Changes in the way we communicate to the iStock community

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rrockafellar
Posted Fri Dec 7, 2012 3:28PM
We've been thinking for some time that we need to make changes to how we communicate to the contributor community at iStock. We created the iStock HQ alias to post from last year, because we thought it would be a good vehicle through which many different people could contribute. And frankly, I had watched the forums for some time and was not excited about getting myself or other key members of our team pulled into conversations that often carry on well beyond their useful life and end up wasting valuable time for all parties involved, even sometimes ending in personal attacks.

In the ensuing year or so, things have gotten even uglier on the forums. I accept that part of the problem is that we aren't communicating enough, and another part of it is that there have been a variety of issues that have you worried about iStock performance. I don't want to turn this into a revenue thread, so will just say that any rumors of iStock's impending demise are incorrect. We are still, by far, the number 1 microstock site revenue-wise. That said I'd like to continue on the subject of communications…

To dispel one more rumor, we do read the forums, in fact there are many people across Getty Images who read the forums every day. On the worst days it is like watching a car-crash – something horrible that you cannot look away from.
We get it, you guys are mad. And reading the forums for the past year has made it clear that some of you think we are lazy, incompetent, greedy or uncaring. The reality is that there are a few hundred people across Getty Images working as fast and as hard as they can to drive iStock forward. I can't easily convey in a forum post how hard it is to do that, how complex this business is, but presumably that's why you have chosen us as your distributor, so you don’t have to worry about things like marketing, ecommerce, localizing into eleven languages, search engine relevance, global website scalability (the list goes on and on). We’ve got that end of things.

IMO, if we could to step back together and do a collective reset, we would return the forums to a more productive place for sharing of information about the iStock business, be that HQ to the community or peer to peer. It is not a very civilized place at the moment. I'll take part of the blame for that since we changed our communication style this past year and aren't sharing enough information, but I will need all of your help to turn the tone around.

It is a well known internet phenomenon that people are more rude from behind a computer because it is easier to be rude to someone you have never met, particularly if they are posting from an alias. We're going to come out from behind the HQ alias, as it were, by having some of the key people that are working on the programs that you care about log in with their own membernames and start to directly communicate with you. We feel this is the right thing to do to help change the tone. We may also be sharing things with you that our competitors would find interesting. I cannot see any way around this, but there are guaranteed to be times when you want more information than it would be wise for us to give. And we're just going to say that, and ask that you understand this reality. Your part in this reset is to listen, ask sensible questions, be patient as we tackle any issues that arise, and try to take the vitriol and hyperbole down a notch.

Over the next few weeks you will see various Getty Images employees participating in the forums on the topics on which they are experts to provide first hand information where it's needed. As always Lobo will be there to provide additional support and to help us keep the conversation productive.

I don't expect I can reassure everyone here that we have your best interests at heart, but we do. That's because our interests are aligned – when iStock is successful we're all successful.

Very much looking forward to some civilized and constructive conversations with you all.
Rebecca



Posted By rrockafellar:

Hello all. Just a quick note to say that I'm in here, reading all of your thoughtful and thought provoking posts.

You have made one thing abundantly clear - we have to prove it. Duly noted.

More from me when I've had time to process all of this - later today. And I do mean today, unless I am hit by a bus.

And this is even a weekend!



Posted By rrockafellar:


I said I would reply with more thoughts later today and here I am. I have read every post on the thread a few times now. Despite the flinching that I've had to do, I truly appreciate your candid feedback. We have a lot of work to do to get things back on course, and you have provided many valuable suggestions here which will inform the process a great deal.

That said, some of the things you raised are large and systemic and I can't speak to nor change them quickly. So give us some time to work out how best to proceed with responses from here.

One key topic: Is BM broken? We don't think so, but we haven't stopped digging into whether it might be. Please keep sending in specific examples of what you are seeing and we will keep using them in our investigations. Single keyword searches that seem broken are the most useful. If you have any screencaps that show previous results vs. current results for the same search that would be extremely helpful. Please put your examples over on the BM thread, not here.

