Niche: A Topic For CEPIC

Posted on 5/28/2014 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

The CEPIC Congress in Berlin will start in about a week. Many of the attendees will be focused on finding other agents to represent and market their collections. For the most part that means that smaller libraries will be trying to get their small collection included in the massive collection of larger distributor (LD). Maybe it should be the other way around.

Maybe LDs should be looking for ways to allow Niche collection to include selected images from the LD collections in their Niche collections. The recent arrangement between and may be a model for this approach.

One of the big problems with LDs today is that they have too many images. The collections have plenty of diversity – a little bit of everything – but with most searches there are many more images than any art director has time to review. Often very good images get buried in the search returns and are never considered by anyone.

Search return order tends to be determined by the newness of an image, the number of times it has been licensed, the royalty share the LD will keep and to some degree showing some images from every available collection. Unfortunately, this often insures that much of the work of great creators of a particular subject matter may never be seen.

This is particularly true if many of the creators in the category have little knowledge of the niche subject matter. Often the motivation of many photographers is simply to produce something in the general category without a clear understanding of what is actually needed. Both the experienced and inexperienced use the same keywords resulting in a random display of images that has little to do with a particular customer’s needs.

DisabilityImages has a small, tightly edited collection in a niche they understand well.
They tend to have more contact and personal interaction with customers that use this type of material than the LDs do. The LDs simply throw their offering out there and rely on their customers to find the gems. Companies like DisabilityImages know what makes a particular image less than ideal for customers in their niche.

Maybe LDs with lots of images on every conceivable subject should encourage niche agencies to go through their files and cherry pick images they would like to represent. This could surface great images that might otherwise be buried in the larger collections.

The image would remain in the LD collection as well as being added to the niche collection. Then, in addition to its own customers, the LD would have a chance of making some additional sales through the niche collection. Another benefit might be that the niche agency would not find it necessary to discount prices as much as is happening at many of the LDs today. The LD would also have the benefit of free editing by someone with specialized knowledge of the particular subject area. Then the LD might choose to push images selected by niche editors higher in its search-return-order.

In addition to disability there are specialists in niches such as science, medicine, agriculture, travel locations, wildlife, transportation, environment, energy, etc. If specialists operating small niche agencies could easily add the best images of their specialized subject matter from all the other collections in the world, their customers would be provided with a powerful, easy to use offerings.

In many of the subject areas there may be several different niches aimed at different customer segments. For example agencies with agricultural niches in the U.S., Germany and Japan might have different emphasis on the kind of images they need in their collections. Each would probably have an emphasis on their local agriculture, but would also need in varying degrees images of agriculture in other parts of the world. In each case the editors would make different decisions based on the demands of their customers.    

In theory almost anyone with an understanding of a particular narrow segment of the market could start collecting images for marketing to customers with a focused set of needs

To help make customers more aware of these niches, organizations like CEPIC, BAPLA of PACA could create online databases of specialist agencies. In each case the agency would clearly define its narrow specialty and provide a link to its image database. Customers with a specific need could then go to one of these sites to find agencies with a specialty in the kind of images they need.

Customer Focus

There is a big question as to whether customers are being well served by large databases of unedited collections of images.

Customers in different parts of the world need different things. They need collections with different emphasis. Often keywords alone will not adequately separate out the images needed from the massive amount of dross in large databases. Human editing is needed.

Twenty years ago human editing based on specific customer requests was a major part of the agency process. Since then we’ve had an explosion in the number of images to be considered. The belief that technology can solve every problem has also come into vogue. Human intermediaries between the customer and the mass of imagery available online have almost disappeared. To the degree that human editing can be re-introduced into the process customers will be better served. 

Copyright © 2014 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:  


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