Pond5 Introduces Improved Search And Membership Plans

Posted on 2/29/2016 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Pond5 has improved its systems for searching and finding the right video clip or image. In addition, it has introduced a Membership offering that provides significant saving for customers who pay monthly or annual subscription fees.

While many videographers and photographers are opposed to the concept of licensing images via subscriptions, compared to other subscription plans this particular offering may provide a number of advantages that are worth considering. The following details the three aspects of the recent announcement.

Auto Tagging

When the contributor submits a clip NextSense’s auto tagging software visually inspects the clip and automatically adds 20 tags that Pond5’s analysis has shown are most used for the subject matter submitted. Then the creator can review these tags, delete ones that seem inappropriate and add others. The technology analyzes the media itself, not the metadata attached to the file.

NextSense has also added tags to its legacy images. Creators have the option to go in and add or remove those tags. In addition, Pond5’s 20+ curatorial team is regularly monitoring the tags to make sure they are appropriate.

Visual Discovery

When a customer clicks on the preview of a clip, under the full screen version of the image are thumbnails of other clips in two categories – “More videos from artist” and “Other similar videos.” This can be particularly useful for customers because most videographers upload several clips of each situation. If the general situation is not of interest to the customer, then the customer doesn’t have to wade through a lot of similar thumbnails that are by definition of no interest, in order to move on and find something that might be useful.

For the most part the Pond5 editors seem to only pick one of two clips from a sequence for the Membership offering (see below). Other variations can be found in “More videos from artist” and “Other similar videos.”

The Visual Discovery feature is also available with still images. In the tests I’ve done this feature seems to work better with video than with still images. Perhaps, this is because fewer still photographers than videographers are participating in this initial test. Thus, in order to get the 200,000 images that Pond5 wanted to show in their initial offer they may have had to include more similar images in the subscription collection than was necessary with video.

Presumably they are using Reverse Visual Search to find these similar images.


Pond5 has launched a subscription product that offers about 200,000 curated clips at dramatically discounted prices. Initially, the Pro plan is $349 per year for 5 HD video downloads per month (up to 60 in all). The Premium plan costs $599 per year and offers 10 downloads per month. These can be either 4K or HD video, still images or music and SFX files. These prices are a limited time offering. Eventually, they will be $799 and $1199. In addition, members get 10% off the price of any image purchased from the 4.8 million Core collection.

To choose the clips for this “Membership” collection Pond5 identified 1200 of the most used search terms. Then they contacted videographers with clips that related to these terms and asked if they were interested in participating in a subscription product. The contributors were allowed to choose the clips they wanted to opt-in to this program. Next, Pond5 reviewed the work that was opted in and selected 200,000 clips.

At that point each videographer was told the number of their clips that were selected for the pool. It is my understanding that the videographers will receive $0.50 per month for each clip accepted into the collection regardless of whether the clip is ever downloaded. (See previous story)

The $0.50 per month is a minimum guarantee. If the total subscription revenues exceed this minimum payout to all contributors plus and equal share going to Pond5 (a 50/50 split) of the excess will be paid to contributors, based on item performance.  Thus, in addition to a guaranteed minimum payment there is a potential for a royalty.

In calculating the 50/50 split of revenue all discounts offered by Pond5 will come out of its share of revenue. This monthly payment will continue as long as the clip remains in the collection. The payment per clip is exactly the same for everyone.

While the Premium plan offers downloads of still images or music and SFX files in addition to video the royalty payouts are only for video contributors.

At the end of the specified period each videographer will have the option of continuing or withdrawing from the program, and a new fee-per-clip may be negotiated. Pond5 reserves the right to remove or replace content at any time, but it expects to make only minor adjustments to the Collection over the coming months.  Once the initial rollout period is complete, they will review the performance of the items in the Collection and make adjustments based on the data.

Going forward they will consider adding new content to the Membership Collection and inviting additional artists to participate. Currently, there is a waiting list of videographers who would like to participate.

How Royalty Payouts Work

Given that Pond5 has guaranteed to payout $100,000 a month ($0.50 per clip) they will need to take in $200,000 before royalty payments would be allocated. Presumably if customers purchase annual Memberships that amount will be prorated on a monthly basis.

Then Pond5 will calculate the overage, retain 50% for itself and allocate the remaining amount to contributors based on exactly which clips were downloaded that month. For example: if the total taken in during a month was $500,000 the overage would be $300,000. Pond5 would retain 50% of that and the remaining $150,000 would be allocated to pay royalties.

Each download will get the same proportional share of the total available in the pot regardless of whether the list price of the clip downloaded was $30 or $129

Suppose there were 10,000 clips downloaded during the month and 30 of them belonged to one contributor. Each clip would have a value of $15 and the contributor would receive $450 plus his $0.50 per clip in the collection. In any given month there are likely to be some contributors who have no download., All they will be paid is their $0.50 per clip in the collection.

Is the likelihood of a royalty payment realistic? We know that in July 2014 VideoBlocks had 25,000 subscription customers for their $99 unlimited downloads offering. Pond5’s offering is more expensive (the price per-clip could be as low as $5.00), but given the way the clips have been selected the quality may be much higher than VideoBlock’s subscription offers. Many make consider it a very good deal despite the higher price. If Pond5 gets 25,000 customers at an average of $475 a year that would be $11,875,000.

On an annual basis the basic payout required to the owners of all 200,000 images would be $1.2 million. Since Pond5 gets 50% of all revenue collected. They would have to take in $2.4 million to cover the $1.2 million payout. It certainly seems reasonable to assume that they will take in a lot more than that from the Membership program and that there will be significant royalty payouts to owners of images in that collection.

Given the way this offering is organized it seems likely that contributors with images in the 200,000 image Membership collection will see a much higher rate of downloads per clip than those who only have clips in the Core collection.

One would expect customers who pay for memberships to always start their searches in the Membership collection. If they find something there that is more or less what they are looking for, but not the right clip they will then use the Visual Discovery tools to scroll down to “More videos from artist” and “Other similar videos.” If they choose a clip from the Core collection, then they will pay the list price. This could lead customers to images that they might not find in a broad search of the Core collection.

Many customers who are not members may discover that it is to their advantage to search the membership collection as well. It is a curated collection of the best of the 4.8 million video clips. By using it and the Visual Discovery options they may be able to review the larger collection faster than if their only option was the Core collection. If they don’t find what they want in the Membership collection, they can easily go on to explore the Core collection.

Copyright © 2016 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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