Could Microstock See A Plateau?

Posted on 2/25/2009 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

PhotoShelter recently surveyed 581 photo buyers and discovered that 22% said they would decrease their use of microstock in 2009. ? full three quarters of respondents said that their use of rights-managed images would increase or remain the same, and 37% planned to increase their use of traditional royalty-free images.

Of course, it all depends on which buyers you ask. PhotoShelter surveyed advertising agencies, graphic design firms, magazine publishers, corporate marketing departments, book publishers and non-profit organization (probably only the biggest). It is hard to imagine these figures would hold true for smaller non-profits, religious or educational organization, PowerPoint users or most of the millions of people finding pictures on the Web. Thus, traditional buyers might pull back from using microstock, but they represent such a small portion of microstock customers that it may not make a big difference. It is also hard to imagine creative professionals turning away from cheaper pictures in this economic climate, when everyone is trying to save a dollar.

On the other hand, iStockcharts—which tracks the sales of 24,165 iStockphoto contributors—reported 1,482,145 downloads in the three-week period ending Jan. 30 and only 1,320,604 in the following three weeks. That equals a 12% decline in sales for iStock in February. On the other hand, there was a holiday during the February period; perhaps that extra day would have made up a good portion of the difference.

While this may only be a temporary change in iStock’s otherwise steady growth, the numbers will be worth watching over the next several months.

Copyright © 2009 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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