16 May 2011 How High Quality Microstock Contributors are Boosting Revenues with SuperStock
Have you heard of SuperStock?
They’re a big traditional stock photo agency. They compete for the same professional photo buyer clients as the big boys. They also distribute content to over 100 other agencies in the traditional market.
Under the previous owners the company went bankrupt a few years ago, but the assets were bought out by a new company formed by Rubberball, Glow Images and Blend Images. Management of SuperStock is now in the capable hands of Lanny Ziering, an experienced agency manager and a stock photographer himself.
But What are They Doing in Microstock?
SuperStock have created a new collection, called SuperFusion. It’s made up of the top non-exclusive microstock contributor portfolios. SuperFusion is priced at $19 for small size up to $99 for full resolution – effectively “midstock” prices.
It’s sold on the SuperStock website with the backing of SuperStock’s US and UK sales offices. It’s also distributed to most of SuperStock’s 100+ distribution partners. I say “most” because some distribution partners own microstock agencies and so will not take up the collection.
As you can imagine, that adds up to substantial distribution and considerable extra revenue for the participating microstockers.
I’ve been working with SuperStock to identify and recruit the top non-exclusive microstockers on a referral basis. It’s a manual version of the affiliate programs at most microstock agencies.
It hasn’t been difficult getting top microstock contributors to participate. The offer is appealing and there’s very little work required on their part. So far nobody has declined.
Consistent and high quality content is the first criteria. This is evaluated based on sales performance at microstock agencies, which is how we’ve identified those we’ve invited so far. The SuperFusion collection is put in front of professional photo buyers, so needs to have a high level of quality.
Beyond that, all you’ll need is a release matching spreadsheet. Existing portfolios are submitted by posting in a hard drive or DVDs. Once they’re online, contributors get an FTP account to submit their new content.
There’s a contract and a tax form to sign, which is nothing new to microstockers. But that’s it. Overall it’s a simple and easy process.
How is it Going?
The collection has only recently launched so it’s still too early to tell exactly how well it will perform, but contributors are already receiving payments. One of the reasons it takes time to get going is the distribution. The content is sent out to the distribution partners and they have to then get the content online within their own systems.
Another reason it’s taking time is SuperStock’s new technology provider still hasn’t delivered the new platform that was due last September! As you can imagine, running a large business on a system you expected to be replaced eight months prior creates some major problems. The SuperFusion collection was due to be launched on the new system back in September, so SuperStock have had to manually put the collection online with the old system in order to fulfill the promise to contributors. That takes a lot of people, time and money and is not easy to manage.
It’s been a rough road with the ongoing delays, but it’s now working and the sales are starting to come through. With the weight of SuperStock’s direct sales and the extra distributors, it’s a very promising opportunity.
Why Would a Buyer Pay Midstock Prices for Microstock Photos?
This question is likely the reason that distribution of microstock content into the traditional stock photo market has taken so long to come about.
But it turns out that professional photo buyers – the kind that shop at traditional stock agencies like SuperStock – are more interested in convenience than price.
Many cite the time saving of being able to buy all the licenses they need at the one provider. Others like using a search facility they already know. And others say they like to pay by invoice with the service provider who’s already approved by their management and setup in their accounting system.
Whatever the reasons, the fact that the collection is selling despite being openly branded as ‘the cream of microstock’ indicates that buyers are comfortable paying more for the other benefits.
It’s all About Distribution
SuperFusion is one example of the funky distribution going on in our industry. It’s becoming more and more vital for non-exclusive contributors to intelligently manage their distribution in order to maximize revenue and get their photos in front of as many buyers as possible.