A recent survey of stock photo buyers, conducted by the Piper Jaffray investment bank, found that 59% of respondents use images from microstock sources. This is up from 45% in 1Q 2007 and 30% in 2Q 2006.
In addition, 68% of respondents said they expect to increase their usage of microstock in 2008. 34% of the total respondents expect to increase use by less than 10%, 21% by 10% -20%; 6% by 20% -30% and 7% by 30% or more.
This is telling because a large proportion of respondents were from ad agencies, and many in the industry have expected this sector to be the last to use microstock. A total of 429 U.S. image buyers responded to the survey; 201 of them identified themselves as ad agencies. Also responding were 86 graphic design agencies, 48 magazine publishers, 40 in-house marketers, 22 book publishers, three catalog companies and 29 other types of image buyers.
iStockphoto emerged as the clear microstock leader with 54% of buyers indicating they use iStock sometimes, often or all the time. 18% said they use Shutterstock and 15% Fotolia. (Not mentioned in the survey results, but based on anecdotal information from photographers, I believe the 18% and 15% numbers may be closer to iStock in terms ofÂ revenue paid photographers than these percentages would indicate. This may be because Shutterstock and Fotolia pay higher royalties than iStock, or that the average buyer may download more images from Shutterstock than iStock because it is a subscription product. )
87% of respondents use some RM, and half of them expect to use about the same number of images in 2008 as in 2007. 31% of buyers expect to increase their use slightly, while 18% predict a slight decrease. Many image buyers indicated they are under pressure from clients to cut image and art budgets. Increasingly, clients are viewing images as a commodity. Qualitative feedback indicated that RM is perceived as too expensive, and that Getty's lower priced Rights Ready offering is gaining traction.
Out of 423 respondents who use traditional RF, 52% expect to increase their purchases in 2008, and 42% expect no change. Only 6% predicted they would buy less RF in 2008. When asked how they expected to change their 2008 RF buying habits across the three major brands, 25% expected to increase use of Getty, 33% to increase use of Jupiter and 22% to increase use of Corbis. Compared to 1Q 2007, these numbers were a 4% decline for Getty, a 12% decline for Jupiter and 1% increase for Corbis.
Survey respondents were asked to rate six traditional RF distributors. Veer received the highest score with a 28% excellent rating. Getty Images was next with 27% excellent, followed by Jupiterimages, 20%; Corbis, 14%; Punchstock, 12%; Masterfile, 12% and Fotosearch, 8%.
Based on buyers opinions Getty Images continues to be ranked as the top provider for both RF and RM with the best selection of images and good search. However, buyers believe Getty's pricing remains too high (especially RM) and is not flexible enough. Buyers also believe that customer service in on the decline, and the new Web site is slow with too many errors.
The image quality and search at Jupiterimages are seen to be improving, but not on a par with Getty. Customers consider Jupiter's pricing to be very reasonable and the best value of the three majors. Corbis is ranked second in terms of pricing value and Getty Images third. Customer service at Jupiter is rated good, and buyers particularly appreciate its promotions.
The most important factors when choosing an image provider were: (1) selection/quality of images, 94%, (2) search relevancy, 79%, (3) ease of use of the site, 74%, (4) price, 52%, and (5) customer service, 31%.