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No one is safe. No one. The latest news is that Getty might be responsible for this. News is that they were trying to gobble up yet another agency and ended up in the wrong place.

While they might have done a controlled leak regarding the purchase of Jupiter Media, so that everyone would be looking the other way, they are putting into motion exactly what they said they would. Jonathan Klein did say at the shareholders meeting that they had acquisitions in the works for 2007. With Mediavast, and now Michaels Ochs, they are aggressively trying to corner the celebrity market. Faithful to their philosophy, they acquire what they cannot destroy.

Everyone was caught by surprise. We all thought, me included, that the aggressive acquisition phase was over and that they would grow from within. We all got it wrong. They even managed, once again, to outsmart the sleeping giant and closest competitor, Corbis. One wonders sometimes if there is any senior management at Corbis, or have they all gone on vacation. Where were they when all these simultaneous negotiations were going on ? investigating new locations to “store” (read “bury”) images. Was I wrong ? Is that sinkhole a work of Corbis preservation team ?

If Getty acquires an agency or collection, people are scared. If Corbis does the same, people are happy. That means no more competition, the images will officially be retired from the market and never be seen again.

What does the recent acquisitions mean for the marketplace ? If Getty aggressively exercise its monopoly by quickly increasing prices, image buyers will get upset as quickly. If they do it in a very subtle way, which I think they will, no one will complain. After all, images buyers have always looked for a central location for all their image needs.

What will be left for all the other agencies, then?

One way to beat the beast would be to combine forces. 2007 should be the year of the portals. If PACA members had some sense of survival, they would create a portal which would make image buyers’ life much easier.

Same goes for the smaller celebrity photo agencies and other niche news agencies. In France, using an application called PIXPALACE, the majority of agencies have been able to sustained their growth by combining their forces. It has been done in Germany with APIS and PictureMaxx, in England, less successfully, with IDS.

In the US, independent photographers are able to do it with systems like Photoshelter and DigitalRailroad. Agencies can use an image depot, a consignment portal called Newscom. But their business model is antiquated and out of touch with the marketplace.

It will really be no surprise me if we start seeing aggregated image marketplaces pop up. Their real challenge will be to become competitive against such an powerful offering as Getty in front of them. The answer lies where it has always been : Content. You have compelling content, you have clients. Getty or no Getty.

On another note:

I read this article today and I still cannot make any sense out of it, so I will share with you: Paris the Thought: A.P. Says Au Revoir to Hilton Hottie

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