29 Jul 2007 How to Create a Microstock Agency – Part 3

Update January 2011 “ this blog post is now quite dated. If you’re interested in the business of microstock agencies take a look at my industry report which covers all aspects of the industry from the agency perspective.

This is part 3 in a series of posts about ‘how to create a microstock agency’. In part 1 we looked at why so many new microstock agencies appear, the microstock catch-22, and other hurdles. In part 2 we looked at the creative strategies employed by the existing microstock agencies to overcome these hurdles, successful or otherwise.

Here in part 3 we take a look at some other lessons from the market, in particular strategies and mistakes to avoid.

Launching Before you’re Ready

If overcoming the microstock catch-22 and reaching critical mass is the greatest hurdle in creating a successful and competitive microstock agency, then you don’t want to launch your website until it’s ready.

Here are some of the ways recently launched microstock agencies have launched before they’re ready:

  • No FTP upload facility
  • No IPTC data
  • Unable to transact in all geographical regions
  • Insufficient resources to review submissions in a reasonable time

Here’s some of the reasons you don’t want to launch until you website is ready:

  • It kills confidence in your management and harms your brand
  • Contributors are frustrated and most will wait until you make interacting simple
  • Low contributor confidence makes it difficult to build your portfolio

SnapVillage are a recent example of an agency that launched before they were ready. Most of the contributors I speak to and read are holding back from contributing to SnapVillage until they get their website up to standard. Many say they’ll wait even longer until they can prove themselves capable of generating sales.

False Reviews

Many owners of new microstock agencies jump into forums and blog comments and write glowing reviews of their own websites. They don’t do so as themselves, rather they pretend to be a satisfied contributor or buyer.

These reviews are easily identified by most contributors. Websites give away a lot about the investment behind them and their popularity.

Exposed as a spammer, you’ll quickly lose all credibility in the market. Contributors communicate with each other frequently, so living down your deceptive marketing will take a long time.

This tactic is adopted at a surprisingly frequent rate, always by new and small agencies created with limited budgets.

False Numbers

There has been a lot of interest in microstock agency portfolio sizes lately, including a lot of controversy. An agency can appear bigger and more successful than it is by publishing inflated portfolio statistics. However, if the statistics are met with suspicion or speculation the tactic backfires.

Agencies seen to be dishonest lose a lot of credibility with contributors and buyers alike. Contributors can tell which agencies are performing by their earnings and those of other contributors. While contributors upload images to agencies that generate earnings, they also support the agencies they like with

Fotolia has suffered a lot of controversy with their portfolio size recently. Whether their figures are true or false, they haven’t managed public perception effectively. Many contributors have lost respect for Fotolia and the skepticism persists.

Conclusion – It’s a Serious Business

If there’s one thing I’ve concluded by watching the microstock market it’s that creating a microstock agency is a serious business. Many people underestimate what’s involved and think that just being in the market will generate profits. Microstock is well beyond that point, and without plentiful creativity and differentiation you’ll never get enough attention to provide any real success.

2 Comments
  • Thomas
    Posted at 11:41h, 30 July Reply

    Oh, just kidding – is there any open source package to start my own a microstock website?
    It would be interesting to have a look at the backends of the various websites.

  • john
    Posted at 17:05h, 08 August Reply

    I think the technology is less important then the content and the type of content that you choose. Matching the buyers with the sellers is a tricky little tight rope act. It is definitely not a “if you build it..they will come” type scenario. It takes a lot of hard work to build up quality content and satisfy customers. But honesty has to be above everything else. If you wouldn’t want your parents reading about it on the cover of the Wall Street Journal then don’t engage in it. Period.

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