Random Thoughts 137

Posted on 5/29/2007 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (0)



May 29, 2007

New Aggregator Sites: Promise Of One-Stop Shopping

A meta image search site can offer stock providers access to a broader customer base, while offering buyers more image choices. Aggregator search sites index multiple collections and brands through split commission, pay-for-service or technology-licensing arrangements with image owners.

Slated to enter this market are CogniSign's xcavator.net and CompassMedia's CompassPix, both aiming at the professional stock-image buyer. Xcavator and CompassPix join the more-established Fotosearch and StockPhotoFinder.

Currently in beta testing, Xcavator promises image buyers "breakthrough color and image search technology" and "an unbeatable intuitive experience." Xcavator is testing with 300,000 images owned by Photovault, a stock agency specializing in rights-managed images, and plans to add more shortly. After conducting a search, image buyers are directed to Photovault's Web site to purchase images.

Although Xcavator's technology and interface are distinct, the business model is akin to StockPhotoFinder, which also lacks ecommerce functionality and directs buyers to other sites for information, quotes and purchases. StockPhotoFinder aggregates over 30 million images, but has only achieved a Google PageRank of 4 since its 2004 launch. It has a similarly low rank with Alexa Internet, a subsidiary of Amazon.com specializing in Web traffic statistics.

In contrast, Fotosearch has offered stock-photo search services since the mid-1990s and has a much smaller inventory: 2 million images from about 50 stock photo agencies. It does, however, offer on-site transactions and boasts a Google PageRank of 7. Alexa Internet places Fotosearch below Getty Images but above Corbis in terms of daily site traffic.

CompassPix appears to be following a similar path.

With compasspix.com under construction, the company saves the buyer time and promises a multimillion-image inventory combined with e-commerce functionality. CompassPix already represents well-known agencies, such as Magnum Photos. It also stands to benefit from the direction of the new CompassMedia CEO, industry veteran Paul Melcher, formerly of DigitalRailroad and Hachette Filipacchi Photo Group.

Still, both newcomers have a tough road to travel. They will have to compete with the large collections, technological capabilities and brand awareness of Corbis, Getty Images, Jupiterimages, as well as smaller, established providers. Also, they will compete with each other to represent quality agencies and brands and deliver on higher sales and customer-base expansion. Most crucial, they will have to make it measurably easier for the image buyer. Having to visit multiple Web sites to purchase images after a search is cumbersome.

CEPIC 2007 Seminar Focuses On Developing World Images

By: Julia Dudnik Stern

The CEPIC Congress this summer will cover a range of subjects and industry trends, including user-generated content, image keywording, microstock and new forms of copyright. Dr. Shahidul Alam will address photography of and from the developing countries.

The conference, the world's largest press, stock and heritage image event, will host more than 800 delegates from 46 countries in Florence, Italy, on June 6-10.

The CEPIC 2007 seminar on "Imagery from the Majority World - The Untapped Potential" will discuss the access of local photographers to the global marketplace and how images of the developing world shape our views. According to Alam, nearly all such images are taken by white, non-indigenous photographers, which he says lack cultural understanding or possess a negative news agenda.

Alam also believes that current international trade structures inhibit using the work of indigenous photographers. To correct what he sees as an imbalance, he promotes Majority World, a new global initiative that champions photographers from the developing countries and licenses their work as stock through majorityworld.com.

It is a laudable goal; however, it raises the question of economic viability. Some argue that it is not an issue of market access, but rather demand. Western customers are more interested in Western issues and photography that reflects those concerns.

Maureen Lynch, communications products manager for the United Nations Development Programme, says this is the case with mainstream media, but the issue isn't one-dimensional. She points to the trend of corporate social responsibility, which has resulted in a host of new publications addressing issues of the developing world in a positive context.

Along with UNDP and other philanthropic organizations, such publications need quality images, but Lynch says that these are incredibly difficult to find. Brightly adorned natives and beautiful beaches dominate North American and Western stock offerings, while stock by indigenous photographers is inaccessible due to a lack of representation, Internet presence and other logistical or linguistic difficulties.

Such comments highlight a gap in the stock-photo marketplace. Aid agencies and other nonprofits wield significant financial power. UNICEF alone commands a communications budget of nearly $20 million - and much is devoted to publications and photography. In addition to international aid agencies, the annual revenues of nonprofit organizations registered in the United States exceed $1.1 trillion.

Though philanthropies cannot compete with mainstream media's resources, there is a market for better imagery depicting the developing world. Thus far, the role of developing world photographers in the industry has mirrored the role of their countries in the global economy. Which suggests the CEPIC 2007 seminar on these issues will, at the very least, provoke stimulating dialogue.

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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