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Author Topic: Introducing Microstock Charts  (Read 13707 times)

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« on: March 12, 2010, 09:41 »
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Amos and I have been working on another project. This one has actually taken us a VERY long time, but we're finally ready to launch it. Check it out here: www.microstockcharts.com

The idea is to take the spreadsheets that many of us use to track our earnings and other metrics and put it onto a website to get access to some cool (and hopefully useful) benefits.

The primary benefit is benchmarking. We haven't activated this yet as we're battling with time, resources and programmers and just wanted to finally get the site out there. For this reason it's also pretty ugly, but we'll fix that too. Back to the benchmarking... the first iteration will show you your earnings, downloads, RPI, RPD and STR plotted against the averages of a large group of other microstockers. We hope this will make for some very insightful charts.

The additional benefit of the benchmarking will be a general charts page which shows the combined and anonymous data of that same group of microstockers.  All together there will be over 40,000 files and you'll be able to see the charts for all metrics, updated as frequently as those microstockers update their data (which we all know is often multiple times per day!).  

The service is entirely private by default. You don't need to tell us who you are and you can register anonymously if you have any concerns.  However, if you want to share your earnings charts with the world, you can turn on the publishing option.  You can even publish charts without the figures if you prefer.  Here's the example of mine: http://www.microstockcharts.com/leetorrens

It's totally FREE too. We wanted to keep it free to use and we think we can do that by using referral links and advertising.  At the moment there's no advertising on the private pages while you're logged in and we'll try to keep in that way. We've invested quite a bit of cash in this, so we hope this method works.  Once we recover our investment we'll reinvest the bulk of the earnings to develop new functionality.

We'll be deciding which functionality to develop first based on the votes in our UserVoice Feedback Forum, so please head on over there and vote / suggest the functions you think would be most useful to you.  We'll keep this forum thread and board here on MSG as the primary place for discussion.  A big thanks to Tyler for generously providing us with this board.

A note on the benchmarking data:  We didn't want anyone to be able to maliciously influence it. So we came up with the concept of 'trusted accounts'.  I contacted some friends and pulled in a lot of favors to get people I knew and trusted to participate and input their data. I then marked their accounts as 'trusted', which puts their data into the pool of benchmarking data.  There's a healthy range of contributors, from top to bottom in both portfolio size and selling success.  To all those who did that for us, thankyou very much!  

Finally, I want to assure you all that I don't expect you to abandon your spreadsheets yet, but that's the ultimate goal. There's still a lot of things I do in my spreadsheet that this tool doesn't do, so I'll be keeping my spreadsheet around for a while too. I've listed all the things I do in my spreadsheet as suggestions on the UserVoice Feedback Forum and I invite you to do the same (just check your suggestion isn't already there first).

If you have questions or feedback, leave it here in this board. I hope you like the site.


« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2010, 09:53 »
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Very interesting... I'll definitely be looking into this.  Benchmarking my success with other microstockers is the main reason I visit this forum, so I see real value in this concept.  Currently I use Google spreadsheets to enter and track all my stats, and it has its pluses and minuses.  So when I dig deeper into Microstock Charts, I'll be doing a comparison to see which method works best for me.

Lee, thanks for your efforts!

« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2010, 10:06 »
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I've just signed up. Thanks for your efforts it looks a useful tool.

« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2010, 10:29 »
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The primary benefit is benchmarking. We haven't activated this yet as we're battling with time, resources and programmers and just wanted to finally get the site out there. For this reason it's also pretty ugly, but we'll fix that too. Back to the benchmarking... the first iteration will show you your earnings, downloads, RPI, RPD and STR plotted against the averages of a large group of other microstockers. We hope this will make for some very insightful charts.

The additional benefit of the benchmarking will be a general charts page which shows the combined and anonymous data of that same group of microstockers.  All together there will be over 40,000 files and you'll be able to see the charts for all metrics, updated as frequently as those microstockers update their data (which we all know is often multiple times per day!).  

Awesome! Any idea when the benchmarking will be activated?

« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2010, 10:41 »
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@PowerDroid it's still very basic so we don't expect you'll want to leave your spreadsheet yet. I use Google Docs for my spreadsheet too. There's only a few things I can't do that you can in Excel/Numbers, but the advantage of having it in the cloud and interconnected with stuff easily makes up for that.  It's that convenience we're aiming for with this project.

@runamock Thanks. Not so so useful yet, but we'll get there.

@Jan, we hope to have the benchmarking up and running in around a month. There's a few things we need to happen before then, including having all the trusted accounts update their data. The site was broken for a while, so many of them haven't been back for a while. If the advertising sells well that will help us accelerate things too.

« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2010, 10:53 »
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Thanks Lee, that's a great idea. I registered and will start entering numbers over the next week.

« Reply #6 on: March 12, 2010, 11:15 »
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Thanks Talanis, be sure to give us your feedback. We really want this to stay in line with what people want on this project.

« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2010, 11:27 »
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Is all data going to be thrown into the "compare" function, regardless of whether it is "published" or not?  Because, frankly, it doesn't seem very sensible, as a business, to allow your detailed sales data to be used by your competition (anonymous or not).  I don't like that on lookstat (as far as using my data to write sales articles and such), and it doesn't appeal to me here if that is how it works.

« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2010, 11:55 »
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Is all data going to be thrown into the "compare" function, regardless of whether it is "published" or not?  Because, frankly, it doesn't seem very sensible, as a business, to allow your detailed sales data to be used by your competition (anonymous or not).  I don't like that on lookstat (as far as using my data to write sales articles and such), and it doesn't appeal to me here if that is how it works.

I'm not sure that there is much point in comparing your own data with that of others unless they are direct competitors in the same subject matter. If that is the case then you'll probably be comparing their portfolio and their performance with your own already. What's the point in someone who shoots mainly business concepts comparing their data with a food photographer, an illustrator and a vector artist for example? Different subjects cost more or take more time than others and also sell quite differently too. What really concerns me is not total sales, RPI, STR or even total earnings ... profitability is all that really matters and of course that is impossible to judge accurately until some years after the shoot.

« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2010, 12:07 »
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What I really like with this idea is that you possibly can see trends.
E.g. is Fotolia in average growing faster that istock?
Does the return/image increased after new prices are introduced and so on.
You will have a much bigger sample than with your own little portfolio.

« Reply #10 on: March 12, 2010, 12:49 »
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From usability perspective it is much harder to use than spreadsheet where you can have a table in which you can input all data at once. It's not very fast when you have to click around to switch pages to enter one number per agency.

On the bright side, when you collect  all the data from us (it means we do all hard work) you can do a lot nice statistical things. No mention that you can sell it to third parties. So overall it's great idea derived from LookStat fiasco when they could not collect data automatically cause agencies do not want to share it across industry. I wonder why iStock have API to share statistics and others do not want to that.

« Reply #11 on: March 12, 2010, 14:19 »
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Just signed up.  This looks very interesting, thanks for the hard work.  Now if only the site could separate photo and video stats, that would be killer!  :)

« Reply #12 on: March 12, 2010, 14:49 »
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Is all data going to be thrown into the "compare" function, regardless of whether it is "published" or not?  Because, frankly, it doesn't seem very sensible, as a business, to allow your detailed sales data to be used by your competition (anonymous or not).  I don't like that on lookstat (as far as using my data to write sales articles and such), and it doesn't appeal to me here if that is how it works.

I know I wrote a lot in the initial posting, but if you take a look you'll see that's not how it works.  Third last paragraph.  :)

« Reply #13 on: March 12, 2010, 14:53 »
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What I really like with this idea is that you possibly can see trends.
E.g. is Fotolia in average growing faster that istock?
Does the return/image increased after new prices are introduced and so on.
You will have a much bigger sample than with your own little portfolio.

Yes, that's exactly the idea.  It's still a sample, and as gostwyck pointed out, we're never going to give you accurate comparisons with people who shoot the same subject, quantity, style or production value as yourself.  It's just a larger sample.  Hopefully a much larger sample. 

« Reply #14 on: March 12, 2010, 15:07 »
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From usability perspective it is much harder to use than spreadsheet where you can have a table in which you can input all data at once. It's not very fast when you have to click around to switch pages to enter one number per agency.

Agreed. We've got a lot of work to do to make it easier, and we may never arrive at a point where it's superior to a spreadsheet in terms of usability.

On the bright side, when you collect  all the data from us (it means we do all hard work) you can do a lot nice statistical things. No mention that you can sell it to third parties. So overall it's great idea derived from LookStat fiasco when they could not collect data automatically cause agencies do not want to share it across industry. I wonder why iStock have API to share statistics and others do not want to that.

Please don't do "all the hard work" if you don't see the value in it.  We're only using the data from 'trusted accounts', so we don't benefit from more people using the service, aside from traffic on the site to help sell advertising. 

Our initial business model included selling the combined and anonymous data to third parties, but we opted to make that data public and free and support the costs with advertising instead. We think that helps the service have a better position in the industry as everyone stands to benefit. We'll see how things go with the advertising and referral links model, but for now we have no plans to sell the data.

