June 25, 2007
By: Jim Pickerell
Corbis has launched the beta version of SnapVillage, (www.snapvillage.com) its entry into the microstock arena. In the beta stage the site will only be available to U.S. customers and will only accept payments on Visa, Master Card and American Express. The site will remain separate from the main Corbis site in the same way that iStockphoto is marketed separately from Getty Images.
A big advantage for participating photographers is that they may set the selling price for each image at one of five different price points -- $1, $5, $10, $25 and $50 -- and change that price at any time.
SnapVillage was launched with about 10,000 images, but is expected to rapidly attract a broad cross section of imagery from the more than 60,000 photographers already participating in the micropayment market. Anyone worldwide, hobbyist or professional, may submit images for consideration. Initial submissions are limited to five images, but presumably once the quality of the imagery has been judged acceptable the photographer will be able to submit in larger batches. SnapVillage is also willing to accept images on DVD as well as through the Internet.
It is important to recognize that this is a Beta launch with the full launch expected in a few months. According to Adam Brotman, VP of Networks for Corbis and the principle developer of SnapVillage, the full launch in a very few months will include worldwide marketing and additional payment options such as Pay Pal and the ability to set up payment accounts.
Photographers with images on iStockphoto, Dreamstime, Fotolia, or other micropayment sites now have the advantage of being able to test what the market is willing to pay for their particular imagery without risking losing sales because they have priced their use through SnapVillage too high. The contract with SnapVillage is non-exclusive so a photographer can leave his or her images on iStock or one of the other sites where the lowest price is $1.00 and at the same time post the image on SnapVillage at a much higher price. In this way he/she can measure the comparative gross revenue results.
Since this site is designed to give photographers more control over the pricing of their imagery it may also be of interest to a number of traditional RF photographers who recognize that average RPI is dropping, but who have been reluctant to make their images available for $1 each.
A big issue in the RF market today is finding the pricing sweet spot between current microstock offerings and traditional RF. It seems clear that traditional RF prices are way too high for many buyers. On the other hand, many image producers argue that they can't make enough money selling their images for $1.00 each to offset the costs of production. The question is whether there is a point between $1.00 and traditional RF prices where the seller can earn more money per image, but not lose many of those low end buyers? Corbis' offering not only tries to find that mid-point, but gives the photographer the opportunity to participate in finding the right price level for certain types of his/her own imagery.
Photographers know that certain images are going to cost a lot more to produce than others. Now, the photographer can place a higher price on images, based on production costs, and see if they sell often enough at that price to justify production. Over time this will enable the photographer to learn the maximum the market will bear for certain types of imagery and to what extent he needs to cut production costs in order to turn a profit. The photographer may also learn that there are certain images that are simply not cost effective to produce as stock, but at least he will have been able to test the market at all price points. This is the first time a major agency has allowed photographers to set the price for their work.
The file sizes available are Small (~3mb), Medium (~6-8mb) and Large (more than 10mb). The price is a flat price, regardless of the size of the file downloaded. This will certainly appeal to the print users who have been required at most micropayment sites to pay higher fees, depending on the file size needed. However, it may not appeal to that great majority of micropayment users who use images for web projects and have been used to getting the small file size they need for $1.00.
SnapVillage also gives the photographer 30% or the gross fee starting out. Most other sites start photographers at 20% and raise the percentage only after they have had a significant number of downloads, or if they have agreed to put the images on that site exclusively.
Customers can also purchase 30 day subscriptions to SnapVillage for $199. For this fee they are allowed to download up to a maximum of 750 images. The photographers will receive $.30 per download regardless of the number downloaded by the customer. Photographers are also allowed to op-out of the subscription option.
Customers can currently order searches by price, most relevant, most recent or "snappyness". Each image in the catalog has a snappyness score based on multiple measures of a picture's popularity, including the number of times it has been viewed, downloaded, favorited, commented upon, shared and purchased. SnapVillage offers fun and useful interactivity features such as community image tagging, saving pictures as favorites, commenting on images and sharing images with others that allow users to communicate with each other and with the website in multiple ways, thereby enhancing the experience of the entire community.
Under each thumbnail buyers can click on an "i" (for information) that tells them how many times an image has been downloaded and how many times it has been viewed. It is not clear whether one of the new features that will be offered will be "search by download", but to a great extent that is covered under the snappyness search. You can also search by file type, orientation and whether the image is color or black & white.
Corbis also intends to use SnapVillage as a "farm club" for its primary site. The Corbis editors will be scouting SnapVillage to find great photographers who show the potential to sell their work on Corbis.
Gary Shenk, CEO of Corbis, said, "In designing our site we've benefited from the experience of the other microstock companies who have been in the market for some time. Also we looked at some of the best practices all over the Internet. In looking at this space it was our desire to make the transaction process for the customer as simple as possible so we could open a broad new market for Corbis. This is not aimed purely at a traditional buyers of stock photography. It is designed to reach a lot of new customers who will enter our marketplace."
"With SnapVillage, we are trying to break out of the mold of the existing microstock websites," said Adam Brotman, Vice President, Networks, Corbis, who has overseen the creation of SnapVillage. "We are combining the best features of consumer photo-sharing sites with an innovative online marketplace approach and the stock agency expertise of Corbis to create a distinctly better place to buy and sell affordable photography. SnapVillage is a fresh microstock marketplace that we hope will be attractive to photographers while at the same time providing a friendly, professional way for creative people to find the right photography to get the job done."