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Changes in the way we communicate to the iStock community

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chrisgramly
Member is a Diamond contributor and has 25,000 - 199,999 Photo downloadsMember is a Bronze contributor and has 250 - 1,249 Video downloadsExclusiveMember has had a File Of The Week
Posted Tue Dec 11, 2012 8:51PM
I thought I would add my experience here as another data point. For me the most noticeable drop in revenue/downloads started in September with the site upgrade. Since then my revenue/downloads have done the opposite of what I expected based on past years - Sept. was lower than Aug for the 1st time, a slight increase in Oct, big drop in Nov. and a fairly slow Dec thus far... Last year I saw an increase in revenue month over month from August until the end of the year (with just a slight dip in Oct).

I have steadily uploaded around 900 images since August 1st, 2012 (around 21% of my current portfolio). Prior to the September upgrade revenue/downloads were basically flat in spite of adding in a lot of new content. After the September upgrade revenue/downloads dropped immediately (again in spite of my continual uploading of new content and in spite of Sept. normally being one of the stronger months of the year).

I am left wondering if this recent downturn is more than simply a BM issue. Perhaps something else is going on related to the September rollout.
microdon
Member is a Bronze contributor and has 250 - 2,499 Photo downloadsMember is a contributor and has less than 250 Video downloads
Posted Tue Dec 11, 2012 8:59PM
Posted By SemmickPhoto:

Posted By microdon:
Wow, a lot to read here.  I am mainly a Getty contributor who has had a small istock collection.  I have been in this business longer than most istock contributors and I believe I can be a bit more objective, since my income comes from another stock photo basket.  Things just don't stay the same.  Traditional stock is not what it was in the 90's.  I have seen it grow and drop and level off.  Microstock has had a good run, and the early adopters did very well.  The over supply of contributors and images was not a problem for the agencies, but it became a problem for the contributors as their individual slices of the pie became smaller and smaller.  I suspect that we are seeing the leveling off of microstock in general and the convergence of micor and traditional stock.  This has seemed inevitable to me for some time.  The players who stay at it will continue to do okay, not great by historic standards, buy okay.  Those who decide that it's not worth it will exit, and that actually helps those who stick around.  New people will join in, but not at the rate they did, because the "road to riches" story is no longer being told.  I know the issues that have bothered people here, technical issues and contractural changes.  Managements job has always been to make money for the company.  No one is being forced to contribute here, you (we) all do it, of our free will.  It is dissappointing when things change, but when contributors demand things because istock is their agent I just shake my head.  If I had grumbled everytime that Getty made changes I would probably have given up by now.  But I haven't.  It's their business and their game, and we are lucky to have been able to play.  


 For many people stock photography is a job and you just dont quit your job that easily. You are taking it way to lightly. Its their business alright, but without your photos, its nobodies business very quick.

I don't take it lightly at all.  I shoot commercially, but for the past ten yars I have made more money shooting and selling stock through Getty than I have doing assignment work.  Still it has always been my attitude that it is their business.  Maybe because I own my own business and I see things from the capitalist view point, not the employee side.  It's easy to say to a stock agency " you wouldn't have anything without our photos"  but really try dropping oput and seeing how they do without you.  they pay enough to get new content.  When they pay too little to get any new content, then they will have found the sweet spot between getting product and making a profit.  Lots of businesses operate on this principal.  The mistake is taking the attitude that any agency is your representitive.  They know the game and we can play or not.  When it isn't worth it we are free to look for other ways to make money with our photos.  I don't say any of this to create an argument.  Trust me, I do know the frustration of having my income change for the worse, by things outside of your control.  Still, I'm playing the game, their way, by choice.  I have complained here at istock, in general about one thing.  The video upload process, and video file review times.  And for the most part I have just chosen to stop contributing.  Funny thing, some people are still contributing video here, in spite of the system.  So I submit video elsewhere.
graemenicholson
Member is a Bronze contributor and has 250 - 2,499 Photo downloadsExclusive
Posted Tue Dec 11, 2012 11:59PM

'Union and/or associations have their own interest'. Not where I live.


