Can iStock Turn Midstock Sales Around?

Posted on 6/3/2014 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

iStock’s sales seem to have been declining over the last few quarters. About 75% of iStock sales are at Midstock prices totaling roughly $180 million in 2013. There are indications that customers and creators are increasingly dissatisfied. One big questions is whether the decline is due to a generally higher priced offering, poor customer service including a less than optimal performing website, or both.

A year ago Yuri Arcurs observed that a rapidly growing percentage of his images were being licensed through low priced subscription offerings. He decided that if the trend continued eventually he would no longer be able to justify continued production of quality people images.

To get higher prices for his work his solution was to go exclusive with iStock and get an average 30 to 40 times the subscription price for each image licensed. I wanted to know how that is working out.

Yuri’s Numbers

With his original Yuri_Arcurs collection Yuri hit 1.5 million career downloads on iStock sometime in the first half of 2013. He is still listed as having 1.5 million plus downloads which means that he has had something less than additional 100,000 downloads in the last more than one year. When he went exclusive he had about 18,000 images in his non-exclusive collection on iStock.

After going exclusive iStock created a separate Yuri collection. His 1,257 best selling images from the Yuri_Arcurs collection were moved to the Yuri collection. All of them have been downloaded from iStock more than 200 times and 294 of this group have more than 1,000 downloads each. Currently the Yuri collection has had between 54,000 and 55,000 downloads since it was established. It is not clear why there are two collections as all the images in both collections are exclusive.

In the past year Yuri has added a huge number of new images to his collections, many of them produced by photographers who were trained at his 2012 boot camp in Cape Town. Yuri wholly owns all of these images. Now he has 123,751 images on iStock: 45,826 in Yuri_Arcurs and 77,925 in the Yuri collection.

I estimate that in 2013 there were about 179 million microstock images licensed worldwide at the following average price points:
  2013 Downloads Average Price
Midstock 5,000,000 $35.00 to $40.00
Microstock 44,000,000 $6.00 to $7.00
Subscription 130,000,000 $1.25

I asked Yuri if the higher fees from the Vetta and Signature collections is making up for the lost subscription sales from Shutterstock and all other agencies he was dealing with prior to going exclusive.

Yuri’s Response

While not answering my question directly, Yuri provided some interesting insights on what he feels is the future of Midstock.

“Having just spent 3 days at GI in New York and today in Seattle with the IT exes I believe that very interesting things are in the pipeline for IS. Did I have a say in the upcoming changes... Yes - for sure. That being said. The GI top exe dev guys are highly competent and more flexible and agile towards change that I would have imagined. We are working on a set of core site improvements that will dramatically improve user experience and ultimately sales. Only thing that I can say now: Give IS three months and see the changes for yourself.

“Shutterstock might be in for a bit more competition than they expected, especially if GI has me project managing the develoment team and we utilize the two things GI has that nobody else has: 1. The best images in the world. 2. The best editors in the world. The best images displays that the world has ever seen is just around the corner. Watch this space!”

Copyright © 2014 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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