Growing Revenue In The Future

Posted on 4/6/2018 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

The major stock agencies seem to have reached a revenue plateau. It is time to consider a major change in marketing strategy. There is a strategy that should be relatively easy to implement which could result in higher, overall revenue from licensing the same number of images.

Why We Need A Change

    1 – There doesn’t seem to be significant revenue growth overall in the worldwide market.
    2 – There doesn’t seem to be significant customer growth. There many still be growth in the number of people who want FREE images, but that isn’t going to help agencies make money.
    3 – Agencies have tried to take market share from each other by lowering prices, but we are to the point where it is impossible to lower prices much more without just giving the images away. The big 5 – Getty Images, Shutterstock, iStock, AdobeStock and Alamy seem to be in static positions with regard to market share. They are no longer able to take share from each other and acquisition of smaller industry players isn’t making a significant difference.

    4 – Growing the size of image collections isn’t doing much to increase image use or revenue growth. Shutterstock is the classic example. In 2017 their number of downloads grew by 3% compared to 2016. The number of images in their collection grew by 46%.
    5 – The growing size of collections is making it harder, not easier, for customers to find the images they want. Customers want smaller, curated collections of the best images.
The new strategy should involve (a) segmenting the huge collections into a series of smaller collections based on the demand for certain images, (b) doing away with the idea that all images are of equal value regardless of the skill of the creator, the cost of production, or the demand and (c) pricing based on that demand.

Advantages of the new strategy:
    1 – Make it easier for best customers who can afford to pay a little more to quickly find the images they need,

    2 – Make it easier for creators to determine what is in demand, and
    3 - Make it more likely that some of the most productive creators will stay in the business and continue to produce.

Here’s How It Could Work.

- Segment the collections into the following 7 categories and allow customers to search each collection individually, or a combination of collections such as collections 1, 2 and 3 or collections 6 and 7. The “Never Licensed” images should be separated into at least 3 categories.
    In collection more than 1 year
    In collection more than 3 months but less than 1 year

    In collection less than 3 months
Whenever an image from the never licensed collection is licensed it is automatically moved to the “Licensed 1 to 3 times” collection and remains there until it needs to be moved to the next higher collection.

2 – Change the pricing structure from “all images being of equal value” to a system based on the “number of uses.” This could be easily done by changing licensing packages from number of “image downloads allowed” to “credits purchased.” I’ll use some of the Shutterstock numbers to demonstrate how this might work.

Collections Image Licenses
$2.58 $2.00
$1.50 $1.00
  Value Value
Value Value
 1 to 3
Images Never Licensed
1 credit
$2.58 $2.00
$1.50 $1.00
 4 1 to 3 times
2 credits
$5.16 $4.00
$3.00 $2.00
4 to 7 times
3 credits
$7.74 $6.00
$4.50 $3.00
 6 8 to 12 times
4 credits
$10.32 $8.00
$6.00 $4.00
 7 13 or more times
5 credits
$12.90 $10.00
$7.50 $5.00

Shutterstock offers packages that allow customers to download 50, 350 and 750 images per month. Instead of allowing the customer to download a certain fixed number of images the customer will be given a number of credits that can be used to purchase images from any of the 7 collections.

If the customer chooses to purchase 50 credit for the $129 currently charged and gets 50 credits each credits would be valued at $2.58. If the customer can find everything she needs in one of the “Never Licensed” collections she can download 50 images.

But, suppose she finds 2 images in collection 6, 1 in collection 5 and 1 in collection 4 that she wants to use she will have used up 13 credits and will now only be able to get 37 images from the “Never Licensed” collections for a total of only 41 images.

Based on the 50 image pack the $2.58 per-credit isn’t so far off from the $2.18 per-image customers are paying now. But for customers buying 350 or 750 image packs even $1.50 or $1.00 might at first seem a huge increase over what they are currently paying.

Per Image
  Month to
Per Image
  Commitment Value   Month Value
50 Images $109 $2.18   $129 $2.58
350 Images $169 $0.48   $199 $0.57
750 Images $199 $0.27   $249 $0.33

However, we need to keep in mind that based on the total annual downloads most of the people purchasing these larger packages seldom download all the images they are allowed in a given month. I have estimated based on the total number of downloads (172 million in 2017) that on average customers purchasing the larger subscription packs only download 25% to 30% of the images they are allowed.

If that is the case then $1.00, or ever $1.50 would be a reasonable value for a credit and not cause a dramatic increase in the cost each customer must pay for the images they need unless they consistently want to use images in the higher priced collections. If they are regularly using high demand images they should be willing to pay a little more.

Another way to make the use of credits more attractive is to extend their life beyond a month, or never allow them to expire.

The agencies have the data to figure out exactly what the price of a credit, or credit pack should be in order to maintain current income based on current usage. Once established the credit prices can be slowly raised.

Copyright © 2018 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:  


Be the first to comment below.

Post Comment

Please log in or create an account to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive email notification when new stories are posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Stock Photo Pricing: The Future
In the last two years I have written a lot about stock photo pricing and its downward slide. If you have time over the holidays you may want to review some of these stories as you plan your strategy ...
Read More
Future Of Stock Photography
If you’re a photographer that counts on the licensing of stock images to provide a portion of your annual income the following are a few stories you should read. In the past decade stock photography ...
Read More
Blockchain Stories
The opening session at this year’s CEPIC Congress in Berlin on May 30, 2018 is entitled “Can Blockchain be applied to the Photo Industry?” For those who would like to know more about the existing blo...
Read More
2017 Stories Worth Reviewing
The following are links to some 2017 and early 2018 stories that might be worth reviewing as we move into the new year.
Read More
Stories Related To Stock Photo Pricing
The following are links to stories that deal with stock photo pricing trends. Probably the biggest problem the industry has faced in recent years has been the steady decline in prices for the use of ...
Read More
Stock Photo Prices: The Future
This story is FREE. Feel free to pass it along to anyone interested in licensing their work as stock photography. On October 23rd at the DMLA 2017 Conference in New York there will be a panel discuss...
Read More
Important Stock Photo Industry Issues
Here are links to recent stories that deal with three major issues for the stock photo industry – Revenue Growth Potential, Setting Bottom Line On Pricing and Future Production Sources.
Read More
Recent Stories – Summer 2016
If you’ve been shooting all summer and haven’t had time to keep up with your reading here are links to a few stories you might want to check out as we move into the fall. To begin, be sure to complet...
Read More
Corbis Acquisition by VCG/Getty Images
This story provides links to several stories that relate to the Visual China Group (VCG) acquisition of Corbis and the role Getty Images has been assigned in the transfer of Corbis assets to the Gett...
Read More
Finding The Right Image
Many think search will be solved with better Metadata. While metadata is important, there are limits to how far it can take the customer toward finding the right piece of content. This story provides...
Read More

More from Free Stuff