Thought provoking idea are rare and few these days. I have been reading a lot about web 2.0 these past days while savoring family life. The big buzz is all about prosuming (consumer consuming what they produce) and big corporation re-inventing slavery, without the physical abuse. Consumers are now happy to give away for free their hard work and talents, just to be able to have their 15 minutes of Internet fame or a few pennies, that, hopefully, if multiplied by gazillions, will make them millionaires (we have yet to see that happen). It is a bit of the Pyramid scheme all over again : I start a website, which if you add something of yours and pass it on to 10 other people, might bring you a fortune too. In reality, only the ones who started the Pyramid, oops, sorry the Website 2.0 cash in. And unlike Web 1.0, acquisitions seem to be the new IPO 2.0 for those new website owners.
How does that relate to the photo industry? well, let’s see. Flickr’s owners made millions by selling their photo sharing site to Yahoo while the “content providers” (corporate lingo for photographers), got nothing. Worse, their images are being stolen on a regular basis by everyone.
The microstock have capitalized on that idea selling their companies for millions too (istockphoto), while the same content providers are still waiting for their millions. And while they tell tales of some of their contributers making six figures a year, everyone knows that they actually make money on the volume of individual images sold produces by different individual. Funny thing is that the first time I heard about microstock a while back, I thought they were made to help third world, developing countries and where part of the micro credit initiative.
The big revolution of the web 2.0, it is thought, is buzz marketing. Google, by growing so fast with absolutely no marketing money spent, created this idea of a virally infected marketplace. It is not a new concept, however. If you have a great product people will use it and recommend it to others, whether it is really a great tool or just a fad. But the new entrepreneurs think that is all you need to create is a buzz and that revenues will just flow in after that. They do not seem to take great interest in building a good product.
Seems we are falling back into the web 1.0. Build a company, create a huge buzz ( it has to be a crowd generate buzz, this time) and sell it (IPO’s are not that sexy anymore). We are starting to see the resurgence of totally free website offering any type of services, just to be able to say that they have so many million visitors and figuring out a business plan down the line ( DivShare is one example amongst many).
There is something about the Internet that attracts entrepreneurs that have no business plans beside becoming rich very fast. and while there is nothing wrong with that, I am always surprised at how we are so easily fascinated by companies that really do not offer anything tangible.
I might be wrong, but how long are people going to continue posting their images to Flickr, or post their bio’s to Myspace for example. Youtube is cute, for now, but what will it be in 10 years ? Generation grow older, their interest shift, as well as the time that they devote to them.
What does that all mean for the photo industry ? Well lets see. If Flickr wants to survive, it will have to change its model and allow their users to license their images, while taking a fee. That will be a new and powerful player in the photo industry field. A mega microstock.
We might see the appearance of more free photo sites that will capitalize on advertising rather than licensing images. After all, I see stock companies selling images for 20 cents (http://www.featurepics.com/), so why not free ?
Finally, with all these new photo agencies being created worldwide on a monthly bases, Portals are going to become the industry standard as image buyers will be looking for a fast and easy way to find images. Some search engines already offer such a service for free, but for how long.
At the end, after all the hype and lucky millionaires cash in, only the ones will a great product will thrive. Which one are you ?