Contributor News: Collections Changes - May 13, 2013

Over the last several months we have been gathering feedback from both customers and our exclusive contributors to get a better understanding of what we can do to improve the iStock experience. Our buyers want simplicity and quality—but over time we’ve accumulated 7 collections at iStock. At this point, the differences and advantages between them are murky at best, especially from the customer’s vantage point. Bottom line – to be successful we need to help different customers with different needs find the content they are looking for at the price that reflects the quality of the image...

Contributors are looking for a better understanding of where their content will generate the most activity and sales; again, it is not clear without some data and a little first-hand image merchandising experience. There are other issues to resolve as well (thank you exclusives for your survey feedback). Clearly a measured and methodical collections reorganization effort is in order. We have been listening and working on a solution. Today we are happy to say, we are well into our planning stages for some significant changes. We are preparing now for implementation of measures we think will be major steps in the right direction for iStock’s next phase of growth and we’d like to share the highlights with you now.

What are we doing?:

A restructuring and simplification of the collections on iStockphoto

When is this all going to happen?:

The changes will be happening in phases over the next few weeks. It’ll be a combination of site changes, file migrations, and submission & inspection workflow changes. We'll inform you on the exact timing as we get closer to the launch date.

What file types will be impacted?:

Considering Photos has the most complexity, many of these changes impact that file type more than others, but we plan to apply as many of these ideas across as many file types as possible.


To simplify the collections and have the flexibility to present customers with the right content at the right price point. Here are a few specifics:

    • It’s not always easy for customers to see why one file is priced differently from another.

    We want to make this connection clearer and easier to understand.
    • The fact that exclusive content is generally priced higher than non-exclusive is not always justified by the image, and having 2 price levels (exclusive and non-exclusive) at each price tier can make pricing overly complicated for customers.

    We want to simplify.
    • Excluding exclusive artists from the Main collection puts exclusive artists at a disadvantage by preventing them from selling relevant images to our more price-conscious customers.

    We want Exclusive contributors to have access to customers at every price point.
    • We also have some high quality non-exclusive content that can stand-up to a higher price-point than the current structure permits undermining the overall price to quality relationship for all contributors.

    We need to have the flexibility to make all of our content available to customers at the optimum price-point for each file.

How will it work? In short, we will:
  • reduce 7 collections down to 4 collections for photos.
  • mix exclusive and non-exclusive files within some collections based on quality.
  • move some files up and some down between collections based on quality and demonstrated performance history. If, after a reasonable amount of time a file is not selling at a given price, we’ll lower the price and see if that increases downloads. If a file is selling like crazy a given price, we’ll carefully move it up in price and see if it can perform even better there. All file moves will be made with care - no one wants to price a file out of the sweet spot – finding the sweet spot where a file performs best will always be the goal.

Getting to the new structure will take several steps including re-naming of collections, file migrations, and adding of new exclusivity types to certain collections. The following table shows how the structure of the collections will be evolving:

New Collection Pricing File Types Exclusivity Types Where are the Files Coming From?
MAIN Current Main Pricing
  • Photo
  • Illustration
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Current Main collection
  • Exclusive files with zero downloads
SIGNATURE Current Exclusive Pricing
  • Photo
  • Illustration
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Current Exclusive collection
  • High performing Non-exclusive files (from Main and Plus)
  • E+ files with zero downloads
SIGNATURE + Current E+ Pricing
  • Photos only
  • Current E+ collection
  • Extremely High performing Non-exclusive files (from Main/Plus)
  • Under-performing Vetta/TAC files with zero downloads
VETTA Current Vetta pricing
  • Photo
  • Illustration
  • Video
Exclusive only
  • Current Vetta/TAC collections
  • Extremely high performing E/E+ files that also meet visual standards

Moving content:

Over a period of 1-2 weeks images will shift from the old collection structure to the new. Some files will stay where they are, some will move up or down – only files that were submitted before September 2012 will be evaluated for movement, newer files with less history will stay in their current collection or new equivalent collection. Files eligible for movement will be evaluated on their performance history. There will also be a visual assessment by the inspection team – while it isn’t realistic to visually review every file before moving them, we’re looking at as many as we can, especially in situations where the creative/visual/content elements of a file may outweigh the performance history when establishing the ideal price (images moving into or out of the Vetta collections for example).

Will content be inspected differently?:

Yes. To align with the new simplified collection structure we’ll be making several adjustments in the submission and inspection processes. Some changes will go live immediately after the content is in place in the new structure and others will come a bit later. We’ll provide additional details about timing and any interim workflows as we get closer to launch.

Here are the key changes:

  • Removal of E+ and P+ placement functionality - a different approach to placing files into higher price tier collections will be introduced (more on this below)
  • Removal of Vetta/TAC opt in – the ASA (Exclusive) permits mirroring and movement of content to the Vetta collections on other sites without the opt-in feature, and the Agency collection is being eliminated. All Exclusive photo, video and illustration content will automatically be eligible for the new VETTA collection, and exclusives will continue to be able to nominate as well.
  • All new non-exclusive files will be placed directly into the MAIN collection. Members of the inspection team will be reviewing new non-exclusive content on a regular basis and moving it to higher price tiers as appropriate (SIGNATURE or SIGNATURE+).
  • The majority of new incoming exclusive content will go directly into the SIGNATURE collection, with the following exceptions:
    • The exclusive contributor has nominated the file for VETTA, in which case the file would be reviewed for placement in this collection – exactly as in the current process with the exception of limits. All limits will be removed for Exclusive contributor nominations to VETTA
    • Members of the inspection team who review VETTA nominations will also be on the lookout for other exclusive content in SIGNATURE that would be appropriate for SIGNATURE+ or VETTA.
    • Members of the inspection team will also be on the lookout for new exclusive content that would be better placed in the MAIN collection.

Going forward:

Once this transition is complete and the revised processes are in place there will be periodic assessments of file performance. Using this information, along with visual reviews when needed, files will continue to move up or down in price until they find their sweet spot where they get the optimal combination of price and downloads.

We’re sure you will have additional questions but in the meantime we’ve put together a few that we’ve anticipated to start along with answers. We will build on this FAQ as needed based on the feedback and inquiries you provide.

The logistics of these changes may take a bit of time to absorb, but the premise of the collection restructure is logical and quite simple; better aligning image quality and price improves the customer experience and continues to make iStockphoto the place that recognizes premium and differentiated content and prices it accordingly.

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