Perspectives On The European Picture Market

Posted on 12/4/2000 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)



December 4, 2000

    The following is information presented by Klaus Plaumann of Picture Press in Germany at

    the recent International Conference of Stock Agencies in New York.

    Picture Press is a subsidiary of Gruner+Jahr Publishing House. Gruner+Jahr belongs to

    the Bertelsmann Group. Picture Press employ 45 people and is one of the top five photo

    agencies in the German market based on gross sales. They also run the syndication

    business for the German Gruner+Jahr magazines and have a sub-agent relationship with

    Corbis to handle sales for them in Germany.

Stock Photography In Europe

Mr. Gates was right when he stated -- and this seems almost a century ago -- that

content will be the most important merchandise of the new millenium. We live in the

media age even though we are not yet looking at large data screens with photos while

having our morning shower. To speak about the European agency business is a hard task.

It appears to be more difficult than what we hear from the Getty Corporation or from


Why is that so? Well, they speak about a single large corporation with a clear company

philosophy, clearly defined business goals and clearly planned strategies.

I want to speak about a territory that consists of 35 different states.

  • in which 26 different languages are spoken

  • in which today 15 states are EU members

  • of which eleven are committed to a common new currency, the Euro

  • which has approximately three hundred million inhabitants with huge differences

    in their standards of living

  • with individual laws in each country

  • with different political systems. (Just think of the Balkan countries, for


In comparison, the USA is dominated by only three breweries (like Budweiser) while in

Europe we have around four thousand six hundred breweries with at least as many

different beer brands!

The United States of Europe are not yet in sight. Each country is still working for

itself. Not to mention what will happen when the former Eastern Block Countries such

as Poland, The Czech Republic and the Baltic States join the EU.


The largest association of picture agencies, CEPIC, is a positive link between the

particularly individualistic Germans, Italians, French, British and Spanish. It plays

a significant role to intensify and integrate the European point of view and position

the picture agency business for challenges in the global market.

CEPIC, an umbrella association of eleven national organizations, is registered as an

European Economic Interest Group in Paris -- the only existing pan-European legal form

within the EU. It is based in Paris and has offices in Berlin. Sylvie Fodor is

executive director and it has an international board with seven members from five

different countries. More than nine hundred agencies are represented within this

organization. In order to intensify its work, CEPIC hopes to receive supportive

funding from the EU.

European Picture Agencies International Conferences

CEPIC also organizes an annual congress which is held each year in a different major

European city in order to promote the national picture industry of each country. Last

year the CEPIC Congress took place in Barcelona, Spain. In 2001 Amsterdam, the

Netherlands, will host the event. (See Story 362

for more information.)

Trends and Developments

There are four general trends worth discussing. They are: digitalization, strategic

alliances including portals, Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) and



There are approximately 490 picture libraries, photo agencies and similar companies in

Germany, and 250 have an Internet presence. Worldwide we know of about 850 agencies with

an internet presence without knowing exactly if these agencies have an online database.

I estimate that the usage of digitally delivered photos for print and multimedia will

be 50% of all pictures used within the next 3 years. For the photo agencies, this

means that they have to be prepared to put a higher volume of digital files in their

databases. This also means that in order to get part of the cake everybody involved

in this process has to decide quickly exactly which analog photos contained in the

archives have to be scanned. In future, venture capitalists will not accept higher

costs regarding the processing of analog pictures.

Strategic Alliances

To move faster in the global enterprise, our industry is forming strategic alliances.

The big companies aim for leadership by establishing strong global partnerships.

The small suppliers probably need to cooperate in distributing their offers via the net

in order to cost effectively manage the new technology.

In Europe we have a complex supplier structure which includes many small companies.

In Germany and Italy we mostly have medium-sized photo agencies that are managed

by their owners (Mauritius, Grazia Neri) and have a wide range of subjects to offer.

In Great Britain the situation is different and more like the US.

A handful of company-owned big players dominate the market, while the mass of picture

libraries are relatively small and often specialize in a single subject.

A fine example is "Firepix" that offers fires and firemen only. He has the perfect

address for pyromans!