The artists at Istock have genuine justifiable grievances. I do not subscribe to the attitude that they signed an agreement which later was ammended and now, if they do not like the conditions, they can leave. Too passive.


Protesting - which is a form of communication- can achieve positive change (with or without Trade Unions), which has been proven many times in recent history.
cbarnesphotography
Member is a Bronze contributor and has 250 - 2,499 Photo downloadsExclusive
Posted Wed Dec 12, 2012 12:07AM

Posted By microdon:
Posted By SemmickPhoto:

Posted By microdon:
Wow, a lot to read here.  I am mainly a Getty contributor who has had a small istock collection.  I have been in this business longer than most istock contributors and I believe I can be a bit more objective, since my income comes from another stock photo basket.  Things just don't stay the same.  Traditional stock is not what it was in the 90's.  I have seen it grow and drop and level off.  Microstock has had a good run, and the early adopters did very well.  The over supply of contributors and images was not a problem for the agencies, but it became a problem for the contributors as their individual slices of the pie became smaller and smaller.  I suspect that we are seeing the leveling off of microstock in general and the convergence of micor and traditional stock.  This has seemed inevitable to me for some time.  The players who stay at it will continue to do okay, not great by historic standards, buy okay.  Those who decide that it's not worth it will exit, and that actually helps those who stick around.  New people will join in, but not at the rate they did, because the "road to riches" story is no longer being told.  I know the issues that have bothered people here, technical issues and contractural changes.  Managements job has always been to make money for the company.  No one is being forced to contribute here, you (we) all do it, of our free will.  It is dissappointing when things change, but when contributors demand things because istock is their agent I just shake my head.  If I had grumbled everytime that Getty made changes I would probably have given up by now.  But I haven't.  It's their business and their game, and we are lucky to have been able to play.  


 For many people stock photography is a job and you just dont quit your job that easily. You are taking it way to lightly. Its their business alright, but without your photos, its nobodies business very quick.

I don't take it lightly at all.  I shoot commercially, but for the past ten yars I have made more money shooting and selling stock through Getty than I have doing assignment work.  Still it has always been my attitude that it is their business.  Maybe because I own my own business and I see things from the capitalist view point, not the employee side.  It's easy to say to a stock agency " you wouldn't have anything without our photos"  but really try dropping oput and seeing how they do without you.  they pay enough to get new content.  When they pay too little to get any new content, then they will have found the sweet spot between getting product and making a profit.  Lots of businesses operate on this principal.  The mistake is taking the attitude that any agency is your representitive.  They know the game and we can play or not.  When it isn't worth it we are free to look for other ways to make money with our photos.  I don't say any of this to create an argument.  Trust me, I do know the frustration of having my income change for the worse, by things outside of your control.  Still, I'm playing the game, their way, by choice.  I have complained here at istock, in general about one thing.  The video upload process, and video file review times.  And for the most part I have just chosen to stop contributing.  Funny thing, some people are still contributing video here, in spite of the system.  So I submit video elsewhere.

Very well said
cbarnesphotography
Member is a Bronze contributor and has 250 - 2,499 Photo downloadsExclusive
Posted Wed Dec 12, 2012 12:13AM

Posted By 4x6:
Posted By JBryson:

Posted By cbarnesphotography:



Posted By SemmickPhoto:


Posted By cbarnesphotography:







As for the contributors - this is the point that people fail to see or understand because they think iStock is or should be some sort of paternalistic, annuity driven organization rather than a business. The company does not owe contributors any success at all. It is irrelevant if royalties are 2%, 35% or 65%. If contributors agree to operate under the terms the company is offering then it is up to the contributors to make their own success under those terms. That's a big difference and may actually require work on the part of the contributors.





But the contributors are not getting what they signed up for, thats what this is about, amongst other things. The contract they signed up to was onesidedly changed. You are missing a big point which makes you whole comment moot.



