New World of Micro-targeted Communications

Posted on 3/13/2008 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

The information world is moving rapidly toward more customized and targeted communications, which will dramatically affect how photographers market and promote images. "To be successful, large and small companies will need to build their micro-targeting skills, identify small intense subgroups and communicate with them about their individual needs and wants," according to Barbara Pellow of InfoTrends.

What does this mean for photographers? First, a significant portion of total uses will be much more targeted than in the past. Buyers will have smaller budgets for these projects, but still want top-quality pictures. They will be unable to afford to pay the kind of fees photographers have traditionally expected. On the other hand, it may become possible to license each image many more times than in the past.

In the 1990s, when print catalogs were the principle method of marketing, it was believed the total worldwide universe of buyers of professionally produced images was between 150,000 to 200,000. The Image Bank would sometimes distribute 300,000 catalogs, but often, many copies ended up going to the same individuals. Now, as a result of microstock, we know the number of potential stock photography buyers is in the millions. Many of these buyers represent very small organizations with minimal budgets.

Pellow says: "Twenty years ago, 80% of the American population could be reached by placing an advertisement on the three major television networks. Today, it would take 150 to 200 advertisements to reach that same audience." Companies that didn't have the budget for TV would target their message to newspapers, local magazines and direct mail. Now, with technological developments, more people are finding that it is possible to produce professionally looking communications with smaller press runs (or digital device distribution) directed at smaller and more specific groups of consumers. They all need images.

It used to be necessary to get a significant fee every time an image was licensed because it was likely to only be used a few times. Now, consider Yuri Arcur's photo of a "woman in an office" that has sold 6,755 times on iStockphoto in less than two years-and that's only one of the sites where it is being marketed.

The average fee at iStock in 2007 was $3.25, making the total gross for this photo close to $22,000. Or consider Rene Mansi's photo of urban "London" that has sold 3,009 times in less than a year, or Lise Gagne's photo of "Silhouettes of Business People" in front of a globe that has been licensed 4,660 times.

In many cases, microstock prices are lower than they need to be and price increases seem likely. But there are a host of customers that traditional image sellers have never addressed because these customers couldn't afford to pay the fees traditional sellers were demanding.

Given the way the marketing world is headed, it may be necessary to produce a wide variety of marketing messages, delivered in various ways, including cable TV, small direct mail pieces, free standing inserts, Web, etc. All may need custom copy and different visuals; the amount paid for each project may be one-hundredth or less of what has been paid in the past. But the volume of uses could result in greater revenue. And in the final analysis, total revenue is everything.

Many image sellers are still aiming for those rare big-ticket projects and big-ticket sales while demand moves rapidly in the direction of small, low-cost uses. There is nothing wrong with getting thousands for a single use as long as it doesn't cause you to lose sight of what volume at lower prices can do. Unfortunately, many traditional sellers are so focused on getting high prices for exclusive sales it is impossible for them to pursue lower-priced volume. <p>

Mark Penn's book Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes offers some additional thoughts about how individualized products and services have become and the changes that are ahead.

Copyright © 2008 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:  


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