SpiderPic Helps Buyers Compare Prices

Posted on 1/29/2010 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (2)

SpiderPic, a division of the Israel based company Ginipic, has launched a new service to help image buyers find the cheapest source for microstock images. This is accomplished by simultaneously searching across multiple sites for specific images.

The company has partnered with Picitup to digitally fingerprint the images in selected collections and then compare those fingerprints with other image in the company’s database and on the web. The technology, similar to that used by PicScout and TinEye, has proven very effective in finding exact matches.

It works because most microstock photographers place the same images on multiple sites. They have discovered they can reach more potential customers and earn more by having their images on multiple sites rather than being exclusively represented by one. This appears to be true even when a site pays exclusive photographers a higher royalty than those who are non-exclusive and provides them better positions in the image search return order.

How it works

Buyers interested in using the free SpiderPic service will begin by going to their favorite microstock site and search for images in the normal way. Once they find an image they would like to use, they copy the URL and paste it into the SpiderPic search box.

SpiderPic will then search iStockphoto, Fotolia, Dreamstime, Stockxpert, 123RF, Crestock and CanStockPhoto to determine if the same image is available on any of these sites. (More sites are expected to be added soon.) Then the search engine delivers a copy of the image on every site where it appears. By hovering over the thumbnail the buyer can see the specific prices for each file size. The buyer can then easily click through to the agency of choice and make a purchase.

SpiderPic’s examples page demonstrates that in some cases prices for the exact same image can be 10, 20 or even 30 times higher when purchased from the most expensive distributor compared to the cheapest available price.

Implications for photographers

To the degree that his site is discovered and used by customers, microstock photographers and most of their leading distributors will probably earn less money. Photographers will find it necessary to give serious consideration to a distributor’s pricing when they make decisions about where to post their pictures. The era when the addition of each new distributor was add-on revenue is dead. For example CanStockPhoto is usually the most inexpensive by a wide margin. Photographers making a lot of sales on some of the leading sites may want to pull their images off CanStockPhoto to keep them from undercutting the photographer’s other distributors.

Leading distributors may need to consider adjusting their prices to bring them more inline with at least some of their competitors.

On the other hand there might be benefits for some top image producers. Lior Weinstein of SpiderPic tells me that the company will accept images for fingerprinting directly from photographers. Let’s assume that Yuri Arcurs (and I haven’t talked to him about this idea) might decide that he wants to license his images directly, or set up an agency to represent a few photographers for this purpose. He pulls his pictures off all the sites that sell them for extremely low prices compared to the prices charged by the leading distributors. He continues to supply pictures to the industry leaders. Then he sets up his own site, makes sure his prices are slightly below all the other sites that represent his work and sits back to collect his money. All his distributors market for him. The distributors draw the customers in and then they buy from Yuri because he is the cheapest option. Yuri earns much more because he keeps 100% of the revenue generated rather than only receiving a 20% royalty.

An iStockphoto customer may find an image of Yuri’s that he wants to use. He searches for it on SpiderPic and finds that Fotolia charges $32 to use the picture, iStockphoto $27, Dreamstime $25, Stockxpert $10 and Arcurs has set his price at $8. It’s logical for the customer to buy the image from the photographer rather than one of the distributors. Yuri keeps 100% of the fee, with noting going to the distributor. Depending on how important the Stockxpert business is Yuri may decide to dump them as a representative and raise his price to $15 or more. His still has the lowest price out there for an image the customer has already decided he wants to buy.

Traditional royalty free producers might also find this service attractive. They already have web sites and the capability of transacting sales. If Getty Images is going to sell their pictures for $10 at least they might get all of it rather than 20%. All they have to do is have the images on their site fingerprinted and make sure SpiderPic has fingerprinted all the images of the major stock distributors. Then they match the lowest price offered, or go slightly lower, and rely on distributor marketing to bring in the customers.

In the future they may also have the option of searching for similar images. This doesn’t work as well as finding exact matches, but it still has some interesting implications, particularly for suppliers who don’t have images on any of the major sites. Suppose a customer finds an image on Getty that is close to what she wants, but she would like to find something that fits all her parameters better. So she copies the thumbnail or preview and loads it into SpiderPic which then fingerprints it. Then SpiderPic compares that fingerprint to all the other fingerprints in its database looking for images with as many similar characteristics as possible. If a small agency has had all its images fingerprinted and loaded into SpiderPic’s database a customer may find their image even when the agency is not represented by any of the distributors in SpiderPic’s database.    

A potential problem in all this is that SpiderPic still doesn’t know how they are going to monetize this service. For the time being everything if free. Who will they charge and how much? Their plan is to see what kind of traffic they can build over the next few months and then find ways to charge for the service. That could easily be the Achilles heel. At the same time the service could also be a game changer. At the very least the existence of this technology could cause many people to scramble.

Copyright © 2010 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.  


  • Bill Bachmann Posted Jan 30, 2010
    Oh this is good...let's let Yuri and other top shooters RUSH to sell images for even less money! Let them all race towards the bottom.

    Maybe someone will then decide to PAY the buyer so he will use the image. The race is on to go out of business in Micro.

    This profession never stops surprising me. Why does everyone want to dash to the lowest price?? Jim, you should know better. Are you trying to encourage everyone to go out of business? Why not think of ways to make stock better and more expensive?

    Bill Bachmann

  • Jim Pickerell Posted Feb 2, 2010
    Alan Capel of Alamy sent the following comment:

    We are very concerned about the statements you make, particularly the comment below.

    “SpiderPic’s examples <http://www.spiderpic.com/examples> page demonstrates that in some cases prices for the exact same image can be 10, 20 or even 30 times higher when purchased from the most expensive distributor compared to the cheapest available price.”

    SpiderPic is clearly misrepresenting the market in two key respects

    Firstly, Alamy’s pricing for Low Res images starts at $5, something which is conveniently ignored.

    Secondly, For a customer to purchase comparable rights for a microstock images as they can for a standard Alamy RF licence they will have to purchase extended licences which in some cases actually work out more expensive.

    The SpiderPic comparison is an artificial one and is very far away from comparing apples with apples. The editorial comment that you have provided fails to recognize the difference in licenses granted. Please find attached a fact sheet which further illustrates our point with some examples which you are free to use.

    With best regards
    Alan Capel
    Head of Content

    I do agree that it is unfair to compare Alamy with the microstock sellers because the business models and so different. It also seems to me that someone using Alamy as the search for images would then bother to see if they could find the same image on a microstock site. Very few images that can be found on Alamy are also on microstock sites.

    However, most microstock customers should find the ability to compare sites to find the lowest price very useful.

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