25 Aug 2009 iSyndica – The Ultimate Microstock Utility
iSyndica burst onto the microstock scene earlier this year with a bold promise of making it easier for photographers, illustrators and videographers to distribute their content to multiple microstock agencies. After just a few short months they’re already achieving that promise.
How it Works
When iSyndica first launched, their service simply provided a faster way to upload photos to many different microstock agencies. You could upload your photos once to iSyndica and they would then send them to various agencies of your choice.
In the short time since their launch, they’ve built some very appealing functionality on top of that basic service:
- The service now includes persistent storage, acting as an online backup
- It also supports video files and illustrations
- They’ve extended the quantity of agencies supported by the service to 22
- The system collects sales data from all active channels and presents it in customizable charts
iSyndica is a subscription service, so you pay a monthly fee. There are five different subscription levels starting with a very basic free option to try out the service. The paid subscription plans start at $4.99 per month and go up to a $39.99. The higher plans have more functionality, more storage and more upload credits.
The $4.99 plan is suitable for most hobbyist microstockers. It provides access to the analytics, two custom FTP channels, earnings reporting, 5GB of storage and 200 upload credits per month. The largest plan is more suitable for high volume producers with 20 custom FTP channels, 140GB of storage and 1,200 monthly credits.
If you don’t need the functionality of the higher plans, extra upload credits can be purchased for $0.01 each. These credits never expire and are only used after your monthly allocation has run out.
Is the Service Suitable for Me?
Any microstocker who produces 20 or more new images each month and supplies more than one agency would benefit from the service. Whether the convenience covers the cost will depend on the individual circumstances of the contributor. However, with the lowest entry subscription costing only $4.99 per month, it’s likely to be an attractive deal for almost all active microstockers.
For large-volume microstock producers, the actual uploading of files isn’t a major hurdle. The process takes a long time, but can easily be automated with standard FTP tools. For these microstockers, the biggest hurdle is the submission process which cannot be automated and is – at most of the top microstock agencies – a repetitive process. iSyndica has plans to help with this too, though there are some technical hurdles which cannot be gracefully overcome with cooperation from agencies, but that’s another topic entirely.
What’s Cool About iSyndica?
Design and User Interface – the iSyndica website is a modern and slick, web2.0 style with everything where you’d expect to find it, making the system easy to use. If photographers are going to spend time on the iSyndica website instead of their FTP client, it’s no small detail that the interface is graceful and logically arranged.
Cloud Based – a photo portfolio is an ideal candidate for online storage, especially when it’s in a system that makes it super-easy to distribute. Once it’s in the cloud you never need to upload it again (in theory). Plus it provides a cost-effective and cheap backup. A cloud based service is also able to adapt more rapidly than a software application when an agency changes how their system works.
Open – iSyndica is technically modern in more than just design. Appreciating the secure open web, the team has already implemented third-party login support. This means you can login with an existing account from Google, Twitter, Facebook, AOL, Yahoo or Flickr.
They also have plans for an API which will allow lots of useful tools to be built to interact with the system. This may include uploading files to iSyndica from within your desktop application, connecting with photo retouching and/or keywording services, and mobile phone apps to upload and visualize content.
Earnings Charts – as the basis for lots of cool analytics, iSyndica extracts sales and earnings data from your microstock agency accounts and presents it in some very nice looking charts. Right now this is a cool and useful service, but we can expect to see some valuable information coming out of these analytics tools in the not-too-distant future.
Affiliate Program – this simple program allows you to earn credits by referring new customers to iSyndica. You get a bonus payment of 25 credits every time someone registers, even for the free account. You get assigned more credits if they subscribe and again when they renew, and the quantity of credits you earn rises as you refer more and more customers.
PayPal Payment – as most microstockers receive their commissions via PayPal, it makes sense for iSyndica to allow them to pay with the same facility. If PayPal isn’t for you, there’s also an option to pay by credit card.
UserVoice Feedback – you’ve likely seen the feedback buttons stuck to the left-most edge of many websites. The UserVoice feedback system is becoming a super-popular tool for companies to develop their system in line with feedback from their customers. Jump in and vote up the feature requests and bug fixes that mean the most to you. iSyndica has already used their UserVoice feedback to provide exactly what their customers wanted, including adding PayPal as a payment method and support for vector illustrations.
FireFox Stats – an add-on for the popular FireFox web browser connects to your iSyndica account to give you regular earnings updates direct to your browser. The data comes directly from iSyndica, so it works with all the agencies you’ve configured in your account.
Support for Lots of Agencies – at this time iSyndica can distribute photos to 22 pre-configured agencies, video to 7 and vector illustrations to 8. There’s also custom FTP channels so you can distribute files to agencies or outlets that aren’t pre-configured. While few microstockers will want to use them all, it’s great to have so much choice.
Social Media Distribution – this functionality is not quite live yet, but iSyndica will shortly be adding Flickr, Facebook, Picasa and Twitpic for photos, and YouTube, BlipTV, Vimeo and Viddler for video distribution. This will help microstockers promote and share their content.
What’s Not Cool About iSyndica?
The iSyndica mission is not an easy one, so there’s bound to be some compromises. These are two that big hurdles that iSyndica are still to overcome:
No Shutterstock or iStockphoto – due to technical differences in the way these two agencies work, it’s not as simple to connect them into the iSyndica system. The iSyndica team know there’s a lot of demand for their system to support these two popular agencies. They’re working to come up with a solution that meets their requirements. Shutterstock can be added as a custom FTP channel for distribution, but it won’t be included in the earnings reports.
Security – there’s no escaping the fact that there’s a risk element whenever you need to provide your login credentials to a third party. Agencies don’t like it because it raises security issues for them. Many contributors don’t like it because their risk threshold is just too low. And because these two groups don’t like it, the third party service providers don’t like it either. Until technology solutions that enable interactivity in a risk free manner, we either manage the risk through security (which iSyndica does well) or go without the benefit of the services.
I haven’t uploaded any new content this year, but there’s another use I have in mind for iSyndica. My microstock portfolios are all at different levels. iSyndica seems to me like a great tool to simplify the process of synchronizing my portfolios. At the same time there’s some new agencies that I’d like to try out. Once I have my entire portfolio uploaded to iSyndica it will be very simple to push my portfolio out to these new agencies.
I also hope to resume creating stock photos at some point. When that happens I can see iSyndica as an appealing solution to save time and effort with uploading. But what is even more appealing to me is the direction that the iSyndica team are taking the service. They’ve built a lot of useful functionality in a short time, so I have high expectations for what’s to come.
Check out iSyndica for yourself.