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Author Topic: Why is iStockphoto tanking?  (Read 30980 times)

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« on: October 04, 2012, 00:15 »
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After reading this thread at IS, I am kinda shocked with the massive SUDDEN downward shift in sales and income for 99% of the iStock community. And since IS is one of the major players, this trend must be industry wide.

http://www.istockphoto.com/forum_messages.php?threadid=347763&page=1

SO what is going on? Is it IS's site issues or something else? It does  not feel like a gradual trend since September is usually the bounce-back month. Hopefully it is related to the zoom and add-to-library issues (that should be fixed) but that seems odd that those simple features would slam the sales activity.

Have any of you veterans seen anything like this? Any ideas?

« Last Edit: October 04, 2012, 01:43 by oxman »


« Reply #1 on: October 04, 2012, 00:41 »
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Nope. My guess is that the supply is outstripping the demand by miles. Too much quantity mixed with inferior quality. Its not just IS, its pretty much every single one of them.
same thing is happening in macro, they are all starving exept Getty.

I am just guessing btw.

« Reply #2 on: October 04, 2012, 00:48 »
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I've been around iStock since fall 2004 and I've seen a number of big ups and downs in that time - some related to earlier software eff-ups and some to best match lurches and shifts. I don't think I've ever seen anything like this before though.

It's overused to talk about a perfect storm, but I think they've got a combination of site problems (and the zoom and lightbox problems are biggies, not minor annoyances) following a year of relentless price increases, a deluge of dreck (mostly - there's obviously some good stuff in there too) from Getty and too many best match tweaks trying to keep the money coming and contributors somewhat calm. Can't count out the push to promote Thinkstock - they're almost caught up with getting my portfolio there after a whole year.

Also bear in mind that people's September numbers are better than they think they are - I used the beta of Stats Plus to look at my September sales and found my DLs were 12% higher and $$ 15% higher than the IS stats showed me. It didn't make it a good September, but it did lift it up from the gutter a bit.

I suspect that after so many other hiccups over the last few years, for some buyers who put up with things the first several times may just have had enough and moved elsewhere.

A long time ago, Fotolia nearly destroyed the functioning of their site when they moved to "V2.0" and it didn't work for a couple of months. I thought it might take the site under (it was still a relative newcomer) but they fixed the problems and did really well afterwards. They've undone all that good work more recently (long story), and it may be that it was easier to recover then (summer 2007) than now.

FT has recently appeared to be deliberately moving further back the images from contributors who get higher royalties - lots of complaints in MSG from emeralds whose sales dropped overnight to very much lower levels than in years past. It's certainly possible that IS might be trying to manage search results to try and sell more images on which they make the most, versus looking solely from the buyer's perspective. They'd never say if they were doing that, and there are other possible reasons for the seeming top-heavy bias in those seeing big drops at IS, but I have wondered if they were trying to do some sort of yield management on the search results.

Bottom line is I have no idea! But those are my guesses :)

« Reply #3 on: October 04, 2012, 00:56 »
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Sorry, JoAnn, are you saying that the iS stats are now wrong? Are the total earnings right? I have thought for some time that the sales total sometimes seems to increase and I can't see where the money's come from but I thought it was just me misremembering the numbers.

Edit: Ok, I see that now. I presume the actual cash is being kept right. I'm downloading StatsPlus (brilliant, iStock once again relies on outside enthusiasts to do the programming for its members). If it turns out that my earnings for September were understated by 15% then it will have been a fairly average month, a lot better than August.

« Last Edit: October 04, 2012, 01:22 by BaldricksTrousers »

« Reply #4 on: October 04, 2012, 01:26 »
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Unlike ClaridgeJ my non-istock sales were all OK in September. Nothing to get excited about but nothing to cause any concern, and October had started well, too, even if I don't take into account the $350 commission from Alamy :)

« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2012, 03:21 »
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They have less sales due to price increases and customer relations/site issues. Initially less sales were compensated by higher price per sale. Sales go down further due to PP cannibalism and price hikes. They must have worried about backlash from loyal exclusives and pushed them up in best match (independents are already as pissed off as they can get so why worry about them?). Sales fall more and then they are left with even fewer options. You can not push the exclusives files further to the front (they are already there). Customers are not getting any more cheerful. Hard one to recover from. You could not push royalties lower? For me PP outperforms IS.

« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2012, 03:32 »
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Unlike ClaridgeJ my non-istock sales were all OK in September. Nothing to get excited about but nothing to cause any concern, and October had started well, too, even if I don't take into account the $350 commission from Alamy :)

My IS sales during September was fairly good actually and same as you, October started well. I was more talking about the industry in general as not what it used to be. :)

« Reply #7 on: October 04, 2012, 03:56 »
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I am trying to promote my portfolio only on contributor friendly agencies, where is better deal for me...
I hope that everyone do the same...
That can be one of reasons...
« Last Edit: October 04, 2012, 04:00 by borg »

« Reply #8 on: October 04, 2012, 04:11 »
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I am trying to promote my portfolio only on contributor friendly agencies, where is better deal for me...
I hope that everyone do the same...
That can be one of reasons...

Only problem is, contributor friendly agencies hardly sell that much. Its easy to promise this and that and to be contributor friendly when sales are rare. Should sales escalate, well then they wont be so friendly anymore. Stick with the bad guys.

Microbius

« Reply #9 on: October 04, 2012, 04:18 »
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I see the same trend with IStock tanking.
So many reasons, and all have been discussed before.

Inconsistent, confusing and high pricing.

Bad treatment of contributors means no sane independent send customers to the site or buys there.

Terribly slow buggy site makes it practically impossible to use.

High prices mean that buyers wanting to buy from independents will often be better off buying a subs package from Thinkstock rather than buying several images at IStock prices.

Personally I hope the slide continues to the point where I can ditch them and stop eating into my SS subs sales with those crappy 25C Thinkstock sales.

« Reply #10 on: October 04, 2012, 04:35 »
+2
I think it boils down to 2 things:

1... Not enough value for the buck. The pictures are not good enough to be so expensive. Means the demand is not high enough.
2... Bad Karma. An agency should not underestimate the effect of the words from angry customers and contributors. The whole net is full of negative posts about iS. IS is now famous for its endless greed and arrogance.


Is used to be an elite agency, with high demands and fine photos.
Now its is not anymore. Restrictions in amount of uploads and biased reviews has made the picture pool oldfashioned and not competitive.
Whereas exclusive content can be an advantage, it can also be a drawback when the exclusive content is not up to par anymore.
Add to that a extensive promotion of that content, and you have dug your own grave as an agency.


Microbius

« Reply #11 on: October 04, 2012, 04:49 »
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....2... Bad Karma. An agency should not underestimate the effect of the words from angry customers and contributors. The whole net is full of negative posts about iS. IS is now famous for its endless greed and arrogance.....

I agree. They took on a business built on crowd sourcing and didn't really understand how much of the existing traffic was generated by good will.

A lot of people's entire image buying and selling world was IStock. That community feeling meant they had a lot of site traffic driving search ranking, word of mouth and so on. They have done everything they could to turn their fans against them, if they ever sit down to do the sums, I am sure they have lost more profit then they will gain with the commission cuts and other changes.

« Reply #12 on: October 04, 2012, 05:01 »
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It looks like lots of buyers have gone to Thinkstock and lots more have gone to SS.  I haven't uploaded much in the last year, my istock earnings have tanked but my SS earnings are as good as they've ever been.

Perhaps the istock prices went so high that a lot of the buyers that came from the traditional sites have gone back to them?  Looks like Getty are selling at much lower prices than a few years ago.

I can't believe that istock has dwindled like this through complete incompetence, it looks like a deliberate strategy to move buyers to Thinkstock and Getty.  Will be interesting to see if they carry on destroying istock and make it a place that's only useful for a few exclusives.

