PACA Plans Multi-Agency Search Engine

Posted on 10/30/2008 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (2)

The Picture Archive Council of America aims to become the Google of commercial stock imagery. PACA plans to launch a stock-image search engine with a simple interface that will enable customers to quickly identify collections with images that relate to any of more than 120,000 of the most used search terms.

This service will be free to all U.S.-based PACA members. The organization’s board of directors is considering allowing International PACA members to participate for a small fee. PACA will promote the service to customers. Members will be required to supply information about the size of their online collection so the relationship between the number of matching search results and the overall size of a collection can be determined.

The search engine has been created by Doug Dawirs, who has been designing photography-related digital asset management systems since 1990. His extensive work in the field has already yielded a collection of search terms used to locate stock images; he will also be soliciting additional lists of terms from specialist agencies.

The engine is extremely fast as it is designed to only deliver a count of images and URLs connected with the search term, not the thumbnails. All search terms and counts are in a single, regularly updated and indexed database. As a result, the engine does not need to independently connect to each agency’s database at the time of query. The database will be updated by searching each agency site during off-peak hours, so as not to compete with daytime traffic and slow down buyer searches.

Customers of the new search engine are provided with two lists after each search. The first is a descending-order list of the total images, by agency, related to the search term. The second list ranks agencies by number of images relative to the size of the agency’s collection, helping identify agencies that specialize in a particular subject matter.

For example, a search for “Sarah Palin” listed all the agencies that offer at least one image of the vice-presidential hopeful. As expected, some of biggest agencies were ranked first in terms of a total number of relevant images. Alaska Stock was in the mid range in terms of total Palin pictures, but it ranked first in the second, relative list: Palin images represent a much larger percentage of the agency’s total collection (and one was recently used on the cover of Newsweek). In this way smaller agencies with a specialty in a certain type of subject matter can be easily identified.

Selecting an agency from the list redirects customers to its Web site and presents thumbnails matching the search parameters. Customers can open separate browser tabs for several agencies, allowing for easy navigation among different agencies’ content.

The engine also offers disambiguation choices for homographs (words like “trunk,” with the same spelling but several different meanings) or capitonyms (words like “turkey,” whose meaning changes when capitalized). This enables customers to better focus their searches.

Members will receive periodic reports of the subjects searched on their sites, how these results compare with other agencies and other data, such as most requested search terms and phrases.

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:  


  • Beate Chelette Posted Oct 30, 2008
    BRAVO PACA. What a simple and brilliant idea and may I say, way overdue.

  • Carlos Zardoya Posted Oct 31, 2008
    Very nice and long awaited initiative from Paca ! Key to success of this, may be marketing investment, but in the meantime I wonder why International members do have to pay for that and US based not ?

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