If a contributor doesn't like the revision then don't sign it and move elsewhere.


That's much easier to do when istock is a hobby. Difficult when it puts the food on your table.

Right. This is my job, this isn't my hobby. I spend a enormous amount of money producing stock. Juding by the total amounts of total download cbarnesphotography has, I spend more money on production cost on a monthly basis than cbarnesphotography has earned in total since 2008. 

A hobby? Where do you find the facts to support that statement? This is just as much a job for me as it is for you. This is why I think canisters should be abolished because they give people a false sense of intelligence. Your sales versus my sales has absolutely no bearing on evaluating business. Your comment was nothing short of insulting to me and to every other newbie who is trying to grow their business here.

(Edited on 2012-12-12 00:17:37 by cbarnesphotography)

(Edited on 2012-12-12 00:18:15 by cbarnesphotography)
PaulCowan
Member is a Diamond contributor and has 25,000 - 199,999 Photo downloadsMember is a contributor and has less than 250 Flash downloadsMember is a contributor and has less than 250 Illustration downloads
Posted Wed Dec 12, 2012 12:30AM

Microdon, the difference between iStock and Getty lies in their roots. Istock was built on community involvement and at least the pretence that the opinions of the community were its strength. The traditional agencies were, I believe, established as a convenient way for established photographers to squeeze some extra income out of left-over images (or, in the case of the news-based agencies, as a way for leading photographers to pool and market their archives).


What you are seeing here is, perhaps, a last echo of what built iStock a decade ago. I think Getty's failure to have a visceral understanding of iStock's roots (which are, actually, the design community, not the photographic community) is at the bottom of the problems. The photographer's commission and conditions can be slashed at Getty Images and the designers may hear nothing about it if they don't deal directly with photographic studios. Slash the terms ot iStock and you automatically undermine your relationship with your buyers. It's been said endlessly, but I still feel GI doesn't "get it" because they automatically think they can compartmentalise their treatment of suppliers and buyers and what they do to one doesn't spill over to the other (are you still listening, Rebecca?)


A good company knows that it must listen to its customers and that they have a right to complain. One of iStock's strengths and weaknesses is the overlap between suppliers and customers. Keep suppliers happy and customers tell each other what a good place it is to buy from. But that isn't how the world is meant to be according to Business 101, which I'm sure all Getty's managers have studied, which says you should squeeze input costs as much as possible, while raising prices to the highest the market will stand.


All sorts of things flow from this. One is that suppliers on iStock have the power to complain, becuase it is buyers complaining (which is more effective than having a union, btw). Another is that when you try to dismantle the "community" to make iStock a "proper business" you automatically dismantle part of your customer loyalty at the same time.


So, microdon, I think your analysis is correct from the perspective of a photographic business that is represented by an agency and has little or no direct contact with the design community. But it doesn't fit the model of a business with iStock's history.


 
markrhiggins
Member is a Silver contributor and has 2,500 - 9,999 Photo downloads
Posted Wed Dec 12, 2012 12:40AM

SJLocke


""The company had to change. The royalty system was scewed by canisters."

This is a random statement, and you didn't really state anything that backs it up. Apple developers get %70. Don't see why that needs to change or why it is screwed. Why is this different? Why can't everyone make %50 here?"


 


It was skewed - not consistent -not equitable - unevenly spread. I agree 50% would be fair 15% is a joke (my rate for next year). I have not uploaded much because of the changes. It has not been worth it here. Iam sure many have done the same. Probably making up for this is those desperate to keep their RC level have uploaded many. Easy for me to ease up but hard for those locked in. Watching people chase RC targets in a declining market with more collections etc is like a dog chase its tail.Where would revenue be without PP non -istock sales?. I am always left guessing what is next.
Starkblast
Member is a Bronze contributor and has 250 - 2,499 Photo downloadsExclusive
Posted Wed Dec 12, 2012 12:42AM
Take it easy folks.. (cbarnes and friends)

(Edited on 2012-12-12 00:45:42 by Starkblast)
PaulCowan
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Posted Wed Dec 12, 2012 12:44AM

