Envato Enters Microstock with PhotoDune

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PhotoDune logoExperienced digital product marketplace providers, Envato, have just launched their own microstock agency, PhotoDune. This new agency has the best chance of joining the top microstock agencies than any other entrant in the past six years. I’m very excited about PhotoDune. Read on to find out why.

When is a Microstock Startup Not a Microstock Startup?

Envato is an Australian company with the mission of helping people earn and learn online. They achieve this by creating marketplaces for digital content, which they’ve been doing successfully since 2006. You’re likely already familiar with some of their marketplaces and other online properties.

PhotoDune is a new microstock agency, but the company behind it, Envato, is well established established and far from a ‘startup’.

Progress So Far

Envato has refined the process of creation and launch for new marketplaces. They’ve previously launched a new marketplace in just two days! That’s from idea through to live, fully functional website. However, they knew it would be different with microstock photography, so they’ve invested a LOT more than two days with PhotoDune.

The site has been in beta since June, open only to existing Envato marketplce account holders – members of any of their other marketplaces. They used this time to directly recruit top performing microstock contributors to seed the collection, launching with over 200,000 photos!

They’ve also taken a lot of feedback, refining the submission process and search facility and generally adapting their site and business to photography.

As of Monday the website is open to anyone – new contributors and new customers.

What Chance to They Have?

As the microstock contributor community collectively rolls our eyes at yet another new microstock agency, there’s actually some major reasons why PhotoDune is different.

While ‘being different‘ is something we contributors are often seeking in a new startup, Envato has something which makes up for not being the next revolutionary idea in stock photography. Leverage!

Let’s take a look at how Envato will leverage their existing assets to raise themselves above the average new entrant in microstock:

  • Buyers! Envato’s marketplaces have, collectively, over 800,000 members, many (perhaps most) of whom are buyers of digital properties such as designers, web developers, and bloggers. PhotoDune won’t be building a buyer base from scratch, which is one of the most difficult and resource draining tasks of new microstock agencies.
  • Traffic. Envato’s marketplaces are all linked together, allowing customers to flow from one media type to another. A blogger who buys a template from ThemeForest can now easily click through to PhotoDune to buy photos to use with the template, all on the same account. The same can happen for designers buying any of Envato’s various media types.   Not to mention their Tuts+ tutorial traffic, FreelanceSwitch readers and buyers of Rockable Press books.
  • Experience. Running multiple very popular online marketplaces is great training for running a successful microstock agency. Envato won’t be grappling with server resource issues, payment security problems or customer service process breakdowns.   They’ve already handled these things, many times.
  • Money. Startups can grow organically without funding, but it’s slow, painful and often produces compromises and inefficiencies. Being funding overcomes all that, but then the startup must reach profitability before the funding runs out. Envato not only leverages their existing infrastructure, code and workforce, but they have a profitable business behind PhotoDune to keep it going, and growing for an indefinite period of time.

Contribute, or Not?

Some of the top microstockers recruited during the beta period have already earned hundreds of dollars in royalties from PhotoDune, with the top earner over $1,000. Others have earned less but are still amazed that a startup microstock agency can produce such instant results, especially before the site is open to the public!

Royalties are 25%. This is not good news, but a refreshing alternative from the new agencies which pay 70% royalties and have no money left over to grow, or even maintain, the business. That being said, 50% – 70% royalties are available for exclusive files, though exclusivity with a startup microstock agency is too risky for any serious microstocker. These rates are brought over from Envato’s other marketplaces where exclusivity is a much more viable proposition, and is obviously highly encouraged by Envato.

As in previous years, Envato is doing a birthday promotion where all contributors earn 70% royalty for five days, followed by a cut-price bundle of products for customers. If you’ve already got your content online, or can get it up quick, you stand to almost triple your royalty for the week starting August 15th.

Prices are also quite low for many contributors’ preferences, not wanting to undercut more lucrative sales at other agencies. This hasn’t prevented them from recruiting many of the most successful microstock photographers and illustrators.

The submission process is not perfect, but far from the laborious in comparison to many other agencies.   It has been refined from that of other Envato marketplaces and they continue working to make it as pain free as possible.

It’s obvious that PhotoDune is not just another startup microstock agency, nor just another Envato marketplace. The company has taken the time to understand microstock and build something that works. Given all this, it seems very likely that new contributors will generate a nice return on their time spent submitting.

Your Thoughts?

I’ve started a formal review of PhotoDune with more detail and analysis of it’s positive and negative aspects which I’ll publish soon, but I’d like to hear your initial thoughts on this not-so-typical new microstock agency.

Posted August 8th, 2011 by


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