I was reading an article by Leslie Hugues on mactribe.com , an old boss of mine at Corbis, regarding Microstock companies like Istockphoto and other. I noticed a few things:

Apart from the fact that she writes a lot to really no end, for which she is notorious, the whole point of the rise of Microstock is missed. For one thing, it should be called “cheap royalty free”‘ instead of Microstosck. The rights managed market is not affected at all by this sudden appearance of new, consumer made royalty free, nor should it feel threatened. Rights managed should worry more about site like Flickr if and when Yahoo decides to add E commerce, licensing tools to it.

Furthermore, if we look back at the history, short indeed, of royalty free, one would realized that when they were sold on a CD with 300 images for $300.00, the initial Royalty free were priced the same way. With the advent of big stock agencies and their control on prices, did they go up to the ridiculous prices of today. Obviously, Corbis and other Getty had no other choice than to raise prices year after year, after all, it is part of their growth strategy. But they left a door wide open for Microstock to come in. and they did.No big surprise there.

Finally, with prosumers climbing into the market, we see a growth of choice in a market already saturated with extremely good images. Now, there will be more choice at a lesser fee. Consider also, if you will, the addition of all the new “traditional” royalty free companies that have appeared in the last year or so.

What we are seeing here is just the readjustment of a market that was sustaining on irrational pricing due, in part, from an uneducated market and a lack of aggressive competition. It is fair, after all, that a market that considers images as a product and sells them as such suffers from the same economics than any other reseller of any other type of product.

The question that remains is who will become the Wal-Mart of Royalty free ?

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