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Author Topic: What IF we had a Cooperative distribution channel?  (Read 11729 times)

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« on: July 31, 2012, 03:13 »
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What if we had an agency owned by the contributers?

What if the split was 50 /50 and the profit was shared as a yearly bonus?
Would you support it?

Such companies were common here some years ago, when farmers were tiered of always having prices lowered by the merchants. They then formed cooperative distribution companies. The cooperatives were commercially viable and the shareholders/ contributors were often happy, since they were guaranteed a certain minimum price and did not have to compete on profit.

The companies were usually founded in steps:
1...Having a list of contributers promise they would deliver exclusively.
2...Business plan.
3.. Financing by loans or contributers pay for shares, or both.
4.. Getting the business up and running.
5.. Competiveness set by both prices and the no need for profit.

I think a cooperative would be a serious thread to pure commercial agencies, simply because a cooperative does not need to produce profit, only sales and such it would be more competitive.

Now what IF?
I know Im only fantazising? But such companies would really be appreaciated in this world of internet tycoons.
I mean we are people here, behind every keybord is a human being being exploited.
We should not let the grinding machines mince us in their hunt for profit, based on content, we have produced.
It is US who produce the content. the agencies were nothing without us.

Would you join?


« Reply #1 on: July 31, 2012, 04:03 »
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It's a nice idea but we've been talking about something like this here for as long as I can remember and there's lots of difficulties.  We're a diverse group that don't seem to agree on much.  A site run by us would need strong management that can make decisions while keeping us all happy.  Who's capable of doing that?

I think it would take a lot of money to make a big impact.  It would be great if we could get the backing of a big internet business, like Google, Amazon, Facebook etc.  If there was a site that was more beneficial for contributors and buyers, it could dominate the market.

People have tried taking on the big sites with little investment but so far they haven't succeeded.  Why don't we just buy Getty?  That seems more likely than us setting up a cooperative that works.

ShadySue

« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2012, 04:18 »
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What if we had an agency owned by the contributers?

What if the split was 50 /50 and the profit was shared as a yearly bonus?
Would you support it?
In theory, I'd be happier sticking with Alamy, with at 60/40 split and the profits going to charity ... but they're not aggressive enough in marketing (or something), so 50% of something decent would be better than 60% of very little.

Quote
Such companies were common here some years ago, when farmers were tiered of always having prices lowered by the merchants. They then formed cooperative distribution companies. The cooperatives were commercially viable and the shareholders/ contributors were often happy, since they were guaranteed a certain minimum price and did not have to compete on profit.

I notice that you wrote that in the past tense. Does that mean that your farmers don't have their co-operative distribution any more? Is that because they were forced to cave in, a better business model presented itself, the large companies had to cave in (rather than buying cheap imports) or ... ?

Lilke Sharpshot says, it's all down to who runs it.  The only instances I know of (not from first hand experience) are fair trade co-operatives who know each other and vote for their key position holders from within the community, and this rotates so that the key people don't have to spend more than one (or a very few) years taking time from their 'core business'. We are far too spread out, and just because someone talks a good talk on the forums etc does't necessarily mean they actually have the skills/knowledge to deliver.
I'd vote for SuperSean, but I suspect he'd rather be in the studio.

Also, wouldn't it take a bit initial investment from all the potential members to get it up and running? Don't think many would be happy about that, again in a situation where we 'don't know where the key players live', (metaphorically if not literally) so they have no responsibility, and could just 'disappear' from the ether.

« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2012, 05:09 »
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You are both right, it is not easy.
but it has been done before when people were under equal pressure.
Or worse.

Capitalism has a vulnerable spot, and that is profit.
If you make a distribution agency that does not need profit, but only to distribute things at a fair price, then you have an advantage.
And yes, there are endless problems with financing.
but again, it has  been dealt with in the past. And they actually were successful.

I dont have a finished business model, it is going to be very difficult in a global market.
However, the globe is shrinking, and people are people like they used to be, and if there were reason and a good business model behind, it might be possible.
« Last Edit: July 31, 2012, 05:52 by JPSDK »

Microbius

« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2012, 08:42 »
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John Lewis, very successful, an excellent business model. Just needs someone to put the work in to get it off the ground.

« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2012, 09:29 »
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If you want a coop, then create one. Build it or at least investigate the costs to build it.

ruxpriencdiam

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« Reply #6 on: July 31, 2012, 09:34 »
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And then dont forget if you had such a thing someone would have to "review" them and if they were like you and I were nothing would get accepted ;D

ShadySue

« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2012, 09:58 »
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John Lewis, very successful, an excellent business model. Just needs someone to put the work in to get it off the ground.
True, but essentially, JLP is from the UK. A stock model would have to be international, which has all sorts of implications, not least those who understand the visual language of all the countries. It's a much huger scenario, with more opportunities but many more hazards. At least it's easy and relatively inexpensive to bring JLP stakeholders together physically, which sometimes is just better than any number of emeetings.

