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Author Topic: My View on the future of IStock as a full-time non-exclusive microstocker  (Read 42216 times)

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« on: December 01, 2008, 08:59 »
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For those of you who don't know me and just to put you into perspective, I'm a full-time photographer and 75% of my income comes from microstock earnings. I'm no Yuri Arcus or Lise Gagn, but I make more in microstock earnings than my previous full-time job as a school director.

OK. I've waited a complete month of new best match before commenting on IS's new best match search and how it has impacted my sales. I just wanted to make sure it wasn't a glitch. It's been roughly 6 weeks since the new best match search was implemented and even during the first week my sales dropped dramatically.



As you can see from my graph, my November sales have, on average, been cut in half. For me, this represents sales that I was making back in 2005, 3 years ago. Before the October implementation of the best match my sales were steadily going up and October looked to be close to my September revenues. Then October became my worst month of the year.

What does this all mean for me (and possibly other high-ranking non-exclusives)? Let me give you my  thoughts on the future of IS for non-exclusives.

I personally think that my sales will continue to slowly decline (from it's November low) even though I continue to upload regularly because:

1- My acceptance ratio has declined from 80% to 50% because of non logical, subjective image evaluations such as: chromatic aberrations, artifacting, and irrelevant keywords. I don't need to go into details here since all of these have been talked about ad nosium here in the forums. Less acceptance means less images, not to mention that we already have a small upload limit compared to exclusives (which is fine).

2- The new best match search sends my top selling images that used to show up in the top 3 pages into non-existence by placing them on pages 97 or farther still. This means declines in sales from those high earners which means they will also move back in pages from "download" search. In th long term those images will vanish from the eyes of buyers. To go even farther still, non-exclusives will become less known since their images won't be at the top anymore so even rare search by "contributor" will become obsolete. The only search that could help us is "age" for our newer images but that will be short lived because of high volume.

3- New non-exclusive images are pushed back just like top images so they'll never (or rarely) get the sales to take off. I already noticed this happening.

In 2008, IS went from #1 to #2 when I made Emerald at FT (no fault to IS). In November it dropped to #3 behind SS (where sales are stagnant but not declining) and barely beat DT by a few $$. I predict that it'll be #4 in December. It won't take long for it to fall to #5 behind StockXpert since my sales at StockXpert are healthy and keep on increasing. It might take a few years for IS to fall behind BS and 123RF but it will happen if best match stays at it is.

I predict that many non-exclusives who currently make at least $100/month at IS will stop uploading once they can't get a regular monthly income. They will focus on agencies that do. I know that if this happens to me in a few years, I'll stop uploading since it make perfect business sense.

What does that mean for IS? I don't know. There are 1000s of possible scenarios. And my thoughts are purely based on current events.

Just thought I would share my view..... what do you think?

Yanik


DanP68

« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2008, 09:22 »
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Yanik,

I enjoy your views and admire you as someone who has had solid success in microstock at numerous agencies.

Your chart looks very similar to mine, and I agree with your assessment that a percentage of non-exclusives will soon cease uploads to iStockphoto.  However most will not.  This is a strange game, microstock.  So many are willing to contribute no matter how an agency treats them, if it means a few extra percentage points in monthly sales.  With that in mind, I doubt there will be a mass exodus.

In my case, I have already ceased uploads to iStockphoto.  It was an easy decision for me.  iStockphoto has fallen as a percentage of earnings contributor for me for all of 2008.  IStock now generates only 9.5% of my total earnings. 

9.5% is not enough to motivate me to deal with the horrible uploading process, the disambiguation, the clunky category selections, and the inability to save model releases.  When you add in the best match changes which push us further back, the 1 to 2 week (or more) review period, the bizarre rejections, the forum climate, and the arrogant 20%/80% commission split, it becomes an easy decision not to do future business with them.

But like I wrote, it is easy for me.  I don't do this for a living.  And 9.5% of earnings just isn't much to give up.  I make 5 times as much at Shutterstock as I do at iStock.  It's gotten to the point where I only check my earnings once a week or so at iStock, as they aren't my bread winner anymore and haven't been for a long time.

I have no intentions of pulling my portfolio at this time.  But they have seen my last upload unless things change drastically.  I don't have the time to waste on non-returning investments.

« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2008, 09:28 »
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FYI. Having some of your best selling images pushed back to the back of your portfolio is not a non-exclusive phenomenon. It does not make sense what IS is doing. Diversity is helping me personally to fight back the tide of the BME screw job. 13% reduction in DLs from BME October that saw 2 $50 sales - so a larger drop in earnings. Having lots of weekend and holiday days in the month - could account for the -13%. Who knows whats going on - but it is not pretty.

« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2008, 09:31 »
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I totally agree. I stopped uploading to istock since october. It just doesn't worth the effort... Shutterstock makes 5 times more and much easy to upload.

I think Istock wants only exclusive contributors in the long run.

« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2008, 09:45 »
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I couldnt agree more.

This will be the firs time after I hit my first payout in a month about 2 years ago , that I wont , I was a buck short , and I used to have 4x better sales.

Things can only go worse , as I see it and last two weeks , were first ones that I didn't upload my batch there. I just didn't felt like doing it.

I feel we ( non exclusives ) will become numbers there , just so they can say they have 4 million images , and exclusives are going to reach for the apples

we are all picking there , cause we are just going to hold the ladders so they can stand high and hoping they will drop some on the ground for us.


There will always be some "high end" non exclusives that will do quite well , but there are not many of them out there.


I will still upload to them , probably will miss a week or two sometimes , but I wont think about rejections much , when things go much worse I will  stop uploading like I did on some other slow sites , but I will freely  do more processed , vivid and images "changed from their initial appearance"  , not thinking what istock has to say about that. I will use keyword background on
my background images and I wont explain that the brushes I used are generated from my work 3 times at month.


  


 


CofkoCof

« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2008, 10:09 »
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Well I think most of us agree with this. I stopped uploading vectors to IS, might do the same with photos/renders. It may be worth it atm, but it looks that may not be the case in two months. Unless something changes.

The more interesting question is what is IS's (or should I say Getty's) goal? The only reasonable motives that come to my mind are:
- destroy competition by making most of the people exclusive with IS (however the current strategy is working against this)
- demotivate all of the newbies and hobbyist so that they stop uploading. This could calm the top producers and make IS a site with high quality images, though quantity might be the problem. The reason for this is that there are more and more contributors which makes our piece of the pie smaller. The contributor numbers are increasing far more rapidlly than the buyers numbers (though there is still a lot of room I think). This means that we will earn less and less if the current trend continues. When will we reach the point where most find it's not worth it anymore?

« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2008, 10:54 »
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iStock went from rank 3 to 5 for me this month with a mere 7% of my income. I stoped uploading there for now too since it's not viable for me. The upload process takes far too much time for the income it brings. I will see if things change in the future but for the moment, it is simply not worth the time investment.


« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2008, 11:35 »
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My graph looks a lot like the original poster. I too can't get very excited about uploading to iS anymore. Given the recent setback at FT with rankings and this I am rethinking my whole participation in the micros.

lisafx

« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2008, 12:54 »
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I completely agree with your assessment Yanik. 

It's frustrating to have seen istock plummet so low in such a short time.  I barely escaped my worst month of the year there (Feb) in spite of filling my upload quota every week and adding 1200 images in 2008 including lots of holiday images. 

As a non-exclusive diamond with over 4,000 images, if my sales are down this badly on istock I can't imagine many independents are faring a lot better. 

Istock now represents 28% of my income, down from almost half a year ago.  Microstock represents my FT income and for the first time ever I could completely drop istock from my lineup and still support myself. 

If something doesn't turn around there I am sure many more independents will join Dan, Talanis, and others who haven't yet posted to this thread in stopping uploading to istock.

There is just no way this benefits istock.  An all exclusive roster would omit way too many talented independents, not to mention that many of the exclusive benefits (faster inspection, better search placement,portfolio promotion etc.) will be moot if there are no non-exclusives to be placed ahead of...

lagereek

« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2008, 13:08 »
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I agree totally with Yanik and Lisa!
Im a Gold, non-exclusive myself, 2-years plus with IS. At best they stood for about 15% of my total stock-earnings and thats quite a bit considering I work in RM,RF and micro. My day-rate photography business is kept totally separate.
My advice is:  skip this exclusivity crap altogether, keep the ones already abooard happy and frankly start all over.
Get a decent  and I mean a decent expensive computer-guru-team ( the best ) and get a decent search-engine!
Dont even think about using the term: best match anymore, its really got the most terrible ring to it.

helix7

« Reply #10 on: December 01, 2008, 13:17 »
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I'm not worried about it all that much. I know that sounds a bit crazy, but really when you look at what istock represents for most non-exclusives, we're not talking about the end of the world. I mean, this is the company that represents about 20-30% of total microstock earnings for most people, right? So if sales get cut in half, we're talking about a 10-15% total income drop. Sure that's big, but not of the magnitude where anyone should start thinking about quitting the business.

