12 Mar 2010 Introducing Microstock Charts – Earnings Tracking with Benefits

In my November earnings report last year I wrote that it would be my last. I said I’d be “taking it to a whole new level” the following month. Finally, now in March, I’m ready to fulfill on that promise. Together with Amos Struck, my business partner on various other projects, we are very pleased to finally introduce Microstock Charts.

What Is It?

Microstock Charts screenshot

The basic idea is to provide a free and useful website where you, microstock contributors, can track and benchmark your earnings data and other vital metrics. As the name of the site implies, the data is all shown in charts.

One of the primary functions of the site – one which we haven’t activated yet – is benchmarking. This will allow you to see how your metrics compare to other microstockers. More on benchmarking below.

We’ll also publish a page showing the real-time charts for the combined and anonymous data from all trusted accounts. With these charts you’ll be able to get an insight into which agencies are up or down this month and which agencies are as profitable as they claim.

What Are the Benefits?

Many serious microstock contributors monitor their metrics in a spreadsheet. Microstock Charts is, at the moment, a poor comparison to that method. However, our aim is to make it so easy and useful that you’ll eventually want to abandon your spreadsheet in favor of this tool.

The benchmarking will highlight opportunities for you to earn more:

  • If the benchmarks show you’re earning around average for all but one particular agency, you’ll see it and be able to look into the cause of your under-performance at that agency.
  • If you update keywords or make a pricing change at one agency, you won’t know if the effect on your performance is from the changes you made or from something else, like seasonal or agency changes. The benchmarking will show you what everyone else did in that month helping you isolate the effect of your changes.
  • You’ll be able to identify which agencies have a high earnings potential from the real data of other microstockers. You won’t have to rely on opinions or the promises of the agency marketing departments.

We also hope the public data will transform community conversations:

Microstock Charts privacy settingsMicrostock Charts is completely private by default. You can even register anonymously. However, if you like to share your data, there’s an option to publish your stats. You can even turn off the chart numbers to show trends without revealing amounts.

This is how I will be doing my earnings reports from now. Updated every time I check my stats and including all the data I have on record. Check it out here: www.microstockcharts.com/leetorrens

How Does it Work?

Manual Data Entry – Microstock Charts is currently completely manual so there’s no security worries and no nervous agencies. However, we do have plans to optionally let you piggyback services such as the picNiche toolbars and iSyndica to automate at least part of the data entry.

Key Metrics – The service currently supports recording earnings data, download quantities, portfolio size and sell-through rate. You can just record earnings if that’s all you’re interested in – the other metrics are optional.   The system provides charts for all those metrics, plus does simple calculations to generate charts for Return per Image (RPI) and Return per Download (RPD).

Benchmarking – The benchmarking will, when we sort out the bugs and turn it on, combine data from selected trusted accounts to produce anonymous totals for earnings, portfolio size and downloads. Sell-through rate, RPI and RPD will be averaged.

Trusted Accounts – We’ve pulled in a lot of favors to get lots of microstock contributors we know to have their accounts marked as trusted so their data is included in the benchmark. There’s a large range of portfolio size and success (earnings) among the trusted accounts, and close to 40,000 photos in total to ensure a meaningful sample size.

Ad & Referral Supported – In order to keep the service free, we’ve included referral links and advertising on the public pages. (interested advertisers can contact me directly) Our plan is to reinvest the profits to improve the service, assuming we eventually recover our initial investment.

A Long Way to Go

As I said in the opening, we’re not overly proud of the site’s current appearance and limited functionality. By launching into public beta now, we’re hoping to get valuable feedback about what you want from this service and to start generating some revenue to fund improvements.

You can see our current list of ideas in our UserVoice feedback forum, but some of the bigger ones include:

  • Turn on the benchmarking
  • Publish the combined and anonymous statistics of the trusted accounts
  • Enable importing agency CSV data files and from the picNiche toolbars and iSyndica
  • Separate charts for different file types (photo, illustration, video, audio) and referral earnings
  • ‘Social’ enhancements to the profile pages of those who publish their earnings

Let us know which functionality is most important to you by voting in the UserVoice feedback forum.

