Superstock Launches Express pricing

Posted on 1/7/2000 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)



January 7, 2000

In an effort to make the process of purchasing stock more hassle-free for

the buyer SuperStock has instituted a new pricing strategy they call

Express Pricing.

According to Gary Elsner, new President and CEO of SuperStock, "Express

Pricing combines the best of both worlds -- the fixed pricing and liberal

terms that make royalty-free attractive, plus the rights protection,

personal service and high-quality imagery of a stock photo agency."

SuperStock set out to develop a marketing strategy that would

differentiate them from the rest of the players in the industry. Express

Pricing was the result. They have established a list of just 18 prices

that cover the most popular stock photo usages. They believe clients

will use Express Pricing for 80% of the images they license.

SuperStock will launch a new print catalog, a major advertising campaign

and an updated 30,000 image web site at in


Price Schedules





Duration of License   

Collateral: Brochure, direct mail piece, annual report, etc.   





Inside Use   

$ 350   

One Year   


Cover Use   

$ 750   

One Year   

Magazine Advertising, consumer or trade   





1 to 4 insertions   

$ 750   

One Year   


5 to 12 insertions   


One Year   

Newspaper Advertising   





1 to 4 insertions   

$ 600   

One Year   


5 to 12 insertions   


One Year   

Web Site   


$ 325

One Year



$ 800

One Year

Point of Purchase


$ 450

One Year

TV Commercial


$ 850

One Year


Book, text and trade

Inside use

$ 135

One Edition

Magazine and other pubs

Inside use

$ 125

One Issue (print or electronic)

Editorial Programming


$ 175

Life of Show

Editorial CD


$ 75

One Edition


Credit or Phone Card

$ 700

Three Years

Display or Mural

$ 400

Three Years


$ 750

Three Years

Multimedia Presentation

$ 125

One Year

Digital Delivery Fees

File sizes based on 300 dpi. Digital files are delivered as either

uncompressed TIFFs on CDs via courier or

compressed JPEGs via on-line download.

Reproduction Uncompressed Compressed

Size TIFF JPEG Price

Half page,9"x6" 20 MB 5 MB $ 40

Full page, 9"x12" 40 MB 10 MB $ 80

Two page, 18"x12" 80 MB 20 MB $120


Licenses are for the period of time designated for the use category.

Licenses are for U.S. distribution only (except Web usage). Licenses are

non-exclusive. No limitations on size or print run. The basic license

fee provides film only. Express shipping charges for film and/or CDs is


Custom Options

While the above prices cover the majority of uses SuperStock will also

offer custom pricing. Volume discounts will be available, and if someone

has a particularly small use, or a small circulation SuperStock will be

willing to negotiate lower prices. For additional fees buyers can also

purchase Limited Use or Exclusive licenses. Multiple uses and

International uses will be priced separately.

Express Pricing will be launched in North America immediately and they

expect to launch it in their other wholly owned offices around the world

in February.

Positioning In The Market

Superstock has attempted to position their pricing between Royalty Free

and the prices offered by the traditional Stock Agencies. This

positioning enables them to offer RP services at close to RF prices.

They believe buyers use RF because of the "simplified process" of

licensing, not because of price. With EP SuperStock has tried to

simplify the purchase of Rights Protected images and provide a very broad


SuperStock has a clear understanding of what the RF buyers are looking

for having been a principle supplier of images to EyeWire which was sold

last summer to Getty Images. SuperStock's goal is to take back business

they have lost to RF.

EP offers the simplicity of RF prices, and as a traditional agency

SuperStock is able to provide several add on services that RF can never

offer. These include:

  • The ability to offer exclusives for an additional fee.

  • The ability to tell the user who has used the image previously

    because each use is licensed specifically.

  • The ability to provide similars shot in the same series that are

    not in the catalog.

  • A greater variety of shooting styles than are typically offered by

    RF suppliers.

  • Caption information and other material related to the image.

New Leadership

In December, Gary Elsner was named President and CEO at SuperStock by the

company's former co-presidents, Jim Ong and Bill Beermann. The agency,

headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida represents hundreds of

photographers, artists, archives, museums and special collections from

around the world.

Beermann and Ong have now assumed the role of co-chairmen, turning over

the company's day-to-day operations to Elsner. Elsner was VP of Sales at

FPG for over 32 years and left that company a little over a year ago.

SuperStock offers three distinct collections of images, each with its own

catalog line: The Portfolio Collection of Contemporary Photography,

Vintage and Historical Images, and Art Images, Classic and Contemporary

Art and Illustration.

Elsner's role at SuperStock will be to work with the executive management

team to reposition the company to effectively compete in the evolving

visual content industry. He will also oversee the complete digital

conversion of SuperStock's image archive, as well as the implementation

of a state-of-the-art e-commerce web site.

In announcing his appointment Ong explained, "Elsner's appointment is

the first step in the company's plans to pursue a new direction for the

next millennium." And Beermann added, "He will provide the vision and

momentum that SuperStock needs to fulfill its strategic mission."


For the most part Superstock's Express Prices are not that far out of

line with standard industry rates for 1/4 page uses for small

circulations. Where the differences become marked are when the image is

used 1/2 or full page, or when the print runs are very high.

For example when we compare "Express Prices" with those in Negotiating

Stock Photo Prices for brochures we find that $350 is about the right

price for 1/4 page use with 20,000 circulation. There are a many uses at

this small size and print run, but, NSPP says a full page picture in a

large press run brochure is worth $1,925. SuperStock will give up that

use for $350. This pricing is better than royalty free, but not much.