RacePhoto

« Reply #8 on: July 31, 2012, 10:29 »
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If you want a coop, then create one. Build it or at least investigate the costs to build it.

While the idea has been around since before MSG (on other forums) I still think it's a good one and possible. The problem is in the logistics and organization.

Members get paid according to a percentage of the profits based on the number of sales they make and hours they work reviewing, working at the store, and programming... after expenses.

Members are the owners.

Lets see, software, hosting, programming. Reviews, reviews of reviews, resubmissions because people disagree about their work getting rejected, someone to read all those emails and answer complaints, someone to monitor keyword spamming. (expenses)

Hypothetical person "A" uploads 5000 images, does nothing else.
Person "B" has 300 images, sells nothing, but works all year long making the site run.
Person "C" has 1000 images, does nothing else and sells nothing. (extreme but just an example)
Person "D" has no images but works programming, answers mail, edits, reviews, makes the place run.

C gets paid nothing at the end of the year, no sales, no work.
A gets one share for every image dollar licensed.
B gets 1 share for every image dollar licensed and 1 share for every hour worked
D gets one share for every hour worked

Divide profits after expenses, buy total shares for the year and PayPal the members. In other words, everyone only gets paid once a year. (unless you want to pay an accountant to do this every month and send out payments to 1000 people and watch the books? Which will eat into profits further.) ps income gains interest for the year, while it's sitting in the bank = more income.

There's your co op, which needs a legal registration to operate.

lisafx

« Reply #9 on: July 31, 2012, 13:19 »
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I think a coop is a great idea.  I joined Warmpicture early on for exactly that reason.  It's been a bumpy ride. I remain interested in participating if a viable alternative to the big agencies presents itself. 

One caveat is that I would not be able to be artist exclusive, but I would be willing to produce some exclusive content, assuming that the site was a serious attempt, and assuming I could make it un-exclusive at my discretion if the site doesn't take off.

ShadySue

« Reply #10 on: July 31, 2012, 13:30 »
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There's your co op, which needs a legal registration to operate.
Imagine trying to get the steering group to agree even under whose legislation the co-operative was going to function!

ShadySue

« Reply #11 on: July 31, 2012, 14:14 »
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One caveat is that I would not be able to be artist exclusive, but I would be willing to produce some exclusive content, assuming that the site was a serious attempt, and assuming I could make it un-exclusive at my discretion if the site doesn't take off.
That's a serious point. If people were having to cough up large amounts of cash to get the co-operative site off the ground, most would be unwilling to remove their files from sites which, for all their faults, still bring in some money.

« Reply #12 on: July 31, 2012, 14:51 »
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As compared to growers' coops, there's a crucial differece: we're spread out around the planet and there's no possibility of getting together in person, in a group big enough to matter, to actually work out the details of such a venture, and commit to it.

We're just text on your screen.

« Reply #13 on: July 31, 2012, 15:09 »
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Maybe it needs to start small- an offshoot of MSG so to speak - but different.
A place to create a more unified contributor voice. Members would be able to present ideas and/or opinions and other members would "vote" rather than comment.
Strongly Agree, Agree, Dissagree, Strongly Dissagree- and the percentages would be available to see.

Not allowing commentary would eliminate any infighting and it would be easier to form a consensus opinion of the majority.
To become a member you would need to have say 50 images for sale on at least one of the big 4 which would eliminate spammers.

Perhaps a site like this could start as a precurser to a co-op and help to unify the contributors- after all, we have more things we agree on than things we disagree on. As a group we spend most of the time dwelling on the things we disagree on - I think that is because it's more fun to disagree and argue than agree.

More fun - but way less productive

« Reply #14 on: July 31, 2012, 15:42 »
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I think a coop is a great idea.  I joined Warmpicture early on for exactly that reason.  It's been a bumpy ride. I remain interested in participating if a viable alternative to the big agencies presents itself. 

One caveat is that I would not be able to be artist exclusive, but I would be willing to produce some exclusive content, assuming that the site was a serious attempt, and assuming I could make it un-exclusive at my discretion if the site doesn't take off.

+1

I joined WarmPicture after I left exclusivity with IS. I've had some sales there but as Lisa mentioned, it's been a bumpy ride.

One big thing is that although Dan has invested a ton of time and money in it, the software that runs the site just isn't great. And given the massive fixing it required, even if the upgrade to the new version of Ktools offered better features, it wouldn't be simple. I often wonder if there isn't some way to take a nice site - like StockFresh - and use that as an artist's collective. Seems to me it's never going anywhere as a competitor to the existing agencies, but the site looks decent and operates well...