CBarnes, you're supporting your family entirely from your iStock earnings? That's quite remarkable. But why have you gone exclusive? You said earlier that it was irresponsible (or some such word) for people to put all their eggs in the microstock basket and now it turns out you have done just that - and at an unusually early stage in your development,


Don't be too hard on 4x6, I also had misinterpreted your earlier post as meaning that being an iStock exclusive was not your sole source of income.
cobalt
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Posted Wed Dec 12, 2012 12:49AM

Paul explained it very well. The basis of istock is indeed the community where many are designers as well or run advertising agencies. The community IS the customer. And although we are not formally shareholders in the company, we all invested an unbelievable amount of time to help build this place. It is a lot more than just a job, for many it is a lifestyle because we shoot and sell stock full time.


But with what happened in the last two years many of us have had to go back to do other jobs again and this site and the forums didn't feel connected to our work anymore. But if you lose the passion, you stop recommenind istock and you stop buying here.


Getty may have bought the infrastructure, but you can't buy a reputation or a community.


Most companies would kill to have a dedicated community of customers. getty simply ignored the biggest asset istock has and ran this place as if the eighties were still alive.


Let's hope they are finally interested in understanding how a web based business runs in 2012. 
PaulCowan
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Posted Wed Dec 12, 2012 12:55AM
Posted By Starkblast:
Take it easy folks..

Watch out for the wolf! Lobo's usually a bit snappy if he thinks there are usurpers in the room.
RapidEye
Member is a Black Diamond contributor and has more than 200,000 Photo downloadsMember is a contributor and has less than 125 Audio downloadsExclusiveExclusive iStockphoto Audio ArtistMember has had a File Of The WeekAwarded to fabulous photographers with more than 100,000 downloads
Posted Wed Dec 12, 2012 1:00AM
PaulCowan: "What you are seeing here is, perhaps, a last echo of what built iStock a decade ago. I think Getty's failure to have a visceral understanding of iStock's roots (which are, actually, the design community, not the photographic community) is at the bottom of the problems. The photographer's commission and conditions can be slashed at Getty Images and the designers may hear nothing about it if they don't deal directly with photographic studios. Slash the terms ot iStock and you automatically undermine your relationship with your buyers. It's been said endlessly, but I still feel GI doesn't "get it" because they automatically think they can compartmentalise their treatment of suppliers and buyers and what they do to one doesn't spill over to the other (are you still listening, Rebecca?)"

Spot on, Paul. iStock was a disruptive business apt to flummox those with conventional approaches.

I was one of those who came here from the other side of the fence in publishing. Persuaded a couple of publishers to sign up for accounts here, too. Wouldn't do that today. In fact, the last time I had a drink with an old colleague who is now in senior management, I spent a while moaning about iStock. That's a scene that must have been played out many, many times across the world.
tirc83
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Posted Wed Dec 12, 2012 1:58AM
What happened to RapidEye's last post? Self deleted or otherwise?
RapidEye
Member is a Black Diamond contributor and has more than 200,000 Photo downloadsMember is a contributor and has less than 125 Audio downloadsExclusiveExclusive iStockphoto Audio ArtistMember has had a File Of The WeekAwarded to fabulous photographers with more than 100,000 downloads
Posted Wed Dec 12, 2012 2:07AM

Posted By tirc83:
What happened to RapidEye's last post? Self deleted or otherwise?


Self-deleted, never fear. Thought it was only likely to caused rolled eyes.
PeskyMonkey
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Posted Wed Dec 12, 2012 2:43AM
Paul is right. I couple of years ago I used to sing the praises of iStock to everyone I met. Now I hardly utter the name and it's quickly followed by cursing. And I have seen a similar change from many of my clients and friends in the design community - I can't repeat here the words they use to describe iStock (not the quality of images but the practical issues of the site interface - search, speed etc - and price) which is now a tool of 'last resort' for them.
Whiteway
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Posted Wed Dec 12, 2012 3:11AM
Posted By PaulCowan:
I think Getty's failure to have a visceral understanding of iStock's roots (which are, actually, the design community, not the photographic community) is at the bottom of the problems.

