Microstock Agency Sizes

Posted on 6/29/2018 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Other than Shutterstock’s quarterly reports and occasional bits of information from Getty concerning iStock there is virtually no solid information available regarding the annual gross revenue generated by the microstock companies.

I decided to take a look at the Poll information that can be found on Microstockgroup.com of 10 of the leading microstock agencies to see if I could draw any reasonable conclusions about the annual revenue of these companies.

The Microstock Poll is updated monthly. Any microstock contributor can participate. It is not a scientific analysis. Typically, the number of responses range from 60 for some of the smaller agencies to 120 for the larger ones. Obviously, this is a vary small percentage of total contributors, but what I am looking for is the relative positioning of the agencies.

I assume that most of the people responding are some of the more successful contributors who have their images with multiple agencies. However, when it comes to iStock most successful contributors tend to be exclusive with iStock.

Analysis Process

One of the first problems is that there seem to be huge swings month to month, particularly with the larger companies. Certainly, when we look at the Shutterstock reported gross revenue doesn’t seem to be anything like these revenue swings. I attribute the swings to the fact that different people complete the survey month-to-month and in many cases the same people don’t consistently report every month. Nevertheless, the relative positioning between companies seems to remain relatively consistent.

Using Microstockgroup’s “Earnings Rating” I prepared the chart below. Since Shutterstock supplies us with regular numbers, I tried to compare the other brands to Shutterstock. To begin I totaled the Shutterstock and Bigstock Earnings Ratings because they are both included in the gross revenue figure Shutterstock reports.

Unfortunately, Shutterstock doesn’t provide us with a breakdown of how much of their revenue comes from the Bigstock collection compared to that of Shutterstock, but if the experience of these contributors is representative Bigstock would generate about $21 million annually.

  Microstock Comparative   Estimate of Shutterstock
  Poll Results Revenue   Relative To Other Brands
Shutterstock 77.7        
Bigstock 3        
  80.7 80.7   120 130
  $580,000,000 $7,187,112   $4,833,333 $4,461,538
AdobeStock 37.5 $269,516,700   $181,249,987 $167,307,675
iStock 31.1 $223,519,183   $150,316,656 $138,753,831
Pond5 16.5 $118,587,348   $79,749,994 $73,615,377
Alamy 10.5 $75,464,676   $50,749,996 $46,846,149
Deposit Photos 14.2 $102,056,990   $68,633,328 $63,353,839
123RF 8.9 $63,965,296   $43,016,663 $39,707,688
Dreamstime 7 $50,309,784   $33,833,331 $31,230,766
Canstock 2.4 $17,249,068   $11,599,999 $10,707,691

I believe Shutterstock’s revenue in the last 12 months was about $580 million. I divided the 80.7 into the $580 million to get $7,187,112 for a base of 1.

After that I multiplied the Microstock Poll results for each of the other agencies by $7,187,112 to get an estimate of the gross revenue of each.

At first glance te iStock figure doesn’t seem too far off if were talking about the entire microstock segment of Getty’s business that includes both iStock and Thinkstock. But if it is for iStock non-exclusive alone the 31.1 is way too high. Getty has said the gross revenue for this segment of their business is about $220 million.

It appears that both exclusive and non-exclusive contributors were included when they get the 31.1 rating, but when the results of a few exclusive contributors are considered separately they have a 124.4 rating which is much higher than Shutterstock. I believe think that is possible for iStock exclusive contributors to earn more than many Shutterstock contributors due to the much higher base price for their images. But these exclusive contributors lose the advantage that Shutterstock contributors have of being able to put the same images with multiple agencies.

A lot would depend on the proportion of the 105 people who responded to the questionnaire that are non-exclusive and have their images with multiple other agencies compared to the proportion of exclusive contributors.

I also question the Alamy results. It is my understanding that about a year ago Alamy’s gross revenue was in the range of $40 million. It might be somewhat higher now, but nothing like $75 million.

That takes me to AdobeStock. When Adobe acquired Fotolia in 2014, I think gross revenue was about $100 million. My guess is that now it is somewhere between $150 and $200 million, but certainly not $263 million.

Basically, the predicted revenue of all the companies seems very high relative to Shutterstock.

Shutterstock Relative To Everything Else

Could there be any explanation for why Shutterstock’s “Estimated Revenue” is so low relative to all the other brands?

One possible answer is the huge growth in the number of Shutterstock contributors compared to contributor growth at other agencies.

Year Contributors Gross Revenue Average Average
      Gross Per Royalty
      Contributor Received
2015 100,000 $425,100,000 $4,251 $1,190.28
2016 190,000 $494,300,000 $2,602 $728.56
2017 250,000 $557,100,000 $2,228 $623.84

Given the number of new contributors to the Shutterstock collection in the last couple years, the average contributor may have seen a huge drop in revenue they receive from Shutterstock compared to that they are receiving from other companies.

While Shutterstock is still seeing annual revenue growth that growth has declined significantly in the last few years as they have added more and more images and more and more contributors. In 2012 thru 2014 annual growth was 40% per year. In 2015 it dropped to 30%. In 2016 and 2017 they started a push to dramatically grow their collection in terms of number of images and number of contributors. In 2017 revenue growth had declined to 13% and a significant portion of that resulted from a significant growth in the use of footage, not still images.

If the Poll results for Shutterstock were in the range of 120 to 130 for “Earnings Ratings” then the revenue for the other companies might look much more realistic. All this is speculation on my part, but I believe it is clear that the difference between Shutterstock’s revenue and that of all the other brands listed is much wider than the “Earning Ratings” numbers indicate.

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 www.selling-stock.com, 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: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


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