One of the aspects of WarmPicture that helps a lot is that it doesn't take anyone who wants to join - it has to be someone with an established portfolio and sales track record. That allows people to upload without an inspection service - but you can't do that if you take people who might upload images with logos, unreleased property or people, etc. I rather like the idea of using the existing agencies as a training ground - schooling contributors in all the no-nos for royalty free stock - and then letting them graduate after enough sales to a self inspection service.

Us using the agencies would make a nice change from them using and abusing us :)

« Reply #15 on: July 31, 2012, 16:17 »
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I joined WarmPicture after I left exclusivity with IS. I've had some sales there but as Lisa mentioned, it's been a bumpy ride.

One big thing is that although Dan has invested a ton of time and money in it, the software that runs the site just isn't great. And given the massive fixing it required, even if the upgrade to the new version of Ktools offered better features, it wouldn't be simple. I often wonder if there isn't some way to take a nice site - like StockFresh - and use that as an artist's collective. Seems to me it's never going anywhere as a competitor to the existing agencies, but the site looks decent and operates well...

One of the aspects of WarmPicture that helps a lot is that it doesn't take anyone who wants to join - it has to be someone with an established portfolio and sales track record. That allows people to upload without an inspection service - but you can't do that if you take people who might upload images with logos, unreleased property or people, etc. I rather like the idea of using the existing agencies as a training ground - schooling contributors in all the no-nos for royalty free stock - and then letting them graduate after enough sales to a self inspection service.

Us using the agencies would make a nice change from them using and abusing us :)

I like WarmPicture and respect the work that Dan put in, but is it the best example? How many images are on his site that aren't on the big 4, mid tier, or even low tier sites that pay less than favorable rates? What percentage of your portfolio is unique there? I'm guessing it is around 0% for most contributors there. If he can't compete with unique content, then how is he supposed to compete?

I'm not trying to bash his site or the contributors, but just pose a question. Did anybody really throw their full weight behind it (other than probably Dan himself)? I think that is an important question to ask. If nobody was making a concerted effort for change, then how do they expect it to happen?

« Reply #16 on: July 31, 2012, 16:42 »
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I would be much more interested in our own site if buyers were involved from the start.  They must be annoyed with the constant price rises on some sites and I'm sure they will understand that we can't keep supplying good new images if we're getting a commission cut every year.  If we want to cut out the greedy middlemen, don't we need to discuss it with the people that buy our images?  Just building yet another site doesn't interest me, it has to be something that's going to get image buyers interested from the start.


lisafx

« Reply #17 on: July 31, 2012, 17:19 »
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I would be much more interested in our own site if buyers were involved from the start.  They must be annoyed with the constant price rises on some sites and I'm sure they will understand that we can't keep supplying good new images if we're getting a commission cut every year.  If we want to cut out the greedy middlemen, don't we need to discuss it with the people that buy our images? 

Don't know why this never occurred to me, but you're absolutely right!  Having buyers involved from the start would be really helpful, both in building a buyer friendly site, and also in getting them involved in marketing it to other buyers...

« Reply #18 on: July 31, 2012, 18:46 »
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It might fly if the top 200 or so contributors who may have a buyer following moved everything - hell of a risk though.

« Reply #19 on: July 31, 2012, 18:59 »
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If you want a coop, then create one. Build it or at least investigate the costs to build it.

No, no, it's more fun to talk about it and especially fun if you're the OP who thinks theyve come up with a brand new thing we haven't discussed repeatedly, but no one does anything about

« Reply #20 on: July 31, 2012, 19:52 »
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Also, don't confuse Warmpicture with a coop.  Afaik, it's just a site run by 'one of us' who allows others to contribute.  You don't have a say in how it runs, you don't get part of the profit, etc.

Also, isn't the OP the guy in the other thread who thought we should do away with licensing?

« Reply #21 on: July 31, 2012, 22:53 »
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I'm not trying to bash his site or the contributors, but just pose a question. Did anybody really throw their full weight behind it (other than probably Dan himself)? I think that is an important question to ask. If nobody was making a concerted effort for change, then how do they expect it to happen?

You hit on an important point Cory. Over the last 15 months of actively taking in contributors, we have had various tasks which needed to be completed. Link building was by far the most important task, and simplest path was to build links and brand awareness by having contributors write short articles for design and photography related blogs.

Of the 40+ contributors we have, only 1 helped me with this task. She is currently making a 90% commission on sales as incentive. She has built us several links. I wrote somewhere around 40 or 50 blog posts for other sites, and nearly 100 for our own. It made a tangible difference in our search rankings too, but going from 150 to 50 is really meaningless. Going from 50 to Page 1 is where the money is at. If we had more people on board with helping, rather than just joining, we could build a lot more links and get our name out there and make everyone a lot more money.