ShadySue

  • There is a crack in everything
« Reply #13 on: October 04, 2012, 05:13 »
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There is no joined up vision for the way forward. Far too many knee-jerk decisions which are implemented badly - probably because the IT team are forced to get sudden decisions online the day before yesterday. Look how often Lobo says categorically that something won't be happening then within a few weeks it does. [1] Long term bugs aren't fixed.
Often when a longer-term strategy is announced, it takes months to implement, or just gets dropped (logos, E+ to Getty).
Losing trust with contributors (e.g. persuading indies to become exclusive with incentives then suddenly from nowhere introducing the RC scheme)
CR overworked so skim-read emails and when they find a keyword, hit a canned response even if irrelevant to the issue concerned (I have also had some very helpful CR responses); this applies also to buyers:
http://www.istockphoto.com/forum_messages.php?threadid=347703&page=1
rudeness in the forums by Lobo (who doesn't seem to know that anyone can read the forums), including telling someome who is a contributor and a buyer that by dint of being a contributor, s/he couldn't phone CR on a buying issue. "No exceptions".
Scams agains contributors, e.g. the foreign-currency skimming thing: which, when it was pointed up, caused them to admit that they'd always be been doing it, contrary to the ASA, which was hastily rewritten without the necessary 30 days notice. Again, don't they know how this sort of thing affects certain buyers? (Granted,some buyers won't care.)
prices too high for small buyers, e.g. personal, educational or charitable buyers, who have no need for pixel perfection and will surely satisfice with CC images etc. (TS won't pick them up, as they won't have the need for a sub.)
[1] Lobo was quoted [2] as saying "As of ... September 7th we were back to normal performance and regular traffic and download patterns"
So it must just be that all those who had abmormally high dls in September and made the average, average are keeping quiet. Obviously.
[2] I missed the original post, but it was quoted in one of the long threads in the discussion forum. Either the Sept Stats or the HQ Update thread, I think.

In fact, the HQ Update OP says:
"... we are happy so far with the revenue being brought in by this new way to pay. The trends are encouraging, particularly regarding new customers. After performance stabilized, the feedback coming in to our client relations team has been really positive: existing customers are happy to have the new option and like how it functions."
Which would be a stupid thing to say  ::) if they were getting new happy customers with the cash sales, but losing more of the old regular customers because of all the breaks, bugs and glitches they haven't fixed after a month.

ShadySue

  • There is a crack in everything
« Reply #14 on: October 04, 2012, 05:45 »
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Plus the search is randomly totally broken, i.e. sometimes a search gives you what you'd expect, give or take the spammers, sometimes it splits a CV search term so that your results give everything but what you wanted. Even the same term on two different searches from the same browser.

ShadySue

  • There is a crack in everything
« Reply #15 on: October 04, 2012, 05:47 »
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Plus look at the length of the known bugs thread compared to the tiny number of fixed bugs.
33 reported bugs, some very serious. 1 fixed bug.

« Reply #16 on: October 04, 2012, 06:02 »
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Plus look at the length of the known bugs thread compared to the tiny number of fixed bugs.
33 reported bugs, some very serious. 1 fixed bug.

I imagine, when they had their layoff round. They fired some of the essential IT people, those who were born there, down in the basement.
I also imagine that the whole IT base is made by chaotically growing seeds over many years on an insufficient framework.
My guess is it is impossible to fix, because its so interweaved.

ShadySue

  • There is a crack in everything
« Reply #17 on: October 04, 2012, 06:14 »
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Plus look at the length of the known bugs thread compared to the tiny number of fixed bugs.
33 reported bugs, some very serious. 1 fixed bug.

I imagine, when they had their layoff round. They fired some of the essential IT people, those who were born there, down in the basement.
I also imagine that the whole IT base is made by chaotically growing seeds over many years on an insufficient framework.
My guess is it is impossible to fix, because its so interweaved.

