28 Feb 2009 This Month in Microstock – February 2009

The microstock market was abuzz in February. Look at all this news! I said last month that the microstock market was going to look very different by December, but I’m revising that to March!

Microstock News

iStockphoto Book CoveriStockphoto launched iStockaudio in beta with 10,000 files. They also announced their first book of contributors photos, published by partner Blurb and with proceeds going to charity. They also put extra life into the Dollar Bin with 23,000 more photos added. They also reached the milestone of having a file downloaded every single second.

Corbis announced they’re rolling SnapVillage up into a Veer with the new Veer Marketplace. Accentuating the merging of markets, they will now be offering microstock images alongside premium RF and RM content. SnapVillage will be phased out by the end of 2009. Contributor accounts and photos will be moved over automatically and an upload facility will be opened on the Veer website prior to the SnapVillage closure.

Fotolia made a collection of simultaneous announcements via an email to contributors:

  • They’re adding royalty-free contributor exclusivity, much like the exclusivity offer at iStockphoto, but covers both video and images. Individual images can still be made exclusive and have their prices raised, but they will no longer enjoy the higher exclusive commission rates.
  • Unsold files older than 24 months can now be optionally added to the Free Files section of Fotolia in exchange for 0.5 credits, though it’s locked in for 18 months.
  • The price of medium sized files will increase to 4 credits in March (it’s currently 3). Larger sizes will each increase by one credit. Fotolia expects this will result in a 20% revenue increase for contributors.
  • Commission rates will be lowered 3% to grow marketing, human resources and technology.

123rf announced (exclusively via the 123rf Twitter account) that their content would be added to the Inmagine website, again blurring the distinction between microstock and macrostock.

CanStockPhoto, breathing new life after their FotoSearch acquisition/partnership/deal/whatever upgraded their system to make it easier for contributors to upload photos in batches. Most contributors with existing portfolios are reporting a surge of sales both through the partnership and by direct CanStockPhoto sales.

PantherMedia and ProStockMaster (both currently Microstock Diaries advertisers) partnered to enable direct uploads to PantherMedia via ProStockMaster software.

Three microstock agencies reached portfolio size milestones this month, which is happening so frequently I’m not sure it will qualify as ‘news’ for much longer.   Shutterstock hit 6 million files and both Dreamstime and Fotolia passed 5 million files. Here’s a slightly rugged chart of the quantity of images agencies have been adding to their porfolios each month over the past year. The figures are taken from the advertised quantity of images on the last day of each month, so they’re not perfect.

Agency Portfolio Growth Rate

In addition to showing the difference in growth rate between agencies, the chart shows the differences in the quantity of images added per month now compared to a year ago. There’s also dips during the slow sales periods of year end and the northern summer periods, showing that it’s not just buyers who take time off from microstock.

Microstock Press

The UGCX Conference early in the month ensured microstock agencies and the business model itself made headlines in the mainstream and trade press. See CNET and Kron4 for the highlights.

Another mainstream press article received heavy criticism for ‘implying’ incorrect facts about the history of microstock. The SmartMoney article provided an interview with Shutterstock CEO, Jon Oringer, where the author (apparently unintentionally) implied Jon created the microstock business model. iStockphoto COO Kelly Thompson responded, then it all went a little crazy.

PhotoShelter generated a lot of press with a misprint about the portion of their survey respondents who intended to reduce spending on microstock in 2009. They initially printed 58% but later revised it to 22% after Daryl Lang called it crazy.

Daryl also had some interesting observations and questions about the Veer Marketplace concept at work, finding similar photos on offer at very different price points.


Corbis moved SnapVillage into Veer and Inmagine put 123rf content alongside their traditional RF and RM stock too. Jupiterimages also has StockXpert content mixed in with traditional stock on photos.com and JupiterimagesUnlimited. When asked at UGCX whether we’ll see anything similar between iStockphoto and Getty Images, Kelly Thompson said the two sites are already connected but that he knew of no plans for further integration.

While most Fotolia contributors are pleased that there was at least an announcement for this months changes, few are happy with the changes themselves. In November Fotolia raised ranking requirements explaining that they were causing prices to rise too rapidly. This month they raised the price of medium files from three to four credits – a 33% increase – and lowered contributor commissions by 3%. Contributors were quick to point out that a 3% reduction in commission rate would actually produce a 5-10% reduction in revenue. However, that still leaves their commission rates above that of other agencies and the new price rise will help make up for the difference.

Interesting to watch: We may see some quick changes after shareholders approved the Getty Images acquisition of Jupiterimages this month.

  • Michael Jay
    Posted at 17:27h, 28 February Reply

    Actually… the number in iStock’s Dollar Bin is more like 45,000 after a second waive. 🙂

  • Michael Jay
    Posted at 17:29h, 28 February Reply

    Oh… and by the way: The Fotolia raise from 3 to 4 credits is a 33% raise, not 25%

    But otherwise thanks for the good job, summing up all the news.

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 17:50h, 28 February Reply

      Doh! Thanks Michael. Corrected.

Post A Comment