Market Trends: Advertising Declines

Posted on 9/14/2009 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (2)

Some photographers want to continue to shoot and produce in the same way as they did in 2007. They have the "think positive" mindset that if they continue to produce new and better images in a higher volume than they produced in 2007, sales will go up, or at least they won't decline a whole lot.

Photographers should consider several things that work against this theory. Total magazine advertising revenue for the first half of 2009 was $9.095 billion, down 21.2% compared to the previous year according to the Publishers Information Bureau (PBI), a membership organization, administered by Magazine Publishers Association and consisting of approximately 250 different magazine titles and newspaper-distributed magazines.

Ad page were down 27.9% meaning that publishers are getting slightly more for their ad pages (in an effort to offset costs), while advertisers were buying fewer of them (because they are so costly).

Consumer magazine ad pages were down 29% in the first half of 2009. Among the ad categories that saw the biggest drop-offs in ad pages were: Automotive, down 47.8%; Insurance and Real Estate, 48.8%; Retail, 34.2%; Apparel & Accessories 29.5%; Furnishing & Suppliers, 27.5%; Transportation, Hotels & Resorts, 27.3% and Direct Response Companies, 25.9%.

If the number of ad pages is down, those creating them won't be using as many pictures.

According to a MediaPost estimate Time Inc. magazines are discounting their ad rates at 50% or more. Meredith thinks the discounts are closer to 80%. If advertisers are not willing to pay as much as they have in the past to display their ads, it is unlikely they will be willing to pay as much for the pictures they use in such ads.

Total U.S. broadcast television advertising revenue was down 12.3% for the first half of 2009. Network TV was only down 5.8% and syndicated TV was down 0.7%, but local broadcast TV was down 27%, producing the total broadcast TV decline of 12.3%. Among the categories that saw the biggest drop-offs were: Automotive, down 54.5%; Car & Truck Dealers, down 43.2%; Furniture Stores, down 23.1%; Insurance, down 19.0% and Travel, Hotels & Resorts, down 14.7%.

The pullback in print and TV advertising probably has some relationship to what is happening with the production of brochures and in the demand for editorial content. Nevertheless, declining ad sales is only part of the problem. Everyone knows that there is a huge oversupply of imagery in every category and the oversupply is growing at a rapid rate. When customers need an image more and more frequently they are going to microstock to find something to use. As we pointed out earlier this month microstock sales worldwide in 2009 will represent over 40% of all Creative sales and if my estimate on gross revenue generated by the industry is too generous microstock sales could easily represent more than 50% of sales. Clearly, every photo buyer is well aware of microstock. Photographers trying to sell through traditional agencies must recognize that their images either need to be so unique that there is nothing which will illustrate a similar concept on microstock sites (a very unlikely situation), or the buyer has some need for exclusivity (rare). If neither of these two criteria are met then the only other way to give the image a chance of selling is to price it competitively with microstock (which the agencies are doing more and more frequently).

I talked to a photographer today whose friend was averaging $7,000 a month in royalties from Getty Images back in 2007. Despite the fact that this photographer has continued to produce new images her August 2009 royalty payment from Getty was $450.00.

It is heresy to recommend, but now may be the time for those trying to make a living as stock photographers to pull back on producing new images, cut their expenses to the bone and try to live off of what little revenue continues to flow in while they pursue other aspects of photography or other career opportunities.

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:  


  • Jim Reed Posted Sep 14, 2009
    “Photographers trying to sell through traditional agencies must recognize that their images either need to be so unique that there is nothing which will illustrate a similar concept on microstock sites (a very unlikely situation), or the buyer has some need for exclusivity (rare).”

    You failed to mention a third criteria, that of editorial imagery that cannot by their nature be sold as micro/RF. Such images would contain people that cannot be model released for instance, or images that contain private property, logos or trademarked subjects that also fall out of the realm of micro/RF. I have switched my focus to primarily editorial because of the severe reduction to my advertising licensing that I have seen over the last few years. And aside from a dip this last year, sales are going back up, and the demand for the subjects I shoot is growing in demand. You cannot, as you say shoot the same type of subject matter that perhaps you shot in 2007, but with some adjustments and a little ingenuity, there is no reason to stop shooting and supplying new imagery.

    Peter Bennett
    Ambient Images Inc.
    P: 310-312-6640

  • Bonjean Isabelle Posted Sep 15, 2009
    Ouch! Even though I was aware of the situation, (and started to feel the drop of incomes), numbers are hard to read.
    As a photographer myself and art-director of, I felt recession in both activities, specially since the early summer.
    Even though the situation is critical, I truly love my work and the extraordinary images of my fellow photographers, that I continue to edit and display on Readymade-Images with the precious help from Plainpicture who distributes now the collection worldwide...
    I know that reason points toward a dark and low budgeted future, but try to explain that to people who dedicated their lives to images, who truly believe in beauty, who really care for quality.
    I don't.
    I keep trying doing the best possible images and keep encouraging everybody around me not to bend to much under pressure.
    For sure we won't be rich again soon, but let's hope quality will always find his audience and allow us at least to make a decent living.

    Thanks very much anyway for all those precious though depressing informations you keep posting. It's always better to know against what we are fighting.

    I wish you and all photographers around a very nice day and a brighter future!

    Isabelle Bonjean

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