30 Oct 2015 iStock Raises Royalties For New Small Subscriptions

iStock has announced an increase in per-download royalties for their recently launched small monthly subscriptions. The 10 and 25 downloads limit subscriptions were introduced at the end of August for market testing, and the company reports the products have been successful and will now be part of their permanent offer.

Contributors were receiving the same royalties as for the regular subscription, but from today they’ll now receive an increase, as well as back-pay to make up the difference for previous sales.

The New Royalties

The small monthly downloads introduced in August 25th allow customers to download 10 or 25 images per month from each of their two collections. Prices start at $40 for 10 images in Essentials collection, and $99 for 10 Signature images.

The new fixed, per-download royalty rate for this offer is comparatively higher than the regular subscription schedule that applied until now:

  • Non-Exclusive downloads: $1, previously $0.28
  • Exclusive Essentials downloads: $1.25, previously $0.34
  • Exclusive Signature downloads: $2.50, previously $0.75
  • Exclusive Signature+ downloads: $3.00, previously $2.50

However, against credit sale prices –which may decline now with the new subscriptions becoming available to all–  this potentially represents a cut in contributors’ revenue.

In the current user interface, these sales will for now be reported in two separate areas: the regular subscription rates will still appear in the stats, while the difference between these and the new rates will be disclosed as an admin adjustment reported in contributor’s CSV download file.

A Much Needed Move

iStock’s smaller subscriptions were introduced as a test at the end of August, shortly after Adobe announced their subscription products in June, which included the same 10 images per month package.  These subscriptions will appeal to subscribers who don’t need 750 images a month and would like a cheaper option than the $250 product offered by all the big microstock agencies.

Shutterstock is still yet to introduce a subscription at this size, likely concerned too many of their customers would take it up and drive revenue down, given that product is their most popular.

The company has been reaching out to some (perhaps a lot) of its existing contributors lately asking them to upload more of the images that they’re uploading to other agencies. Presumably they’ve noticed that they’re not getting the same quantity or quality of content.

iStock is both losing a lot of exclusive contributors, and seeing a gap in new submissions from non-exclusives compared to Shutterstock and Adobe.  With diminishing sales, contributors are finding it difficult to justify working through iStock’s submission process – the most laborious one in the industry.

There’s lots of pressure on iStock now from Shutterstock who have fuelled a large part of their growth over the past few years by stealing market share from both iStock and parent Getty Images. And now the $43Billion giant, Adobe, has integrated Fotolia into the apps that almost all of the world’s designers use, compounding the pressure. iStock is struggling to remain relevant to contributors and attract the best content, in stark comparison to years gone by.

The increased royalties for these small subscriptions will certainly help increase royalty levels and encourage more uploads, but not as much as making their upload process easier would do.  Let’s watch for movement in that space.



  • Alex Belomlinsky
    Posted at 19:49h, 30 October Reply

    I am curious to see how this will play out.

  • Sherry Young
    Posted at 19:57h, 30 October Reply

    15% commission and the most awkward, tedious submission process in the industry. Why would any independent with good, in-demand content upload to them? IStock is quickly becoming irrelevant.

  • Alex Belomlinsky
    Posted at 21:44h, 30 October Reply

    I am sticking w istock exclusivity for the time being. Transferring over my entire body of work to multiple agencies would be a huge undertaking.

    I agree that the upload process can be simpler. istock has gone through a number of changes to their business model and to the user experience and I feel they are better positioned now compared to a year ago.

  • MediaMakerTips
    Posted at 17:13h, 03 November Reply

    At last! iStock start doing right steps. But, most probably, this only one plan is not enough to be closer to fair commissions for contributors like on Pond5. I wish there will be more such right decisions by iStock 🙂

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