360 PERSPECTIVES ON THE EUROPEAN PICTURE MARKET
December 4, 2000
The following is information presented by Klaus Plaumann of Picture Press in Germany at
the recent International Conference of Stock Agencies in New York.
Picture Press is a subsidiary of Gruner+Jahr Publishing House. Gruner+Jahr belongs to
the Bertelsmann Group. Picture Press employ 45 people and is one of the top five photo
agencies in the German market based on gross sales. They also run the syndication
business for the German Gruner+Jahr magazines and have a sub-agent relationship with
Corbis to handle sales for them in Germany.
Stock Photography In Europe
Mr. Gates was right when he stated -- and this seems almost a century ago -- that
content will be the most important merchandise of the new millenium. We live in the
media age even though we are not yet looking at large data screens with photos while
having our morning shower. To speak about the European agency business is a hard task.
It appears to be more difficult than what we hear from the Getty Corporation or from
Why is that so? Well, they speak about a single large corporation with a clear company
philosophy, clearly defined business goals and clearly planned strategies.
I want to speak about a territory that consists of 35 different states.
In comparison, the USA is dominated by only three breweries (like Budweiser) while in
Europe we have around four thousand six hundred breweries with at least as many
different beer brands!
The United States of Europe are not yet in sight. Each country is still working for
itself. Not to mention what will happen when the former Eastern Block Countries such
as Poland, The Czech Republic and the Baltic States join the EU.
The largest association of picture agencies, CEPIC, is a positive link between the
particularly individualistic Germans, Italians, French, British and Spanish. It plays
a significant role to intensify and integrate the European point of view and position
the picture agency business for challenges in the global market.
CEPIC, an umbrella association of eleven national organizations, is registered as an
European Economic Interest Group in Paris -- the only existing pan-European legal form
within the EU. It is based in Paris and has offices in Berlin. Sylvie Fodor is
executive director and it has an international board with seven members from five
different countries. More than nine hundred agencies are represented within this
organization. In order to intensify its work, CEPIC hopes to receive supportive
funding from the EU.
European Picture Agencies International Conferences
CEPIC also organizes an annual congress which is held each year in a different major
European city in order to promote the national picture industry of each country. Last
year the CEPIC Congress took place in Barcelona, Spain. In 2001 Amsterdam, the
Netherlands, will host the event. (See Story 362
for more information.)
Trends and Developments
There are four general trends worth discussing. They are: digitalization, strategic
alliances including portals, Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) and
There are approximately 490 picture libraries, photo agencies and similar companies in
Germany, and 250 have an Internet presence. Worldwide we know of about 850 agencies with
an internet presence without knowing exactly if these agencies have an online database.
I estimate that the usage of digitally delivered photos for print and multimedia will
be 50% of all pictures used within the next 3 years. For the photo agencies, this
means that they have to be prepared to put a higher volume of digital files in their
databases. This also means that in order to get part of the cake everybody involved
in this process has to decide quickly exactly which analog photos contained in the
archives have to be scanned. In future, venture capitalists will not accept higher
costs regarding the processing of analog pictures.
To move faster in the global enterprise, our industry is forming strategic alliances.
The big companies aim for leadership by establishing strong global partnerships.
The small suppliers probably need to cooperate in distributing their offers via the net
in order to cost effectively manage the new technology.
In Europe we have a complex supplier structure which includes many small companies.
In Germany and Italy we mostly have medium-sized photo agencies that are managed
by their owners (Mauritius, Grazia Neri) and have a wide range of subjects to offer.
In Great Britain the situation is different and more like the US.
A handful of company-owned big players dominate the market, while the mass of picture
libraries are relatively small and often specialize in a single subject.
A fine example is "Firepix" that offers fires and firemen only. He has the perfect
address for pyromans!
Many agencies are now realizing that a relatively small electronic photo inventory is
not interesting enough for the users. In Germany, for instance, we only have one
picture agency, vividia.com which has started e-commerce.
