MicrostockGroup 2012 Survey

Posted on 2/15/2013 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

The MicrostockGroup blog conducts an annual survey of microstock contributors. The survey always receives a very high number of responses compared to other photographer surveys. This year 708 contributors supplied information.

MicrostockGroup has posted an infographic that highlights some of the more interesting information from the 2012 Microstock Industry Survey.  Full survey results will be published later.

Microstock was a primary source of income for only 7% of the respondents (about 50). This points up the fact that the vast majority of microstock contributors are engaged in the business at a part-time, sideline endeavor and have another source of income that contributes to their support. In some cases this is a spouse with a good job. Some have staff photographer jobs, or do a lot of assignment work and look to microstock as a supplement to their primary source of income. Many microstock contributors operate graphic design or illustrator businesses and do some photography on the side.

However, 204 of the respondents said they worked full-time producing images. This means that 150 are working full time at producing images, but not earning enough to support themselves.

It is important to recognize that producing images on a part-time rather than full-time basis says absolutely nothing about the quality of the work produced. In fact, part-timers often produce better images that some full-timers. The part-timers are not under pressure to generate enough revenue to support themselves. They have the luxury of being able to focus on subjects that are of interest to them, but are not necessarily the kind of subjects that will generate the most revenue. And, they are often willing to spend much more on production than the images are ever likely to produce because profit is not a major motivating factor.

The respondent with the highest income earned $523,000 in 2012 while at the other end there was at least one respondent that earned $0 in 2012. The average income was $20,343, but keep in mind that this isn’t bad at all if it is a secondary income supplementing some other primary source. Income increased in 2012 for 26% of the respondents (184), but 74% saw a drop in income compared to 2011.

The survey does not explain the reasons for this drop, but we believe there are two primary causes:
1 – There has been a dramatic increase in number of images available without a corresponding increase in demand. Consequently, customers have more choice which means that there is a decrease in the chances that any particularly image will be licensed.
2 – Many distributors have been raising prices in an effort to compensate for declining unit sales.  See here. As a result many customers have been seeking out – and finding – lower priced alternatives. See here.

Among the more interesting bits of information so far is the shift that is taking place from exclusive to non-exclusive at iStockphoto. 25% of those who responded said they were exclusive with iStock. Exclusives receive a higher royalty percentage and their images are licensed at higher fees. (See here.) But, despite this advantage 52% of exclusives plan to move to non-exclusive in 2013 so they can begin placing their images on other microstock sites. Obviously, the hope is that even if they receive lower revenue at iStock they will earn more in total from multiple sources.

More details will be coming soon.

Copyright © 2013 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.  


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