So revenues from traditional clients seem to decline. Price per image are stagnating, if not dropping, while market shares seem to be eaten away by more aggressive, younger companies that have much lower operating costs. The cost of entry in the photo agency world has dropped so low that a new photo agency is born almost every month. In all categories, RM, RF, Micro, editorial. While they are not really offering anything new, nor do they have any long term planning, they dilute the general offering of stock image on the market by making more of the same images available.
Sites like Alamy, Photoshelter and others like microstock have even broken the traditional link between photographers and agencies and are now just acting as distributors and plain lean mean selling machines. They have little or no personal regards for the photographers they represent, have never met them nor do they intend to, have no connections with their careers, have no clue what they will shoot next and almost couldn’t care less. All they want to do is connect them with as many buyers as possible and collect a percentage on every license granted, a la Ebay.
agencies distributors have already done that (think Getty Images here). Part of Istockphoto recent growth must be heavily tied to its introduction to existing Getty Image clients. It still remains compartmentalized, for now. The very near future will be to see all prices and all contributors on the same platform. There is no reason to keep the brand separated on different websites, is there ?
So, what is a photo agency to do in such a world ? Well, some are looking for collateral revenues. The editorial celebrity space is a good place to look for answers. Most have created their own blogs, along with advertising. Traffic generates attention but also revenue. They were already receiving a lot of hits from consumers looking for the latest images, so why not capitalize on it ? Some like X17 ( x17online) are doing quite well. Getty Image, with its ViewImages and Jamd’ are also in this space, in a slightly different way.
Splashnews has introduced an interesting experiment recently. Under the heading of Splash Style, they take online fashion shopping to the next level > here is how it works. You watch one of their paparazzi videos and click on a dress or handbag that you like. It appears on the right as still picture. You can then proceed, by clicking on the still, to go to an online store who will be more then happy to sell you that dress.
Obviously, Splash is taking a commission on the sales, even maybe just on the click to the store. After all, someone might not purchase that dress immediately. While clicking on a specific body part of someone who doesn’t want to be filmed is a tricky exercise, ( go ahead, try it. I’ll wait here.
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…Ok, back ? Hard, no ?,
the concept is appealing. How to make money with stills, or videos, on your site, without licensing any images and respecting your traditional clients and no overhead. Without even needing inside information, it is quite evident that this model is not very lucrative. Yet. But it is another very good example of how modern photo agencies need to break out of the traditional licensing model and aggressively seek new revenue streams. We had touched on that topic here.
The days of quietly waiting at a desk for someone to call seeking for an image that you might or not have are over. Gone. Finished. Someone has gotten to them faster, sooner and probably cheaper. Nothing personal, they needed to, in order to survive. They made the mistake of entering this business because it was cheap and looked really easy. Now they are stuck in it. And you are stuck with them.
So, instead of waiting for the good old days to come back, ( which they will not because they never existed), or Getty to call and offer a few hundreds of millions for you archive ( they will not, they have what they need right now), or just some incredible lucky break ( better play the Lotto..), it is time to look for those collateral revenues that might just end up being your main revenue.