25 Nov 2015 Could Sale at Point of Use be what Replaces Microstock Agencies?

Sale at the point of use is a key trend that the industry is watching closely.

Agencies are leaning heavily on API partnerships to get their images in front of photo buyers at the right time and the right place.  But as you’ll see, that’s no longer the only option.

The Music Industry

Those old enough to have purchased music at a physical store will better understand where this particular market trend is going. Even those who purchased music online in digital format from a dedicated music website will get it.

No longer do we go to eMusic.com, Rhapsody or Napster for digital purchases any more than we go to physical stores to buy CDs.

Most of us now buy our music through Apple, the company that makes our phones and computers –for Android users it’s Google Play–, because it’s those phones and computers where we store, stream, play and collect our music. Or it’s Spotify where we don’t even buy or store music, but rent it and stream it. But again, always on the phone, computer or TV where it will be used.

In media licensing, this trend means photo buyers are more keen on buying photos right within the platform they intend to use it, rather than downloading from an agency’s website and then importing the images.

Build or Buy

There are two major examples of companies who sell stock photo licenses at the point of use coming into the market over the past few years.  And neither of them chose microstock agency APIs as their solution.

The first example is Canva.

Rather than partnering with an existing agency and getting instant access to a great stock photo collection, at Canva we built our own from scratch.  And it was easy and fast, thanks to a lot of technology advances that make it easier, and obviously a lot of relationships with top microstock producers.

While the collection is still a long way from that of the top microstock agencies, it’s working extremely well and growing at an ever-increasing rate, even though we’ve significantly raised quality standards.

The second example is Adobe.

When this company –which is around 30 times bigger than the biggest stock photo company depending on the share prices of the day– decided that they wanted to incorporate a stock photo library into their business, they too bypassed the stock photo API option and bought an agency instead.

This is obviously a great outcome for the agency, and potentially lucrative for contributors too.  But there aren’t too many $40B companies around who have the need and means to make a profitable acquisition of a microstock agency.

Adapt or Die

I’m not suggesting microstock agencies will all go out of business any time soon.  This trend is in its early days and will take some time to play out.

Neither Adobe nor Canva have yet matched the power and ease of searching for images on a website optimised for just that purpose, and the vast majority of image licensing is still executed via stock photo agency websites.

What I am suggesting is that this is a trend stock photo agencies need to be watching and thinking about, as Canva’s meteoric rise continues and Adobe continues further integrating Fotolia.  Those who hold the attention of future photo buyers may not necessarily default to sourcing via stock agency APIs.

What do you think?

  • Colin Forrest
    Posted at 18:09h, 25 November Reply

    Both Canva and Adobe are remote from the Sale at Point of Use as far as the internet is concerned. As you said yourself in a previous blog APIs service Facebook ads and website developers like Wix, thereby cutting out the designer. true Sale at Point of Use. There are social media tools that use both Shutterstock and Getty. If Adobe and Canva want to keep that internet business they will have to intergrate their applications at the Point of Use.

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