iStockphoto After Livingstone

Posted on 3/30/2009 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Beyond a higher level of personal involvement with Getty Images, iStockphoto chief operating officer Kelly Thompson does not think much will change at the Getty-owned microstock business after last week’s resignation of its founder Bruce Livingstone. The newest member of the Getty Images executive committee shares the background of this decision and the company’s plans for the near future.

Since Livingstone’s announcement, the opportunity to vilify the industry’s two favorite targets—the big bad monopoly and the man whose once-insignificant image-sharing Web site has turned the industry on its head—has proven irresistible for many commentators. Livingstone could not possibly have resigned of his own volition, one story goes; he must have been forced out and is only covering with trite protestations of wanting to spend time with his family. Another crowd favorite is that the reason why he “hung on” for so long has to do with a rather large financial incentive he is receiving as a reward. In the meantime, warns another pundit, Thompson’s position as Livingstone’s successor was nowhere near certain, reportedly according to some “very inside” iStock insiders.

Such speculation notwithstanding, Thomspons says: “There is really no dirt. Bruce was just ready. He never worked for a big company before, but he worked really hard at Getty, and it was an awesome experience for him. People are desperate to find something, but Bruce and Jonathan [Klein] are like best buddies.”

Thompson confirms Livingstone’s assertion that most aspects of his departure had been planned for a long time. iStock insiders and close observers, Thompson says, may have been shocked, but they were not surprised.

“A couple of years ago, we worked out a plan of future leadership and marketing. We have remained on that track,” he elaborates. Because of this, there are no management or other changes planned for the immediate future. When Thompson stepped up to the role of COO last summer, iStock hired a senior director of marketing, Nicole Desrosiers, who had assumed his former responsibilities. Short of a legal counsel, a position that has been advertised for some time, no senior executives will be joining iStock in the near future.

iStock remains focused on its business, which keeps breaking financial records. In December, iStockphoto was closing in on $1.1 million in weekly contributor commission payouts; Thompson said that now, the company averages $1.2 million per week, and last week’s payout was $1.3 million.

Many individual contributors are seeing record-breaking numbers, and a surge in early-2009 microstock revenues has been confirmed by multiple shooters on several online forums and blogs. Thompson also said contributors are seeing higher returns per image. “The often-cited $6 to $7 per image is a low-end statistic. People with large portfolios may only be averaging $20 per image; however, there is a number of sharper-focused shooters who submit small numbers of images and earn as much as $591 per image per year—and these are not necessarily our $300,000 to $400,000 earners.”

Traditional photographers are not alone in thinking that microstock agencies have room to raise prices. According to Thompson, iStock is under constant pressure to charge more: “We are pressured by contributors to increase prices, but then there are volume customers who are really, really scared of even marginal price changes,” he explains.

Still, the company believes that the market has room for imagery priced higher than microstock—both at iStock and in the broader stock industry. The company has been actively collecting images for its upcoming premium collection of exclusive content, priced between 30 and 60 site credits for print-resolution images. Thompson also said that iStock has been successful in upselling its parent’s traditional offering with the “try this search at Getty Images” feature on iStock search-result pages: “We send hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of thousands of clickthroughs to, and many end up buying very expensive images.”

To Thompson, this confirms his believe that if the image is right, price does not matter— “within reason, of course. Many of our customers will never pay more than $10 for any image. But there are many who will.”

iStock is also continuing to develop Dexter, its desktop app for volume clients. The recently launched audio and subscription products are doing well, said Thompson, particularly the recently added PumpAudio content. In addition to the premium image collection, a new search algorithm is coming in the near future. Thompson thinks it will be significant, as it will add features such as the ability to deliver more relevant search results based on each user’s language and other data, such as geographic location. “In Germany and in Mexico, ‘beer’ means two very different images,” he explains.

Thompson declined to comment on Getty’s plans for Stockxpert, which it recently acquired as part of Jupiterimages. It seems that the industry will just have to wait to see how Getty handles former Jupiterimages brands.

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


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