07 Jul 2008 Agencies Want Profitable Microstockers

Carrot Tempation, Peter BatesMicrostock agencies have a commercial incentive to encourage the microstockers who sell the most. They’re more profitable.

Why do Agencies Encourage Profitable Microstockers?

By submitting more commercially attractive photos, these contributors raise the quality of the agency portfolio. This makes the agency more commercially attractive, which raises sales and subsequently raises profits. These contributors also cost less with fewer rejections (rejected images cost money to review but don’t generate revenue) and less hosting of non-selling (or low-selling) images.

Conversely, low selling contributors are less profitable. They have higher rates of costly rejections, their accepted images lower the overall quality level of the agency portfolio, and their images occupy server space with little or no return (more of an issue when you look at those images en masse).

How do Agencies Encourage Profitable Microstockers?

Agencies use various strategies to achieve this, primarily paying more. Fotolia allows contributors to raise the price of their photos (which raises contributor earnings) as their total sales quantity rises, and Dreamstime does the same automatically and on a per-image basis. Shutterstock pays contributors higher commissions as their lifetime earnings rise and iStockphoto does the same for their exclusive contributors.

Most agencies also combine other strategies to incentivize more profitable contributors including raising upload limits and improving search result positions (which in turn improves sales and earnings).

Agencies don’t do a lot to actively discourage less profitable contributors, though some filter them out with application tests.

What does this Mean for Us?

This is great news for those of us who are microstock contributors but not yet on the most profitable list. While the favoritism makes it more difficult to get there, it also creates an incentive to improve. The more you earn, the more the agency strategies work to your advantage.

More Good News

While microstock agencies are commercially motivated to keep their most profitable contributors content with their sales and earnings, many are also investing heavily in community facilities, events and other resources to help all contributors become more profitable. They look great when they can show how they’ve helped their contributors grow from enthusiastic hobbyists into inspiring and talented professional stock photographers. It also raises the profitability of all their existing contributors.

How Can You Be More Profitable?

Generally speaking, agencies look at acceptance rate, sell-through rate and average sales per image (among other metrics) to determine search result order. Therefore a perfect way to monitor your profitability from the agency perspective is to simply use the best match or relevancy keyword searches and monitor the position of your images. As you get more profitable for the agency (relative to other contributors) your images will move closer to the top of the search results.

To make that happen you simply need to contribute images that sell more.

  • Matt Antonino
    Posted at 19:43h, 08 July Reply

    “Generally speaking, agencies look at acceptance rate, sell-through rate and average sales per image (among other metrics) to determine search result order. ”

    Which ones use RPI? I’m going to go delete the bottom 15% of my portfolios there.

  • Matt Antonino
    Posted at 20:48h, 09 July Reply

    They can’t both be true – it’s illogical.

    If AgencyDT uses RPI to determine search engine rank, then deleting photos would HELP your earnings by giving your best sellers higher RPI and thus higher search rank, resulting in more sales. If AgencyDT does NOT use RPI as part of rank, then deleting your already-accepted photos is stupid because they may sell.

    If an agency uses sales per image and you have some dogs, deleting them brings up your sales per image and helps you. If they don’t, you want the largest gallery possible.

    See what I mean? It can’t be both ways.

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