In his year-end conference call to investors, Getty Images CEO, Jonathan Klein said, "We are licensing fewer images for print advertising, brochures, junk mail and print collateral." This is very significant because these uses have always been the bread and butter of stock photography.
Klein attributes the decline to customers doing "less of that kind of work." They are not cutting their marketing budgets but, "simply moving these marketing dollars to other areas, including online and paid search, which as we all know is text-based and has no pictures." In terms of online spending, he said the pictures are at lower resolution and as a result, offered at lower price points.
He also cited changes in the ad business and more work done in the online environment. Klein also addressed the RF space, noting; "The higher resolution images by definition are being used for print and not on the Web and those volumes are lower. So we're not seeing a lot of swapping out."
It is not clear how he can be sure customers are actually producing fewer products. It seems possible customers are continuing to produce the same quantities of the print products listed, but are going to cheaper sources (microstock) to find images.
Getty's revenue statistics seem to indicate that customers are finding more of the images they need for smaller uses in microstock. The average RPI at iStock has risen significantly in the last year. This means that larger files sizes are being purchased much more frequently and larger file sizes are used for print. In addition, the fact that microstock companies are moving to supply XLarge and XXLarge files, as well as Fotolia's new XXXL file, also seems to support the conclusion that microstock is being used increasingly for print.
Customers may also be patronizing sources other than Getty.
This possibility is supported by research I did in September 2006. At that time, I looked for a picture of an air conditioner repairman for use in a small yellow pages ad. I checked Getty and they had one picture of someone working on a major industrial system. Corbis had three pictures, two on industrial systems and a nice one on a home system, which was the kind of picture the customer needed. Jupiterimages had nothing. iStockphoto had 20 images, all taken on the same shoot of two guys working on a home system.
One of iStock's images had been downloaded 171 times and the total downloads for all 20 images over 16 months was 829. I recently took another look for this subject matter. Now, there are 34 images in that category (another photographer added some) and a total of 3675 downloads. Corbis and Getty still have the same number as before, and Jupiter is showing Corbis' pictures. There are a huge number of customers who want to use this subject matter and the only place they can find it is in microstock.
Customers may still be producing approximately the same number of printed pieces as they have in the past, but whenever possible, they are looking for less expensive pictures. When they can find cheaper images, it frees up the overall budget for use in online or paid search advertising.