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Microstock Agencies

Why going exclusive does not work at microstock

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Guys, read it!

Here is the latest post by Shutterstock CEO and the Founder Jon Oringer: http://jonoringer.com/tag/microstock/

By keeping things simple, not favoring exclusive images, and iterating on metrics like search success, we feel like we will be more and more successful for both our buyers and our sellers over the long term.

I can not agree anymore. The future belong to non-exclusive contributors.

iStock exclusivity does not pay back. Old dinosaurs like Getty Images who do not understand the digital reality have to adopt the change – or die.

Shutterstock IPO: checked!

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Today is a great day for Shutterstock.

The company becomes a public company on the New York Stock Exchange: check out NASDAQ:SSTK.

So now each one of us can grab a share of the Shutterstock success :) (please do not see it as a financial advise)

Congratulations Shutterstock! Jon and the team – you did it, and did it well!

iStockphoto is going to accept digitally signed model releases

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Finally, the microstock photographers can forget about having multiple paper model releases in their bags. In the next few weeks iStockphoto will start accepting iPad/iPhone and Android signed model releases that were generated using an appropriate Apple or Android app. iStock recommends EasyRelease, but will also accept the releases signed with VMRelease.

The related iStock FAQ page is located here.

New release: ProStockMaster v2.0.2 for Mac OS X

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We just have released the new 2.0.2 version of PSM for Mac Os X Snow Leopard. This release follows previous v2.x releases for Windows, switching PSM to work with your (free) Lightburner account. Thus you get the best of the two worlds, browsing and adding metadata locally, while uploading only once for all microstock channels via online software. For more information see release notes  for 2.x versions.

 

Once you’ve downloaded the latest software, make sure that

  • You have a valid Lightburner account (free signup here)
  • You defined your microstock agencies and/or private FTP sales channels in Lightburner
  • You provided PSM with your Lightburner username and password (Tools -> Lightburner account menu in PSM)

Known issues

  1. Sales stats received from Lightburner.com always overwrite any data you might enter manually. Still thinking how to handle the logic here.

Alamy will pay you with PayPal

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Alamy, a UK-based traditional stock photography agency, proudly announced in their latest letter to their contributors that Alamy will be able to transfer payouts via PayPal.

Good news – we have made some improvements to the way in which we pay our contributors. We are now offering PayPal – we can pay you in GBP, USD or EURO’s via PayPal. If you opt for PayPal we will send your payment so that you do not pay any PayPal fees

I like Alamy because they are so British. Meaning they are so ages-back traditional and so fantastically slow in adopting the change and following the market trends, and nevertheless – or because of that, – they still sell well. Today virtually every reasonable stock photography agency offers PayPal payouts, so welcome to the club, my dear Alamy.

Shutterstock introduces single image sales

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Shutterstock, who came to the microstock market as a first agency to offer microstock subscriptions, joins iStock, Fotolia and Dreamstime by offering single images sales. The recent announcement on Shutterbuzz states that current royalty rates for subscription-based packages are not going to change. As per the new product which ‘is being tested in the certain markets’ the planned royalty rates are based on the contributor’s life-time earnings on Shutterstock:

  • up to $500 – 20% payout rate
  • $500 – $3,000 – 25%
  • $3,000 – $10,000 – 28%
  • over $10,000 – 30%

Shutterstock is an owner of BigStockPhoto.com, re-branded as BIGSTOCK sometime ago. BIGSTOCK, which deploys a traditional credits-based microstock model, was purchased by Shutterstock to complete their subscriptions offering. For the last few months in addition to the credits packages BIGSTOCK also offers immediate purchase of a single image. The single download prices start from $2.99.

BIGSTOCK single image sales

BIGSTOCK single image sales

It looks like Shutterstock was closely following BIGSTOCK in this initiative and now they are doing a similar move.

All in all this is good news for the microstock artists. I believe that the contributors like me will be happy to increase their earnings effortlessly, by selling the same microstock collection on Shutterstock in a different way, so let’s wish Shutterstock good luck with their new baby.

 

How To Buy Photos – New Initiative By “Mr. Microstock”

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Lee Torrens, a well known microstock guru started a new welcome initiative by creating a new web site dedicated to microstock photography buyers.How To Buy PhotosWe can expect there comparisons of various licenses, evaluation of various microstock packages and subscriptions, microstock agencies reviews and interviews with the industry leaders.
Photo buyers community definitely needs better education understanding the various licenses and proper use of the licensed media.
Good luck with that Lee!

Breaking News: iStock Will Offer Editorial Stock Photos

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iStockphoto plans to offer editorial images in February yet. iStock decided to join Shutterstock, Fotolia and Dreamstime who already sell editorial images for years. Got fresh editorials? With iStock joining the microstock editorials club you have more options to sell them.