The idea wasn't so much "derived from LookStat fiasco".  I actually shared this idea with Rahul over dinner in New York in 2007, well before LookStat was even the brand of Rahul's business. But yes, we always intended to avoid scraping data from agencies. That's one of my fundamental ideas. If the agency doesn't give me the data willingly via and API or XML feed, I won't take it.  That being said, I'm not opposed to leveraging the data from others who do so.

Finally, the iStock API isn't so much about sharing statistics. Understandably, they only permit use of their API when it's in their interests.  If you're referring to iStockcharts.de, that site scrapes data from the website pages and has never had official support from iStock management. iStock do share more statistics that most agencies though, which is generous, but also in their best interests.  If it wasn't they would have taken it off rather than 'blur' them with the >100, >1000 strategy.

Lots of interesting topics for such a small comment.  Thanks for the input.  :)

« Reply #15 on: March 12, 2010, 15:09 »
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Just signed up.  This looks very interesting, thanks for the hard work.  Now if only the site could separate photo and video stats, that would be killer!  :)


That's on our list but (surprisingly) hasn't received many votes yet.  Vote it up here.

« Reply #16 on: March 12, 2010, 16:16 »
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From usability perspective it is much harder to use than spreadsheet where you can have a table in which you can input all data at once. It's not very fast when you have to click around to switch pages to enter one number per agency.

Agreed. We've got a lot of work to do to make it easier, and we may never arrive at a point where it's superior to a spreadsheet in terms of usability.

On the bright side, when you collect  all the data from us (it means we do all hard work) you can do a lot nice statistical things. No mention that you can sell it to third parties. So overall it's great idea derived from LookStat fiasco when they could not collect data automatically cause agencies do not want to share it across industry. I wonder why iStock have API to share statistics and others do not want to that.

Please don't do "all the hard work" if you don't see the value in it.  We're only using the data from 'trusted accounts', so we don't benefit from more people using the service, aside from traffic on the site to help sell advertising. 

Our initial business model included selling the combined and anonymous data to third parties, but we opted to make that data public and free and support the costs with advertising instead. We think that helps the service have a better position in the industry as everyone stands to benefit. We'll see how things go with the advertising and referral links model, but for now we have no plans to sell the data.

The idea wasn't so much "derived from LookStat fiasco".  I actually shared this idea with Rahul over dinner in New York in 2007, well before LookStat was even the brand of Rahul's business. But yes, we always intended to avoid scraping data from agencies. That's one of my fundamental ideas. If the agency doesn't give me the data willingly via and API or XML feed, I won't take it.  That being said, I'm not opposed to leveraging the data from others who do so.

Finally, the iStock API isn't so much about sharing statistics. Understandably, they only permit use of their API when it's in their interests.  If you're referring to iStockcharts.de, that site scrapes data from the website pages and has never had official support from iStock management. iStock do share more statistics that most agencies though, which is generous, but also in their best interests.  If it wasn't they would have taken it off rather than 'blur' them with the >100, >1000 strategy.

Lots of interesting topics for such a small comment.  Thanks for the input.  :)

In some other thread somebody mentioned import/export which would be helping too.

I think value would come from the large volume of data. So if it is going to be limited to 'trusted accounts' (what ever it means: people from this forum, large contributors, etc) it's kind of pointless.  Regardless of the method of financing this venture (advertising or selling data) success would depend of volume of data to mine for useful statistics.In regards of agencies contribution to statistics I would say it is against their best interest. Main reason for that is that reliable data would prove that it's not profitable for most contributors and such data may stop flow of newbies trying to get rich quickly on microstock. Nobody actually can estimate how much they get from accounts that never reach payout limits. It;s kind of Ponzi scheme, it works only if there is constant flow of new members.

« Reply #17 on: March 12, 2010, 16:22 »
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A note on the benchmarking data:  We didn't want anyone to be able to maliciously influence it. So we came up with the concept of 'trusted accounts'.  I contacted some friends and pulled in a lot of favors to get people I knew and trusted to participate and input their data. I then marked their accounts as 'trusted', which puts their data into the pool of benchmarking data.  There's a healthy range of contributors, from top to bottom in both portfolio size and selling success.  To all those who did that for us, thankyou very much!  

Sorry, this was a bit confusing then.  So, the only statistics people will be able to compare themselves to is this relatively small group of "trusted" people.  And anyone's inputted data will not be used for any purpose aside from their own needs.  Got it.

« Reply #18 on: March 12, 2010, 16:46 »
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A note on the benchmarking data:  We didn't want anyone to be able to maliciously influence it. So we came up with the concept of 'trusted accounts'.  I contacted some friends and pulled in a lot of favors to get people I knew and trusted to participate and input their data. I then marked their accounts as 'trusted', which puts their data into the pool of benchmarking data.  There's a healthy range of contributors, from top to bottom in both portfolio size and selling success.  To all those who did that for us, thankyou very much!  


