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?
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:
- Questions such as “Is anybody else seeing a huge rise in sales at Fotolia this month?” will become “I see I’m doing better than everybody else at Fotolia this month. Why?”.
- “Has anyone else noticed an upsurge in BSP downloads over the last week or two?” will become “Look at the rise in downloads at BSP over the last two weeks! Could that be due to…”.
- Questions such as “Where did the StockXpert buyers go” will have a lot more input.
Microstock 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?