In an article published in the British Journal of Photography (BJP) and entitled “Stockpiling Trouble: How The Stock Industry Ate Itself?
” Betsy Reid founding executive director of Stock Artists Alliance (SAA) from 2002 through 2009 lays out some of the reasons that the SAA will be closing its doors at the end of 2011. Many in the industry will want to review this article.
She points out that in the early 2000s as the stock industry matured, competition increased and sales flattened. Distributors launched a host of reactionary tactics in an effort to continue to grow revenue. They cut royalty rates, expanded sub-distributor relationships and offered substantial discounts to top customers in an effort to keep their business. All these actions effectively re-distributed industry revenues “with less going to the individual photographers and more to a widening web of distributors and aggregators.”
As a result photographers saw a “steady decline in their royalty revenues, commonly experiencing a 30-50 percent drop over the last few years, to as much as a 90 percent drop today.”
The Internet has made it easier for people who want images to take and use what they want without compensating creators. It has also opened the door for amateurs to flood the market with free or nearly free imagery. Picture libraries and professional photographers soon recognized “that they were no longer indispensable for creating and licensing images.”
Reid also point out, “Stock distributors also failed to establish a proper foundation for digital licenses. They often simply tacked electronic use onto printed licenses as an afterthought.” As more transactions moved online, this undervaluation of the imagery continued.
Reid went on to say, “With their [photographer’s] trust in the distributor relationships reduced, and a loss of confidence that investments in image making would be recouped, professional photographers started to drop out [of the stock photo business].”
Today, Betsy Reid works at the Georgia Center for Nonprofits as senior manager of strategic communications and is no longer directly involved in the stock photography business.