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Author Topic: Sales on Shutterstock - not growing over the last 2 years?  (Read 31429 times)

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« on: August 18, 2010, 11:59 »
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This has nothing to do with the summer slowdown.
With over 10, 000 images in my portfolio currently I see a troublesome trend on Shutterstock - my sales are practically the same there as they were 2 years ago, when my portfolio size was about 6,000. So adding extra 4,000 images just kept me afloat there.
However, I am not at all "hitting the wall" on other agencies. Fotolia has grown substantially, so did Istock. The only other agency with the same pattern as SS is Dreamstime - in spite of increasing portfolio size, sales are actually worse than 2 years ago.
Does with mean that both Shutterstock and Dreamstime are losing their market share? If this was due to the economic slowdown, or growing libraries,   you would expect to see the same trend everywhere, which I don't see.
But then I see people reporting good sales on SS - makes me wonder if there is something wrong with my portfolio on SS (some technical problem?)
Anyone with large portfolios and more than 3 years in this business - what's your data on SS for the last couple of years?


Xalanx

« Reply #1 on: August 18, 2010, 12:28 »
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Almost 6000 photos in my portfolio. Started about 3 years ago, but payed close attention to stock just about an year and a half ago, when I really started to try and actually do something. I become full-time microstocker few months ago.
Actually I am seeing an increase at SS. Almost every month I beat some record. In number of sales, ODs per day, total month income, etc. But nevertheless - I keep the beast happy.
Anyway, taken into account that I started far too late in this business, my increasing numbers might not impress you too much.

Dreamstime is really down for me, Fotolia is good and Istock is doing really fine, with less than 300 images in my port. My fault not to upload there, that system put me off easily. However, I'm building patience and I'm kinda encouraged of the latest 100% acceptance rate batches.

cmcderm1

  • Chad McDermott - Elite Image Photography
« Reply #2 on: August 18, 2010, 12:47 »
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AGREED.

SS has hit a wall - even with "feeding the beast" and a larger portfolio (3500+).  DT has actually declined a bit.

IS and FO (or FT) have been steady.  Maybe slight growth.

lisafx

« Reply #3 on: August 18, 2010, 13:23 »
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I have 6k images and 5+ years in microstock.  I am seeing the same stagnation at SS, however my portfolio seems to have "hit the wall" on all sites in the past several months. 

I reported in the July Stats thread that over the past year I have added 36% to my portfolio and overall income has dropped by 21%.  So in the case of SS, merely being stagnant doesn't look so bad.   :P

FWIW, if you had asked this in March of this year I would have had a much rosier picture to report.  I really don't know how much of this is the economy, or summer slowdown, or simply point of diminishing returns.  I would wait until October or so to get a better idea of sales patterns.   

« Reply #4 on: August 18, 2010, 13:26 »
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Actually I am seeing an increase at SS. Almost every month I beat some record. In number of sales, ODs per day, total month income, etc. But nevertheless - I keep the beast happy.
Anyway, taken into account that I started far too late in this business, my increasing numbers might not impress you too much.


Yup it used to be like that for me too - 2 years ago. But then it just leveled off. I do upload on a regular basis, keeping pretty much the same pace. I wonder if it's related to them giving preference to newer files - although I thought they did change that a little while ago? If they still do it, the ratio of newer files to the size of portfolio would definitely affect sales. Which is kinda stupid because then there is no incentive to upload once you reached the "wall".

« Reply #5 on: August 18, 2010, 13:27 »
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Totally agree.  Between 2006 and 2008 income still went up because of the raises, but the number of downloads has not been growing for 2 years now, it's even going down, and as we did not have a raise last year, SS income is going down too, even with a bigger portfolio.

Xalanx

« Reply #6 on: August 18, 2010, 13:55 »
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Actually I am seeing an increase at SS. Almost every month I beat some record. In number of sales, ODs per day, total month income, etc. But nevertheless - I keep the beast happy.
Anyway, taken into account that I started far too late in this business, my increasing numbers might not impress you too much.


Yup it used to be like that for me too - 2 years ago. But then it just leveled off. I do upload on a regular basis, keeping pretty much the same pace. I wonder if it's related to them giving preference to newer files - although I thought they did change that a little while ago? If they still do it, the ratio of newer files to the size of portfolio would definitely affect sales. Which is kinda stupid because then there is no incentive to upload once you reached the "wall".