Many agencies are now realizing that a relatively small electronic photo inventory is

not interesting enough for the users. In Germany, for instance, we only have one

picture agency, which has started e-commerce.


Internet portals are the solution for small agents. These portals serve the

concentration and channeling of pictures available.

Just imagine, there are hundreds or even thousands of agencies in Europe!

No editorial or advertising picture user is willing to view this extensive offer on

screen by logging in at several databases one after the other.

One way to make this mass of photos easy to handle is to place them in internet

portals. You would then only log-in to one portal and immediately have access to all

the agencies that are connected to this mega-search tool. Just by typing the keywords,

you can finally do research for the required picture at a bunch of agencies

simultaneously. This would definitely be quite convenient for the user.

Our company had several requests this year from industrial companies that want to

change their old economy into the new economy with the help of Internet portals. They

look for photos, text, graphics, footage, videos and computer games. They want to make

agreements with us to get hold of our content to conduct business with it, to get their

share of the growing picture market.

The BVPA, our German association of picture agencies, has started the initiative for

its members at a very low price to build up their own portal: .) It

was introduced to the public recently at the Photokina. Only the databases of BVPA

members are connected here. This

exclusive limitation ensures that only a high quality is offered by serious agencies.

The client can conduct research either at all agencies, with a special group of agents,

or just with one preferred agent. To buy the rights the customer speaks with the agent


In Germany we now have the following portals:

  • (over 100 agents)

  • (105 photographers and 10 agents)

  • (5 agents)

  • (7 agents)

  • (app. 700 photographers)


These meta search engines are the perfect solution mainly for the smaller agents. With

the possibility to reach the data of many agents simultaneously, the client can reach a

large selection of images to fulfill his or her needs by simply logging in under just

one Internet address.

This is like a data warehouse for a group of smaller agents, with less costs involved.

I think this kind of cooperation is good and necessary for our industry because many

agents mean a larger selection and a larger variety. This is what makes us all


Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS)

One trend that will definitely become very important for all of us within the next few

years and which is strongly in the hands of European companies is UMTS. This is the

magic word on the continent. (For more information look at .) You

might have heard about the auctions, organized by the governments of our countries, to

sell licenses for this market in the UK and Germany. The Telecommunication companies

looking for better profits in the future market have invested billions of dollars.

"Body communication" is the new word, meaning that today's reader and customer can do

everything via his or her pocket mobile phone. One can shop, watch TV, listen to music

and use photographs, of course!

By the year 2005 Germany will have 65 million mobile phone users compared to more than

forty million today. The Bertelsmann Corporation is very active in getting its part of

the business. Their e-commerce group is bundling these activities in the department

BeMobile -- with two hundred new employees who will take care of this future business.

Bertelsmann has just established a joint venture with the American iSyndicate (to be

known as iSyndicate Europe) poised to extend the European web content syndication

market. This joint venture combines Bertelsmann's global media network with iSyndicate

syndication expertise and relationships with more than eleven hundred independent

content providers. They want to deliver syndicated media to web sites of all sizes and

to wireless devices.

But whatever advantages these new possibilities will bring, the most important

factor in our business still is 'service'. In Germany this word is not yet known as

well as it is in the US. We still have difficulties to sell aggressively and provide

service to the customer. We prefer to worry our clients with additional costs rather

than being more helpful, friendly and flexible.


CEPIC plays a consulting role within the EU regarding the most important Copyright

problems and other questions that are relevant to our industry in the future. The

harmonization of European Copyright Law is one of its most important missions.

BVPA, the German Association of Picture Agencies and Libraries, is very active in the

ongoing discussion on copyright in Germany. The association has issued a statement to

the government, which is presently planning a change of law in order to strengthen the

contractual position of copyright holders. This means that the right to receive an

acceptable fee for each use, as well as the obligation for anybody who has misused the

picture to pay twice the fee, would be included into the German Copyright Law, if

accepted. It would also make so-called "joint agreements" possible, meaning that German

copyright associations would be allowed to agree on common terms and conditions when

setting minimum conditions and minimum fees.

