Friday, August 20, 2010

Twenty Months of SEO and Monetizing Photography

A man makes a splash as he jumps from a balcony into a pool exhibiting risky behavior.
Even with a bad sales report the only reason I might be tempted to jump from a balcony is to make a splash!
Getty, Corbis and Abysmal Sales Reports
My Getty and Corbis royalty reports this month were both abysmal…the lowest in each case in a decade. Now I consider myself a pretty optimistic person, but even for me that is something that makes me sit up and take notice. Am I tempted to jump off a tall building? No…unless there is an inviting swimming pool below. Mitigating factors include the fact that the previous two months at Getty were pretty good for me, and that June found my sales at Blend being very good. But still, my Corbis monthly drop was truly spectacular and my Getty drop was down to half of what is normal for me. Yikes!

Creativity, Action and Depression
Strangely though, I don’t seem to be depressed. Which is really good because depression is the biggest enemy of creativity and action…the two things that we need most in challenging times. In trying to understand why I am not depressed I first realize that I know that my income will rebound…it always has…and that it isn’t time to panic. As I mention, my Blend income is looking good and overall I have been producing some of the best images of my life. I have robust and diverse distribution. Also, I am really glad I started SEO on my website almost two years ago.

Monetizing Imagery, Time and Effort

Ultimately I believe that the best insurance against the demise of the stock industry as we know it is a strong presence on the web in order to monetize our imagery in as many ways as possible. My experience is that it is a painfully slow process…but that it will work. In my recent interview with Rolf Hicker, who is making such an effort work, he points out that what it takes is a huge expenditure of time and effort. That is also borne out by the other people I know who are profiting from the web. Overnight success only comes after years of hard work.

Twenty Months of SEO
Let’s take a look at where I stand after about twenty months of SEO efforts. I started with about one person a week visiting my site. This past week I have had over 600 people a day for at least Monday through Thursday. Not bad…but nowhere near where I want to be. I am earning somewhere around $6.00 per day on click through advertising. In the last year I sold about $1,200.00 dollars worth of prints through Not particularly good, but better than the zero dollars I earned before I started this effort. At Caf├ęPress, sales of photo imprinted gifts such as coffee mugs, mouse pads, and other gift items, has reached an average of about one sale a day. I guess can’t quite retire yet! My new “funnyanimalpix” blog is up to a whopping 20 visitors a day. Hey, it has only been about a month now! Most importantly, I am getting around twenty people a day who find an image on my site and then follow the link to the agency that handles that particular image. I have no way to know how many actually license an image at that point…but I know some do because I have occasionally managed to talk to some of them…sometimes when they contact me directly to try and get a better price (which they can’t). Keep in mind that for the above figures, it seems to be that the summer months usually finds a visitor drop-off of 20% for website traffic.

Three to Five Years and Decent Money
From the above it seems reasonable to me that if I can get six thousand visitors a day instead of six hundred, I will be making some decent money…mainly from increased stock sales. I totally believe I will get there, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes me three to five years more. In the meantime…hey, at least this industry isn’t boring!

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Evolution of Stock Photography: The Merging Of Traditional and Micro

Money flies through an office window in front of office workers; is this flying money (Euros) coming or going?
The Stock Photography Market is in transition; Will the future see our stock photo revenue be coming or going?

The Merging of  "Traditional" and "Microstock"
It is not only inevitable that traditional stock (RM and RF) will soon be sold side-by-side with "Microstock", it is already happening with a vengeance. I believe it is a good thing as well. As traditional and micro stock images are increasingly sold alongside each other the market will be better able to mature, become more efficient, and reach it's equilibrium. Stock shooters and the industry will be able to better understand what price points really work for both the producers and consumers of stock imagery.  The industry is truly a mess, and this is a natural step to help straighten things out.

Lee Torrens, Microstockdiaries and the merging of RM, RF, and Micro

To find out where things stand today I checked with Lee Torrens, who among other things, has a site called microstockdiaries...a good place to check on the pulse of the microstock world.  Lee put together the following summation of the current state of the merging of micro and traditional stock photography when I asked him where traditional stock and micro stock are being licensed together:

The simple answer is: Thinkstock, Pixmac, Moodboard, Glow, Reflex and quite a few other distributors and resellers.

But, as the definitions of 'micro' and 'traditional' blur and the prices cross over, it becomes more complex:

- Some traditional agencies have 'downgraded' certain collections to micro level pricing (Getty-Thinkstock)
- Some of those have also introduced micro-priced small sizes (Getty, Corbis, Blend, everyone)
- Some microstock agencies have 'upgraded' collections to near-traditional pricing (iStockphoto with Vetta,          Fotolia with Infinite)
- plenty of traditional agencies have added a "microstock" tab to their website and are reselling microstock via Fotolia, Dreamstime or 123rf reseller programs (Glow, Reflex, etc)
- others are resellers of content from many different sources both micro and traditional (Pixmac)
- others just launched with both (Moodboard)
- a few traditional agencies have just purchased microstock agencies and are cross-promoting (Getty with iStock, Jupiter with StockXpert, Masterfile with Crestock)
- some are trying to build it themselves (Inmagine with 123rf, Corbis with SnapVillage and then Veer Marketplace)
- there's some new agency collections coming which will be available on both microstock and traditional platforms
- and there's a few companies starting to distribute microstock content through the traditional channel
- then there's the whole Getty-Flickr thing

The Democratization of Stock Photography
These are all steps towards the true democratization of stock photography. They are steps towards a marketplace in which everyone can, and most likely will, participate in all price levels of stock photography. Microstock prices are in many cases absurdly low.  In other cases the prices are appropriate given the reality that it is easier and cheaper than ever to produce certain kinds of photos, and that more people than ever are doing exactly that. Harsh for many of us traditonal shooters, but a reality nonetheless.

iStockphoto, Vetta, and a Step In the Right Direction for Microstock
Hopefully with the merging of the different business models of stock (traditional and micro), images that are more valuable will find their prices rising to more appropriate levels. Traditional shooters may benefit from having their work seen by more eyeballs as the majority of all those seeking stock images are actually going to microstock sites. I have heard that half of all stock images licensed last year were licensed through iStockphoto! It is also interesting to note that the higher priced Vetta collection on iStockphoto has been enormously successful.  That is a step in the right direction for Microstock shooters to be more aware of the money they are leaving on the table. The ones who produce higher value images need to have access to collections that can and will charge appropriately for such images and pass enough of those commissions on to make the production of higher-end and needed imagery worth doing.

Images The Market Needs, Wants and Values
We are in a transition phase from the past where the gate keepers made the rules and determined who got to play, to the future where the value of an image will truly be determined by the market place. The sooner we get out of the transition phase and into the future the better! I base that on my belief that there will always be substantial rewards for those who make images that the market truly needs, wants and values.