These threads are created every few months on MSG, and prior to that, there were similar threads on the old Yahoo Micropayment board. It's been talked about, and talked about. Until you are willing to actually put in real work, and put in real money as investment, what is the point in talking about it?

« Reply #22 on: August 01, 2012, 04:44 »
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I started a stock agency also, and building links are not nearly as important as having a real costumers base.

I would say that my original question have been quantified.

Exclusivety is necessary for the same reasons as with farm products: Else you compete with the agency that fights for prices for you.
Im not sure if it matters if we are spread all over the globe, the agancies have used that against us, but it might as well be an advantage, communications work fine nowadays.


I have 200 photographers on my list on facebook, how many do you have?
I have 2000 pictures in play.

Now how many pictures do we represent here, and how many photographers can we reach in just one click? Maybe more than we think.

« Reply #23 on: August 01, 2012, 09:57 »
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I started a stock agency also, and building links are not nearly as important as having a real costumers base.

It depends on how you plan to build that customer base. If you plan to build it through search engine traffic, then link building should be an important part of that.

« Reply #24 on: August 01, 2012, 14:38 »
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The biggest problem facing any agency/coop is getting and keeping qualified image buyers.

Advertising for an agency is very, very expensive.  I know, I have two agencies and have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to get and keep image buyers coming back.

To be successful, you must draw users in and keep them coming back EVERY TIME.  EVERY advertising dollar must be used effectively, and you must have something for everyone.  Niche or specialty agencies waste a LOT of money on advertising to those who only need or use them part of the time.

We asked our pool of over 40,000 ACTIVE image buyers from our current traditional agencies, What do you want in a stock photo agency?  ...and, What would be your perfect solution to search, find, and license images?

OVER 16,000 active art buyers returned surveys, several thousand more emailed with answers and ideas on how to make finding images better, easier, faster.  Survey results were gathered via email, mail, web after sale, and by phone over a three year period.

We compiled all of this information, assembled a dream team of developers and built the platform to bring this industry up to date.  Many of you know of our new platform PicturEngine, and some of you are already using it (congrats, you are ahead of the curve!).

Our NUMBER ONE PRIORITY is being the place where buyers come FIRST EVERY TIME, drawing in ALL image buyers by providing them what they want and cannot get ANYWHERE else!

Image buyers tell us that the same images are at every site and asked that we provide a search that consolidates the industry, removing all of the duplicates and stacking sims to create one clean, clutter-free, complete and unique industry-wide search.  We did!  Our search includes over 300 million images from the top agencies.  Once duplicates are removed, our results include over 180.2 million images.  Our visual sim stacking engine will reduce clutter even further once enabled.  The full search and features will be enabled when we leave Beta.

Buyers also asked that we provide them tools to collaborate and work with one another, so we gave them not only lightboxes, but a collaborative workspace where they can arrange, sort, rank, notate, communicate and share in real time with colleagues, images from across the whole industry of agencies and photographers.  The first stock photo industry-wide collaboration tool.

Buyers also demand good prices.  There is only one way to get the best price on ANY good or service, and that is to cut out or drastically reduce the distance from the producer to the buyer.  We DO NOT compare prices, instead we send the buyer to the base agency (where the image was uploaded first) or directly to the photographer (if they are on the PicturEngine platform) to get the best possible price.


After establishing a platform that can attract and retain image buyers, providing them what they want and the tools they need and cannot live without, you will need to focus on the company, corporate infrastructure, photographer and image management, storage, security and distribution, corporate branding, advertising, sales, billing, servers, web development and infrastructure, legal, research and development (to keep you ahead of the curve), you know, the basics...

I have done all of this.  Offering the platform for a low, flat subscription fee to cover all of the base expenses upfront, photographers pay for their individual storage needs and any bells and whistles they choose to add onto the platform, and KEEP 100% of sales/licenses.

PicturEngine is built and coming out of open Photographer Beta soon.  If you are currently participating in our open Photographer Beta, speak up!  Let everyone know what you think.  If you have a question or problem, send it to support, well resolve it.  We are in Beta to make the best platform possible for our industry.  The more input we receive, the better platform we can build. 

If you registered for our Advertising Only account section, you will be happy to know that production will start on your section very soon, this week in fact, and you will soon see your images beginning to show up within your account and in our search.  We will not start billing our Advertising Only contributors until we are ready to advertise the platform and enable the full search.

I invite comments and constructive criticism.  I don't have a ton of time to spend answering questions, so if you can review our support center first, that is appreciated. 
http://support.picturengine.com
http://www.picturengine.com/ (NOTE:  The full search is currently disabled until we launch.  We are in Beta.)

More later, my day is pretty full.

Best,
JB

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