19 Jan 2009 Vivozoom – Bringing Traditional Buyers to Microstock

According to market research conducted by this latest entrant into the microstock market, some traditional stock photo buyers avoid buying microstock due to the absence of a legal guarantee from the agency. While traditional agencies provide a legal guarantee that the images they sell are legally sound, it is assumed microstock agencies are unable to do so given they crowdsource image supply. Vivozoom aims to change that by creating an agency with microstock pricing AND guaranteed images.

Vivozoom logoSo how will they achieve that? Hand-picking contributors is part of it. The market is now mature enough that there’s no longer a need for crowdsourcing to build a large and high quality portfolio. Other microstock agencies provide a simple and free resource for identifying and contacting serious microstockers – those who are dependable for the integrity of their photos and releases (that they’re not stolen photos or fraudulent releases) and who can supply sufficient volume at a high quality level.

The Differences Don’t Stop There

As if warranting images and sourcing contributors by invitation only wasn’t enough, Vivozoom have a bilateral contract, meaning contributors must agree to any changes. Their royalty calculation method is also potentially lucrative for contributors as it passes on the benefits of unused subscription quotas.

Additionally, Vivozoom is moving away from the ‘community’ model, with no reviews or ratings and no visible indication of the quantity of downloads. Vivozoom is all business.

Who is Vivozoom?

From the website: “The founders of Vivozoom are Lawrence Gould, previously a director of Tony Stone Images and CFO Getty Images and Tom Donnelly, former VP E-Commerce Getty.”


Web Address submit.vivozoom.com
Minimum Image Size 4 megapixels
Vectors Yes
Footage No
Licenses Royalty Free
Compensation 40%
Pricing TBA – subscription
Payment Methods PayPal, Bank transfer
Payment threshold $50 for PayPal, $100 for bank transfer in the US ($200 outside US)
Referral Program 5% for buyers only
Application Process Invitation only
Exclusivity Not offered
Upload Methods HTML Form, FTP, Post DVD or Hard drive
IPTC Data Supported
Delete images? Yes, immediately and individually
Currencies US dollars
Languages English
Headquarters London, England

So Will it Work?

Vivozoom’s founders invested heavily in research to identify and measure this group of stock photo buyers prepared to buy microstock but who weren’t prepared to buy images without a guarantee. The results indicated that there is enough of a market for Vivozoom to thrive with this business model.

Microstock agencies report experiencing very few legal issues with model releases. They actually find stock photographers coming in from the traditional market have a higher proportion of problems meeting the model release requirements. This indicates microstock agencies are more strict with model releases than the traditional market. This is consistent with differences in image quality criteria between the two markets, and is understandable given the nature of an open supply model requires a more ruthless enforcement.

Fraudulent attempts to upload images are obviously higher at microstock agencies given the open model, but image-to-image search facilities at many microstock agencies help catch this fraud as it happens and before the images are available for sale. As a result, microstock agencies experience varying levels of fraud related issues.

So with model release issues rarely, if ever, experienced and fraudulent submissions usually caught in the act, traditional stock buyers may have little to worry about and Vivozoom’s unique selling proposition may not be the key to accessing corporate buyers. We’ll have to wait to see the quantity of buyer activity when Vivozoom opens for business to know the answer.

However, we won’t need to wait to see how their photographer recruitment process will go. They already have over 100,000 images in their portfolio and many high profile microstock contributors registered (see below). Overcoming the difficulty of attracting top microstockers before demonstrating an ability to deliver buyers is extremely difficult for new agencies to do. Vivozoom have done it in record time.

More About that Royalty Structure

Vivozoom’s first product will be a subscription and the contributor royalty rate will be 40%. While the pricing strategy hasn’t been officially announced yet, they’re indicating they’ll offer a $300 monthly subscription with a 25-per-day download quota. Unlike other microstock subscriptions (and not too dissimilar to that of iStockphoto) the contributor royalty will be determined at the conclusion of the subscription period, paying contributors 40% of the subscription fee divided by the download quantity.

With the provided example of a $300 subscription with 25/day download limit, the royalty- in theory – ranges from $120 to $0.15. A typical download rate of 100 images (I’ve heard 9/day is a common average for subscriptions) would pay a royalty of $1.20 per sale.