Sorry, this was a bit confusing then.  So, the only statistics people will be able to compare themselves to is this relatively small group of "trusted" people.  And anyone's inputted data will not be used for any purpose aside from their own needs.  Got it.


Ooops I did not get it in first place too.

Alternatively you can use baselining (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baselining ) but it would require some time to run it before you gather enough data to have baseline.

« Reply #19 on: March 12, 2010, 17:14 »
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In some other thread somebody mentioned import/export which would be helping too.

I think value would come from the large volume of data. So if it is going to be limited to 'trusted accounts' (what ever it means: people from this forum, large contributors, etc) it's kind of pointless.  Regardless of the method of financing this venture (advertising or selling data) success would depend of volume of data to mine for useful statistics.In regards of agencies contribution to statistics I would say it is against their best interest. Main reason for that is that reliable data would prove that it's not profitable for most contributors and such data may stop flow of newbies trying to get rich quickly on microstock. Nobody actually can estimate how much they get from accounts that never reach payout limits. It;s kind of Ponzi scheme, it works only if there is constant flow of new members.

The trusted accounts already account for around 40,000 files in total. That's still a very small sample, and we're not trying to hide that fact. If it's not big enough for you, that's cool. We'll obviously work to increase the pool of trusted accounts over time.

The idea is to move beyond surveys and polls. We all enjoy the cool information tools here on MSG: the earnings poll on the right sidebar; the Rank lists; the speedometers; etc. Microstock Charts isn't pretending to be definitive or provide certain information, but we think it's a step forward beyond surveys.  If we do our job well, we'll have an easy task convincing Tyler to add the agency rankings widget from Microstock Charts alongside the poll results in the sidebar. 

« Reply #20 on: March 12, 2010, 17:17 »
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Just curious: How many iStock exclusives are participating in this?

« Reply #21 on: March 12, 2010, 17:20 »
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A note on the benchmarking data:  We didn't want anyone to be able to maliciously influence it. So we came up with the concept of 'trusted accounts'.  I contacted some friends and pulled in a lot of favors to get people I knew and trusted to participate and input their data. I then marked their accounts as 'trusted', which puts their data into the pool of benchmarking data.  There's a healthy range of contributors, from top to bottom in both portfolio size and selling success.  To all those who did that for us, thankyou very much!  

Sorry, this was a bit confusing then.  So, the only statistics people will be able to compare themselves to is this relatively small group of "trusted" people.  And anyone's inputted data will not be used for any purpose aside from their own needs.  Got it.

Yes, that's it.  As I explained above, we came up with the trusted accounts idea to prevent people messing with the results like they occassionally do with polls and surveys.  It's a compromise, but it's the best solution we have.  If you or anyone can come up with a better way to do it, we're open to changing the process.  

If the site is very successful we may look into some advanced statistical modeling to include the data from accounts who's data falls within set statistical variations from the average of trusted accounts.  This could drastically expand the sample, but I expect it would be very expensive to design and program. In the meantime, we're looking to add as much value as we can without having to charge for the service.

« Reply #22 on: March 12, 2010, 17:29 »
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Just curious: How many iStock exclusives are participating in this?

How many are using the site?  No idea.  Those who register with a Facebook or Twitter account are totally anonymous.  Plus at the moment, I don't see there's any value in the service for istock exclusives.

How many are 'trusted accounts'?  None.  Until we can add some value to iStock exclusives I'm not going to ask any to participate.  I've spoken to a few about it and got some great feedback and ideas.  We're open to building iStock-specific functionality which would appeal more to exclusives, but we wouldn't want to duplicate functionality on the iStock site, nor get on the wrong side of iStock management. In reality, these ideas are not high on the list.

Also, the exclusion of iStock exclusives will be one of the (biggest) caveats when we publish the trend data from all trusted accounts.

iStock exclusivity is actually a big complication to this whole project, but we love a challenge.

« Reply #23 on: March 12, 2010, 18:43 »
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It's totally FREE too. We wanted to keep it free to use and we think we can do that by using referral links and advertising.  At the moment there's no advertising on the private pages while you're logged in and we'll try to keep in that way. We've invested quite a bit of cash in this, so we hope this method works.  Once we recover our investment we'll reinvest the bulk of the earnings to develop new functionality.

I'd suggest making it paid if it is really useful (too many charts and numbers just make my head hurt when I should be shooting).  Anyone serious enough to care about using this will already be exclusive or signed up for 20 accounts and not need a referral.  And who clicks on banner ads, really?

« Reply #24 on: March 12, 2010, 18:56 »
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And who clicks on banner ads, really?
I think you'd be surprised. Just look at how many people click google ads.


 

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