VisualSteam Stock Buyer Survey

Posted on 4/10/2020 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

VisualSteam’s “7th Annual Survey of Creative Pros: Stock Image Licensing” is a must read for stock image creators and stock agency managers who want insights into what leading, major stock photo buyers need, where they are going to purchase images and what they are looking for in the way of service. It is well worth the $79.99 price.

Among the information provided are the 40 “Top of Mind” favorite image providers that survey respondents listed, and their order of “most often used.” After the top 4 you may be surprised at where the other agencies and image sources fall in order of most often used.

One of the major findings is that, “Creative Pros continue to say that finding the right image is their biggest challenge. They mention having to go to too many sites, with too many duplicate images, too many stale and dated images, not enough breadth or depth in selection, and that search is too difficult.”

These leading buyers say, “stock agencies need to get rid of stale and dated content.” They “are frustrated that the time it takes to find the right image continues to go up. Overall, it now takes about a day and a half for the average user to find an image. This has risen by about 4 hours in each of the last two years. This is also at odds with the fact that users say they have less time and more work than ever, which may also explain why ‘ease of access’ was the second most important purchase factor.”

If agencies expect to grow revenue in the future they need to consider the story I wrote recently. If my idea won’t work for them, they need to find a better solution than they are currently offering for the search problem.

According to the survey while “quality is still the top purchase factor, ‘ease of access’ is now number 2.”

RM, RF, Microstock of Free

The relative demand for RM, RF, Microstock and Free is very interesting, but be sure to read how RF and Microstock were defined for respondents. 84% of respondents use RF images which are defined as images priced above $50. While Microstock images are licensed as RF they are not considered RF by this definition.

At first glance one might think that Getty’s Creative RF collection would fall into the above RF category, but a huge percentage of Getty’s RF and RM are licensed at prices below $50. Based on my analysis of major contributor sales ( ) in 2018 about one-third of Getty image licenses were for prices below $5.00. About 16% of Getty’s sales were licensed for prices over $50 and they generated about 62% of Getty’s Creative revenue. That leaves 84% of sales generating about 38% of Getty’s Creative revenue that were priced under $50.

It is certainly possible that my analysis is too pessimistic and actual Getty figures would reveal a higher percentage of high dollar sales. I didn’t have access to a broad cross section of all customer data, but I think these number also say something about the customers VisualSteam surveyed.

The 7th Annual Survey does not tell us how many people received the survey, or the response rate, but it seems clear that the vast majority of respondents were professional, full-time image buyers, mostly with larger organization, that regularly use a lot of images. Unfortunately, a huge percentage of today’s buyers (maybe 84%) use images relatively infrequently and are unwilling to pay much for them. There are also some large users who won’t pay much for images either.

All in all, I think very few, if any, of the 84% responded to the VisualSteam survey. All the responses came from the major image users who are willing to pay reasonable fees for at least many of their projects. They are willing to use Microstock and Free images when the best option for their needs happens to be available at these low prices, but mostly they are looking for quality and “ease of finding what they need,” not the lowest discount price.

Rights Managed

One statistic I found interesting is that only 49% of respondents ever purchase RM. This was down from 58% last year and the first time in 7 years that RM has ever been below 50%. Couple this with the fact that 73% of respondents say Getty is the first place they go to look for images, and it appears that a significant percent of Getty’s customers never bothered to look at RM. In addition, now that Getty has stopped selling RM as of the beginning of 2020, the 8th annual survey will probably show a huge drop in the use of RM. When you look at the “Top of Mind – Favorite Destinations” you discover that very few of them offer much in the way of RM. This should give photographers who are still trying to license their work as RM pause.

In addition to looking at the 7th Annual Survey readers may want to download some of the earlier surveys to see comparative trends.

Copyright © 2020 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


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