From my experience - SS makes weird changes to their search engine, every once in a while. This, added to the mass of new files in some periods (like NOW for example) can lead to a plateau in sales. The criteria at the base of their SEO is very well hidden but sometimes returns very weird and ugly stuff. It's so random that I'm thinking its hand-made, not done by an algorithm - perhaps this is the way they choose to "refresh" first pages of the most popular. We'll never know, remember that it's one of the few agencies that doesn't even let us know the number of views per file (among other things).
Oh and btw - your portfolio is absolutely awesome, but you already know that :D

« Reply #7 on: August 18, 2010, 14:01 »
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I have a much smaller portfolio (400-500 or so images) on each of the Top 4 and have varying numbers of images on a handful of other microstocks. I have maintained a pretty good database of monthly earnings and downloads and I trend them on a 12-month rolling average to eliminate seasonality. For me, the trends are:

All-Up:  Earnings have been generally flat from about July 2008 onwards driven by what appears to be dramatic changes at IS and SS -- probably a result coming from a combination of changes to search algorithms coupled with slower growth in my portfolio relative to image grown online at each of the agencies. The most telling global trends for me is that for every 100 images that I have online, I am recording about a 5% decline every month in average number of downloads. (Note that this corresponds very roughly with the rate of increase of new photos. Using SS as a proxy, it looks like they are adding about 70-80k new photos/week against a total of 7-8M images -- so about 5% per month increase.) As I am not growing my overall portfolio by 5% every month, my proportion of sales is declining. On the other hand, due to slowly increasing payouts, my average royalty per download has been increasing at a very steady 1.2% every month. By adding 3% new photos each month to my portfolio, I am roughly running at a steady state.

Specific trends at the Top 4 are:

IS:  Earnings trend declined consistently from July 2008 to Dec 2008 and then started to increase slowly since that time. Downloads are still flat-to-down but earnings/download has increased steadily.

SS:  Earnings trend also declined consistently from July 2008 to Jan 2009 and has stabilized since then. Downloads declined through mid-2009 but have stabilized while average earnings/download has increased steadily with more enhanced downloads of various sorts.

DT:  Earnings trend has increased consistently ever since I joined in 2006. Downloads are flat from mid 2008 onwards but average earnings/image has increased steadily as my images reach new tiers.

FO:  Earnings trend has generally flattened since September 2009.  Total downloads started to increase in September 2008 (coincident with subscriptions?) but average earnings/image has been slightly down since then as mix shift to subscriptions has occurred.

Dook

« Reply #8 on: August 18, 2010, 14:35 »
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Actually I am seeing an increase at SS. Almost every month I beat some record. In number of sales, ODs per day, total month income, etc. But nevertheless - I keep the beast happy.
Anyway, taken into account that I started far too late in this business, my increasing numbers might not impress you too much.


Yup it used to be like that for me too - 2 years ago. But then it just leveled off. I do upload on a regular basis, keeping pretty much the same pace. I wonder if it's related to them giving preference to newer files - although I thought they did change that a little while ago? If they still do it, the ratio of newer files to the size of portfolio would definitely affect sales. Which is kinda stupid because then there is no incentive to upload once you reached the "wall".

Few days ago I wanted to start new thread about this problem. If new pictures are so important for growth of sales and you rich the point when you add just 1 or 2% of new pictures a month, you are not helping much the growth. So, it could be better to just stop uploading and start another photography business, for example weddings. You would help you income growth more this way.
Elena, I have around 4000 pictures at SS and my sales stopped growing 6 months ago.

« Reply #9 on: August 18, 2010, 14:37 »
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From my experience - SS makes weird changes to their search engine, every once in a while. This, added to the mass of new files in some periods (like NOW for example) can lead to a plateau in sales. The criteria at the base of their SEO is very well hidden but sometimes returns very weird and ugly stuff. It's so random that I'm thinking its hand-made, not done by an algorithm - perhaps this is the way they choose to "refresh" first pages of the most popular. We'll never know, remember that it's one of the few agencies that doesn't even let us know the number of views per file (among other things).

Yeah I did see weird stuff happening - most popular pages sometimes have a God-awful images included, clearly there not because of number of downloads. Also made me think that someone's messing up with stuff manually. Ah well. I wonder what's their earnings as an agency for the past year for example? If they report increase in sales, they must be doing it on new images mostly. Or some set of portfolios that clearly doesn't include mine:)

Oh and btw - your portfolio is absolutely awesome, but you already know that :D

Thank you:)

« Reply #10 on: August 18, 2010, 15:05 »
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This has nothing to do with the summer slowdown.
With over 10, 000 images in my portfolio currently I see a troublesome trend on Shutterstock - my sales are practically the same there as they were 2 years ago, when my portfolio size was about 6,000. So adding extra 4,000 images just kept me afloat there.

