Just imagine. Just imagine if a company like Google, or Yahoo, or even Microsoft put their hand on microstock and social photography. Not only Istockphoto projections of $171 million revenue within a few years would be pulverized into unknown heights but it would be the end of both RM and traditional RF forever.

Why ?, you might ask. Simple. Right now, the only reason Istock is not growing faster is its lack of reach compared to better known sites like Google. Given that firepower, there is absolutely no reason why the whole market not tip over into a microstock Tsunami.  Let’s face it, Rights Managed is a badly protected island. And part of its protection came from the purposely shallow amount of choice. A lack of choice is what makes  RM potentially valuable, or what others call “bleeding edge” photography. Thus, out of a pool of 10 images, it is important to secure exclusivity. Out of a pool of millions, who cares?

Furthermore, it would be so simple to “retire” an image automatically for a higher price, thus making that image exclusive by automation.

Why would anyone  consider putting their images anywhere else than on Google Stock ? Already, everyone, from photographers to photoagency are taking night courses in  SEO to pump up their ranking. Most will buy huge amounts of adwords. If Google opens the gates and starts welcoming images in order to license them, there will be no holding back. From no one. It would be an act of suicide not to be part of it.  And since microstock pricing has now set the tone for commercial usage pricing, everyone will seek the low-priced volume sale. And, besides the user generated sites, no one will survive.

RF would quickly become  standard and no one would even bother with any other of those complicated and boring licensing  models. The only way for agencies and photographers to survive will be to jump, or stay, on the assignment peak. Those who have created a market for their photography, their personal work ~ the way professional photography first started~will continue to be untouched by this whole stock mess.

Not sure this will happen ? Well, think about it. Why did Getty go private ? and more important, why do you think someone paid $2.5 billion for it ? So it can watch it grow slowly like a small pet kitten ? Not their style. And what do you think will happen when Newscorp, Google, Yahoo, AOL and others feel they have managed to control most of the channels. What will be their next target to increase their appeal to advertisers ? Content, you said ? Indeed. By having the most compelling content, eyeballs will be attracted. And who has the highest volume of well targeted eyeballs will sell the most ads. Like it used to be with the TV network. But this next battle is happening online and will include stills.

Hopefully, some will stop asking me why I think this industry has not yet seen the worst ( or best) of it. Why there is no more reasons to attend Cepic or PACA congress. The waters are retreating already and I am no fool.

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4 Thoughts on “The waters are retreating

  1. latestnews on May 24, 2008 at 6:05 am said:

    Only problem is Google doesn’t know how to license images and doesn’t care. Adobe thought they could muscle into the image business and lost their shirt and had to close the entire project down and they control the desktop with photoshop. It’s never as easy as it seems…

    As for Getty. You need to think more like an investment banker. Greed! Go private, rake out the $200m plus in cash each year that it throws off, then go public again in 5-years pocketing $3b or so.

  2. Google doesn’t need to know how to license images. People will learn how to license from Google. The rules have changed here and the private boys club will be shut down.
    Adobe’s failure is a good example, indeed. It shows that it is not about owning or controlling a segment anymore. Stock photography has made the same mistake. It has set the entry point way to high and kept on increasing it. The $600 license one has to pay for Photoshop has become as ridiculous and obsolete as the $350 others will charge for a license for a photo of a sunset (which Adobe did, BTW).
    It’s not easy, certainly, but its not that hard either. That is what this industry needs to find out quickly.
    As far as Getty is concern, well, we agree. They will ramp it up, cut the dead branches ( think commercial stock RM) and sell to , as I wrote above, Google, Newscorp, AOL, Microsoft (no, not Corbis, that is a totally different company).
    Think Network TV…

  3. jeffgreenberg on May 26, 2008 at 1:10 pm said:

    I don’t find nonreleased RM sales to be retreating at all.

    But I did learn something new today — did you know that costs of doing business in some developing Third
    World nations are four or five times as high as in US according to this:


    Isn’t it time for stock agencies to gently but continuously raise Third World RM pricing as these countries develop…?


  4. Jeff, I am assuming that with “Non released RM” you are referring to editorial. In which case, we agreed. The above entry is about released RM and RF.
    As far as increasing RM fees in third world country, sure. But I do not think they are he source of the issue.

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