Jon Oringer of Shutterstock said it well: barrier of entry in stock photography licensing today is very low (actually getting lower), barrier to scalability is very high and getting higher. In other words, it is easy to find and regroup content to license (UGC or not). It is much harder to find clients. Now with Adobe Stock in the mix, companies like Twenty20 or 500px and other start-ups will have an extenuating time growing their businesses, especially without experience and marketing dollars.
Shutterstock, as well as Getty Images and now Adobe, have long understood that in order to compete in this space, you have to be where your clients are. Not by sticking a pretty website somewhere and waiting for clients to find you, but rather, deep into their workflows. It is, for example, not a mystery why Shutterstock bought the number one online DAM system. That’s because the first place enterprise users search for images is within their intranet. And if they cannot find what they need, they can access Shutterstock image library from within their visual asset management system and license it on the spot. Being able to offer Shutterstock images right there, before they take any step to leave and search the internet guarantees that they keep a huge chunk of their business if not all of it.
Their deal with Facebook is another example, as users can license images directly from within the ad building tool, cutting short any attempt to search for images anywhere else.
Getty images, via iStock for example, has been for a long time hard at work at partnering with website providers so that designer can license images directly within the site building tools, never to having to leave to purchase an image. And there are many, many other examples.
Adobe, and this is something we wrote about previously, has a golden opportunity within its suite of 23 graphic software. They can capture image buyers from within their applications, denying any chance for clients to seek out competitors. Pricing here is less important than convenience.
For newcomers, that sets the bar extremely high. Not only they do not have the legacy to compete in these high-level negotiations, but their offering, or pricing, is not even that compelling. Even if some claim to have more authenticity than others, that is something Shutterstock or Getty can easily compete with ( See Getty’s recent partnership with Instagram).
Both Shutterstock and Getty have huge worldwide sales and business development forces grinding daily at every opportunity they see and cutting deals, most often exclusive, so they can shut the door to any competition before they even arrive. Unless very well-funded, and managed very well, this is something start-ups can hardly compete head to head with. They are left to compete on the open web, exposed to any new competitors eager to strip valuable market shares. To succeed, they have to invent a key differentiator, something companies like Canva or Placeit have done. Stock photo licensing today happens either in-product or by being a product.
On a parting thought, I find it very interesting that a company like Adobe has chosen a microstock model to license images. For a company that has made much of its glory thanks to pro photographers via Photoshop, it is ironic that they chose the lowest pricing point, almost as a slap in their faces. In effect, there has been no backlash from the pro-photographers community so I guess it doesn’t matter.
You can read more about Adobe Stock launch here….