Still stock photography needs a new business model that combines the best features of each of the existing models - RM, RR, RF, Subscription and Microstock - into a system that enables all images to be easily licensed for any use, and each use price based on the value received by the customer. To accomplish this, many advocates of the current models will need to give up some long held beliefs.
To outline a new model means it is necessary to come to some general agreement on several of the industry's fundamental issues. Below I'll briefly outline a few key ones. Then in the next few days, I'll explore in more detail how each will impact the stock photo business in the future.
I encourage you to comment on any of these thoughts, particularly if you disagree.
Issue 1 - Amateurs - Technological advances have made it possible for amateurs to make their images available for commercial uses.
Issue 2 - Customer Growth - There has been an explosion of customers who want to use imagery, but the majority have very small budgets for photography. Sales to traditional stock photo customers have been sluggish for some time, and there are signs the needs of these customers will decline.
Issue 3 - Professional or Amateur - The fees paid for commercial use of a stock photo should be the same for an amateur or a professional.
Issue 4 - Reasonable Price - Commercial users have no right to expect to pay nothing for photos that provide them with significant economic benefit. In fact, most recognize that they should pay a "reasonable price" for the pictures they need. But reasonable is based on the intended use of the picture, not a specific fixed price, regardless of how the image will be used. Some customers can justify paying much more than others given usage.
Issue 5 - Determining Price - Basing price on the size of a digital file is extremely unfair to the customer, as well as the seller. File size has almost no relationship to how an image will eventually be used, or the value the customer will receive from its usage.
Issue 6 - Growth - The explosion of growth in content means the average return per image (RPI) will fall. However, it is no less expensive to produce images than it used to be.
Issue 7 - Sub-Pricing -The only reason for pricing something below the cost of production is a reasonable assurance that through multiple usage enough income will be generated to cover the cost of production and provide a profit.
Issue 8 - Simple System - Buyers want a simple, easy-to-use pricing system that allows them to use any image they can find at a price they can afford.
Issue 9 - Revenue - Is it all about the customer? Customers will always want more for less, but at some point, there has to be enough revenue for the producer to justify continued production.
After I've worked through the discussion on the above points, I'll outline a possible new business model that could make all images available for any use and still maintain simplicity.