372 SEARCHING ACROSS IMAGE BRANDS
January 19, 2001
One of the major dilemmas for the small agency that builds its own web site is how
to let the buyers know the site exists. Clearly, the philosophy of "if you build it
they will come," is not adequate. It is necessary to extensively market the URL --
probably in a variety of ways.
Random Eye's Image Grabber technology provides one marketing option. Image Grabber
is a web-based utility that lets the customer perform keyword searches across
numerous stock-photography Web sites simultaneously. The idea of aggregating the
search facilities for multiple stock photography vendors is not new. 1StopStock
(www.1stopstock.com or www.1ss.com) was the first to offer this type of option back
in June of 1998. Others have followed.
At least one competitor -- Creativepro.com -- says on their web site that Image
Grabber searches across sites better than most other solutions, including their own.
Image Grabber can be accessed free of charge on the Random Eye Technologies Web site
(www.randomeye.com). The user can enter multiple keywords, and specify whether the
results should match all keywords or only at least one. Users have the choice of
pulling up 16, 24 or 32 thumbnails per page, per agency, with each search. Once
within any agency's offering the user can go through multiple pages until they see all the
images the agency has to offer.
In one Image Grabber test I searched 19 agencies with 32 images per page. It took 25 seconds
to see the images on the page of the first agency. When I flipped to pages of other
agencies the thumbnails came up in three or four seconds. I am using a DSL line.
By comparison when I tested 1StopStock, and searching only 9 agencies, it took 37
seconds to see the images on the page of the first agency. The number of thumbnails
per page for each agency varied, but for most it was only 12, many fewer than what
we saw on Image Grabber. 1StopStock discourages users from looking at more than 5
agencies at a time, due to speed.
One of the reasons Image Grabber obtains this speed advantage is that it doesn't
really complete the search of every site before it shows the user thumbnails on the
first one. Instead, it throws up icon tabs for every agency so the user can pick
the first one they want to review and begin looking at images. While the user is
reviewing the first set of thumbnails the software is working in the background to
pull in thumbnails from all the other agencies applicable to the search. In my
opinion this provides a more pleasing user experience.
Probably Image Grabber's nicest feature is that all thumbnails from all the agencies
come up in the same browser window and the same format. The user chooses the agency
they want by clicking a tab at the top of the window. The user can skip from agency
to agency in any pattern they choose.
With 1StopStock, by means of comparison, each agency link draws an entirely new browser
window, with all of its associated toolbars and ancillary text. The layout of this
window is different for every agency which I find a distraction. It
is possible to skip from agency to agency in a random pattern if the user can
decipher which agency is which by reading the complex URL link in the address box at
the top of the page. However, in my opinion 1StopStock is not anywhere near as user
friendly as Image Grabber.
From both sites it is possible to open a comp image in a separate browser window, or
jump to the vendor's web site to purchase the image. While Image Grabber attempts
to interact with all agencies in a consistent manner, it is at the point of getting
comp images and ordering that inconsistencies begin to creep in. The size of comp
images and the appearance of watermarks vary from vendor to vendor. Some agencies
allow the download of a large, watermarked image for comping purposes. Others
provide only the thumbnail for download. More seriously, the links to the online
storefronts don't always work as expected.
Currently there are a variety of rights protected and royalty free image sites
available on Image Grabber, as well as other services the professional designer
might need like video footage, illustration and cartoons. Designers who want to
eliminate royalty-free and search only for rights-protected can do so easily.
Given that there are more options with Image Grabber the user must be careful to
properly set the default settings before starting a search. If the user is only
looking for still images he or she should be sure to disengage Cartoonbank, Eyewire
Footage and maybe some others.
Most of the larger image suppliers are currently using both sites, and may well be
using several others. Image Grabber has 25 suppliers listed while 1StopStock has
only 12. Randomeye is also offering a new version, Image Grabber Pro. The Pro version
currently has 9 additional agencies on the site. User of Pro must pay a one-time
fee of $49.99. The Pro version also offers designers the ability to
download an image and open it directly in PhotoShop or DreamWeaver with one click.
It is believed this feature will drive many designers to want to do their searching
through Image Grabber.
Randomeye intends to offer a lightbox feature as part of Image Grabber in the near
future. One of the current problems for designers is that when they are working on
a project they may initially select images from several agencies. If they use the
lightboxes each agency offers they end up with several different lightboxes on each
project. By doing their search through Image Graber they can put images from
several different sources in a single lightbox.
Charges For The Service
It is believed that 1StopStock charges a click through fee for its service. This
price may be in the range of $.20 to $.25 per click through, plus a minimum monthly
guarantee. Agencies we've talked to seem to be happy with the number of click
throughs these sights generate, but it is unclear how click throughs relate to
actual sales. At least one major ad agency has reported that they do most of
their buying through 1StopStock.
Randomeye had been charging a flat monthly fee in the range of $1,000 per agency.
However, now they are moving to charge 10% of sales. If click throughs
don't result in sales there is no charge, but 10% of sales may be a healthy
percentage to pay as the Randomeye site develops lots of traffic. They could
easily make $1,000 on a single large sale.
One thing photographers will need to watch carefully is whether this 10% is
deducted totally from the agent's share of the fee, or whether the agents will start
considering that the "fee" on which they calculate photographer's percentages is the
amount received after the 10% is deducted from the total paid by the client. For
some companies like Workbook that already intend to give photographers 70% to
75% of gross sales it might be very difficult to give up another 10% to Randomeye.
One of Randoneye's principle methods of marketing is to get positioned on sites that
already draw a lot of graphic designer traffic. 1StopStock seems to focus on
getting positioned high on search engines.