Microstock Fairness

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I was lucky enough to meet many wonderful microstock people at CEPIC event in Dublin last summer. Vita Valka, the CEO of Pixmac is one of them.

Vita Valka, CEO Pixmac

Vita Valka, CEO Pixmac

Photo by Roberto Marinello, MyStockPhoto.org

Pixmac is a newcomer, operated from Prague, Czech Republic since mid-2008. I like these guys because their understanding of the microstock market differs from the traditional “it’s all mine!” policy of the top microstock agencies.

It’s not a secret that the microstock industry has no problem with supply. Oversupply creates tough competition between agencies and between the photographers, and many microstocks do not care too much about their contributors.

No, they do not state that. They simply do it. They reduce photographers’ commissions (iStock Q4-2010, Fotolia Q1-2011), terminates contributors affiliates programs with no notice (Fotolia), and keep changing the rules of the game ‘on the go’,  trying to increase company’ profits by reducing their payouts to the artists.

Pixmac’ approach to the microstock fairness is quite different, and I am happy to let Vita and his team to speak by themselves:

– Pixmac Press Release –

Microstock Maturity by Pixmac
Prague, 3rd January 2011

Howdy folks everywhere. A very happy and prosperous 2011 to all our Photographer Contributors and to other friends around the globe.

As we know, it all started a decade ago. A great passion for photography blended with understanding the everyday designer’s needs. It was iStock’s team that launched the best photographer community ever.

Way back in the early days, the opportunity was quickly spotted by other agencies, resulting in a true revolution in the stock photo business. Unfortunately due to changes in technology and market forces the role of the photographer changed somewhat from being the master of microstock to almost it’s ‘slave’, as many of you will remember.

Pixmac is bringing in fair rules

Some of you may notice that we at Pixmac endeavor to respond and explain. We are flexible. We change our minds. We listen and we fix what needs to be fixed. We’ve learned a lot from our competition and you guys and gals contributing to the agencies are a true inspiration to our team!

In the microstock marketplace there are some old customs that we’re going to change at Pixmac. One of those is exclusivity. Exclusivity is something like DRM in music. It doesn’t work long term. The world has changed. So starting today Pixmac removes exclusivity restrictions for its contributors.

Contributors should be partners

There are many things that microstock contributors don’t like. Obviously they don’t like low revenue split. Inspired by Robert Kneschke, Pixmac has decided to guarantee 30% revenue and at least $0.25 (it was $0.10) per sale – FOREVER. And after the first $200 made on revenue it’s raised to 40%. We’re also raising the Extended License pricing from the flat $30 to $40-$120. Starting today, we guarantee a minimum commission – forever.

New Pixmac Commissions

New Pixmac Commissions

Pixmac has been open to listening to you since day one. And we hope you’ll be asking us questions first before going to forums. We’re here for you and if we make a mistake (which we are sure we will do – we are people like you), so please let us know because we’re usually quick in fixing it.

Vita Valka, CEO of Pixmac says: “We’re trying to become a true Open Company . And it’s not always easy. But if you have a fair vision and if you know what your Contributors need there’s always a way how to work it out. The problem of a few Agencies is that they just don’t care. We genuinely care about the photographers as well as about our buyers alike.”

Declaration of Fair Stock Photo Agency

We thought it would be nice to have a list of things that an Agency would respect and Contributors would like. We’ve thought about a few points (below), but we’re quite open to discussion about what’s missing or what’s not an issue.

1. An Agency should state proper attribution (Contributor’s name/nickname) next to the images on it’s site and should require the attribution on its resellers’ sites. The Agency should sell the images (even resized) with embedded attribution. The Agency should embed attribution metadata into large thumbnails.

2. An Agency should state the name of each reseller and let Contributors opt-in or out for each of the resellers and from subscription offering on the Agency’s or a resellers’ site where appropriate. The Agency should display the reseller’s name per each sale.

3. An Agency should notify Contributors about commission changes. In that case the Contributor should be able to withdraw his/her images and stop selling through that Agency. In an ideal case the Contributor should be able to withdraw part or the entire portfolio anytime.

“Thanks to David Mail, Lee Torrens & Roberto Marinello to help us with defining what should be mentioned in such a document. Thank you Robert Kneschke for inspiring us. We’d really like to hear and read any ideas you might have. The ‘Declaration’ is a first step to an even better microstock market.”, says Vita Valka.

Sales define contributors’ satisfaction

We love to focus on buyers. It’s the best way to satisfy Contributors and partners like Dreamstime. We’ve decided to try to be the smartest guys and gals in marketing. We design banners while sleeping. We live with AdWords 24 hours a day. We write down ideas when we’re at the bowling alley. We love the job at Pixmac as much as you love being photographers!

We’ve grown already. Pixmac sells thousands of images a month. Pixmac is localized into several languages. And Pixmac is already inspiring others.

