The traditional commercial market for stock images is slowly declining in number of units licensed, but there is a potential for a huge growth in sales to consumers. Advances in technology make it possible for new still images uses to blossom, but producers and distributors must embrace changing market realities.
The two major differences in this new market from the one in which we currently operate: (1) our customers will be consumers, not commercial buyers who produce products that are sold to consumers, and (2) because we're selling direct-to-consumer, the unit license fees will be much smaller that in the past, but the volumes will be much greater.
The following are three new business opportunities that might easily generate significant revenue for photographers in a few years.
Think about the number of travel postcards purchased, not for the purpose of actually mailing the card, but in order to have an attractive souvenir. Typically, the charge for such cards is $1.00 to $2.00. If a stock agency were to license rights to a card producer to use an image for such a purpose, the fee would normally be in the $500 range for the right to print 10,000 cards. And we know that in some cases, they print more than 10,000 without paying any additional fee.
What if? It was possible for a tourist to go to a site like bestravelimage.com and search the entire collection for any travel location in the world, pick up to 10 images for $5.00 and save the files to his computer for personal use. The tourist could also choose from among a few standard packages of images showing the location.
The purchaser would have the right to print these images on his home printer, order prints through the agency or a local lab, or integrate them, along with his own pictures, into a power point presentation to show family and friends.
If the photographer or agency got 10,000 downloads the net revenue would be $5,000, not $500.
More people are sending electronic greeting cards.
What if? Instead of getting a choice of cards designed by the greeting card company you could choose any image from an agency's collection and either create your own greeting, or select from a number of pre-designed greetings. The value of the picture for each card would be between $0.50 and $1.00, well below what retail greeting cards cost. Rather than making individual sales, it would be advisable to offer subscriptions that entitle the buyer to five or 10 cards during a year. The advantages for the buyer include: having a much wider choice of imagery, less expensive than traditional cards and the convenience of shopping at home.
If 5,000 to 10,000 downloads are sold for this purpose, the earnings would be substantially greater than licensing rights to a card company to use one image.
My wife has a Ceiva digital picture receiver (picture frame) sitting on her desk. It is hooked to a phone line and automatically calls a central database every night at midnight to see if there are new pictures to be uploaded. Our daughters regularly upload new pictures of the grandchildren to this site. The pictures sequence every five seconds, but that is adjustable. My wife does nothing, and gets a constantly updated slideshow.
What if? There were consumers who wanted to see a constantly changing stream of fine art, their favorite travel locations, or beautiful scenery. Â Maybe they want to see pictures of their favorite sports team. Maybe, they want to see the latest shots of Brad Pitt or Angelina Jolie. The customer could choose specific images that remain on the frame continuously, or they could purchase a subscription that would update the frame on a regular basis.
It should be possible to work a deal with Ceiva to provide a free one-month subscription to any of several sets of images to everyone who buys a frame as an introductory offer to the service.
The point is that there are consumer markets coming that may be much more interesting for certain image producers than some of today's ad-based commercial markets.
I'll share other opportunities in future stories. Send me your ideas.