Yes, but in the same timescale SS have probably increased the size of their library by 3x. Over many, many months now they've been adding new images at the rate of 80-100K per week which equates to 4-5M per year. Against those numbers I'm only surprised that our income hasn't fallen further although that's probably a reflection of how many truly pathetic images SS accepts from 'contributors' that clearly haven't got a clue. I really don't know why they waste their bandwidth and reviewing costs on such idiots. Such images always contain vast amounts of spam in their keywords too and they just clutter the searches and make the good stuff harder to find.

With over 5 years under my belt and 4K images online my 'growth' has turned negative since March. However for the last 30 months SS have certainly maintained their contribution to my total income relative to the other agencies. They've averaged about 27% of total income over that period and this month are actually projected at over 30%.

« Reply #11 on: August 18, 2010, 16:21 »
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I have close to 6000 photos on SS. Accepted to SS in 2006.
I have seen an increase at SS every month until July of last year. Almost every month was better than the previous. But I count only the total monthly income, I upload almost regularly. Since July 2009, my income went down by 20%. I blame economics for this.

Dreamstime is way down for me,
Fotolia is OK,
Istock is down 25%,

Cheers
« Last Edit: August 18, 2010, 20:45 by Kone »

« Reply #12 on: August 18, 2010, 17:04 »
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I think it's because of SS search engine that prefers new images. The pattern is going like this:
We submit images, and suddenly have few more sales, because our images appear in most popular files (best match). But very soon, these images get buried, and they sell rarely. So, our number of sales depends mostly on the frequency of your uploading, and less on the total number of images we have in our ports.

Most of other agencies have different model for most popular images (best match). Let's take an IS for example. Their most popular files stick to the top even if they are several years old giving much more exposure to the contributors who submitted them. When we upload new files, they don't sell immediately because almost no one sees them. But files with several downloads slowly get more and more exposure, and continue to live, giving us more earnings in time.

« Reply #13 on: August 18, 2010, 18:03 »
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I agree, they have more of a bias towards new images, so old ones don't sell as well as they do on the other sites and it becomes harder to increase earnings.  I don't mind though, it wouldn't be good if all the sites did the same thing.

« Reply #14 on: August 18, 2010, 19:01 »
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Yes, but in the same timescale SS have probably increased the size of their library by 3x. Over many, many months now they've been adding new images at the rate of 80-100K per week which equates to 4-5M per year. Against those numbers I'm only surprised that our income hasn't fallen further although that's probably a reflection of how many truly pathetic images SS accepts from 'contributors' that clearly haven't got a clue. I really don't know why they waste their bandwidth and reviewing costs on such idiots. Such images always contain vast amounts of spam in their keywords too and they just clutter the searches and make the good stuff harder to find.

With over 5 years under my belt and 4K images online my 'growth' has turned negative since March. However for the last 30 months SS have certainly maintained their contribution to my total income relative to the other agencies. They've averaged about 27% of total income over that period and this month are actually projected at over 30%.

Yes, they do add a lot of images, but so do other agencies, right? I do see growth on FT and IS (and a few others) - the more I upload, the more I sell - not steep of course, giving the percentage of new files relative to the portfolio size, but looking back a couple of years I see significant increase in number of downloads. But not with Shutterstock. Not seeing a significant increase in downloads with almost doubling the portfolio size over 2 years is really strange... Actually the subscription downloads even decreased compared to what they used to be, the earnings stayed the same because of enhanced and on-demand downloads.
For me they are about 20% of my income. Which is way less than they used to be in 2008.

« Reply #15 on: August 18, 2010, 20:30 »
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A small factor is that SS has pretty much maintained the same acceptance standards through this period and FT/IS have really tightened theirs.   Higher percentage of new files to compete with at SS?  I'm willing to bet that you have quite a superb acceptance rate so you likely have similar numbers at the three sites, but for me FT won't take many "people-less" shots (they take maybe 60% of what SS accepts).  Have your individual downloads increased accordingly on FT/IS, or RPD or a combination? 

« Reply #16 on: August 18, 2010, 21:47 »
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A small factor is that SS has pretty much maintained the same acceptance standards through this period and FT/IS have really tightened theirs.   Higher percentage of new files to compete with at SS?  I'm willing to bet that you have quite a superb acceptance rate so you likely have similar numbers at the three sites, but for me FT won't take many "people-less" shots (they take maybe 60% of what SS accepts).  Have your individual downloads increased accordingly on FT/IS, or RPD or a combination? 