You've said loud and clear that we can only make things better with action, so I thought I would also tell you what our priorities are:

Getting to the bottom of Best Match sorting

Site stability and performance

Marketing iStockphoto around the world

Improving the site for customers

You will see movement and improvements in all of these areas in the coming weeks, and we will keep you posted on progress here, in the forums, as well as providing responses to the bigger issues that you've raised.




Posted By rrockafellar:


Hello all, just a brief note to let you know that I am still in here, reading and listening. You have raised a myriad of issues, both big and small, so we're trying to get our arms around how to address them.


That said, the #1 priority for today, as it has been all weekend, is Best Match, which Mary and the engineers are looking at and working on as we speak. Please stay tuned.



Posted By rrockafellar:


547 replies and counting as I write this. Thanks for sharing all of your thoughts, frustrations, and new ideas. Hopefully you can already see the new approach to communications in the updates we've shared in the last few days on things like Best Match, the return of Zoom and some other new features, and the ASA. We have a lot going on and will continue to share more proactively and listen more closely via these forums, which was the primary thrust of my original note.

You have raised some big questions in this thread, so for avoidance of doubt, I would like to try to bring the overarching conversation to a close by saying the following:

  • We are not contemplating changes to the RC system at this time
  • Nor are we contemplating changing the recently published RC levels at this time
  • We will continue to work on Best Match to balance the need to show bestselling material with new material, with the right spread of products, always ensuring the highest relevance possible – our work here never stops


The biggest issue in this thread is the charts that show diminishing downloads and royalties over time. All I can do is tell you once again that the overall business is meeting our expectations. The reality, as some of you have pointed out, is that there is an ever increasing number of contributors over time, and more content in the collections. This is why I maintain that the primary focus of most of the people who work on iStock should be on bringing more new buyers in the door. And that is what we're focused on, growing the overall business. We will share more on these plans as they come to fruition, because I am sure you understand that we cannot broadly share future plans in this open forum.

And, to your point, it is all about action and not words, so I'm going to get back to moving the business forward. I'll still be reading the forums, and posting when it is appropriate for me to do so rather than a subject matter expert.

In response to a great question raised today in this thread, a couple of folks from the content team are writing up a post that addresses what you, as an individual contributor, can do to drive your business forward on iStockphoto. We have some good thoughts on this and will share ASAP.


Rebecca




Posted by Lobo:

Alright, folks. I'm going to make a few quick points and then provide a series of links. Take a gander:

1. It's been a while since there has been any kind of discussion and I can tell you it's nice it's starting again. Some of you might expect that immediately after the discussion starts we would see a bunch of changes. Well, there are a bunch of changes. Most of them are going on behind the scenes so we can continue to facilitate dialogue between the many layers at HQ and the many layers of the Contributor base. You've got their attention. I can assure you.

2. Clearly from the list of things we have been discussing there is no quick fix. We had some rough months and we are finally getting through them. For everyone wondering why HQ has come in here over the last week it's because we can safely say we are over a few hurdles. They might not be in line with ALL the issues pertaining to the Contributor base, but there has been some progress. The last week brought many new voices to the forums that you can expect to see in the future. So try and be nice.

3. The title of this thread: "Changes in the way we communicate to the iStock community"

4. Im not an Avatar. I'm a real boy!

So folks, here we are. We have some momentum and a bunch of attention on the contributor base. There are new resources bringing their expertise to the forums which will hopefully help the contributor base inform HQ in a more effective way and vice versa. In time I suspect we will see additional improvements to the communication offered by HQ. I'm hoping it helps. We are all hoping it helps.

I don't suspect people will be happy to have this thread locked right away, so I'm going to let it roll for a while. People will still be watching it, but it won't be open forever. If you want to discuss a specific issue we had talked about in here there are a couple of threads for you:

BM Discussion

The Return of the Zoom - TechVeep

Rate Schedule/What does NET mean?

Refunds - iStockLawyer

We will have some additional information available through out the week. There will be some additional guest moderators coming in to stoke some new discussions.