100%.

How many people spend time in the Design forum these days? One person actually posted there to ask for directions to a place where she should go to get an answer to her design question.

Meanwhile, raising prices in a falling market might have seemed doomed to falter, right from the start.

Creating 'collections' has been an integral part of our over-complicated layered pricing scheme. Two layers, a main collection and a 'premium' collection, would not require a genius to comprehend. But whoever came up with (1) Value collection, (2) Main collection, (3) Vetta collection, (4) Agency collection, plus (5) thousands of images imported for no obvious reason, was someone who has never heard of K.I.S.S.
RapidEye
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Posted Wed Dec 12, 2012 3:34AM

Posted By Whiteway:

Creating 'collections' has been an integral part of our over-complicated layered pricing scheme. Two layers, a main collection and a 'premium' collection, would not require a genius to comprehend. But whoever came up with (1) Value collection, (2) Main collection, (3) Vetta collection, (4) Agency collection, plus (5) thousands of images imported for no obvious reason, was someone who has never heard of K.I.S.S.


Indeed. And there are also the different prices for exclusive and non-ex work, not to mention E+ and P+.
sodafish
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Posted Wed Dec 12, 2012 3:52AM

There is another important thing I want to bring here, I hope you are still reading this thread Rebecca. This morning, around 400 USD was taken from my account for refunds from fraud purchases over the weekend. If you, istock, are not able to secure the site, why do we, contributors, always have to pay for that incompetence? These files are bought and will be used who knows where. The files are downloaded, so the license is sold. Still we have to give the money back. I might understand this the first time, maybe the second. But this is an ever returning issue. I don't find this normal for of a two-way partnership.


edit: I haven't read the whole thread, so forgive me if this was covered already.

(Edited on 2012-12-12 04:07:50 by sodafish)
sodafish
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Posted Wed Dec 12, 2012 3:54AM
/
/
Posted By RapidEye: 
Indeed. And there are also the different prices for exclusive and non-ex work, not to mention E+ and P+.

I agree, the buyers I was able to speak to recently were also complaining about the complex pricing structure. 
RapidEye
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Posted Wed Dec 12, 2012 4:03AM
Rebecca, let's assume you started this thread as part of a thrust to turn this company around, not just because you wanted well-behaved forums.

All the evidence we have out here suggests that iStock's unit sales AND revenue are falling, even if we're "still" the No 1 microstock site.

You need to do something about that.

The causes:

1. Getty has so alienated contributors with the royalty grabs, abolition of exclusive perks and general contemptuous treatment that the 50-nation army out here is no longer acting as an unpaid sales force, but the very opposite.

2. Pricing has got too high (and too complicated). Testing the market was fair enough but it's clear the sweet spot has been overshot.

3. The technology infrastructure is barely creaking along.

A solution:

What any recovery will require is commitment, courage and vision, not just from you but also from your parents Getty and Carlyle.

I'm hoping that Carlyle may be willing to take a longer-term view than Hellman & Friedman -- after all, the next sale of Getty must be years away. What happens to the bottom line right now is not so very important in that context: what matters is that the trendlines are all pointing up in 2016 or whenever.

I think the following actions would turn things around for iStockphoto:

1. Increase royalties by 10 percentage points across the board. That would even make the hated RC system accepted by just about everyone. You would win back the affections of the vast majority of contributors. You would also deal a heavy blow to your competitors and probably attract many more exclusive contributors.

2. Cut prices by nearly the same aggregate amount. That way, contributors don't get driven away in the short term by even lower incomes but you immediately present a more attractive proposition to buyers.

3. Put a moratorium on paying profits to the parent companies. Invest the entire remaining profit in IT and marketing for at least a year.

Ah well, one for the suggestion box.

(Edited on 2012-12-12 04:08:30 by RapidEye)
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