Baby-Proofing Cutcaster

Posted on 8/13/2009 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (3)

When Cutcaster announced its Betta Than Vetta image collection, its intent to ride on the coat tails of an earlier iStockphoto launch was patently obvious. The announcement was predictably followed by a cease-and-desist letter from iStock and a new—definitively Betta—product name for Cutcaster. Even those paying close attention to the micro segment quickly dismissed the entire thing as a weakly conceptualized publicity stunt, but Cutcaster founder John Griffin continues to fascinate onlookers with ramblings so devoid of professionalism as to cast doubt on the validity of his entire enterprise.

To be fair, there is nothing particularly wrong with taking on a competitor, in the media or otherwise. But if you are going to bark at the big dog, don’t you want to make sure your claims can withstand at least minimal scrutiny? The very notion that a 300-image non-exclusive offering from a sparsely trafficked newcomer can even begin to compare to a year-in-development 35,000-image exclusive collection from the company that sells the most stock photos in the world is… well, laughable. Yet Griffin writes on the corporate blog: “A lot of people/customers that I spoke to thought it was a great new collection and was in fact better on a few levels so I was telling the truth by calling it that.”

Eye of the beholder aside, one would have expected a chief executive of a business to get at least a phone call’s worth of legal advice before using a unique foreign-language word already in use by a competitor in a product name. Asked if he consulted an attorney, Griffin said: “I checked the trademark and it doesn’t appear to be trademarked. I don’t think you can trademark words like that but could be wrong ;-).” In other words, this rash could be skin cancer, but I’ll confirm this by dying later—instead of calling the doctor now.

What exactly was he thinking? “I liked the ‘playful’ name.” Griffin’s reaction to iStock’s cease-and-desist letter—which he posted online and then removed several hours later, in a manner befitting a senior business executive who carefully considers his actions before taking them—is along the same lines: “I was really bummed.” And overall: “To be completely honest, I found the whole process of creating a collection and the legal tussle that ensued to be very interesting, a bit fun [and] a bit scary due to some perceived threats.”

To give credit where credit is due, Griffin appears to have remained in good spirits despite the wave of criticism that far outweighs several “stick it to iStock” hurrays. But what has this stunt really accomplished? Yes, Cutcaster did get some press; it probably also stole a bit of iStock’s Vetta traffic—likely nothing meaningful. In contrast, the cost to the public image of Cutcaster and its CEO has been quite significant.



From a photographer’s perspective: “I’m not in a rush to contribute to a company which seems to come up with policies on the back of a beer mat,” reads one of the kinder comments on the Microstock Group forum. Others are flat-out laughing: “It’s such a hilariously bad name! I think most people can’t believe anyone could come up with something so ridiculous and actually put it into practice.”

And these are the reactions of contributors, who have a vested interest in Cutcaster’s success. How likely is a buyer to want to deal with a company whose chief executive appears to have taken permanent residence in the South Park zip code?

Griffin says he is not easily embarrassed and plans to “keep fighting for photographers and buyers so everyone gets a fair shake.” To achieve this worthy goal, he might consider modifying his management style. As aptly demonstrated by Bruce Livingstone, a suit and a post-graduate degree is not an absolute requirement for success, but being taken seriously by your peers and clients most certainly is.


Copyright © 2009 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

Comments

  • Don Farrall Posted Aug 13, 2009
    I don't even get the company name... Cutcaster. I'll admit, Vivozoom doesn't make much sense either, and Google and Yahoo are pretty pointless as well, but "Cutcaster"??? Am I missing something here? I too had my doubts when I read about the introduction of "betta than vetta". There are plenty of reasons to dislike Istock, but they are at least professional in their approach. Clearly we are in an environment where entry into this maketplace doesn't require much.

  • Posted Aug 25, 2009
    I appreciate your reaction to the release and the criticism regarding my professionalism. I never saw this post until your sales guy sent me a free signup credentials to determine if I wanted to buy a membership so the bootstrapping start-up in me says thanks for the freebie. Sorry you didn't get the humor in the press release. It's August and everyone needed a chuckle.

