04 Jul 2007 Controversy with the Image Count at Fotolia
The number of images that Fotolia reports on the front page of their website has been the subject of much debate and accusation. Since the Fotolia V2 upgrade the figure has dropped significantly, further fueling the debate. I’ve put together in this post all parts of the puzzle. The details of the debate, the indisputable facts, and the official Fotolia response.
Prior to V2, the Fotolia front page showed more than 3.3 million images in their online library. Many speculated that this figure was artificially high. They couldn’t understand how Fotolia could have more images than the market giants iStockphoto and ShutterStock. Simple research turned up evidence that supported the suspicions. The top selling images at Fotolia had lower sales than the those at other microstock websites. Also, common search terms returned far fewer results at Fotolia in comparison.
Fotolia started accepting contributions in November 2005. They initially incentivised contributions by paying $0.20 for each accepted photo. They overtook iStockphoto and ShutterStock in total image figures in July 2006, being the first to pass the 1 million milestone.
Searches for popular keywords at Fotolia (V1) did indeed return significantly lower numbers of photos than their competitors. However, search terms that were not so popular resulted in less distinctive results.
Prior to the V2 upgrade the website reported over 3.3 million images online. Fotolia announced that the V2 upgrade would involve removing images over 18 months old that had not yet been sold.
After the V2 website was launched, Fotolia’s front page reported 1.9 million images.
The statistic on the Fotolia website represents the number of images available to purchase. It does not include deleted, free, or rejected images.
Prior to the V2 upgrade, Fotolia programmed their search results to include only the most relevant results from their database. This was an intentional solution to limit the load on their servers, something the V2 upgrade has addressed. Subsequently, the same searches performed now with V2 provide more results.
Search engines are vital competitive parts of microstock websites, and they’re all complex and diverse. The results from identical searches with different search engines will always provide different results. Fotolia’s V1 search engine provided different result to what it’s V2 engine does now.
The conclusion is that there’s a logical explanation for the figures at Fotolia, but previous and current. It was high before V2, but during the upgrade they removed a lot of old non-performing images as part of a quality over quantity strategy. Fotolia no longer have the largest portfolio of all the top microstock agencies.
The controversy was based on solid evidence, though digging a little deeper it turns out things are more complicated and the evidence has a logical explanation. Everything with the Fotolia numbers is above board. And that’s good to know.
Further Analysis: Andy Goetze at StockPhotoTalk