I have almost the same number of files on FT and SS, less files on IS (because of upload limits). I upload less files per month to IS than to other agencies for the same reason.
Here are the numbers for downloads:

Istockphoto:
March 2008 - 2020
March 2009 - 2362
March 2010 - 3156 (regular file purchases)

Shutterstock:
March 2008 - 6882
March 2009 - 5770
March 2010 - 5852

See what I mean? The size of portfolio increased 4000 images on Shutterstock; for Istock about 2000 images. Number of downloads on Shutterstock actually fell since 2008, but earnings remain the same (due to enhanced downloads here and there).
But no growth. For 2 years. Which means if didn't keep uploading I would see the sales actually go down, by 40% or so.


« Reply #17 on: August 18, 2010, 23:44 »
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I have a small portfolio - 500+ images, but even I have noticed a similar trend:

My Downloads on SS over the last year despite an increase of 50-60 images/month except in April and May. There is a Peak in Jan, but overall no real growth

(Portfolio grew from 180 images to 580 images in this period):

OCT 09: 278
NOV 09: 271
DEC 09: 313
JAN 10: 436
FEB 10: 354
MAR 10: 350
APR 10: 188
MAY 10: 241
JUNE 10: 218
JULY 10: 198

I am begining to wonder if the remedy for this is IStock Exclusivity. Given Getty's Track record with RM market years ago, my guess is that they will control the majority of the market within a few years anyway...

« Reply #18 on: August 19, 2010, 02:27 »
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I'm sure another factor is that SS had little competition with subs a few years ago.  Since then, FT, DT, StockXpert, photos.com and TS have taken some of their market share.  They have fought back with PPD but has that replaced all their lost revenue?

Some of my images that sell well on the PPD sites are lost in the SS search and rarely sell.  I used to like the Lucky Oliver side bar, where people with enough sales could put a percentage of their portfolio in to a section that randomly appeared on the first search page.  Something like that could make SS and us more money and perhaps give people more incentive to remain non-exclusive.
« Last Edit: August 19, 2010, 02:29 by sharpshot »

Microbius

« Reply #19 on: August 19, 2010, 03:11 »
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Yup SS has been on the decline for individual contributors for years.
Not to say that that necessarily ties in with any problems for SS as a company. They could well be laughing all the way to the bank as the explosion in numbers of contributors might mean they are selling just as many, or more, subs but just having to payout less as less people reach payout or are on the lower percentage tiers.

« Reply #20 on: August 19, 2010, 10:09 »
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I have 6k images and 5+ years in microstock.  I am seeing the same stagnation at SS, however my portfolio seems to have "hit the wall" on all sites in the past several months. 

I reported in the July Stats thread that over the past year I have added 36% to my portfolio and overall income has dropped by 21%.  So in the case of SS, merely being stagnant doesn't look so bad.   :P

FWIW, if you had asked this in March of this year I would have had a much rosier picture to report.  I really don't know how much of this is the economy, or summer slowdown, or simply point of diminishing returns.  I would wait until October or so to get a better idea of sales patterns.   

I am seeing a similar pattern Lisa. But I think number of sales in microstock has never actually gone higher that much. What has gone up is the costs of images to buyers and thus our comissions.
I just simply dont understand why this trend of putting up prices stopped all of a sudden. Shutterstock could make double or triple if they did a proper size set for buyers from $1 to $15 like other agencies rather than having just 2 sizes at very low prices, same applies to bigstock.

123rf has NEVER put prices up which is annoying, an XXL for $5?

DT could easily stretch their higher levels, instead of charging 4,5,6,7 and 8 for xs, s, m, l and xl they could charge 4, 6 , 8, 10 and 14 for example, and coule keep stretching them year by year ....... They could also introduce a premium collection like FT and istock, shutterstock could do the same.

Fotolia stopped us from growing the minute they changed the ranking levels.

Istock is hardly worth it anymore unless you are exclusive.



I have been slowly stopping to shoot for micro and looking for more avenues as there is no sign of possibilities to grow sales within the agencies we used to so submit images to. My income has grown but it has grown because I have more distributors, and I will be shooting for the traditional market, at least 80% of my work will go there. It has been a very frustrating year in microstock, but yet exciting in the rest of the stock industry.

« Reply #21 on: August 19, 2010, 10:25 »
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I have been slowly stopping to shoot for micro and looking for more avenues as there is no sign of possibilities to grow sales within the agencies we used to so submit images to. My income has grown but it has grown because I have more distributors, and I will be shooting for the traditional market, at least 80% of my work will go there. It has been a very frustrating year in microstock, but yet exciting in the rest of the stock industry.