    I could obviously post about a few of the points you make above and how you "cherry-picked" a few of your quotes to take things way out of context (which I will say was well set up on your part to prove your false "unprofessional" point) but I will discuss one below that really brought a smile to my face and made me shake my head. It had me wondering what you were trying to accomplish by highlighting a complete myth and showed a lack of research which overtakes some of your valid commentary above.

    You wrote:

    “From a photographer’s perspective: “I’m not in a rush to contribute to a company which seems to come up with policies on the back of a beer mat,” reads one of the kinder comments on the Microstock Group forum." You continued below "And these are the reactions of contributors, who have a vested interest in Cutcaster’s success.”

    The quote you chose is from an istock EXCLUSIVE (meaning he only sells through istock). Not sure if your research turned that up but you may want to dig a bit deeper next time. http://www.istockphoto.com/user_view.php?id=504518 LEONATRA )


    I’d loveeeeee to know how LEONATRA has a vested interest in Cutcaster doing well when he is an istock exclusive and why you chose that one in particular when the responses were OVERWHELMINGLY positive in the forums, blogs and our blog at http://blog.cutcaster.com. Surely you researched the person's background who made the quotes as any good reporter would do before you used his quote and aligned it to your argument.

    Also you attack me personally, Cutcaster's mission and a collection that is hoping to raise pricing and payouts to photographers in an industry where they have been falling and only going lower. I have looked back over the commentary and you never seem to call out any of the other agencies for lowering their prices and payouts in the last 6 months without telling their contributors first. I have made it an ABSOLUTE policy to always ask our community what is best for the group and in addition, I put my cell phone and personal email on the contact us page in case anyone has an issue. I don't know of any other sites that make their founders so accessible to both buyers and sellers.

    I do agree with you that getting publicity the way I did so Cutcaster's photographers can sell more images through Cutcaster by choosing a "tongue in cheek" title for our collection could have been done differently. You made a good point and we carefully discussed and weighed that negative with our entire team and lawyers, contrary to what you say happened. I researched the Vetta trademark and istock didn't own it and didn't apply for the trademark until 3 days after my release was public. I have a limited budget unlike istock who makes hundreds of millions a year and have to be creative with how I get attention outside of what I spend on advertising. Sorry if my little poke wasn't seen that way. However by taking one thing I do, calling me unprofessional and painting the one action with such a broad brush is like me taking your above errors and lack of research and saying you lack the journalistic skills to work for a professional newsletter which in turn calls into question the entire "enterprise" you write for. I wouldn't make that argument.

    To see what really happened straight from the horse's mouth see this blog post below or call me up at 2156882751. I'm happy to talk to anyone. That is my cell and we can chat about the name and what happened offline.

    http://blog.cutcaster.com/2009/08/11/update-on-betta-name-change-and-what-happened-behind-the-scenes/

    Just my two cents but I definitely appreciate the feedback and will think twice before I call my Fotolia inspired "tongue in cheek" collection, "More Significant than Infinite" KIDDING Julia.


    "Clearly we are in an environment where entry into this maketplace doesn’t require much." Don. Not sure what to tell you after reading your post above but Best of luck with Getty and glad you at least understand their name enough to work with them. You do have some awesome images on their site.

  • Posted Aug 25, 2009
    Julia after checking again I am still confused as to how you screwed up this part again in your research or failed to acknowledge it as well. You make it seem like the two quotes you used describing contributors reactions were from different people below

    From a photographer’s perspective: “I’m not in a rush to contribute to a company which seems to come up with policies on the back of a beer mat,” reads one of the kinder comments on the Microstock Group forum. Others are flat-out laughing: “It’s such a hilariously bad name! I think most people can’t believe anyone could come up with something so ridiculous and actually put it into practice.”

    You have to do more research Julia or at least present the facts in a fair way.

    The two quotes you used were from the SAME istock exclusive guy, LEONATRA, yet you wrote that "others" were saying this. Would you mind clarifying this and explain why you wrote it the way you did????

    You forgot to add in that LEONATRA also wrote "It's pretty funny though I give them that."

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