My view is that while this best match shake-up is more damaging than previous ones, I'm still not going to sweat it too much. It might change for the better some day, it might not. All I know is that this just reinforces my commitment to stay independent, and will use that to my advantage and focus my efforts on the other 10 agencies I work with. I used to mostly work on images that I thought were best suited for istock, for that style and what I thought was most likely to pass with istock's reviewers. But that was when istock was my top earner. Since that's not the case anymore and won't be for the near future, I'll just work on stuff that sells best at SS.

SS is the new istock for me. Maybe StockXpert will become the new SS, and so on. For non-exclusives, really this is not that big of a deal. We can adapt, change strategies, focus on other sites, etc. It's far worse a situation for the istock exclusives, especially those who count on istock for most or all of their income and have taken the same hit we have experienced. My istock earnings can drop to half of what they were over the summer and I'm still ok. A full-time exclusive's earnings make the same drop and they really feel that pain much more than I could.

Bottom line for me is this: I used to regard istock as a much bigger part of my microstock picture. Now, the fact of the matter is that istock is a much smaller part of that picture, and I just need to move forward. istock may just become a smaller and smaller part of my microstock future, and that's not so bad really.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2008, 13:25 by helix7 »

lisafx

« Reply #11 on: December 01, 2008, 13:36 »
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Everything you are saying makes total sense Mike.  Istock has dropped themselves to just one of the pack, rather than the leader. 

I guess it is harder to process for some of us that have been there a very long time and began our stock careers there.  Istock's decline really seems to have begun in Feb 2006 with its sale to Getty, so anyone joining after that time may not quite understand the feelings of fondness and nostalgia that many of us old timers have. 


« Reply #12 on: December 01, 2008, 15:34 »
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The next best match change is going to be interesting.  Are they going to continue with the current policy or will they try and keep more of us happy by moving our images back up the best match?

I think the policy of trying to make those sitting on the fence go exclusive has backfired spectacularly.  The best way to make us think about going exclusive is to increase our sales, not reduce them.  I feel they have made a mistake and they should correct it quickly.  There must be a growing number of us who have decided to never go exclusive with them and are now sitting on the fence deciding if we want to continue uploading.

If our sales get a boost with a new best match, I think a lot of these negative feelings will fade away.

helix7

« Reply #13 on: December 01, 2008, 15:42 »
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...I guess it is harder to process for some of us that have been there a very long time and began our stock careers there...

Good point. It's funny how where you start affects how you feel about a company. I guess that's why I have always been a fan of StockXpert. That's where I got my start.


helix7

« Reply #14 on: December 01, 2008, 15:45 »
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The next best match change is going to be interesting.  Are they going to continue with the current policy or will they try and keep more of us happy by moving our images back up the best match?...

I wish I could share your optimism, but I have serious doubts that the best match will help us out in any way. istock has loyalties to buyers much more than contributors, and for good reason. Unfortunately for us, if buyers are happy with the new best match, it'll stay in place even if it hurts us.

« Reply #15 on: December 01, 2008, 16:41 »
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I think that this move for the IS will be Trojan horse ...

Because:

-microstok is no longer a business without serious competition (as in the beginning)...
-times are changing, and photographers also... Limiting on the "older photographer" mean loosing part of new things (every generation brings something new)...
-new contributor doesn't like exclusive (earlier, You could easily be exclusive because the "others" weren't such strong like now ...
That means a decline of offer in quantity of images, in comparison to the other agencies, customers will go where is greater choice)...
- also many good photographers will leave IS (It's a big risk  to go on IS exclusive after SS,StockXpert,FT etc.) ,that also mean less images in IS portfolio compared to the competition...