If you are spending lots of time posting mad in here I understand. I hope you also undertand that it's going to have to come to and end too. Try and be civil, folks. It's not as hard as the alternative.

(Edited on 2012-12-12 21:09:58 by Lobo)



(Edited on 2012-12-13 13:08:22 by Lobo)
CraigRJD
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Posted Fri Dec 7, 2012 3:33PM
Posted By rrockafellar:
We're going to come out from behind the HQ alias, as it were, by having some of the key people that are working on the programs that you care about log in with their own membernames and start to directly communicate with you.  We feel this is the right thing to do to help change the tone .......Rebecca


Thanks for your post Rebecca. That is a big step forward. 


Very happy to have a "collective reset" and start moving forward together.


Craig 
MHJ
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Posted Fri Dec 7, 2012 3:40PM
Gosh! We do mean something, gosh surprised , um thanks, 
Westbury
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Posted Fri Dec 7, 2012 3:49PM
Ok thanks, hopefully this is one step towards regaining some of the community spirit that used to be here, because we are all missing that right now.

(Edited on 2012-12-07 15:50:09 by Westbury)
blackwaterimages
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Posted Fri Dec 7, 2012 3:49PM

Posted By rrockafellar: And reading the forums for the past year has made it clear that some of you think we are lazy, incompetent, greedy or uncaring.  


I think there's probably little that could be done to reverse this opinion, given that MANY people remember when we felt the exact opposite about those running iStock. When you've seen it be a happy, thriving place where people truly admire those behind the scenes then its difficult to accept the state of things today. 
Box5
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Posted Fri Dec 7, 2012 3:51PM

Here's to a "collective reset!" I"m happy to do my part to make the forms a more productive place, and look forward to hearing more news (hopefully good news) coming out of HQ.


Edited to add: It would be great if as part of this collective reset iStock would post basic bios and photos of the people we might be hearing from. We had that back in the day and it was nice to feel like the posts were coming from actual human beings.

(Edited on 2012-12-07 16:42:14 by Box5)
JoeGough
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Posted Fri Dec 7, 2012 4:01PM
Sorry but that reads mainly as "poor little me". What we need are timely actions to sort out the numerous issues rather than endless platitudes __ that's why the natives are restless on the forums, because things aren't getting done.


You brag about iStock being by far the biggest microstock site by revenue. Ok, therefore you have by far the most resources with which to sort out the problems. I accept that there are complexities in running a microstock agency but I don't believe they are almost insurmountable as you appear to suggest. They just need the right resources to be allocated. As an independent contributor I know things don't have to be like this __ because they aren't like this anywhere else.


Let's just examine the zoom issue, or lack of, for the last 3 months. The ability to zoom on an image first appeared on another Canadian microstock site, back in 2005 I think it was. Istock adopted it a few months later. That other 'agency' basically consisted of one bloke operating on a shoe-string budget. He was having to make decisions like should he buy the $3K server upgrade he needed or should he use the money to do some marketing? He couldn't afford to do both. If he can develop and implement a zoom facility on his own, with no money and in his spare time then how is it possible that iStock with it's vast resources struggles for months to do the same? It just doesn't make sense to me.

(Edited on 2012-12-07 16:03:13 by JoeGough)
cobalt
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Posted Fri Dec 7, 2012 4:07PM

Rebecca, welcome to the forums!


I believe if you and other people from management want to really be the force you can be on a crowd sourcing site, then please do engage with us. 


I know it is a learning process and it will take up quite a bit of your time, but nothing creates trust better than actually bonding with the community.


You don´t see Mark Zuckerberg running Facebook with a remote control, do you?


I would love to see istock get back into the Number one position, not just money wise but also with its reputation. A place where as a photographer, especially as an exclusive artist, you can really trust the agency to do it´s utmost to sell our content.


As an artist, I also think of myself as a paying customer for the service the agency provides. And quite frankly the way the communication has been going and the site stability evaporating, I simply didn´t have the impression that there is any awareness of that anymore.


