5RANDOM THOUGHTS 142
June 12, 2007
Photo-Sharing Sites Enter Stock Market
With community photo-sharing sites attracting millions of customers, it was only a matter of time before some decided to sell stock. Recently, newcomer Zooomr got an unprecedented amount of media coverage when it announced its image-licensing plans and promise of a 90% image author commission.
Launched in 2006, Zooomr has so far attracted more than 50,000 customers. Its young, passionate and optimistic founders, Thomas Hawk and Kristopher Tate, are adamant about their mostly altruistic motives. "It is less our goal to become some hugely profitable company and more our goal to empower the photographers of the world," says Hawk. Many think the 10%/90% split is an unsustainable model and cite Alamy's short-lived attempt at a similar commission structure a few years ago. Still, Hawk believes that the small and lean Zooomr can operate within these margins.
The launch of Zooomr Marketplace is promised some time soon; for the moment, the company is coping with its recent release of a new interface. At the same time, other players are forging ahead. SmugMug is a profitable, family-owned photo-sharing business that has carved its own niche with sophisticated Web site design and user-centric features. In response to requests from its user community, which exceeds 220,000 paying customers, SmugMug allowed its professional users to begin licensing images in May.
It is interesting that photo-sharing leaders -- Flickr and Photobucket, recently acquired by Fox -- have not publicly discussed image-licensing plans. Still, speculation abounds, particularly since April, when Flickr instantaneously blocked 123RF's release of a plug-in that would support migration of Flickr Pro subscribers' images to the microstock Web site.
Industry opinion varies on the potential effect of photo-sharing sites on stock licensing. Some suggest these new competitors are not to be feared. John Chapnick, executive vice president of the New York-based assignment and stock agency Black Star, suggests that "Flickr is built for uploading and showing, not for searching and finding. Its search box is limited, its tags unhelpful and communities are no replacement for categories."
Others believe that the convergence of photo-sharing and photo-licensing industries is inevitable.
Dan Heller, a California-based photographer, publisher of a popular photo business blog and author of several books, says: "I've seen rather high-end pro photographers with their images on Flickr (including myself), even though there are currently no image sales opportunities. Imagine what would happen if there were."
As evidenced by the relative success of the two-person Zooomr and multiple microstock sites, launching an online business is not as complicated as it once was. The financial resources, marketing know-how and existing customer bases of Flickr and Photobucket cannot be ignored. It would be neither difficult nor time-consuming for the two to enter the image-licensing business. Both have the staying power and financial resources, unlike smaller players, to adjust to changing business conditions. Such a development could have a significant effect on image licensing.
Infoflows To Launch Video Tracking Service
By: Julia Dudnik Stern
Infoflows Corp. announced its plans to launch Fedmark Video to assist content owners in tracking, legal control and recovery of online video assets. Slated for release late this year, Fedmark Video follows a January launch of the Fedmark Stock Image service by the Redmond, Wash.-based company.
The two services comprise the Infoflow Fedmark Platform, which will be positioned as the standard for intellectual-property protection for digital objects, such as stock images, video, audio clips and software applications. The Web-based service currently focuses on stock photography and video, but plans to expand into the music and software industries.
Former Microsoft Corp. executive Steve Stone founded Infoflow in 2004. Stone estimates that 25% to 50% of all existing images are improperly used, and video faces similar challenges: "The video market has seen an increasing trend toward piracy and improper use of proprietary content on the Internet," he says. Stone believes the Fedmark Platform offers copyright owners the most comprehensive self-protection option on the market today.
Infoflow hopes to take a piece of the industry segment currently led by PicScout and Ideé Inc. Established in 2002, PicScout services the biggest names in content licensing - including Corbis, Jupiterimages and Getty Images - through its offices in the U.S. and Israel. PicScout offers both video and image-monitoring services, its Image Tracker has online and print components. Canada-based Ideé was founded in 2003 and currently monitors more than 20 million images for clients such as Adobe Systems and Agence France-Presse.
Corbis Sponsors Cannes Lions Ad Festival
By: Julia Dudnik Stern
For the third consecutive year, Corbis is the exclusive entertainment sponsor for the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. Corbis will host the opening and closing gala events, sponsor the Roger Hatchuel Academy, run the Corbis Creativity Café and exhibit celebrity portraiture by Denis Rouvre, a Corbis Outline photographer. The 54th International Advertising Festival will be held June 17-23 in Cannes, France.