Important Developments in Some Selected European Countries

A Picture Industary Survey of all European countries represented in CEPIC is being

conducted in an effort to get some real figures and hard facts as to the size and

character of the industry. BAPLA, the UK association of picture agencies and libraries

should be commended for having shown us how to make a successful survey. We hope to be

able to present the results of the CEPIC survey at the International Conference in


With a little help from our European friends I collected some facts, and here is the

resume of different opinions about the European market.


    Gross sales in the German picture market are estimated to be around DM 500 million

    ($220 million U.S.) annually. In Germany, picture agencies haven't gone public yet.

    So, we generally have no data about the amount of photos we sell nor do accurate

    information about the turnover of the German companies. Nobody publishes this. In

    Germany nobody talks about the money they make. Just to give you an idea:

    In 1996 the BVPA made a survey because the members wanted to know what is happening in

    our industry. But, from one hundred members, only fifty had sent back the

    questionnaire. Although it was anonymous, many had not bothered to respond or returned

    the forms incomplete. A very disappointing result!

    Great Britain

    In Great Britain, thanks to Paul Brown, researchers still find it easier to call their

    favorite agent. But more and more want to view online. Most agencies have their basic

    website, but the market is stocked over with images, quality is becoming more and more

    important. So it is difficult to keep the fees high, People like to bargain and prices

    are dropping. Print catalogues are still wanted, but have to be extremely good and

    innovative. Royalty Free has had impact on the traditional market and it seems that

    there is space for both RF and traditional.


    The French State is supporting French publishing houses in buying press agencies.

    Getty and Corbis shall not get everything. Many people in Euroland are afraid of an

    oligopoly that can change the price structure as they like and restrict certain clients

    from their picture pools. The publishing houses see danger for the European Magazine

    and Newspaper business.

    SIPA Press has been looking for a buyer for some time. They would prefer a European

    buyer, not an American.

    Corbis Sygma still has problems, we, as the new German representative; also have

    problems with the diverse European mentalities.

What Does the Future Hold for our Business?

I do not see Europeans, equipped with a shaky Euro, blasting a horn to commence the

charge onto the US picture market as yet. We all seem to be more the David's of the

photo industry, compared with the Goliath's -- Corbis and Getty.

But there are signs on the horizon that show changes and strengthening of the European

photo industry. Not only does Jim Pickerell prophesize a growing European market that

will soon outrun the US market; incubators are pumping money earned at the "new market"

into this industry in the Old World; and the miracle word 'content' is also attracting

the venture capitalists who are now investing in European picture agencies.

I know of a large German agency that is preparing to go public after it has received

money from a British group of investors, thus becoming stronger due to the friendly

takeover by another European agent. This is just the start of going into the direction

the USA has put before us.

The knowledge that the European economic trend has got stronger (not as strong as the

US trend, but we are hopeful); the knowledge that the unemployment rates are lower, and

that we are 'Masters of Export', allows me to believe that the Europeans will soon

begin to play a more important role in the international picture business. We have been

delivering visual content to the USA, South America and Asia for a long time. We add

the European touch.

Also, in Europe the large agencies will continue to grow and merge. With the help of

professional advertising, small agents can protect their market position with niche

subjects when they are showing their clients what they are offering. They can

strengthen each other by cooperating with their different picture offers. The smaller

European countries see themselves being pushed aside by the bigger ones, the big

countries ask for leadership -- a fair of vanity and desire.

But our picture business is a very important part of the business of the future. Now,

the Internet is still the most important factor. Linked with e-commerce, it is a good

chance for all people involved, creating new jobs every day. After a decade of

unemployment in many countries on the continent, people have come to understand that we

need new economic structures that are mainly created through the multimedia business.

In future, with the help of Ericsson and Nokia, UMTS will provide us with even more

chances to sell photographs to a mass market. To make it short: I am sure these will

all strengthen the European position in the photo industry.

Content is King also in Europe

What brings us all together is the language of pictures. It is global and

international, without knowing any borders. And I am glad to be part of this.

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 301-461-7627, 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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