While pricing information hasn’t been released yet, they’re aiming at two markets. A single-seat license pitched at a premium to Shutterstock for website designers and a higher, multi-seat license for corporates.

What Else is it Helpful to Know?

Who’s Already Contributing?

Among the contributors who’ve already been selected, approached, signed up and contributed their portfolios are microstock celebrities Andres Rodriguez, Yuri Arcurs, Ron Chapple’s iofoto, and Kirsty Pargeter.

When Will Vivozoom Launch?

They’re entering alpha testing this February (2009) and after that the exact launch date will depend on the size of the portfolio, specifically having ample results for popular search terms.

Not Received an Invitation?

Not all contributors make their contact details publicly known, so Vivozoom has had some trouble contacting some contributors they’d like to invite. For that reason, they suggest people interested in applying as a contributing photographer contact them to apply for an invitation code.

Update 2009-01-20: I modified this post slightly to balance the microstock-risk issue after some feedback from the industry (for which I am grateful and from which I am perpetually learning).

  • Paul Melcher
    Posted at 14:35h, 19 January Reply

    I wanted to make a point regarding your last entry of today regarding this new company Vivizoom. If two ex Getty employee, especially a CFO, created a company whose only purpose is to guarantee that the images are from who they say they are from, with rock solid releases, that means it is a hurting point for istockphoto.
    It has been an issue in the past for istockphoto to receive stolen images and I know for a fact that they now using technology to double check the origin of all submissions. It might also be an issue for Shutterstock and Dreamstime, altought I have never heard about it.
    Thus these guys are trying to enter a market, the corporate world, that apparently Istock is having a lot of problem reassuring. I thought that was a rather important piece of info.

  • Yanik's Photo School
    Posted at 22:43h, 19 January Reply

    I was invited to join but I passed it up for now. To me, it’s just another startup in a tough niche to break. I wish them success though. If sales do start to show, I might join then.

    It doesn’t make good business sense to join another Lucky Oliver.

  • Don Farrall
    Posted at 23:27h, 19 January Reply

    I like it. As someone who has had their images stolen and uploaded by others I think this is needed and I bet it will work.

    Don Farrall

  • Don Farrall
    Posted at 00:55h, 21 January Reply

    Lee, you have written “Fraudulent attempts to upload images are obviously higher at microstock agencies given the open model, but image-to-image search facilities at many microstock agencies help catch this fraud as it happens”. Are you sure about this? It hasn’t been my experience. I have discovered my Getty images uploaded to Shutterstock, Dreamstime and even Istock, on multiple occasions. The agencies didn’t discover them, I did, and the offending thief had not only uploaded my images but other photographers work as well. Microstock agencies don’t like to talk about this, and they aren’t very forthright when it comes to dealing with it either.

    Since it’s happened at multiple agencies with the same images, multiple times, I am suspect about claims that software is working in the background to prevent this. The buyers who downloaded these images are using them without a legitimate copyright. When alerted of this, the agencies pulled the images from the sites, but they refused to answer the question about weather they had, or would contact the buyers and inform them that they were in receipt of stolen goods. So yes, from my perspective, there is an issue with fraud that needs to be addressed. I was hoping that the existing agencies would operate in a more responsible manner. This new agency, vivozoom, may do more to fix the problem with other agencies, as they are forced to step up and make a better effort, lets hope so.

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 01:18h, 21 January Reply

      Hi Don,

      No, I can’t be sure. I can only go on what I’m told and as your example demonstrates, it’s not uncommon to get conflicting accounts. Thanks for sharing your experience again. I’d be interested to know when the last fraudulent uploading of your photos occurred.


      • Don Farrall
        Posted at 01:52h, 21 January Reply


        Regarding stolen images:

        22 images, discovered August 2nd of 2008, on Shutterstock. The same 22, plus photos from other photographers were discovered on the Shutterstock site in July of 2007. A sub-set of five of six were discovered on Dreamstime and Istock in August of 2007. These were top selling images from Getty that had earned considerable income selling at traditional RF prices, prior to their status as illegal microstock.

        Don Farrall

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