Alamy Launches “Ask James”

Posted on 7/1/2013 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Alamy has launched an initiative called “Ask James” where contributors pose questions on Facebook, Flickr or the Alamy blog about Alamy operations or the stock photo business in general. Once the questions are in CEO James West sits down infront of a webcam and records as many answers as he has time for in 10 minutes segments.
Initially there were so many questions that James allotted three 10 minute segments to the answers. These three sessions are now live on the Alamy blog at this link. Not all questions were answered as there was a lot of duplication and in some cases the questions had already been answered many times on the Alamy blog.?

One major bit of news is that the fastest growing segment of Alamy’s business is the U.S. market which has grown from 30% of the business in 2008 when the New York office was opened to 60% of direct sales (not counting distributor sales) today. Currently, the U.S. office has a staff of 15 focused on customer service, sales and picture research.

James pointed out that distributor sales are the weakest area of the business. They are down about 20% year-on-year. While James did not specify, it is believed distributor sales represent somewhere between 15% and 20% of the total business.

One questioner pointed out that RM royalties have dropped from 65% to 50% and wanted to know if they will drop further. James said there were no plans to further reduce royalties.

Another questioner asked, “Why does Alamy seem to be competing on price when they have such strength in diversity, the former leading to a weakening of the latter?”

James answered, “We are competing on price and on the uniqueness of the collection.  The nature of the diversity of Alamy’s collection is why we are in business. The reality of the market is that unless we compete on price with our direct competitors we can’t sell any pictures.”

“There is a certain economic reality that we fall into which is that there are a lot of pictures available, (the market) is very efficient, the pictures and sold online, it is rather seamless from the customers point of view. This tends to lay the conditions for competing on price.

“There is a dilemma as to what to do about photography with high production values and high costs and relatively rare unit sales. We don’t have the answer to that. We don’t see the inevitable race to the bottom that has been described in the past as a feature of this industry. I don’t think the traditional agencies are on a journey toward microstock. We are seeing some centering of both approaches – microstock prices are going up and traditional stock prices are coming down. They don’t have to meet anywhere. The market has got larger over the last few years and prices have fallen to reflect that.”

Another contributor said, “Why Alamy rather than another microstock agency?”

“The main reason is that Alamy serves a different market, still today, so your pictures will increase your market exposure. We pay a higher royalty and the average price is waaaay above microstock prices. These are three good reasons why you should put your pictures with us,” James added.

James said that as a result of the introduction of Alamy Rank and the new creative filters they have seen a “measurable difference in customer behavior.” Commercial and credit customers are looking at fewer images before they purchase. They are not purchasing less, but they are finding images sooner. There is a similar trend with editorial customers so they are not having to work as hard to find the image they need.

There was a question about allowing videographers to upload their clips online. James said, “Video has been disappointing as a market so far. Currently it does not justify the investment in infrastructure to allow all contributors to upload online.”

These are only the highlights. A wider range of subjects are dealt with in the three videos. They are well worth reviewing. Alamy expects to do more of these “Ask James” reports in the future, but the exact frequency hasn’t been determined. They are currently thinking in terms of quarterly. Get your questions ready!

Copyright © 2013 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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