“Pixmac is one of the few agencies doing SEO right.” – Yuri Arcurs, speech at CEPIC 2010

“I LOVE your one-stop-shopping idea! It has always been a missing element of microstock agencies.” – Lee Torrens, microstockdiaries.com

“I am impressed by the determination of Pixmac to treat photographers fairly. They have just set the bar to a new level.” – Tyler Olson, microstockgroup.com

“I like the Pixmac team’s open approach, the responsiveness, the attention to the Contributor side perspective, the focus on marketing our products – for example, have you seen how many contests they have been running in the last months?” – Roberto Marinello, mystockphoto.org

“Pixmac’s agreement changes capture each of the best things from other microstock agencies into a great deal for contributors.” – Bob Davies, picniche.com

“Pixmac is a living proof that a newcomer can compete and succeed on a modern crowded highly competitive microstock market. Differentiation is the key. And Pixmac got it right.” – David Mail, prostockmaster.com

See? Yes we are a relative newcomer. But we have been doing things differently since beginning and it is working. Check out the Alexa (link below) or Compete (link below) for ranking of www.pixmac.com and read some forum threads where we were active. Even our blog would tell you a lot about our philosophy. We love companies like Zappos & Apple and we know that we’re in the same boat with each of you. We’re partners. United we stand.

http://siteanalytics.compete.com/pixmac.com+yaymicro.com+crestock.com
http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/pixmac.com+yaymicro.com+crestock.com

If you don’t know the story of Pixmac yet, please check out these two resources:

http://www.microstockdiaries.com/pixmac.html
http://blog.pixmac.com/138/pixmac-pink-beginnings/

We believe no other microstock Agency is as successful as Pixmac since those old fellas launched in 2005 or earlier. As you can see on Microstock Diaries (link below) at least 10 microstock Agencies have closed in the last two years.

http://www.microstockdiaries.com/complete-list-of-microstock-agencies.html

Our inspiration

We see ourselves as a sort of ‘Food Court’ in the microstock arena, providing a rich smorgasbord of choices. A place where buyers can go to find all kinds of top brands and names, as well as the creative work of smaller players. Fun, fast, diverse, efficient, and easy to use.

We wish the best of luck to all the other competitors that we love such as YayMicro and BigStock with their focus on easy use. Photocase and StockFresh have a great passion for photography. Shutterstock with their highly respected business model. And Dreamstime with their focus on photographer community. Guys, please motivate and inspire us! The good old days when the user base grew instantly are gone. Pixmac has a challenging 2011 ahead – there is no doubt in that.

Let’s sum it all up

To summarize the long list of changes and improvements at Pixmac, this is a shortlist of the positives arising:

1. Commissions at least 30% / $0.25 forever
2. Raised prices based on downloads. Raised prices of EL.
3. Removed exclusivity lock-in
4. Declaration of Fair Stock Agency

Vita Valka, the CEO of Pixmac and a former designer, knows exactly what the buyer needs. He also identifies wholeheartedly with the company’s Contributing Photographers. Without your creative input there’s no microstock! No Pixmac!

Pixmac’s dream team, situated in Prague, Czech Republic, is a flexible group of experienced professionals always willing to help you. Pixmac managers are active in 15+ countries around the world including the Americas, Europe, Asia & Africa. And there’s always a tasty cup of coffee or tea ready and a cookie at the office for any Contributor who is in our neighbourhood. If you come to Prague, please let us know!

Feel free to contact Pixmac on twitter.com/pixmac or Facebook. Or via any of the standard methods such as email at [email protected] or call us at +420 296 566 268.

Microstock Portfolio Analysis With Free LightBurner Tools

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New free microstock submission service LightBurner keeps adding new functionality. The latest update includes more new stuff in the Analytics sections of the subscribers account.

In this post I will review the first group of LightBurner’ Analytics tools, discussing how they cgoan help you to sell more photos via microstock photography sites.

Disclaimer: all numbers, stats and graphs in this posts are used for illustrative purposes only. They may or may not be based on the real statistical data.


LightBurner Analytics: The SEO Group

This group of graphs shows the current status of customer’s LightBurner portfolio from the SEO perspective. Microstock is a part of the Internet domain and online stock photography agencies play the Internet game following the common SEO rules. If you want your images to sell well you also have to know these rule and to follow them. For a large and quality online portfolio SEO-compliance is probably one of the most important success factors, particularly on the highly competitive microstock market.

Microstock agencies use image metadata in searches,  and embed it into dynamically created web pages when showing images, categories, authors portfolios and similar.

Microstock Photo Page at iStock

Microstock Photo Page at iStock

Most online stock photography agencies will use a stock image title as the title of the dynamic page, created for that image. See “Beautiful blonde woman” text in the browser’ title bar on the top of the image above? This is the image title taken by iStock system from this image’ IPTC/XMP metadata on upload, and saved in iStock database. Now this title is displayed each time a page for “Beautiful blonde woman” is viewed. The title is also repeated on the web page itself, describing the image to the buyers and to the search engines.

