8 Tips for Mainstream Press Covering Microstock

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Insiders tend to shake their heads when reading mainstream press articles about their industry.   In microstock and broader stock photography, we’re no exception.   It must be difficult for journalists to get it straight when constantly reporting on industries that are not their own.

So in the interests of more accurate and more interesting mainstream press coverage of our industry, here are my top 8 tips:

Tip 1: Avoid this Angle: Easy Money

People love reading articles with promise of how they can earn an easy side income and potentially turn their hobby into a thriving business.   Affiliate link spammers and cheap ebook pushers know it.   As do agency PR reps.

The rags-to-riches stories of hobbyists with a consumer-grade digital camera making 6-figure incomes were plausible back in 2004.

Since then the market has moved on.   The people profiled in those articles have either given up or upgraded their skills and equipment and now produce professional grade stock photography.

Examples:   StarTribune.   USAToday.   NYTimes.

Tip 2: Avoid this Angle: Amateurs Taking Food Off the Professionals’ Table

Broadband Internet and digital photography came of age around the same time.   It’s no great surprise that there was a re-distribution of wealth and income in the stock photography market at the same time.

Many stock photographers were heavily impacted, seeing their revenues falling rapidly.   They had to adapt or move along, and they were understandably unhappy about it.

An entire generation of professionals being so displaced always makes for a good story. But in stock photography, this story is so last decade.

Example:   BBC.

Tip 3: Avoid this Angle: David vs Goliath

Silicon Valley has given us a taste for stories of new technology stealing markets from behemoth, laggard corporates.

Microstock agencies were a great example of ‘David’, played as amateur photographers bitter from rejection at the hands of Goliath, who was played by old school suits who refused to adapt. No prizes for guessing whose PR talent ‘prompted’ those articles.

Examples:   CNN.   SmartMoney.

Tip 4: Avoid these Common Factual Errors

“New”.   Referring to microstock as “a new market” or a “new business model” is no longer accurate.   Given the microstock business model arrived in 2001, it’s as new as the iPod.

“$1 prices & 20 cent royalties”.   Nobody will argue that microstock pricing is simple, but oversimplifying throws everything out.   Both those numbers can be lower but the averages are now much higher.

“Royalty Free is free of royalties and/or rights”.   The term is more than confusing – it’s outright misleading. Take care that you understand what it really means.

Tip 5: Understand the Agendas

Microstock agencies play up the ‘David’ angle and push their latest website feature as ‘game-changing’. They’ll also drag out their latest media-darling contributor to testify that they’re earning a “high 6-figure sum” from the agency.

Traditional agencies push the ‘taking the food off the table’ story and tout their latest website feature or pricing strategy as enabling them to compete with the “growing discount alternatives” (they mean microstock agencies).

New businesses all have the secret formula to “disrupt” the industry and fix everything that, in their eyes, is broken with the current market. They’ll tell you that thanks to them the market will be unrecognizable in three years (in reality they’ll disappear well before that).

Microstock contributors will tout their freedom of lifestyle and the meritocracy of the microstock business model. They’ll also complain about agencies dropping royalty rates.

Traditional stock photographers will tout the superior quality of their content and either state that there’s no money in stock photography anymore, or that their revenues are holding thanks to their superior quality.   They’ll also complain about agencies dropping royalty rates.

Tip 6: Start Your Research Here

Read this introduction to microstock first to get oriented.

I know it’s boring but take the time to understand what Royalty Free actually means.

There’s also a complete list of microstock agencies, profiles of prominent industry figures, and reviews galore.

Tip 7: Consider these Angles

To criticize is easy, so let’s explore some real and current angles that won’t read like promotional pieces:

  • Revolution / Disruption – for business and tech-business publications, stock photography is up there with digital music and ebooks as an example of a market transformed by technology. Switch out David vs Goliath and instead explore displacement, adaption strategies, crowdsourcing, the long tail, amateur professionals, survival by acquisition, and content volumes.
  • Quality and quantity – microstock found a market for crap photos, then learned how to produce and sell quality. Today more photos hit the market each month than the total quantity available at most businesses 10 years ago.
  • 3D – currently in its infancy; will 3-dimensional photos and video be the next technology wave to redistribute income and wealth?
  • Mobile stock – how long will the current fashion of mobile-phone created & edited photos last?   Will Facebook’s Instagram or Google’s Snapseed become a threat to the current stock photography business, or will they be locked out by Getty Images like Flickr?

Tip 8: Some Interesting and Knowledgeable People to Interview and Quote

These are some of the most quotable people in the market:

Jon Oringer Founder & CEO Shutterstock LinkedIn
Oleg Tscheltzoff Co-Founder & CEO Fotolia LinkedIn
Patrick Lor President, North America Fotolia (ex-iStock) LinkedIn
Cathy Yeulet Founder & CEO Monkey Business Images LinkedIn
Yuri Arcurs [photographer] LinkedIn
Andres Rodriguez [photographer] LinkedIn
Robert Davies Founder & CEO picWorkflow LinkedIn
Amos Struck Founder & CEO Stock Photo Press LinkedIn
Mark Milstein Founder & CEO Microstock Solutions / Northfoto LinkedIn

And I’m always happy to discuss the market and answer questions myself.

I hope that helps.



Posted September 19th, 2012 by

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