26 Apr 2011 My Experience Publishing an Industry Research Report

A few months ago I published my first paid information product. It’s an industry research report aimed at agencies and other businesses within the industry. I didn’t write a blog post about it at the time given I know my readership to be primarily microstock contributors. Since then, many people have questioned this decision and encouraged me to post about it, saying it isn’t only contributors who read this blog.

So, bowing to the collective intelligence of my friends and contacts in the industry, and honoring the ‘diaries’ part of this blog’s title as an ongoing account of my experiences in the industry, this is my belated blog post about the Microstock Agency Research Report.

About the Report

Microstock Agency Research Report coverYou can read all about the report and download a free Table of Contents on the sales page. But basically, it’s a 100 page report detailing the operational and business aspects of microstock agencies.

I wrote the report with two key target markets in mind:

  1. New microstock agencies who typically make a lot of easily avoidable mistakes when they’re getting started
  2. Traditional stock photo agencies many of which seem to have been misled about how microstock agencies work

As you’ll read below, those two target markets didn’t turn out as expected.


Overall there has been much less critical feedback than I expected, though a few customers have made up for that by supplying feedback in high volumes.

While not as helpful as feedback but just as welcome, I’ve received a lot of praise. Beyond those I used as testimonials on the sales page, the best praise I received was from a company who delayed the launch of their new microstock agency after reading the report. The content of the report helped them see that they weren’t as ready as they thought. That is exactly the intention of the report and great for my confidence in the product.


Something was off with either my expectations of how the report would sell or my marketing, or both.

Smaller and newer microstock agencies were a primary target market, yet have been slow to purchase. Three of them purchased right away, but given the total number of microstock agencies out there they have not proved a lucrative sector as I had hoped.   Many objected to the price which is not totally unexpected.

Smaller traditional stock photo agencies were the other primary target but only a handful have purchased. It’s more difficult to market to this group given the context of microstock. I’m also less familiar with this group, and they are presumably less familiar with me.

I didn’t expect any of the top microstock agencies to purchase the report, yet all but one of them have. Two purchased on the first day.

Almost all top traditional stock photo agencies – most of which already own or run microstock agencies – have also purchased the report. Again, this was unexpected.

Industry service providers and VCs or private investment firms were surprise groups, purchasing enthusiastically.

Total sales volumes so far have been lower than I expected. I attribute this to the small size of the groups which have purchased compared to the size of the target groups which been slow to purchase.

Pricing was obviously a significant factor too. The groups that have purchased quickly have more cash on hand than the slower-purchasing groups. In addition to taking external advice, I priced the report based on the target market being very small but willing to invest funds in something which would save them a lot of research time. Additionally, I hoped the market would appreciate something that’s entirely fact based, helping them see through the many persistent misconceptions about the microstock market.

My market size estimations proved accurate, but my expectations about the price sensitivity of the two target markets were not.

Version 1.1

I’ve just published the first update, version 1.1.   It’s free for everybody who has already purchased a copy, as are all future updates.

The new version contains over 10 pages of additional content.   I added content to meet many of the specific requests for information that came via the feedback, though there’s even more still on the list for the following version. All the statistics in the report were brought up to date and the content is updated to reflect all changes in the industry since version 1.0 was published.

I also included a handy index of what’s new in this version to aid those who’ve already read it.

Along with the release of version 1.1 comes an increase in the price. This is also based on direct customer feedback.

What I’ve Learned

While perhaps not the most valuable of insights, it has been fun to see who purchased, who didn’t, who purchased quickly, and who hesitated or   requested a discount.

When considering why feedback has been so limited, I realized that most who did provide feedback were not competing directly in the market, either because they were service providers or not yet active as a microstock agency.

I also learned a great deal in the conversations with agency bosses who didn’t purchase. They told me what information they wanted to see in the report, most of which was – not surprisingly – information that they couldn’t easily collect themselves. I researched some of those topics.   Many made it to version 1.1 while others are still on the list for 1.2.

My favorite lesson has been how the report acts as a filter for the business contacts I receive via this blog. In the past it’s been difficult to separate the serious entrepreneurs from the tire kickers. I now have a simple qualification method.

Overall, publishing the Microstock Agency Research Report may not have been a runaway financial success yet, but just like this blog, many great benefits and opportunities have come indirectly.

  • DonS
    Posted at 17:44h, 27 April Reply

    Just wondering how to interpret this.

    You said you were going to start producing more micrsotock content: did that happen? Or have you moved away from producing content to other revenue streams within the industry, and if so, what message does that send to microstock content producers?

    And in a similar vein after the much vaunted launch of Jack Hollingsworth’s foray into microstock are you going to follow up on that at all (or did I miss it)? Looks like he has around a 1000 images online at some sites, but dls aren’t particularly impressive. To my eye the portfolio looks a bit noughties micro?

  • Lee Torrens
    Posted at 04:09h, 28 April Reply

    Hey Don, no interpretation necessary. It is what it is, clear and open. 🙂

    My plans to produce more microstock are very much still alive. I’d like to believe that I would have started by now had I not been away from home for the past three months. At the same time, I’ve obviously been developing new revenue streams within the industry, as you say. This report is one of two such distractions. I’m a diagnosed new project addict. Focus has never been one of my strengths, nor has long term motivation. Outside my marriage, Microstock Diaries is the longest project I’ve maintained since the project of high school!

    There’s no intentional message to microstock contributors in my not producing new content lately. My plans involve me doing it on a much more serious and “professional” level to what I’ve done previously. That obviously takes some preparation, and I’ve distracted myself with becoming a father, moving home and lots of industry events in the mean time. The production will come, and there’ll be some definite messages in what and how I do it. Stay tuned.

    Regarding Jack Hollingsworth, you’re right, it’s been remiss of me to not write a followup post about it. The short version of the story was that there were major issues with the people preparing Jack’s content which made my submission work for Jack very difficult. The deal was also based on the assumption that Jack would continue producing content (higher production value content than the on-white stuff he started with), but Jack ended up going in a different direction for his own reasons. Poor earnings for the content he had in microstock was likely a factor, even though he was well briefed to have low expectations for that kind of content. In the end, Jack has sold that content and I’m no longer involved in its distribution. I lost money on the deal, but learned a lot from it. I will note that Jack was super considerate and professional about the whole thing, so there’s no hard feelings. I’m still a fan of his, and we’re still good friends. I’m not sure what will happen with his microstock content from now on. We’ll have to watch his accounts together to see what, if anything, happens.

    Thanks for your questions and interest. I hope that clears it up for you.


  • DonS
    Posted at 14:55h, 30 April Reply

    Lee, thanks for the comprehensive reply. Congratulations on fatherhood – 12 years of stock shooting opportunities ahead? Ellen B says they start to refuse at around 13 – hormones I guess.

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