Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Microstock article in the Seattle Times

Another day, another article. Microstock must be one of the hot topics for technology writers as here is another article that has featured in a major US newspaper.

This article follows Kelly Cline, a photographer exclusive with iStock.

What this article misses out is that while making good money is possible, it is not easy. Getting 1,400 images onto iStock takes time (they don’t accept all photos) and some photos sell better than others.

Extracts from the article (full link below)

Microstock photography represents a new business model
By Kim Peterson
Seattle Times technology reporter
Monday, May 28, 2007
Kelly Cline's photographs pop up all over the place — in grocery stores, on Web sites, even splashed on the wall of a supermarket in Serbia.

Cline, who lives in West Seattle, takes pictures of food and sells them online through iStockphoto, a division of Seattle-based Getty Images. Her shots of hand-pressed olive oils, cheeses and California strawberries are available for anyone to purchase, and the response is so strong that Cline said she expects to make about $70,000 this year. She has nearly 1,400 images on iStockphoto and has sold about 69,000 downloads.

"I've never made this much money before," said Cline, 38.

A handful make enough to quit their day jobs. IStockphoto's top-selling photographer expects to make at least $100,000 this year.

"It's the most satisfying job I had ever had in my life," said Cline, who used to work at a printing company. "I can't imagine going back to an office. I think it would probably kill me."

With sophisticated digital cameras now less than $1,000, even amateur photographers can break into the business, submitting their pictures to microstock photography Web sites and collecting a small commission for each image sold.

"We're just now seeing people look at the model and say, 'Hey, this is really successful,' " said Bruce Livingstone, iStockphoto's founder.

IStockphoto's big break came last year, when it was acquired by Getty for $50 million. Getty zeroed in on iStockphoto in 2005 when it began researching microstock photography. By the fall of that year, Livingstone was talking acquisition over breakfast in Madison Park with Getty Chief Executive Jonathan Klein.

Still, Getty was known for high-quality, high-end images, not the cheap photographs iStockphoto specialized in. So instead of integrating the company into Getty, Klein opted to keep iStockphoto separate and allow it to grow in Calgary; it now has 56 employees.

Some estimates place the entire stock-photography market at about $2 billion worldwide. There's little chance of the microstock segment taking over the market, said Andy Goetze, an independent analyst tracking the industry.

"It is still a long, long way to go until iStockphoto will count for $100 million of Getty Images' overall revenues, if ever," he said.

But there's no question that iStockphoto is eating into Getty's business. Customers who were once willing to spend hundreds of dollars on a Getty image are now finding a decent image on iStockphoto for much less.

But Klein estimates that the customer overlap is only about 15 percent. In other words, he thinks that 85 percent of iStockphoto customers would never have ordered from Getty Images. And Getty can seize that opportunity to sell more expensive images to the customer.

Sites like Google Images also present a challenge to the entire industry. If you wanted a picture of a rose, for example, you could find dozens of nice shots on Google's image site.

Using those images without permission from owners could amount to copyright infringement, but it's done anyway.

"Ninety percent of people who use images are stealing them every day."


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