Please take us and our concerns a lot more seriuously and if there is a problem, just say so. Denying it or sugar coating it when we can clearly see that something is wrong just doesn´t work. We simply have more eyes than you


The community, with all it´s drama, has a very important function - we are external validators of your work. Other companies spend millions of dollars hiring "consultants". We do it for free. And there is a lot of talent and brainpower in the community.


This interaction is the basis of the success of a well run crowdsourcing site. It is the reason why istock was so successful to begin with.


We are a lot more than just "image producers". This is supposed to be a genuine marketplace with real interaction between all players involved - artists, staff, customers. 


I hope we can get back into that, because if istock deteriorates to a simple image webshop/agency, then many people will invest our time and talent elsewhere. I got involved because I wanted to help build a huge marketplace for artists, the next amazon or ebay. Not a specialized, small agency for luxury content. 


The internet is full of exciting opportunities and we choose very carefully which project gets our attention.


Thank you for listening.


 


 


 
LisaInGlasses
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Posted Fri Dec 7, 2012 4:09PM
I think contributors have been very patient and civil under the circumstances.
KingWu
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Posted Fri Dec 7, 2012 4:12PM
I'm so happy and excited to hear from Rebecca, things will get better from now on....!!
NicolasMcComber
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Posted Fri Dec 7, 2012 4:13PM
I fully support stepping out of the shadows like this and taking responsibility. It is the first step of any deep healing process. The next is following through. Nevertheless, hope is seeded for 2013 and hopefully trust will gather enough momentum to replace doubts and uncertainties. Faster communication and dialogue with people in the know will also play a large part in squashing conspiracy theories which really darken the mood here. Thank you for making these changes happen and keeping us clearly informed in the future.
Forrestbro
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Posted Fri Dec 7, 2012 4:22PM

Posted By JoeGough:
Sorry but that reads mainly as "poor little me". What we need are timely actions to sort out the numerous issues rather than endless platitudes __ that's why the natives are restless on the forums, because things aren't getting done.



I have to agree with Joe, Just getting up and saying you want a reset is not going to do it. There's are plenty of questions that have not been answered. If you really wanted a reset, then the first thing you should have done is actually answered the questions that the forum is having, then you can talk about having a reset.


Posted By rrockafellar:
I had watched the forums for some time and was not excited about getting myself or other key members of our team pulled into conversations that often carry on well beyond their useful life and end up wasting valuable time for all parties involved, even sometimes ending in personal attacks.


You are our agent, it is not wasting time to be in the forums answering our questions, it's part of your job as our agent. I think this quote shows that you don't really view the contributors as an important part of the process that has made iStock successful.
PhotoInc
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Posted Fri Dec 7, 2012 4:28PM

Rebecca, Thank you for sharing.


Cobalt.......Excellent, Excellent post!!
FreeTransform
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Posted Fri Dec 7, 2012 4:31PM

Posted By rrockafellar:
presumably that's why you have chosen us as your distributor, so you don't have to worry about things like marketing, ecommerce, localizing into eleven languages, search engine relevance, global website scalability (the list goes on and on). We've got that end of things.

Sounds like someone is not feeling appreciated. Well, for "that end of things," we pay you 55-85% of the sales of a product that we create. In return, we'd like the BM to work, the zoom to work, the views to work, the stats to work (the list goes on and on).
Jamesmcq24
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Posted Fri Dec 7, 2012 4:41PM
It's not just the lack of communication though, several business changes have made iStock HQ seem "less caring".

I believe the yearly RC goals are a huge factor. Besides a sudden large change in the royalty scheme, it removed a sense of progression within the community - yes a business should get "more profitable" as time goes on, but what about my business? Now my almost 10 years at istock mean very little if I don't make a yearly goal. My photo business does not get more profitable as time goes on - it resets every year. I applaud the effort to get goals out quicker, but the huge delay this year honestly gave me a sense of "we're waiting to see how much money we can squeeze out".