Search engines pay special attention to pages titles because this is what they display in search results as hyperlinks.

Keywords are probably less visual on this iStock page, but definitely not for the search engines. Keywords come at least twice on a stock image page at major microstocks: once as HTML metadata, and the second time as visible hyperlinks helping to perform a search by that keyword. Here are the keywords for this page embedded into HTML metadata:

<!DOCTYPE html><html><head><title>Beautiful blonde woman | Royalty Free Stock Photo Image | iStockphoto.com</title><meta charset="utf-8">
<meta name="language" content="EN" >
<meta name="title" content="Beautiful blonde woman | Royalty Free Stock Photo Image" >
<meta name="description" content="Royalty Free Stock Photo, Beautiful blonde woman, copyright gruizza, iStockphoto LP" >
<meta name="keywords" content="Beauty, Beautiful, Blond Hair, Blue Eyes, Carefree, Caucasian, Close-up, Copy Space, Color Image, Cute, Looking At Camera, Human Face, Female, Human Finger, Ring, Earring, Teenage Girls, Women, Human Hand, Human Head, Horizontal, Head And Shoulders, Make-up, Candid, Nature, Mouth Open, People, Photography, Purity, Sensuality, Naked, Sex Symbol, Studio Shot, One Woman Only, Young Adult, One Person, Expressing Positivity, Young Women, Only Young Women, Front View, Touching, dark background, stock images, royalty free images, stock photography, stock photos, inexpensive, istockphoto" ><!--[if lt IE 9]><script src="/static/1293128469/js/html5.js"></script><![endif]--><link href="/istock_news_rss.php" rel="alternate" type="application/atom+xml" title="iStockphoto.com - Latest News" >
<link href="/feeds/newest/" rel="alternate" type="application/atom+xml" title="iStockphoto.com - Latest Images" >
<link href="/istock_forums_rss.php" rel="alternate" type="application/atom+xml" title="iStockphoto.com - Latest Forum Threads" >

I would not say that iStockphoto does a great SEO here since very similar keywords like “Young Women, Only Young Women” will be typically considered as duplicates and the list of keywords in this HTML meta tag is way too long. Anyway, it’s good enough to illustrate my point.

Keywords you select play an important role in SEO, used at least once, and typically twice on each stock photo page. Keywords help search engines to index microstock content with proper tags, and help microstock buyers to easily search by clicking a keyword link.

Stock Photo Keywords @iStock

Stock Photo Keywords @iStock

And here LightBurner comes to help. New SEO analytical tools available with any free LightBurner account help microstock contributors to properly index their stock photos with metadata before submission, optimized for the search engines and for the online use.

Let’s review a few samples.

Length Of Stock Images Titles

Length Of Stock Images Titles

The graph above shows that this LightBurner portfolio got 586 titles shorter than 30 characters. It is a a serious warning, since we typically will try to keep our titles reasonable long and keywords-intensive. The graph suggest to target the ‘long titles’ group, which has no image in this specific portfolio at the moment.

In fact, the above iStock image of blond woman is a good example of a bad title :)

Here is why – the title has only 3 words, and the total length is 22 characters only. Even knowing that iStock’ cannibals always eat up about 60-70 title characters by adding most searched general terms like “stock photo” and “royalty free”, we still can easily have our own 50-chars title, getting much more sympathies from the search engines.

Do that. Try 50+ characters length titles. I am sure you will see the difference in your stock photos sales quite soon.

And here is another graph, showing how many images carry keywords in their titles.

Number Of Keywords In Title

Number Of Keywords In Title

And here we are getting the red flag again!

Less than half of the portfolio has a keyword in the stock photos title.

We specify the keywords because it’s a good way to describe the stock image. Furthermore, buyers search by the keywords. If no keywords are used in the title it simply means that that title is non-descriptive and it should be replaced.

Non-descriptive titles are really bad for SEO. With no keywords in the title images will not be found in the search engines. An image by another microstock photographer, who reasonably used keywords in the images titles will be preferred by the search engines.

Yet another graph below shows the distribution of the stock photos portfolio by the keywords groups depending on the number of keywords.

Number Of Keywords Per A Stock Photo

Number Of Keywords Per A Stock Photo

It looks like the images in the reviewed portfolio are heavily ‘over-keyworded’. Indeed, 35-50 keywords are typically enough to describe an image for any microstock agency.  We need even less than that for the proper SEO. 35-50 keywords per image will typically give the best performance for our stock images portfolio.

In the next post I will review other microstock portfolio analytical tools coming with you free LightBuner account.

Get a free LightBurner account now, check out how your portfolio looks to the search engines. Maximize the portfolio’ visibility and sales.

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