It’s all in the way you search. Stock photo agencies, now having reached a point where they are all pretty much offering the same content for the same prices, are desperately trying to make themselves relevant with different search engines. After all, Google’s success is made on search and not content, so why not stock photo agencies ?

Lately, Canadian based Masterfile, recipient of the A21/Superstock legacy and its assets, has just revealed a new “paradigm shift” ( don’t you just hate that overused expression?) , called “endless media”. Surely, exactly what an image buyer wants to see after doing a search is endless results. I think not. When playing around with it, it really looks like a vague combination of Brightqube’s 2 year old mosaic display idea sprinkled with a little bit of Cooliris. No shift here, just a lot of balloon air.

Steve Pidgeon explains to Selling Stock newsletter :

“The name of this toy is Endless Media, and with good reason: the primary search results are displayed as three horizontally scrollable rows of square thumbnails, presenting a seemingly endless amount of options. The style of review is up to the user. The search engine can auto-play results by scrolling and pausing at adjustable time intervals. It also allows a buyer to move back and forth with the help of buttons familiar from early cassette-player days, drag a slider to any point between the first and last screens?or even specify a ?go to? position as a percentage of total. Sizes of image thumbnails can also be adjusted based on user preference.

Hovering over any thumbnail produces a small uncropped preview, and clicking on an image is where the real fun begins: Without losing the three rows of primary results, a buyer also sees a large image preview?unwatermarked for registered customers?and a series of similars.

?You did not ask for similar images, but we gave them to you without penalizing you by losing your primary search,? explains McDonald, who stresses the importance of this never-lose-your-place functionality and the ability to work both literally and laterally at the same time.”

mmm. sounds easy and simple: early cassette player, multiple options, scroll right and left, adjustable sizes, lots of similars ..and so on. But what about the core essential result expected from doing a search ? Like, finding the right image quickly and easily? Doesn’t seem like they worked on that.

While we are on the topic of search, two new image search portals have been launched recently. One in the UK, called Imprezzeo, looks for similar based on content. Nothing new here, as other companies, like Idee, have been offering this for many years. But Idee has never offered it as a global portal but rather as a plug in to existing image database.With there latest Tineye offering, they offer even more as you can now locate the exact same image, rather than similar. Not useful for a internal database but very useful for a public search. Imprezzeo seems to tap the same market, that is photo agencies, according to their “about us” page. Funny that they would consider it a segment of the industry to invest in, considering how its about to tank.imprezzeo

Another one, which is a complete surprise, is Hitachi. Yes, the same Hitachi that you might have in your living room. You know that when the Japanese industry gets involved in something, they do it right. Called Gazopa, it is also a similar image search engine ( or a SISE, as we say in the connected world) with a few pluses. It has a browser plug in that allows you to search outside of their site. You can upload or draw the images you are looking for. and finally, it has a ” stream of consciousnesses” features that continue to search for similars of your similars as long as you want it to. Called “Flow”, it is more a gadget than very useful, but still interesting. Still in Beta, this service seems fully geared to the public and not to the photo industry.


Similar searches are still the exception rather than the rule in photo agencies search. No data has been made public on whether it is being used by image buyers¬† at all. But with all these publicly accessible image search engine using it, it will soon become another tool people will expect. It has the huge benefit on not relying on keywords anymore (those nasty little keywords) and is a more “natural” way to search for images. As usual, the photo industry is lagging way behind. Furthermore, none of these public search engine seem to index existing image database, making the professional offering invisible to casual buyers. The photo¬† agency industry stubbornness to keep their assets behind closely protected close doors is all to the advantage of Microstock platform who thrive on them. While each traditional agency is busy trying to enhance their local, in house, propritery search engine, they forget that less and less image buyers will come to their website but rather look for global search engines. And thus, they will loose on many sales to come.

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