Conclusion question:
What is better,to be original and to have all that the others have, or just be original?
« Last Edit: December 01, 2008, 16:47 by borg »

« Reply #16 on: December 01, 2008, 16:46 »
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Nothing more...

hali

« Reply #17 on: December 01, 2008, 16:48 »
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- destroy competition by making most of the people exclusive with IS (however the current strategy is working against this)
- demotivate all of the newbies and hobbyist so that they stop uploading. This could calm the top producers and make IS a site with high quality images

i am a newbie, thank goodness for that, as i am not suck into this IS vacuum.
but aren't some of you top performers NON-EXCLUSIVES playing into the hands of the Exclusive,
but planning to quit IS or reduce your UL?
isn't that what they want? less fierce competition from you all?

the other point is more directed to me and other newbies? although i am sure CofkoCof, from the way you regularly help newbies, i don't think you really meant to say that newbies do not submit high quality images.  some of us newbies are not just dabblers of automatic digital cameras,
we are old school photographers who just happen to have more time now to get into stock photography. as a result, we are getting more acceptance in mid stock , so we are not all
shooting low quality images .

but yes, we are also watching you , the old timers, to see if we really want to invest our time with IS, or concentrate elsewhere where we are also beginning to get 90-100% acceptance in DST, StockXpert, ALAMY,etc.. 
I watch this forum with close interest, especially on IS, as I know they're quite a pain !!!

finally, if you old timers were doing well, I am surprised so few of you would opt in to become exclusive with IS. as they say, if you can't beat them, join them.
Why are so few of you who could be exclusive so unwilling.
Share your views on this with us newbies.

« Reply #18 on: December 01, 2008, 17:08 »
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I do not contribute to either site so do not have a weighted opinion, but as suppliers you are thinking along the lines that a fall in your sales means that Istocks revenue is down as well.

Looking at Alexa statistics, visitors are down 4% is that a fall in customers or a fall in photographers checking thier statistics?

On the other hand we can see that Shutterstock visitors up 16%, is that again customers?

Then the unique page views per visitor tells another story, Istock is up 15%, and shutterstock down 7%, is that buyers at Istock using the new best match search finding what they searched for so loading more pages, then over at Shutterstock buyers loading pages seeing that the images do not really match the search or they have seen them before, and leaving the site?

I know it is hard to take another perspective when you have a lot at stake, but we do not know if the Istock revenue has fallen in line with yours, or it has just been moved about,  if it is that latter then there will be no change in the best match, they would not change the best match for fun if it was working well before, it is not a game but a business, if thier revenue has been hit then there will be another change in the best match, that is the simple logic.

I know that the "Istock Community" ethos is used a lot, and a community soccer team will use all it's players to give them a level playing field, and not reall win anything, but there are ruthless teams that will collect the trophies, that do not go out in the first round, and they will play thier to thier strengths at the expense of the rest of the "team" (suppliers of skill)

Just another view!
David  :-\      
« Last Edit: December 01, 2008, 17:15 by Adeptris »

CofkoCof

« Reply #19 on: December 01, 2008, 17:27 »
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i am a newbie, thank goodness for that, as i am not suck into this IS vacuum.
but aren't some of you top performers NON-EXCLUSIVES playing into the hands of the Exclusive,
but planning to quit IS or reduce your UL?
isn't that what they want? less fierce competition from you all?

the other point is more directed to me and other newbies? although i am sure CofkoCof, from the way you regularly help newbies, i don't think you really meant to say that newbies do not submit high quality images.  some of us newbies are not just dabblers of automatic digital cameras,
we are old school photographers who just happen to have more time now to get into stock photography. as a result, we are getting more acceptance in mid stock , so we are not all
shooting low quality images .

but yes, we are also watching you , the old timers, to see if we really want to invest our time with IS, or concentrate elsewhere where we are also beginning to get 90-100% acceptance in DST, StockXpert, ALAMY,etc.. 
I watch this forum with close interest, especially on IS, as I know they're quite a pain !!!

finally, if you old timers were doing well, I am surprised so few of you would opt in to become exclusive with IS. as they say, if you can't beat them, join them.
Why are so few of you who could be exclusive so unwilling.
Share your views on this with us newbies.

They probably wanted to force all of those non-exclusives to finally become exclusive. That would be a big gain for IS, however it backfired at them. It looks like less and less people will are interested in going exclusives atm.

The other point is directed to me also, since I consider myself a newbie :D Truth is: it takes some time before you start make good stock images. You might understand exposure, composition,... but that doesn't mean buyers will buy your images. With DSLR becoming so cheap there are more and more people who just put their camera on automatic and start shooting their backyard the whole day and at the end of the day they start uploading all the images they took. I'm not saying all of the people that are new to (micro)stock are like this. We can see many big producers coming to micro from traditional stock with very high quality images. They are highly the minority though. Most people don't even make it to their first payout. It's in sites best interest to attract good photographers. 10 images from top contributors make more money than a 1000 (or even more) from beginners. Well agency actually has to pay some money to have those 1000 images that don't bring profit on their sites (reviwers, servers,...) So I wanted to point out that maybe they are trying to shift their contributors from "everyone with a camera can earn money" to "you need to produce good stock images to stand a chance".

