Online Image Use: Profiling the Buyer

Posted on 8/12/2008 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (0)

The stock-image industry faces a daunting challenge. While there is general consensus that online use of images is among the hottest growth opportunities, little is known about the buyers driving the trend. Larger agencies can gain some image-specific insight from analyzing transaction data or commissioning in-house research; however, much general information is freely available online.

For example, a cursory review of four recent studies by Pew Internet & American Life Project suggests that people most likely to buy images for online use are between 18 and 40, motivated by personal reasons and reside in the United States or China.

Internet users who publish blogs and have incomes or budgets are most likely to belong to Generations Y and X. According to Pew Internet, users aged 12 to 28 are bigger fans of online games, instant-messaging and other social technologies than older users, who tend to use the Web for routine financial transactions, such as banking or making reservations. Users in their 30s are less enthusiastic about leisure pursuits; however, they are highly technologically adept and often blog for both personal and business purposes.

About 20% of teens and Generation Y members (18 to 28-year-olds) had blogs in 2005; Generation X (29 to 40-year-olds) followed with 9%. It is safe to assume that these numbers have increased alongside the proliferation of Internet access, broadband and popularity of blogs as a method of sharing personal and business information.

While the stock industry has always focused on the business customer, recent research from Pew Internet says that personal reasons drive Internet use. Half of those surveyed in February said they first went online for personal reasons, as opposed to 31% citing work and 19% citing school. Many respondents cited the same reason for upgrading to broadband or wireless access.

Today's Internet is characterized, in large part, by the "taker becomes giver" phenomenon, with many of the users who once passively absorbed information having become publishers and creators. This is not new to the stock industry; but it has often been seen as bad, in light of microstock cannibalizing traditional revenue streams. On the publishing side, a positive view seems more logical. An upsurge in blogs and other information-driven online publications is propelling an increase in online image-use.

Ethnic blending and minorities may be the hot keywords for advertisers selling products in the real world, but users racial and ethnic profiles change drastically in the online environment. U.S. domination of the Internet comes as no surprise; Pew Internet estimates that between 165 million and 210 million users hail from there. The second-largest online group hails from China, despite the issues of access and censorship. Pew Internet estimates that in June, there were 137 million Chinese Internet users. In contrast, Hispanics' penetration of the Internet does not correspond with their importance offline: only 56% of U.S.-based Latinos are online, as opposed to 71% of white Americans.

It is impossible to define an emerging buyer segment in the space of one article based on one source of information. However, companies like Pew Internet, ComScore and HitWise can offer independent agencies and photographers a starting point in defining an important emerging target market.

Copyright © 2008 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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