25 Jun 2007 Corbis Enters Microstock with SnapVillage

SnapVillage - Corbis's Microstock WebsiteThe much anticipated offering to the microstock market from Corbis has arrived. SnapVillage launched today in beta form, otherwise known as content collection mode. This is the opportunity for SnapVillage to build its database of photos while taking feedback from the market.

I will create a formal review shortly – with leniency for beta status – but I wanted to share some of my initial impressions and some comments from other microstock blogs and forums.

Fast Details

This information applies to the beta version as at Monday July 25, 2007.

No application process, just submit. No FTP yet. No IPTC yet. Upload 5 at a time via form. Contributor can set sale price. Keywords etc optional. PayPal only. 30-45 day payment delay. Only US buyers during beta. No referral program yet.

Name

“Snapshot” is a word used by most microstock agencies to describe photos that are not commercial. It implies the photographs are unplanned. SnapVillage say the title was chosen specifically to describe the openness and fun, quick nature of the service.

Reach

SnapVillage is only selling images to customers in the USA while still in beta. This is something obviously very high on the priority list, and will limit their market substantially until they roll out other countries. Contributors can register from any country.

Design & Usability

The design is simple and tidy, and the site is easy to use. They’ve made good use of Ajax technology making the site fast and easy to use. They join Crestock as the only other top microstock website to use Active Server Pages technology, though this is no surprise given their owner.

Features

SnapVillage launched in beta mode seeking images and feedback. The feature set is subsequently light, but most of the standard features are on the way. They’ll be keeping contributors and customers informed via their blog.

Payout

Contributors will be happy with the low $10 payout threshold. Many contributors will be excluded for a time given the only payment method currently available is PayPal, which isn’t available in many countries.

Contributors will not be happy with the current payment delay. Payments are sent monthly, but there’s no problem with that. It’s working for ShutterStock. However, payments are sent at the end of each month for the preceding month. This means the money you earn in January will be paid to you on the 28th (or 29th) of February, with up to 15 days to arrive. This is one of the aspects about which SnapVillage are seeking feedback, and I’m sure it’ll be forthcoming!

Uploading

The most exciting thing about uploading at SnapVillage is that keywording, titling and describing are optional! The SnapVillage reviewers will do all the work for you if you leave the details blank.

HTML form is the only current upload method, and only five images may be uploaded at a time. FTP is in the works and again, updates on expected delivery will be on the SnapVillage blog.

IPTC data cannot be read from images yet.

Pricing

Contributors can set the price of their images at $1, $5, $10, $25 or $50. Subscriptions sales are optional per image.

My Thoughts

SnapVillage launched without a populated database. This seems odd given it’s Corbis, but they responded to this saying it’s part of the openness of their model.

Like most new microstock websites SnapVillage are keen to develop community. The functionality will need to roll out fast in order to achieve this. iStockphoto seem the only microstock website to successfully create community within their user base so far, and they have a long list of features to cause the community.

Think Fresh. Perhaps it’s too early to judge, but there’s only a short list of “fresh” aspects of SnapVillage. Their “one-of-a-kind pick your own pricing scheme” is similar to the Fotolia price control and LuckyOliver’s “midstock sideshow” concepts.

My Initial Verdict

Expectation for this website has been high. A launch in beta mode seems a smart move in order to build contributor and image numbers and also gain valuable feedback from the market. The lack of functionality won’t stop them from functioning altogether, but it will turn away a lot of contributors who may take a long time to re-assess.

Most contributors are understanding. They’ve proven their willingness to support a new microstock website by contributing when it’s obvious there aren’t yet any buyers. This willingness seems, from my view, to be directly proportional to how easy the microstock agency has made the contribution process. Or in some cases what financial incentives they’ve offered.

By doing the describing and keywording themselves, SnapVillage have made contributing easier. However, this won’t help them build toward critical mass. Established microstockers already have their descriptions and keywords in the IPTC data, so this represents no benefit.

Corbis may reach critical mass over time, but they’ll only do it on the back of the Corbis brand and their marketing budget. The current contributor-facing strategy won’t do it for them.

Despite that, I plan to upload my portfolio.

4 Comments
  • Bryan Zmijewski
    Posted at 14:30h, 25 June Reply

    Boy your quick Lee 🙂 A couple thoughts on this piece.

    1. I’m interested to know if you feel they’re positioned as a midstock or microstock company?

    2. “Like most new microstock websites SnapVillage are keen to develop community. The functionality will need to roll out fast in order to achieve this. iStockphoto seem the only to successfully create community within their user base so far”

    You might take a look at our community- for a new site we have a pretty active group of people sharing ideas. Our forum was made from scratch…and built into the site.

    3. What is a beta? 🙂
    http://gettingreal.37signals.com/ch15_Better_Not_Beta.php
    Just trying to start some fire!

  • Lee Torrens
    Posted at 15:08h, 25 June Reply

    Hi Bryan,

    Yep, I try to be quick. It’s a fast moving industry, this one!

    1. Like many of your competitors Bryan, I think they’re aiming to be both. Making images available for subscription sales is optional at SnapVillage, so contributors can set their images to $50 and be square in the “midstock” range.

    2. People talking to each other doesn’t make a community. Nor is it the extensive list of inter-communication oriented features.

    3. Indeed! While you’re at it you should tell Google. Gmail is still in beta. I suspect they’re saying, “don’t hold us accountable for anything that goes wrong, it’s still in beta”!
    Fan those flames!

  • laurent
    Posted at 15:45h, 25 June Reply

    Hi Lee,

    Thanks for your quick review I am not sure how snapvillage will grow but it will be interested to watch. I uploaded some pics today and my first one has been approved. I am not sure I will let them put keywords and description, the photographer should be the better person to do it …

  • Lee Torrens
    Posted at 17:04h, 25 June Reply

    Laurent,

    People like you and me testing them out should be enough to get them started.

    Agreed. For many images the photographer is in a better position to describe and keyword. I must admit that I can’t wait to see what they come up with for the no-IPTC images I uploaded.

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