Internet portals are the solution for small agents. These portals serve the
concentration and channeling of pictures available.
Just imagine, there are hundreds or even thousands of agencies in Europe!
No editorial or advertising picture user is willing to view this extensive offer on
screen by logging in at several databases one after the other.
One way to make this mass of photos easy to handle is to place them in internet
portals. You would then only log-in to one portal and immediately have access to all
the agencies that are connected to this mega-search tool. Just by typing the keywords,
you can finally do research for the required picture at a bunch of agencies
simultaneously. This would definitely be quite convenient for the user.
Our company had several requests this year from industrial companies that want to
change their old economy into the new economy with the help of Internet portals. They
look for photos, text, graphics, footage, videos and computer games. They want to make
agreements with us to get hold of our content to conduct business with it, to get their
share of the growing picture market.
The BVPA, our German association of picture agencies, has started the initiative for
its members at a very low price to build up their own portal:
www.photosearch.de .) It
was introduced to the public recently at the Photokina. Only the databases of BVPA
members are connected here. This
exclusive limitation ensures that only a high quality is offered by serious agencies.
The client can conduct research either at all agencies, with a special group of agents,
or just with one preferred agent. To buy the rights the customer speaks with the agent
In Germany we now have the following portals:
- Fotomarktplatz.de (over 100 agents)
- fotofinder.net (105 photographers and 10 agents)
- xxp.de (5 agents)
- dipa.de (7 agents)
- vividia.com (app. 700 photographers)
These meta search engines are the perfect solution mainly for the smaller agents. With
the possibility to reach the data of many agents simultaneously, the client can reach a
large selection of images to fulfill his or her needs by simply logging in under just
one Internet address.
This is like a data warehouse for a group of smaller agents, with less costs involved.
I think this kind of cooperation is good and necessary for our industry because many
agents mean a larger selection and a larger variety. This is what makes us all
Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS)
One trend that will definitely become very important for all of us within the next few
years and which is strongly in the hands of European companies is UMTS. This is the
magic word on the continent. (For more information look at
www.umts-forum.org .) You
might have heard about the auctions, organized by the governments of our countries, to
sell licenses for this market in the UK and Germany. The Telecommunication companies
looking for better profits in the future market have invested billions of dollars.
"Body communication" is the new word, meaning that today's reader and customer can do
everything via his or her pocket mobile phone. One can shop, watch TV, listen to music
and use photographs, of course!
By the year 2005 Germany will have 65 million mobile phone users compared to more than
forty million today. The Bertelsmann Corporation is very active in getting its part of
the business. Their e-commerce group is bundling these activities in the department
BeMobile -- with two hundred new employees who will take care of this future business.
Bertelsmann has just established a joint venture with the American iSyndicate (to be
known as iSyndicate Europe) poised to extend the European web content syndication
market. This joint venture combines Bertelsmann's global media network with iSyndicate
syndication expertise and relationships with more than eleven hundred independent
content providers. They want to deliver syndicated media to web sites of all sizes and
to wireless devices.
But whatever advantages these new possibilities will bring, the most important
factor in our business still is 'service'. In Germany this word is not yet known as
well as it is in the US. We still have difficulties to sell aggressively and provide
service to the customer. We prefer to worry our clients with additional costs rather
than being more helpful, friendly and flexible.
CEPIC plays a consulting role within the EU regarding the most important Copyright
problems and other questions that are relevant to our industry in the future. The
harmonization of European Copyright Law is one of its most important missions.
BVPA, the German Association of Picture Agencies and Libraries, is very active in the
ongoing discussion on copyright in Germany. The association has issued a statement to
the government, which is presently planning a change of law in order to strengthen the
contractual position of copyright holders. This means that the right to receive an
acceptable fee for each use, as well as the obligation for anybody who has misused the
picture to pay twice the fee, would be included into the German Copyright Law, if
accepted. It would also make so-called "joint agreements" possible, meaning that German
copyright associations would be allowed to agree on common terms and conditions when
setting minimum conditions and minimum fees.
