Midstock: New Black or Black Sheep?

Posted on 9/17/2007 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (0)

The current disparity of prices is the greatest in the history of stock licensing. Some images are available for $1 for perpetual use; others command thousands while imposing time, distribution and medium restrictions. Somewhere between the extremes is the new buzzword midstock, a concept that attempts to bring some order to the chaos of image pricing.

Some contend that midstock is the future, including Lucky Oliver's founder Bryan Zmijewski, who takes credit for coining the term. FeaturePix and SnapVillage, Corbis' recent entry into user-generated photography, also allow contributors to set prices higher than the typical microstock price of $1 to $15 per image, but typically, lower than the conventional royalty-free costs of $100 and up.

On the more traditional end of the business, Getty Images' new Valueline collection has been categorized as midstock, with prices ranging from $19 to $49. In the U.K., new stock library moodboard is offering images at prices that start at similar numbers. Alamy CEO James West announced today that new, more competitively priced products will launch soon.

Proponents of midstock hope to make up in volume what they lose in single-image price. The longer-term goal is to keep the traditional customer segment that is slowly migrating to micro-payment images, particularly for online use, where cannibalization by microstock has been most severe. While this effect has yet to be definitively quantified, the world's largest stock house is lowering its prices, which leads to the inescapable conclusion that cannibalization is so significant as to change the status quo.

And Getty Images is not alone. Steve Pigeon, president of the Toronto-based Masterfile, says, "We are not deluding ourselves that people buying $1 images from microstock sites will shift to masterfile.com, but I do believe the $49 price point will encourage a lot more clients buying professional image content to stay with us." Pigeon believes the Web offers a large market for lower-priced royalty-free imagery. Though Masterfile will be following Getty's example within a matter of weeks, Pigeon said the $49 Web-use license won't be available for rights-managed stock.

Yet not everyone is jumping on the midstock bandwagon.

Image Source has refused to be part of Getty's new Web-use campaign. SnapVillage aside, Corbis has not lowered prices on any of its premium products. Instead, the Bill Gates-owned company is investing in marketing to the most lucrative segment of premium customers: ad agencies.

Jupitermedia CEO Alan Meckler is not a midstock fan, either. Meckler thinks there is little chance of current microstock customers moving up to midstock, since there is nothing to gain with microstock quality, as editing and search capabilities continuously getting better. Though Meckler says there is still a market for the high-end rights-managed and royalty-free imagery, he contends that the time for midstock has not come: "[It] is really too expensive for the evolving stock-photo market place. Midstock sounds exciting, but it might already be dead."

Copyright © 2007 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


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