All other parameters set aside, it has always been the industry standard to price an image based on how many people would see it. And for a very good reason: If it was used in a lesser publication, in a small format, there was more chance that it it would be used again, by someone else, in another media. On the other hand, if it was used worldwide, in many media, it would fetch a “buy out” price.

Example of an advertising based image from GumGum and X17
We rely on circulation, printing run and languages to estimate the amount of potential views. Than came the internet. At first, the initial website where “tests” and minimum funding. As friendly as this industry could be, images where licensed for a flat fee, at an extremely generous price. Granted, the traffic was small and the promises big.

Agencies and photographers where eager to help and see this new market grow. $125 for a home page and $50/$75 for “inside” quickly became an editorial standard price as we all struggled to make it work. For commercial usage, price where, and are, in the thousand of dollar. Because they are licensed, they are even given a time frame, although the biggest majority of websites never pull out images but archive them. The images thus become licensed in perpetuity. Granted, harder to find and see, but still there.

Websites came and website went. New one appeared, funded by obscene amount of dollars, while other crashed and burned in a masquerade of quirky business plans. A lot didn’t even bother hiring real photo editors and relied on web designers or producer with no experience in photography, to license images. Prices remained the same.

For two main reasons : The promise of massive usage and the impossibility to seriously track usage. Websites claimed that even if they were paying a small fee for usage, they would be using a lot of images, thus making the volume compensate for the low payment. Appealing for photo agencies, not so for photographers. Some companies, like Wireimage, even created baffling subscription plan ($1000 a month  with eonline.com for all you can eat images) just to gain market shares and kick the competition out of their space . The gold mine turned into a mine of chalk.

Then came the RF and microstock guys. Their model was to not even bother negotiating anything. Here is our images, here is the price, do whatever you want with the image. Perfect for the internet space and its web designer who could get images at 3 :00 AM and not have to justify its usage. Image tracking companies like Picscout or Digimarc just made the management of RM on the internet even worse for users and pushed then even more into using RF images. But it didn’t help the editorial world. Long gone was the accepted model of the more an image is seen, the more its price should be higher, exactly like advertising.

Finally, two guys from the West coast of America, not from the industry, looked at this and said : “this is insane !!!”. In a medium that can finally track exactly how many people actually see an photo, images are still priced with a scheme right out of the medieval ages. Ads are being sold on how many hits they receive, why not images ?

They launched GumGum, which became live today, first offering X17 content and with many more to come. You set your price for how much an image is worth per views ( or thousand of views) and there you go. The bigger the site, the more they pay. If no one visits the site, the image is free. You can also put a cap and decide you want to license an image for 1 million views. Once you reach that target, the image ads an advertisement. Thus you can archive the image while the owner still gets revenue.

This is the most refreshing and revolutionary idea to hit this industry in decades. It is not going to be an easy sell to publishers who had a sweet deal up to now, but it is the future of licensing online. It is fair, simple and automated. easy to understand, to use and to apply. No need for Plus coalition complex interaction and implementation, no need to add any salespeople, no need for drop down head banging menus and complex calculation. No need to ever figure out the pricing. The usage figures out the pricing. Its the ease of RF applied to RM. The Philosopher’s Stone.

More on Gumgum here .

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