job with its CV. An image tagged "soccer" would be translated as "futebol", and one tagged "football" would be translated "futebol americano". But then the bikini you call thong here is "fio dental" ("dental floss"). :D  Someone typing "fio dental" might be looking for the bikini or the tooth cleaner, but wouldn't be surprised with any of these results.

It is still an issue however that a UK buyer wants soccer if he types "football". I guess there are many English words with completely different meanings. We have this problem with Portugal too.

good point


« Reply #37 on: July 17, 2011, 13:56 »
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Seems to me that we need a colloquial thesaurus ie. a thesaurus that returns a result giving synonyms for common words as used in other countries, regions or cultures.   It appears that there are quite a few.  Some OK, some not so good.  Only had a brief look but one that appears to be quite useful is:

http://www.urbandictionary.com/

It returns a list of words that may match but it's also very funny in terms of descriptions of the word.  Look up "Ocean", "Football", "Cricket", and you'll see what I mean.  A very entertaining read. But I can foresee that if you use it for keywording you may be distracted from that busy task by the amusing descriptions. 

SNP

  • Canadian Photographer
« Reply #38 on: July 17, 2011, 14:03 »
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I think we should convert the CV to use the urban dictionary....

« Reply #39 on: July 18, 2011, 19:23 »
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I have another question for buyers:

Are you using the istock dollarbin? How often do you look there? are there any other sites that have a Dollarbin?

I am wondering - what if the contributors had a personal dollarbin? The files that get deleted from the main search because they had no sales in 3 or 5 years, instead of sending them off to another stock site, or maybe in addition to that - why not offer a dollarbin for every contributors? (Of course only if they want, it should be possible to deactivate it)

A general Dollarbin would probably become too large if say, every year 10% of the collection (non sellers) are moved there. But if the dollarbins are spread over all the contributors and there is no central search function, it cannot become a threat to the main collection.

It would however, encourage the buyers to check out the individual profile pages a little more and encourage them to bookmark the individual artist. This again helps to interconnect the buyer/artist community.

If you have a main collection with 20 million images, why not have 2 million files (10%) spread out all over the site in personal dollarbins?

of course you can add additional restrictions (not more than 10% of the portfolio), what doesnt sell there in 12 months gets deleted etc...

Personal Dollarbins - is that an interesting idea?
« Last Edit: July 18, 2011, 19:25 by cobalt »

« Reply #40 on: July 20, 2011, 10:04 »
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Interesting article on CNN today:

http://edition.cnn.com/2011/TECH/web/07/20/google.chairman.interview/index.html?hpt=hp_c2

"Looking back on his decade as Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt said the company should have focused more on connecting people -- a hole that allowed the emergence of rival internet giant Facebook.

Fundamentally, what Facebook has done is built a way to figure out who people are. That system is missing in the internet as a whole. Google should have worked on this earlier," Schmidt, now the executive chairman of Google, said in an interview with CNN."

I guess this ties in with ideas floated above - you can have as many images and contributors as you want if you connect them well.

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