Earning Revenue From Non-Selling Images

Posted on 5/18/2017 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Many of the non-sellers are very good images and would sell if customers only had a chance to see them. Back in January in as story entitled “How Can Shutterstock Grow Revenue?” I outlined an idea for a two-tier pricing system that could not only work for Shutterstock, but many other distributors with large collections, and grow their revenue, even if there is no increase in the number of images downloaded.

I proposed that the images that had never been licensed should be the only ones available to subscription customers at the current low prices. Images that had been downloaded at least once should be made available at a somewhat higher price; maybe a premium subscription like the iStock Signature collection.

Some have argued that if some images cost more than others, and there were plenty of good images in the lower priced collection, all the customers would choose the images at the lower price. Then the creators with higher priced images in the premium collection would actually lose to those whose images are in the lower priced collection.

That hasn’t happened at iStock. There are strong indications from photographer sales reports that a significant percent of iStock revenue comes from selling Signature collection images.

At Shutterstock most creators would have some images in the higher priced collection (images that have been licensed) and a larger group of images (of the same subjects) in the lower priced collection. In all likelihood if a customer choose not to go for images from the premium tier, they would choose a similar image (probably not quite as good) from the same photographers lower tier collection. The photographer would still make as much money as they were making before.

Maybe, if Shutterstock raised prices on some of its collection, customers would leave them and go somewhere else. Then they would lose downloads overall. That hasn’t happened at iStock, at least since they launched their subscription offering that half way matches that of Shutterstock.

The big problem with iStock’s higher priced offering is that it is not really Premium. It is just made up of images photographers were willing to give to iStock exclusively in exchange for a higher royalty. Customers are not purchasing those images because they are exclusive. The Signature collection has a lot of images that have never been licensed. The overall quality of the images in Signature is about the same as the Essentials collection. From the customer’s point of view, they may find an images in the Essentials collection that have sold many times just like in the Signature collection.

Shutterstock has the possibility of establishing a two-tier system where there is a real difference between the images in one tier compare to the other. (At least one customer will have found every image in the premium tier useful compared to all the images in the lower tier which no customer has found useful so far.)

The real mystery is why Shutterstock insists on pricing all images equally rather than raising the price a little on some and trying to earn a little more money.

The idea that everything has to be available to everyone, no matter how low their budget, may be a strategy that has outgrown its usefulness.

Many of Shutterstock’s major producers, not just the little guys, are struggling to earn enough from stock photo sales to cover their cost of production. Producing more doesn’t guarantee them increased revenue, it just guarantees increased debt. While the average price per image downloaded is mostly creeping up a few pennies per quarter, the percentage of downloads per image in the collection is dropping so fast that the average creator is steadily earning less per image in the collection.

It won’t be long until the only people creating new images for Shutterstock will be amateurs who are producing images for the fun of it and happy to accept compensation that is less than what it costs them to produce new images. The big question is whether they will produce the high production value images most customers want to buy.

Copyright © 2017 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 www.selling-stock.com, 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: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


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