Getty's Future Impacts Industry

Posted on 3/7/2008 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (2)

With Getty Images going private, others in the industry will lose access to valuable data that has helped them keep up with future industry trends. Without access to Getty's detailed quarterly figures, it will be nearly impossible to make long-range industry projections. That means relying on personal experience and totally unsubstantiated speculation as to where the industry is headed.

Thus, it's appropriate to re-examine recent Getty's trends for any help they may give us in predicting the future.

Total Revenue

On the Creative side of Getty's business, RM and RR revenue combined for all of 2007 totaled $305.26 million. RF revenue, minus the revenue from iStockphoto, totaled $270.79 million, for a combined total of $576.05 million. iStockphoto revenue for the year was approximately $57 million.

























Going back to 2003, there was significant growth in 2004 and 2005, but it slowed in 2006 and traditional sales declined in 2007. It is important to remember that Getty acquired Digital Vision in April 2005 and Stockbyte in April 2006. Most of their images were being marketed through prior to acquisition, but both brands also brought new customers to Getty. Looking at the RM side of the business, the growth rate overall was more modest and 2007 declined from the 2006 peak.

Units Licensed

Units licensed on an annual basis are listed below. At the beginning of 2007, Getty stopped providing the figures necessary to accurately calculate total units licensed. During two of the four quarters, the company provided some guidance that made it possible to broadly estimate the units licensed. To produce a whole year number for comparison purposes, I doubled the two-quarter number increasing the possibility of inaccuracy in the 2007 numbers. Nevertheless, I believe those numbers are close enough for establishing a general trend.

























RF images licensed rose at a much more rapid pace than RM. Acquisitions of Digital Vision in 2005 and Stockbyte in 2006 contributed to this growth, but most of the images from both brands were already on before the companies were acquired. More important in terms of unit license, growth was the addition of many smaller brands during this period.

In November 2003, I began tracking the number of images on the site by totaling the number of images with horizontal, vertical, panoramic or square orientations. Every image was keyworded with one and only one of these orientations. Thus, the sum total of four searches provided an accurate count of images in any category.

This procedure worked well until September 2007, when Getty launched its new According to Getty's public relations, "Immediately after launch, we noticed that our orientation filters were not working optimally." Approximately one-third of the images on the site no longer show up in orientation searches. Getty has been unable to fix the problem. As a result, in March 2008 I counted images using an orientation search and estimated the actual number assuming 33% were missing from the orientation search.

Images in Creative Collection




























The 2007 decline in RM images and the relatively small growth in RF resulted from Getty moving approximately 100,000 images to the Punchstock brand and a significant overall edit in an attempt to streamline the site.

Return Per Image

In November 2003, I began tracking average return-per-image (RPI) by dividing the total number of RM and RF images into the total revenue generated by each image type in the previous four quarters.




























These numbers are a rough approximation of actual average RPI because images were added throughout the year. Nevertheless, since the same procedure was used each year, the numbers should reflect general trends of Getty's average gross sale - not the amount received by the supplier.

Photographers should keep in mind that these averages reflect Getty's gross return. Photographers or Image Partner agencies receive a small portion of these numbers based on their royalty percentage.

From 2003 through 2005, the RF average held up because Getty was steadily raising prices. But by early 2006, the average price per-image-licensed had reach $250 and has remained relatively stable since. As more images were added to the collection, the average RPI dropped rapidly. To offset this declining revenue, suppliers needed to produce more images annually just to stay even.

Copyright © 2008 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:  


  • Janet Botaish Posted Mar 10, 2008
    I am sick of talking about Getty. It is time to talk about all of the new, out of the box agencies that are really working hard to create a safe and profitable place for photographers.Photographers need to be educated on the options outside of the giants.
    How about it Selling Stock......?

  • Rohn Engh Posted Mar 16, 2008
    Re: long-range industry projections.
    It’s not important what stock photographers will learn from the Getty changeover, stock photographers and agencies already know the answer.
    It’s the new stock photography model. Something’s a brewin’. Have you noticed how many new stock photo agencies have come aboard in the last year?

    Stock photographers and agencies have learned in the last decade to specialize and take advantage of the long tail search that photo editors, art directors, photo buyers and researchers now make on Google and other specialized search engines.

    The media – radio, newspapers, TV networks, the internet, have learned it. All of the professions are doing it, medicine, the legal folks, school systems, pharmaceutical companies, aerospace, etc.

    The future Getty organization will too. They join the Global Village. We’ll show ‘em the way. All this is thanks to today’s technology.

    And as Marshall McLuhan, John Naisbitt, and Allen Toffler told us, “It’s not getting wider, it’s getting narrower.”

    Pay attention, – Jonathan’s successor, Bill Gates, Allen Meckler, et al.
    Rohn Engh – PhotoSource International

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