Alamy’s Novel Use

Posted on 4/12/2012 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

Back in 2008, in an effort to try to compete with microstock, Alamy introduced its Novel Use licensing model. This strategy allowed the company to license RM and traditional RF images for very limited small uses without risking loss of revenue when these same customers wanted to make larger uses of the images.

Initially they offered three file sizes – 0.4MB, 1.4MB and 5.5MB—for use on blogs, social network sites and certain educational purposes. The prices respectively were – £0.60 ($1.20); £1.20 ($2.40) and £1.80 ($3.60). Suppliers were allowed to choose whether they wanted to participate in this program.

Alan Capel, Director of Sales at Alamy, says, “bottom line is it (Novel Use) means we can sell the images as if they were our own, so at any price and by any means/method/model.” He emphasized that they don’t use it very much but there is no spec for how or in what media the images can be used.

Many participating suppliers believed this strategy was an opportunity for Alamy to reach out to the host of new customers that refused to consider traditional stock. These buyers were, and are, convinced that the usage fees would be much higher than they can afford to pay, given the small uses they intended to make of the images.

To put some perspective on the size of this new market segment; in 2008 it was generally believed that there were at most 300,000 customers worldwide, that based on how they intended to use the images, could justify paying traditional usage rates for the images they needed. Recently, Dreamstime reported that they have 4.2 million customers for their microstock images and iStockphoto probably has twice that many. (Most of 300,000 also purchase microstock occasionally.) Clearly, there are lots of customers whose image needs are such that they will not pay traditional rates.

However, rather than finding a way to go after this new market Alamy seems to have focused on selling to its traditional customers. On the pricing section of its web site Alamy makes no attempt to make the public aware of their Novel Use prices. There is no indication that the company offers special prices for certain types of small uses. There is no way to easily determine which images can be purchased for Novel Use and which can not.

It appears that the only way a customer may learn of Novel Use is through a company sales person, or if the customer complains about Alamy’s rates being too high for the customer’s planned use. In such cases the company will offer a lower rate in an effort to keep the customer from turning to microstock for its low budget projects.

Capel says, “less than 0.001% of our revenue comes from Novel Use. However, given the low prices this could easily represent 4% to 5% of total images licensed annually.”

Is There A Better Option?

Alamy has the right to offer millions of images at Novel Use prices. It seems strange that they resist telling the world about this collection. The company could easily set up a separate web site, maybe called Alamy Micro, which only offers images for a few very specific small uses. The images would be priced based on use. Only images from those suppliers who have agreed to the Novel Use terms would be available on this site.

All the company would have to do is build a new front end for this second site. The existing database, which is the big expense, could be used to serve images to both sites. New submissions would go into the main Alamy database. There would be some additional marketing and SEO costs to promote this site, but it certainly would have a better chance of reaching the bulk of microstock customers than most of the new microstock sites that are springing up.

They would need to define the usage specs very specifically and make it clear that no other usage would be allowed without additional payment. They might want to institute a credit system for customer payment to provide microstock buyers with a more familiar payment system.
If a customer were to find an image on Alamy Micro that they wanted to use for a purpose other than the site’s few allowable uses, they would toggle to the main Alamy site and be able to see the full range of prices for other uses. This way Novel Use images would have a much better chance of creating some revenue for photographers.

Copyright © 2012 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:  


  • James West Posted May 1, 2012

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