Why wouldn't I go exclusive? First of all I don't think my sales would increase 500% if I did it. And it would take 500% to make it financially worth it. The other very important reason is that I wouldn't want to put all of my eggs in one basket. Especially since I know that every site's overall sales come before my sales. They will do everything that's necessary to increase the sales. If they think a radical change in pricing/search/uploading,... is needed they will go trough it. And that's true for all the sites. Submitting to more sites makes you resilient for those kind of changes. You still feel them, however you don't hit rock bottom.

« Reply #20 on: December 01, 2008, 17:27 »
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The next best match change is going to be interesting.  Are they going to continue with the current policy or will they try and keep more of us happy by moving our images back up the best match?

I think the policy of trying to make those sitting on the fence go exclusive has backfired spectacularly.  The best way to make us think about going exclusive is to increase our sales, not reduce them.  I feel they have made a mistake and they should correct it quickly.  There must be a growing number of us who have decided to never go exclusive with them and are now sitting on the fence deciding if we want to continue uploading.

If our sales get a boost with a new best match, I think a lot of these negative feelings will fade away.

I agree with sharphot. I think IS wants to dominate the marketplace, and an important part of their strategy is to have as many exclusive images as possible. Furthermore, I think that the 'powers that be' at IS are keeping an eye on the non-exclusive community by reading threads like this. Bottom line: It's not going to be too long (February/March/April ?) before the best match is revamped to increase the exposure of non-exclusives enough so they might consider going exclusive.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2008, 17:31 by sharply_done »

lagereek

« Reply #21 on: December 01, 2008, 17:31 »
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Buyers likes the new best match???  I wouldnt bank on that at all. I know of at least four pretty good buyers in London, one corporate AD-client I myself recommended him to use IS, just about a year ago.
" site is too slow", " doesnt deliver right shots on search", Too time consuming" and thats what their Art-buyer or picture-buyer said to me.
Even so, even if this best match on the whole should suit buyers, what does it matter anyway? the damage is done and on a global scale.
I mean lets be honest. Who in their right frame of mind, even if starving alive would trust this with a good Portfolio and then more or less forced to turn exclusive or else no sales?
No, no, this is a serious waste of time. Better we found out now then in a years time. Why?  well lets say the Getty/IS somehow manages to "inherrit" some of the other leading sites and then start the same old ballgame with those. Leaving even less reason to trust it.

Sharpley done!  consider going exclusive??  well then we are really taken for fools, arent we.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2008, 17:36 by lagereek »

e-person

« Reply #22 on: December 01, 2008, 17:58 »
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Hello everyone, just signed in.  :)

As a non exclusive contributor to IS, I would like to confirm a few of the things you all said.

For example, I was considering exclusivity, especially given how good were August and September 2008 for me, relatively speaking. But then, given the recent slowdown, I have decided not to go exclusive, at least not for now. So, yes, somehow it backfired.

On the other hand, unlike many others, to me IS is about 45%, almost on par with SS. I did leave most of the others, including FT, over one year ago, though.

That's all I wanted to say.

- Giuseppe


lisafx

« Reply #23 on: December 01, 2008, 18:10 »
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...but aren't some of you top performers NON-EXCLUSIVES playing into the hands of the Exclusive,
but planning to quit IS or reduce your UL?
isn't that what they want? less fierce competition from you all?....


I agree with most of what you said Hali, but I did have to draw a distinction on this one point. 

Perhaps exclusive members are happy with less competition from alienated independents, but I am fairly certain that istock as a company will not be happy about it for long. 

ITLR it makes their image collection weaker and less competitive. 

Yuri_Arcurs

  • One Crazy PhotoManic MadPerson
« Reply #24 on: December 01, 2008, 18:40 »
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Similar findings....
More so with about 20-30% rejections on the same "overfiltred" and "artifacts" my upload limit is actually only about 20-25 files per week. I simply cannot maintain my income. :(
Even with files coming from probably the best camera in the world and that have never been compressed in any way, I still get files rejected for overfiltred and artifacts. Especially really sharp files get rejected. The files that get through the inspections easily are the ones that are slightly soft or out of focus... Too sharp (even with no sharping added anywhere) and the files get rejected for being "mysteriously sharp"....overfiltred...

Attached are my earnings.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2008, 18:54 by Yuri_Arcurs »


 

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