It's possible, but this pattern of introducing something new midweek which breaks essential functionality has been going for a long time. It's a pattern they seem to have no interest in getting out of.

I thought the current careers page is quite interesting:
Job Title                                              Date Posted
Business Intelligence Developer/Analyst      08/30/2012
Information Security Analyst             07/13/2012
MySQL Database Administrator              07/13/2012
Search Developer                              07/02/2012
Applications Developer                     06/01/2012
Automation Writer                              05/29/2012
Network Administrator                      05/14/2012

IOW, some of these vacancies, live as of right now, have been advertised since mid-May.
What's going on there?

« Reply #18 on: October 04, 2012, 06:17 »
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Good find.
Its pretty precise.
LOL.

« Reply #19 on: October 04, 2012, 06:32 »
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I agree with JPSDK.
I took my IS port when they decided to cut the already measly 20% commission and I have no personal interest in IStock at the moment, but I agree with JPSDK.
Bugs are annoying and make for a difficult buying experience, but that's not all.
The collection has to have something to do with it.
They simply don't have it anymore. Prices are too high for images that can easily be found on on the other, more contributor and buyer friendly sites (or very similar).
Blind arrogance and bad karma also have an important role in IStock's decline.
I'm not feeling sorry for them because all this is their own fault.
Time to pay.

Best,

velocicarpo

« Reply #20 on: October 04, 2012, 07:03 »
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My guesses:

- High prices and much competition
- More competition
- Display of real prices
- Bad Contributor treatment and the consequences
- Global economic downturn
- Upload limits and stupid rejections: see my buyers experience in another thread. Where I found on a generic search term more than 100 pages of results in Depositphotos as well as in DT I found a whopping 6 (six) pages in istock. I go where I find what I need...

To me, it is not that surprising at all. I was waiting for it and it had to happen some day. On the other side other Contribs are seeing dramatic downturn on other sites too (which is not my experience)


« Reply #21 on: October 04, 2012, 07:53 »
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I am trying to promote my portfolio only on contributor friendly agencies, where is better deal for me...
I hope that everyone do the same...
That can be one of reasons...

Only problem is, contributor friendly agencies hardly sell that much. Its easy to promise this and that and to be contributor friendly when sales are rare. Should sales escalate, well then they wont be so friendly anymore. Stick with the bad guys.

That is "What if...!?" question..
I will stop to promote them also if they become greedy..

So greed is their "Trojan horse"!
« Last Edit: October 04, 2012, 08:15 by borg »

Reef

  • astonmars.com
« Reply #22 on: October 04, 2012, 08:43 »
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So greed is their "Trojan horse"!

and probably yours too!  ;)

lisafx

« Reply #23 on: October 04, 2012, 14:52 »
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Unlike ClaridgeJ my non-istock sales were all OK in September. Nothing to get excited about but nothing to cause any concern, and October had started well, too, even if I don't take into account the $350 commission from Alamy :)

You're off Fotolia now, aren't you?  If I exclude Istock and FT it was a fairly good month for me too.  Unfortunately, I have a lot invested in both places, so they really skewed my stats into the gutter :(

« Reply #24 on: October 04, 2012, 15:18 »
+1
Maybe they have decided w/ cash sales they can keep all the money and don't have to report them to us anymore.

When they announced the RC #^&$ I stopped uploading. When they forced the move to PP I deactivated nearly 2 orders of magnitude from my port. Curiously my income only dropped about one order of magnitude most months. PP income is similar to regular sale income now though - so unless they are actually stealing SS customers that could be the source for a lot of their drop. I know they actively recruited IS buyers to thinkstock.

In any case I hope they hang on to just enough customers to keep the big exclusives from jumping ship, but otherwise I hope they die a painful death.

There are so many points in their history where they could have either done the right thing by their contributors or done a brilliant move to completely dominate the industry. So many times they have failed to do either. They are still a major force in the microstock business though and probably will continue to be so for years to come.


 

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