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Statistics & Surveys
In March we reported that an ACSIL survey
of stock footage distributors concluded that globally $550 million in revenue was generated from the licensing of stock footage in 2014. The 53-question survey was sent to over 400 companies that license stock footage and 90 responded. The following is an executive summary of the results.
I’m getting more frequent requests from long/short hedge fund investors about Getty Images’ turnaround potential in 2015. Getty’s $550 million of 7 percent unsecured notes due in October 2020 are selling for approximately 50 cents on the dollar. Investors are trying to determine if that is a good price, or if they could go even lower. (Getty also has about $2 billion in additional debut.) Here’s some of what I tell them.
According to Meredith Kopit Levien, New York Times EVP of Advertising, speaking to OMMA SXSW in Austin, TX recently, “Last year the Times did about $180 million in digital advertising and almost that much in digital subscriptions. That puts us at a digital business that’s in the $350 million range."
Shutterstock has put together a very interesting Infographic related to Contributor Earnings
. Everyone engaged in stock photography -- regardless of whether they have ever licensed an image through Shutterstock, or any other microstock distributor -- should examine this Infographic carefully. It contains a lot of important insights.
The Microstock segment of the stock photography business has grown rapidly over the last few years. I estimate that in 2014 gross microstock revenue, worldwide, was approximately $850 million. Sales by the Big Four distributors – Shutterstock, iStock, Fotolia and Dreamstime – represented about 85% of this total.
The oldest photo on record is of a man on a Paris street getting his shoes shined. It was taken in 1838. In the first 170 years of photography up to the year 2000 it is estimated that 85 billion photos were taken. In 2014 alone, thanks to selfies, almost 1 trillion photos were taken and the number is expected to grow in 2015.
Based on the searches they have been getting in the last few months Shutterstock has just released a new infographic on 2015 Creative Trends
in the demand for still images, illustration and video clips. One of the interesting trends for photographers is that searches for “top view” have increased 66% in the past year.
After last week, readers probably feel they have more information about iStock than they ever wanted to know. But an analysis of where contributors who produce microstock images live provides some additional insights into the future of stock photography. I promise this will be the last analysis of iStock data until July.
Most stock contributors want to believe that if they continue to produce more and better images more of their work will be downloaded (purchased by customers), and they will make more money. That’s not the way it seems to have worked at iStock in the last two years.
Since 2009 I have been tracking sales of some of iStock’s leading contributors and beginning in 2012 I have tracked 430 of them on a semi-annual basis. While 430 is only a small percentage of iStock’s total contributors which may number over 100,000 at the end of 2014 this small group had a combined total of over 54,982,100 image downloads in their careers with iStock. I believe this is about one-third of total iStock downloads since the company’s founding in 2002. Thus, the combined experience of this group is significant.
Getty’s simplification and dramatic lowering of iStock prices in September
in an effort to better complete with Shutterstock doesn’t seem to be working. The number of images downloaded in the last half of 2014 for 431 of iStock’s top producers was down about 34% compared to the first half of 2014.
The results of the annual GDUSA Stock Survey
of graphic designers in the U.S. is now available online. For several years nearly every graphic designers has answered that they use stock sometime during the year, but this year, for the first time, two-thirds of those answering the survey use stock more than 20 times a year and one-third use stock imagery more than 100 times a years.
As of October 1, 2014 authorized legal entities in the UK will be able to collect payments for the use of your photographs even if you are not a member of the organization. This is known as Extended Collective Licensing (ECL).
Using numbers from Getty Images it is interesting to look back at the RM and RF unit sales and revenue trends over the last decade. Between 2003 and 2007 when Getty was a public company they provided investors with very precise gross revenue and average price per image figures. This made it possible to make a reasonable estimate of the number of images licensed in each category.
and Thriving Archives
have teamed up again to conduct the ACSIL Global Survey of Stock Footage Companies 3 (AGS3)
. Like their two previous collaborations, the AGS3 will explore and assess overall business conditions within the stock footage industry, discover how things are getting done, track evolving trends and provide strategic, action-oriented data to footage industry leaders. All footage companies worldwide are invited to participate.
A few months ago Basar Hatirnaz surveyed microstock image producers for his doctorial thesis at Yeditepe University in Instanbul, Turkey. He got 400 responses from contributors with a wide range of experience in the microstock business. The results of his research provide some interesting insights into the microstock industry
In June 2014, Visual Steam
surveyed thousands of U.S. art buyers, art directors, art producers, creative directors and marketing professionals to better understand stock image buying behavior today (still photography and motion). The company has published the results of its 2014 Buyers Survey
. 100% of the respondents are buyers of stock photography.
BookStats has reported that the U.S. book and journal publishing industry sold 2.59 billion units and generated $27.01 billion in net revenue in 2013. The trade sector - covering general consumer fiction and non-fiction – generated $14.66 billion in net revenue leaving about $12.35 billion for educational publishing. There were 2.32 billion trade book units sold and approximately 270 million educational books.
Many RM photographers still believe that microstock images are of much lower quality than RM and that customers who want images of the highest quality will continue to go to RM sites for the images they need. Unfortunately, they are only kidding themselves. (Note the difference in number of downloads in this story
For most of the 431 top iStock contributors
adding more images to their portfolios does not seen to have had a significant impact on the growth in their number of downloads. In fact, those who grew their collections by the smallest percentage, or not at all, seemed to experience continued growth in sales. Seems counter intuitive.
Yesterday I provided a list of the 431 of the top iStock contributors
in the order of the total number of image downloads they have had in their careers. In the coming week I will explore some other ways to look at the available data. It is important to recognize that not all the people on this list are photographers. I have separated them into three groups – Illustrators (I), people with a mix of illustration and photography in their collections (PI) and photographers.
On average, there has been a continued decline in the number of downloads for 431 of iStock’s leading contributors during the first half of 2014. I have been tracking the activity for these contributors for more than 2 year, and about half of them since 2009. Since these individuals joined iStock their images have been downloaded a combined total of at least of 54,291,100 times and a possible maximum of 56,658,200. (See for how I arrived at these numbers.
Since early in 2009 I have been tracking downloads of 192 of iStockphoto’s most productive contributors. At that time istockcharts, a service of multimedia.de provided a daily listing of the total downloads of most of iStock’s contributors. This list could be indexed by downloads so it was easy to determine which contributors had the most iStock downloads in their careers.
In general, prices and revenue have been declining in the stock photo industry. To a large extent this has been due to oversupply and more and more customers finding the images they need at lower price points. Based on the information I’ve been able to collect, I have made estimates of the average 2013 gross license fee for images in the five major price categories – RM, traditional RF, Midstock, Microstock and Subscription. I want to find out if my readers think these prices are high or low.
iStock’s sales seem to have been declining over the last few quarters. About 75% of iStock sales are at Midstock prices totaling roughly $180 million in 2013. There are indications that customers and creators are increasingly dissatisfied. One big questions is whether the decline is due to a generally higher priced offering, poor customer service including a less than optimal performing website, or both.