Getty Images, iStockphoto Have Trouble Integrating Jupiterimages Web Sites

Posted on 5/8/2009 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (0)

This week saw Getty Images’ first public move to integrate the recently acquired Photos.com and Jupiterimages Unlimited into the proverbial bigger picture. The plan was to augment the inventories of the two Web sites with some iStockphoto content. Despite iStock’s atypically great relationship with its community and seemingly reasonable contributor terms, contributors' vehement anti-subscription and anti-Getty Images feelings almost immediately derailed the plan, at least for the moment.

Subscription offerings continue to gain market share in a market where image-buyer budgets are in a downward spiral. Getty’s plan was for Photos.com and Jupiterimages Unlimited, two leading subscription Web sites, to take a bigger chunk of the subscription market, while offering iStock members a new avenue for selling their images. iStock images that have not sold in 18 months, images older than two years and with fewer than five downloads, and Dollar Bin files would be added to the Photos.com/JIU subscription offerings that had microstock components.

This seemed full-proof. The arrangement would be entirely voluntary for iStock contributors, with an opportunity to opt out fully or by individual file. It would allow old, non-performing and cheapest materials to generate revenue. It would broaden iStock photographer exposure to a more lucrative buyer segment.

The iStock community’s reaction—documented with pages upon pages of comments on the company’s forum—was far from favorable.

The fact that iStock was offering slightly better per-image payouts than competitive microstock subscriptions did not alleviate a pervasive anti-subscription attitude among iStock shooters. Despite the fact that the micro-subscription leader Shutterstock is a top source of revenue for many microstock photographers, the majority of microstock photographers see subscriptions’ tiny commissions (of typically less than $0.30 per image) as unfair and insufficient.



There were other, iStock-specific issues.

Exclusive contributors overwhelmingly felt that this arrangement would devalue the notion of iStock exclusivity. The opt-out option did not seem to help.

Others raised a familiar notion of Getty domination over its microstock subsidiary. “I don’t believe for a moment this scheme was ‘developed’ between iStock headquarters and the powers that be at Getty,” wrote one iStock shooter. “They aren’t partners. Getty owns iStock. Seems pretty obvious this has been forced on iStock.”

To add insult to injury, many contributors changed their iStock avatars to display the words “opt out” instead of the visuals they had previously used.

The corporate response was penned by iStock chief executive officer Kelly Thompson, who said he was disappointed this did not go as planned and caused a substantial distraction for the microstock company’s staff. He scolded community members stoking the iStock vs. Getty fire: “This needs to stop. These are people we work with every day, and they work hard to make sure iStock is successful… Everyone keeps thinking of this as iStock versus the world, but we're part of a family now with Getty Images, and the sum of the whole is greater than the parts. Subscription on iStock is not good enough. Photos.com is our best opportunity at creating a competitive subscription site, and you should want to be involved. This will be several million in extra royalties that goes to someone. Who is it going to be?”

iStock is still examining how to modify the Photos.com/JIU arrangement to make everyone happy. However, given this initial reception, Thompson thinks that the most likely outcome will be for Getty Images to look to places other than iStock for additional Photos.com/JIU imagery.


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

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