We’ve also arranged a special board on the Microstock Group forum to make announcements and respond to feedback. Head over there if you’ve got something to say beyond your UserVoice votes.

What Do You Think?

Amos and I will follow the MSG forum and the comments below closely. We’d love to get your feedback on this project.   Do you see yourself using the service?   What would you like to see to make it better for you?

  • R. Kneschke
    Posted at 10:11h, 12 March Reply

    Great tool. I am looking forward to see it in action by a significant number of photographers…

  • hfng
    Posted at 10:37h, 12 March Reply

    This really looks like an interesting tool to have. But did you delete all your images? If I click on your stats > Portfolio Size, march says 0.

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 12:31h, 12 March Reply

      I haven’t input the data for March yet. Will do that now. Thanks.

  • Jan
    Posted at 12:23h, 12 March Reply

    Wow, this is something really cool! Great idea!

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 12:32h, 12 March Reply

      Thanks Jan, we thought so too. The idea is always the easy part. The execution of it is the challenge.

  • mystockphoto
    Posted at 12:38h, 12 March Reply

    Hi Lee,
    I hope the project could grow and become the reference for all the microstockers that like to track their data. It has a good start level but keep on developing… the list coming from the first feedback is compelling 😉

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 13:05h, 12 March Reply

      Thanks Roberto, we’re very encouraged by the feedback.

  • Vitezslav Valka
    Posted at 12:44h, 12 March Reply

    Nice tool Indeed.

    I see this benefits:
    – photographers will see a much better picture of their sales
    – agencies revenue structure will show up perfectly with the tool

    And challenges:
    – how to track re-sold images (eg. when Pixmac makes significant sales at Fotolia or Dreamstime)
    – what about tracking regular sales and extended licenses separately?
    – what about tracking countries (contributors, buyers) ?

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 13:14h, 12 March Reply

      Hey Vite, thanks.

      Regarding re-sold images, I think it’s logical that Pixmac partner sales are attributed to the original agency. Pixmac found the customer, but Dreamstime or Fotolia provided the image and that’s where the revenue shows up for us. They built their partner programs so ‘they’ could sell our images at a variety of places, so it makes sense that they get the credit for it.

      Tracking extended licenses separately is an interesting idea. I don’t know anyone who does this and I can’t see an immediate benefit, but feel free to suggest it in the Feedback Forum and we’ll see if it becomes a popular request.

      I don’t think tracking countries for either contributors or buyers is what this service is about. We specifically allow people to register anonymously and depending on which service they use, we may not even get their email address, let alone their country. Still, never say never – maybe things will move in this direction in the future.

      Thanks for your comments.

  • studio54
    Posted at 13:40h, 12 March Reply

    Would i be correct in saying that this tool (which sounds excellent) will be a real use for microstockers that have a certain continuity in uploading and a serious download flow, at least 20-40/month from each top 5 microstock sites.

  • Rahul Pathak
    Posted at 15:12h, 12 March Reply

    Congrats on the launch, Lee & Amos. Develop microstock charts team! Develop!! 😉

  • CandyBox Photo
    Posted at 19:19h, 12 March Reply

    Lee Do I have a “déjà vu” 😉 Did not tell anyone!
    Well great again…
    Talk the talk but Lee also Walk the walk…


  • David
    Posted at 01:34h, 14 March Reply

    This has potential! serious potential. I hope to see this grow into a powerhouse tool for microstock photographers everywhere! Keep it up fellas, this has me intrigued!


  • Andresr
    Posted at 01:41h, 14 March Reply

    Absolutely awesome, I like it!

  • Ann
    Posted at 18:35h, 19 March Reply

    Very cool, Lee. I’ve spread the word to thelooneybinforum.com – with link to my charts (which are public, but without specific numbers). Option to choose degree of privacy is very useful.

    This will make it even easier to decide which sites are worth continuing relationship with, and more. Good luck and thanks!

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 18:53h, 19 March Reply

      Thanks Ann, I appreciate your support. The ability to adjust the degree of privacy was actually one of the first ideas submitted via the Feedback Forum, so it was included at launch. I hope it proves very useful for everyone.

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