AFP, Getty Images: Year of Citizen Photography

Posted on 12/6/2007 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Last week, leading global news service Agence France-Presse took a 30% stake in the Paris -based citizen journalism company Scooplive. French firm IAM also took a 30% minority stake in the online film and photo platform.

Remaining shares are retained by founders Matthieu Stefani, Julien Robert and Philippe Checinski. Established in 2006, Scooplive has become Citizenside after the investment by AFP and IAM.

Citizenside employs a similar model as other segment players, which include the similarly named Glasgow-based Scoopt and New York's Citizen Image. Site users from 90 countries upload images and video, with unique items auctioned off to the highest bidder and others sold at fixed rates. New investment capital is slated to finance international and content expansion, as well as further penetration of the established print, television, Web and mobile media.

The user-generated content model has worked extremely well for microstock agencies and broader-scope content distributors. For example, was established in 2005 to provide user-generated news articles, video and audio to companies looking to supplement their offering. The company's board comprises pioneering online executives, including Google's Tim Armstrong.

Despite the proven validity of the crowd-sourcing model, the niche of citizen photography has yet to be fully defined within the broader scope of either user-generated content or stock-image markets. This is the first year for user-generated news and video in the majors, with AFP investment in Citizenside and Getty Images' March acquisition of Scoopt.

Though these companies are the innovators defining this new niche, their financial potential is likely just a drop in the bucket for AFP and Getty, as is their site traffic. Many wonder about the "real" reasons behind AFP and Getty interest in citizen snapshots.

AFP chairman Pierre Louette refers to investing in Citizenside as "a purely commercial and technical experiment in the Web 2.0 field, to help our clients, mainly in the media field." AFP does not intend to influence Citizenside's editorial decisions, but will use the content to complement its own production. The exact arrangements are not yet defined.

In the case of Getty Images, however, the relationship between the parent company and its citizen-photo subsidiary is made clear on the Scoopt Web site: "Getty Images will be actively marketing the best images submitted to Scoopt through its global sales network, so your chances of making a high value sale or multiple sales are greatly increased."

This suggests the large firms' interest in citizen photography is not primarily financial. It is more likely rooted in the traditional news paradigm, expanded to account for new types of content and media: Offer the broadest possible range of content, and protect yourself from being out-scooped.

Copyright © 2007 Julia Dudnik Stern. 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


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