With advertising uses $750 is about right for a single 1/4 page insertion

with a million circulation. I assume that buyers will lower circulations

will push for lower prices and get them. For a single full page use in a

major large circulation publication NSPP recommends a fee of over $3,000.

For a single full page ad insertion in a major newspaper like USA Today

NSPP recommends a fee of $1,580 which is probably low considering that

the fee paid to the publication for the insertion is over $200,000.

Nevertheless, SuperStock will only ask $600 for that use and allow up to

12 insertions of the same ad for $1,200.

Elsner says the prices are only "slightly" lower than the average prices

SuperStock has been getting for these uses. This would indicate that

SuperStock has already been giving away larger sized uses (1/2 and full

page) and larger press runs for the price of small press runs in their

price book.

We have indications that a number of other agencies have been doing the

same thing, but this is the first public acknowledgment of this fact.

Most agencies do not report the size of the usage or the circulation

figures on their sales reports. As a result photographers have no way of

telling whether the fee they are being paid is for a 1/4 page use, or

full page; for 10,000 or a million circulation.

SuperStock photographers have reported a fall off in royalties in the

past year and Elsner acknowledges that SuperStock's gross income was

"down a bit" in the 1999 fiscal year that ended in June when compared

with the previous fiscal year. But, he says sales have now "turned the

corner" and are moving back up.

Elsner points out that SuperStock is the first agency to have a published

price list. Every other agency has a price book, often with prices that

haven't been changed in years, and they "negotiate down" from the prices

in their book.

Will These Prices Reduce Negotiations?

I don't think so. Buyers will say:

  • "I don't need a year license, I'm only going to use the picture

    one time; give me a discount."

  • "That's your price for full page use, but I'm going to use the

    picture small; give me a discount."

  • "That's your price for unlimited point-of-purchase and we are only

    going to be using the picture in 5 locations; give me a discount."

  • "That's your price for some major advertiser with a print runs in

    the millions. We will only be printing 10,000; give me a discount."

  • "Our TV commercial will only be used for a month, not a year; give

    me a discount."

  • "That's your price for a chapter opener in a book, but we will only

    be using the picture 1/4 page; give me a discount."

  • "That's your price for a major web site making bundles off of

    banner ads. We don't have any banner ads; give me a discount."

  • "That's your price to putting the picture on 100 billboards. We're

    only going to put it on two; give me a discount."

Delivery Fees

Delivery fees, which according to Elsner are priced basically at costs,

and which will not be shared with the photographers, will become a

significant part of SuperStock's gross revenues. For example, if they

make a $350 brochure sale - $175 of which goes to the photographer and

$175 which they keep - and deliver a 10MB compressed image to the client,

SuperStock gets to keep almost 60% of the transaction fee and almost 20%

of that fee was for delivery.

If they make a textbook sale for $135 and charge $80 for digital delivery

the total fee to the buyer is $215. The photographer gets $67.50 and

SuperStock gets $147.50, or almost 70% of the total transaction fee.

Elsner believes that down the road clients will expect these digital

delivery fees to be rolled into the usage fee. At that point the

photographer's percentage would be figured on all the fees charged the

client. But, the major question will be whether the agency will be able

to raise the overall fee enough to cover their costs.

In recent years major sellers have shown little taste for raising fees in

spite of rising costs of production and distribution.

Will This Strategy Work?

The important question for everyone to consider is will lower prices and

a moving away from pricing-based-on-usage enable SuperStock, or any other

agency, to capture enough additional market share to offset the lower


The buzzword, not only in our industry, but in everything connected with

the internet, is "eyeballs." Do anything you have to do to make more

sales -- and it doesn't matter how much money you lose. However, if you

read the reports out of Wall Street some are beginning to question this

mantra, and beginning, again, to talk about profits.

If Wall Street starts putting their money where the "profits" are,

instead of where the "eyeballs" are, our industry, like many others,

could see some major shifts.



SuperStock rarley pays 50% of the gross fee. Where you

said the photographer will receive $67.50 for a

$135 sale will not happen in most cases. It will

more than likely be $40.50 or $33.75 an important

distinction between SuperStock and many other



Ben D'Andrea, COO, Zephyr Images

Jim....we'd like to point out that Zephyr Images has already

rolled out it's "Express Request" program via it's website at Both NY and CA offices report increased sales

activity based on this client-driven pricing feature.

It is still too early to draw any conclusions as to it's

long-term effectiveness.

Thanks for the great, timely information you provide to all

of us in the industry.


Gary Elsner

Thank you for publish the article on my taking the SuperStock position and of

course Express Pricing. The article was well done and for the most part a fair

presentation of the facts. If SS is successful at taking market share from RF

and TS segments of the market, I believe we will have accomplished a win

situation for our photographers as well as SS.

There are many business elements of EP that you didn't get. If we succeed in

increasing the number of units substantially, I very much believe the overall

effect will in fact be to raise SS's average price for the various use

categories. I might also add that as I compare SS's traditional price list with

those available to me, I find that SS is very much in the upper tiers on most

use categories.

In any event, I very much care about how this will effect our photographer and

will be watching that closely. Without ample "product" no marketing strategy is

going to be successful.

The fact of the matter is when clients tell us things like: "It is about time

someone smartened up and considered the client", you know you are on the right


Copyright © 2000 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-251-0720, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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