Technical problems happen, and they bug everyone. I get it, running a big site like iStock is difficult. I do trust that things are getting sorted out. However, combined with the yearly RC goals - these problems have a huge impact. Technical problems lead to reduced sales - potentially leading to pay cuts throughout all of next year for those of us who are close to our goals. Yes, I haven't added much to my portfolio recently, but up until a couple weeks ago, I was sure to just make my yearly goal. Now, it seems very doubtful.

Since we all have goals to make due to this RC system, technical problems that impact sales are huge. Before, when it was cumulative, it was unfortunate to have lower sales for a while, but once they were fixed there was no problem. Now, it impacts all of next year. ...and so far we haven't heard anything like "we'll reduce the goals due to missing and broken features".

In addition, things like cutting the business cards and other exclusive perks. Yes, I hardly ever used the business cards to generate actual sales, but it was SO much fun to have something real that I could, at least, send to my parents and show off to friends. Few resulted in sales, but I can assure you, lots of people saw them. Now, I definitely understand cutting the business cards because, yes, they were kind of pointless, but they weren't replaced with anything. The fact that the only exclusive perk now is a higher margin (which is still not that fantastic compared to say, Apple's App Store), just feels like there's not a lot of love going around anymore.

I know you guys are working hard on the site, and I know how hard it is to maintain a huge site (heck that's my day job), but please - before you make business decisions to improve the numbers and "profitability", remember that all of us contributors are real people. Technical problems that impact yearly goals have HUGE impact. A business decision may make $X on paper, but could have a huge negative impact on community morale and photographer motivation. To be honest it's difficult to put all the effort in when the royalty structure can randomly change, when features break randomly and reduce sales, or when the BM algorithm decides to change and drastically reduce sales.

iStock was, at one point, my sole source of income. Recently however, I have put less effort into iStock due to these reasons. I still think it's the best place for my photos, but there needs to be some changes before I have the confidence to make it my primary source of income again.

(Edited on 2012-12-07 16:46:53 by Jamesmcq24)
fotoVoyager
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Posted Fri Dec 7, 2012 4:48PM
I'm very sorry you're upset but my income has collapsed to 30% of what it was 18 months ago. Sell more of my pictures, pay me a decent rate without the constant threat of royalty reduction and I'll sing your praises from the rooftops.

The ball's in your court. Looks like you're ready to pick it up, let's see how far you can run with it.
RonTech2000
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Posted Fri Dec 7, 2012 4:49PM
Posted By rrockafellar:

It is a well known internet phenomenon that people are more rude from behind a computer because it is easier to be rude to someone you have never met

Constructive suggestion, you should try to meet some of your contributors in real life.  Long-time, dedicated contributors tend to congregate around iStock events; this would be a great opportunity.  You can learn a ton from a meeting of the minds like this, I know I have, and some of those rudesters may even take on a softer quality afterward.
topshotUK
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Posted Fri Dec 7, 2012 4:53PM

The commission was allready very low here a few years ago.  Cutting it has taken away my enthusiasm for istock.  Go back to the old levles and I'll work hard at increasing my earnings here again.  That will make istock more money.  I'm not the only one who thinks like that.  To reverse the slippery slope istock appears to be on, you need to make some bold decisions and admit all the mistakes over the past few years. 


Make it easier for us to make money here and you will make more money and have a happy forum.  It doesn't have to be complicated.  The site that seems to be doing very well now has kept things very simple.
Gizmo
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Posted Fri Dec 7, 2012 4:54PM
Posted By fotoVoyager:
I'm very sorry you're upset but my income has collapsed to 30% of what it was 18 months ago. Sell more of my pictures, pay me a decent rate without the constant threat of royalty reduction and I'll sing your praises from the rooftops.

Exactly what I feel after 8 years at Istock.
BrendanHunter
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Posted Fri Dec 7, 2012 4:54PM

I would also suggest restoring contributor service options like having someone we can call when we have a question and/or having someone man the contributor side of the Live Chat. 


Reducing us to email only queries felt like a deliberate distancing of HQ from the contributors. 
This thread has been locked.
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