52007 IMAGE BUYER SURVEY
January 13, 2007
Piper Jaffray, a leading, international middle-market investment bank and institutional securities firm, and a company that follows both Getty Images and Jupitermedia, recently surveyed 158 U.S. image buyers including 4 ad agencies, 36 magazine publishers, 26 in-house marketing operations, 48 graphic design agencies and 19 other types of image buyers to determine their views of current stock photo offerings with particular emphasis on the major suppliers.
The results of the survey provide a number of insights into the U.S. stock photo market that will be of great interest to stock agencies and stock photographers.
155 of the 158 survey respondents buy RF images and 57% of them expect to increase the number of RF images they purchase in 2007. Only 2% said they would decrease the number of images purchased and 41% expected to maintain their current level of purchasing. Initially, this sounds like the industry can expect overall growth for 2007, but there is a big kicker.
A lot of the growth in number of images used may be for micro-payment images (also RF) not traditional RF. 45% of these buyers said they use micro-payment sites today and an additional 32% (a combined 77% of all buyers) said they would consider using them in the future. This 77% of actual users and those who would consider using micro-payment was up from 62% just six months earlier. Only 23% of the survey respondents said they would not consider using micro-payment images. It is important to remember that the people surveyed are major image users, not small users who have never used stock photography before.
Some of the comments from micro-payment users include: "fine for simpler and less critical needs"; "For some quick, small projects they are perfect, even with more important clients"; and "Great value! I go there first whenever searching for images. You may have to dig much more than on the larger sites for just the right image, but it is well worth the endeavor".
Not all respondents were this enthusiastic, but these comments seem indicative of the reasons more and more customers are turning to micro-payment. It is important to note that in the last four quarters Getty Images licensed a little over 1.6 million images and one million of those were RF with only about a 4% growth in RF usage over the previous year. (And during 2006 Getty added a major RF brand, Stockbyte.) Meanwhile, iStockphoto had over 11 million downloads in 2006 and experienced more than 100% growth over 2005.
Even though Getty and Corbis still dominate the market it appears they may be losing a share of RF sales to Jupiter. "When asked 'relative to other image providers, how do you expect to change your usage of each of these companies (the big three)'" the Piper Jaffray report found that, "29% of those that use Getty expect to increase their usage vs. 45% for Jupiter and 21% for Corbis. 13% of buyers that use Getty and Corbis expect to decrease their usage vs. just 6% for Jupiter." "When asked, 'relative to other image providers, how do you expect to change your usage of each of these companies," about two-thirds of the respondents expected to make no change, but with the other third more expected to increase their use of Jupiter, and fewer decrease that use, than was the case with the other two.
Based on the 144 responses to the question about use of RM images it appears that there may not be a whole lot of growth in that area either. 55% said they expect to make no change in the number of images purchased, 11% expect to decrease usage and 34% plan an increase. When considering the potential growth in the number of RM images used, it is important to recognize that much of this growth may be for prices that are LOWER than RF prices. Keep in mind that 24 of the people surveyed were book publishers. Book publishers tend to pay much lower prices for RM images than are paid for the average advertising or graphic design use. Book publishers often need to buy more RM than RF because they are looking for images that illustrate very specific points, and are not generic as most RF tends to be.
Not surprisingly, Getty is believed to have the best selection of images, Corbis is second and Jupiter third. But many buyers seem to be turning away from Getty due to high prices according to the survey. 34% said that high prices of RF images had caused them to reduce their use of images from Getty and 32% had reduced their use of Getty's RM images for the same reasons. On respondent when speaking of Getty said, "their prices are absurd compared to others, such as Jupiter." Thus, one of the reasons that many buyers may be turning to Jupiter is price. Photographers looking at their royalty reports think prices are way too low to allow them to continue to produce, but it seems highly unlikely that there will be any increase in prices, and much more likely that usage fees will go down.
One of the very surprising things was that, "When asked 'do you think there should be more licensing models offered in addition to RF and RM', 64% said yes and 36% said no." Photographers have tended to think that the proliferation of licensing models will make licensing rights to images too complicated and turn the customers off, but that does not seem to be the case.
If the responses of these 158 buyers are truly representative 2007 could be a very rough year for most photographers. The growth in number of images used is likely to be offset by more of those images being sold at micro-payment prices and producing an overall lower average return for most photographers. In addition, the number of new images pumped into the market place will be way more than any increase in number of images licensed and thus the chances that any given image will be seen or purchased will also be greatly reduced.