Maybe because you're cannibalizing your own sales.  Looking at your latest in IS, it looks like you're just reshooting groups on white, girls with phones, business people.  So, people buy the newer one, or the older one, but they don't need both.

What are you doing differently for the "traditional" market, and where?  My Getty sales are less than encouraging, as well, the contributor side of the workflow (stats, sales data) is very unhelpful.

« Reply #22 on: August 19, 2010, 10:43 »
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I have been slowly stopping to shoot for micro and looking for more avenues as there is no sign of possibilities to grow sales within the agencies we used to so submit images to. My income has grown but it has grown because I have more distributors, and I will be shooting for the traditional market, at least 80% of my work will go there. It has been a very frustrating year in microstock, but yet exciting in the rest of the stock industry.

Maybe because you're cannibalizing your own sales.  Looking at your latest in IS, it looks like you're just reshooting groups on white, girls with phones, business people.  So, people buy the newer one, or the older one, but they don't need both.

What are you doing differently for the "traditional" market, and where?  My Getty sales are less than encouraging, as well, the contributor side of the workflow (stats, sales data) is very unhelpful.

Yeah that's partly true ..... I'm leaving the different stuff for traditional places or premium collections. I have tried uploading different topics in micro and there is simply too much supply and not enough demand anymore so I am just shooting to mantain sales while I try to make the other avenues as profitable as micro once was for me.
A really good image even if it's "Different" will sell 12 times at the most on a day in shutterstock just after uploading, I use to see 48 dls in a day for a good image.

« Reply #23 on: August 19, 2010, 10:59 »
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I have been slowly stopping to shoot for micro and looking for more avenues as there is no sign of possibilities to grow sales within the agencies we used to so submit images to. My income has grown but it has grown because I have more distributors, and I will be shooting for the traditional market, at least 80% of my work will go there. It has been a very frustrating year in microstock, but yet exciting in the rest of the stock industry.

Maybe because you're cannibalizing your own sales.  Looking at your latest in IS, it looks like you're just reshooting groups on white, girls with phones, business people.  So, people buy the newer one, or the older one, but they don't need both.

What are you doing differently for the "traditional" market, and where?  My Getty sales are less than encouraging, as well, the contributor side of the workflow (stats, sales data) is very unhelpful.

Yeah that's partly true ..... I'm leaving the different stuff for traditional places or premium collections. I have tried uploading different topics in micro and there is simply too much supply and not enough demand anymore so I am just shooting to mantain sales while I try to make the other avenues as profitable as micro once was for me.
A really good image even if it's "Different" will sell 12 times at the most on a day in shutterstock just after uploading, I use to see 48 dls in a day for a good image.

Good point by sjlocke. Also I remember sjlocke say somewhere too it is not Shutterstock not growing over time, it is seller's piece ofpie is smaller
because more supply by new contributors with better idea. Or maybe another Istock quote , the drop of sales for specific contributor is not
indication that agency sales is bad , only the contributor share of commission is in decrease.

« Reply #24 on: August 19, 2010, 11:05 »
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I have been slowly stopping to shoot for micro and looking for more avenues as there is no sign of possibilities to grow sales within the agencies we used to so submit images to. My income has grown but it has grown because I have more distributors, and I will be shooting for the traditional market, at least 80% of my work will go there. It has been a very frustrating year in microstock, but yet exciting in the rest of the stock industry.

Maybe because you're cannibalizing your own sales.  Looking at your latest in IS, it looks like you're just reshooting groups on white, girls with phones, business people.  So, people buy the newer one, or the older one, but they don't need both.

What are you doing differently for the "traditional" market, and where?  My Getty sales are less than encouraging, as well, the contributor side of the workflow (stats, sales data) is very unhelpful.

Yeah that's partly true ..... I'm leaving the different stuff for traditional places or premium collections. I have tried uploading different topics in micro and there is simply too much supply and not enough demand anymore so I am just shooting to mantain sales while I try to make the other avenues as profitable as micro once was for me.
A really good image even if it's "Different" will sell 12 times at the most on a day in shutterstock just after uploading, I use to see 48 dls in a day for a good image.

Good point by sjlocke. Also I remember sjlocke say somewhere too it is not Shutterstock not growing over time, it is seller's piece ofpie is smaller
because more supply by new contributors with better idea. Or maybe another Istock quote , the drop of sales for specific contributor is not
indication that agency sales is bad , only the contributor share of commission is in decrease.

Yeah all true, and it could be easily mended by making adjustments but all the agencies are scared of making the first step  as they think they will loose market share ..... I think it will benefit everyone, higher prices = higher budgets = better quality images.


 

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