Important Developments in Some Selected European Countries
A Picture Industary Survey of all European countries represented in CEPIC is being
conducted in an effort to get some real figures and hard facts as to the size and
character of the industry. BAPLA, the UK association of picture agencies and libraries
should be commended for having shown us how to make a successful survey. We hope to be
able to present the results of the CEPIC survey at the International Conference in
With a little help from our European friends I collected some facts, and here is the
resume of different opinions about the European market.
Gross sales in the German picture market are estimated to be around DM 500 million
($220 million U.S.) annually. In Germany, picture agencies haven't gone public yet.
So, we generally have no data about the amount of photos we sell nor do accurate
information about the turnover of the German companies. Nobody publishes this. In
Germany nobody talks about the money they make. Just to give you an idea:
In 1996 the BVPA made a survey because the members wanted to know what is happening in
our industry. But, from one hundred members, only fifty had sent back the
questionnaire. Although it was anonymous, many had not bothered to respond or returned
the forms incomplete. A very disappointing result!
In Great Britain, thanks to Paul Brown, researchers still find it easier to call their
favorite agent. But more and more want to view online. Most agencies have their basic
website, but the market is stocked over with images, quality is becoming more and more
important. So it is difficult to keep the fees high, People like to bargain and prices
are dropping. Print catalogues are still wanted, but have to be extremely good and
innovative. Royalty Free has had impact on the traditional market and it seems that
there is space for both RF and traditional.
The French State is supporting French publishing houses in buying press agencies.
Getty and Corbis shall not get everything. Many people in Euroland are afraid of an
oligopoly that can change the price structure as they like and restrict certain clients
from their picture pools. The publishing houses see danger for the European Magazine
and Newspaper business.
SIPA Press has been looking for a buyer for some time. They would prefer a European
buyer, not an American.
Corbis Sygma still has problems, we, as the new German representative; also have
problems with the diverse European mentalities.
What Does the Future Hold for our Business?
I do not see Europeans, equipped with a shaky Euro, blasting a horn to commence the
charge onto the US picture market as yet. We all seem to be more the David's of the
photo industry, compared with the Goliath's -- Corbis and Getty.
But there are signs on the horizon that show changes and strengthening of the European
photo industry. Not only does Jim Pickerell prophesize a growing European market that
will soon outrun the US market; incubators are pumping money earned at the "new market"
into this industry in the Old World; and the miracle word 'content' is also attracting
the venture capitalists who are now investing in European picture agencies.
I know of a large German agency that is preparing to go public after it has received
money from a British group of investors, thus becoming stronger due to the friendly
takeover by another European agent. This is just the start of going into the direction
the USA has put before us.
The knowledge that the European economic trend has got stronger (not as strong as the
US trend, but we are hopeful); the knowledge that the unemployment rates are lower, and
that we are 'Masters of Export', allows me to believe that the Europeans will soon
begin to play a more important role in the international picture business. We have been
delivering visual content to the USA, South America and Asia for a long time. We add
the European touch.
Also, in Europe the large agencies will continue to grow and merge. With the help of
professional advertising, small agents can protect their market position with niche
subjects when they are showing their clients what they are offering. They can
strengthen each other by cooperating with their different picture offers. The smaller
European countries see themselves being pushed aside by the bigger ones, the big
countries ask for leadership -- a fair of vanity and desire.
But our picture business is a very important part of the business of the future. Now,
the Internet is still the most important factor. Linked with e-commerce, it is a good
chance for all people involved, creating new jobs every day. After a decade of
unemployment in many countries on the continent, people have come to understand that we
need new economic structures that are mainly created through the multimedia business.
In future, with the help of Ericsson and Nokia, UMTS will provide us with even more
chances to sell photographs to a mass market. To make it short: I am sure these will
all strengthen the European position in the photo industry.
Content is King also in Europe
What brings us all together is the language of pictures. It is global and
international, without knowing any borders. And I am glad to be part of this.