Video Subjects In Demand

Posted on 1/21/2016 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Recently, I found a list on Pond5 of popular keywords customers use to find videos. Earlier this month I published a similar list that Videoblocks had sent to its contributors a few months ago. I decided to search Pond5, Videoblocks and Shutterstock for each of these words and record the number of returns. You’ll find the results in the chart below.

Clearly, almost any word used provides more results than any searcher will ever have time to review. Searchers can narrow their search by adding more specific terms, but if the creator who did the keywording hasn’t used exactly the same words then a clip that might have perfectly fulfilled the customer’s need will be missed.

Most customers will scroll through a few of the early pages and then move on to something else. Customers may find “a solution” to their immediate need in the first few pages, but it’s highly unlikely that it will be the best solution.

In addition, even when customers use different keywords in their searches, they will often be shown the same clips. To illustrate this point go to Shutterstock and search the footage collection, one word at a time, for the following words: business, office, professional, working, businessman, worker, career, team, modern, communications, corporate and meetings. Note how often you see the same clips on the first page of each search by using any of these keywords. This happens despite the fact that there are tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of clips in each category.

This makes sense from the image creators point of view. Creator wants to be sure potential customer see their work regardless of what keyword the customer happens to use. Thus, all creators are taught to attach “all appropriate” keywords to every clip.

Imagine, however, how frustrated buyers with limited time to do searches become when they see the same clips over and over regardless of the keywords they use to search.

Good keywording is necessary, but words alone often can’t adequately describe a viewer’s visual experience. It is hard enough to describe a still image with words. It is more difficult to rely on keywords to describe a video. In addition, different viewers have different reactions to the same visual.

Is there a solution? In the tech world the goal is to do everything with technology and eliminate the human element. For a possible tech improvement check out this story. But even if this idea were implemented there would still be a need for human curation that narrows down the massive number of clips or images being produced to a manageable number for art directors and graphic designers to review.

It is also somewhat surprising at how different Pond5’s popular keyword list is from Videoblock’s. I have no similar listing from Shutterstock.

Good lists that provide a clear understanding of how often one keyword is used relative to another could be of immeasurable value to videographers (and image creators as well) if distributors would simply provide them. What’s needed is not just the words, but how frequently each word is used in a search relative to all the others, and how frequently such searches result in the sale of a clip. Such information could be of great benefit when planning future shoots.


These comparative searches may provide us with some other insights into the businesses of the three companies. In general, Videoblock’s Marketplace seems to have one-third to one-quarter of the number of returns per keyword as Shutterstock. That makes some sense as Videoblocks currently has just over 1 million clips and Shutterstock has 3,810,794.  Videoblocks says they had over $1 million in sales in the first 8 months since their Marketplace was launched. Shutterstock has been selling video for a number of years. Based on the figures they provided at the end of Q3 2015, I estimated that their 2015 video sales will have been about $32 million.

Pond5 seems to have about the same number of clips as Shutterstock based on the number of returns per keyword. A lot of their clips are licensed at much lower prices than Shutterstocks so they may make more unit sales. While it is possible that they license use to more clips than Shutterstock, I suspect their gross revenue is lower than Shutterstock’s.

It is also important to note that many of the same clips are available on all three sites, if they can be found.

  Shutterstock Pond5 Videoblocks
Pond5 Most in Demand      
Dance 83,843 122,027 27,400
Disco 50,235 61,858 13,200
Research and Development 2,672 2,448 613
People 1,009,045 1,013,084 325,440
Squirrel i 3,330 4,342 701
School Bus 1,190 1,913 716
Airport 32,428 49,871 11,720
Water Spray 32,497 31,782 6,440
Pop Music 7,296 10,955 1,920
mountains 277,127 307,100 64,000
digital devices 12,239 13,868 12,560
nature 1,256,894 1,273,628 268,400
splashing water 75,137 74,208 17,200
factory fly by 29 1,471 12,040
toddler sleep 720 917 8,160
wall street 13,653 18,801 12,760
oven 8,231 8,817 2,280
wedding silhouette 1,273 1,814 275
horse jump 1,118 1,718 458
chinese woman 12,277 10,086 150,680
north carolina 3,095 4,381 979
pop art 3,082 5,067 521
hawaii beach people 2,921 2,215 521
chicago 5,925 9,301 2,200
old tv 3,068 5,066 9,500
babies smling 18,140 14,591 4,960
fireworks 27,886 33,348 5,000
ballerina 2,254 2,933 508
title graphics template 252 400 49
80s 2,460 4,397 842
particle 61,386 66,902 10,400
character animation 3,627 5,445 960
san francisco aerial 2,768 3,301 4,700
  3,018,098 3,168,055 978,103
Videoblocks Most In Demand      
business 371,284 439,458 146,160
industry 213,184 254,749 60,920
job 69,706 83,138 23,760
office 136,969 156,997 55,920
woman office 85,779 44,352 11,400
woman using computer 16,722 21,024 7,000
occupation 67,007 77,148 22,720
professional 130,633 156,135 50,920
working 275,264 340,881 96,600
technology 278,280 333,470 88,160
businessman 73,380 83,969 30,520
worker 119,674 144,047 46,040
computer 161,411 215,172 57,760
career 25,505 31,153 16,000
team 70,143 89,014 32,360
modern 255,449 301,079 84,080
communications 136,740 158,913 56,440
city 532,629 704,241 187,240
profession 16,478 19,783 8,080
equipment 181,693 210,866 56,920
construction 112,476 134,139 33,920
finance 67,661 73,761 21,680
medical 64,842 80,522 26,640
industrial 213,180 254,749 60,920
smiling 261,360 303,657 60,920
corporate 68,490 82,619 27,200
urban 323,172 409,837 109,720
desk 33,419 40,601 15,520
design 234,551 269,943 55,440
laptop 49,325 60,389 25,080
meeting 47,732 59,537 23,760
economy 44,407 54,965 14,640
warehouse manager 759 957 387
robots 7,954 14,705 3,080
  4,747,258 5,705,970 1,617,907

Copyright © 2016 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 301-461-7627, 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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