What Motivates Professional Users Of Stock?

Posted on 3/30/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Cutcaster recently conducted a survey using their own database and Adbase’s email list of creatives in multiple industries in North America. The professional backgrounds of the recipients cover most industries. They received 344 responses almost all of which came from North America with the next largest groups being South America and the UK. See the preliminary results at http://blog.cutcaster.com/2011/02/10/picture-buyer-stats-released-market-information-for-online-image-users/

The survey results provide a few interesting data points. Since this survey was aimed at professional users the results don’t offer us any information about the usage habits of the small-business and consumer segments of the microstock market which are believed to represent the vast majority of all image downloads. Only 28 of the respondents indicated they were small businesses, however another 74 clicked the “Other” category and many of them could also have been small business users.
Over one-quarter (25.3%) of the respondents were in the book, magazine and newspaper publishing business. The Cutcaster data indicated that a majority of these publishers purchase images 50 or more times per year and pay on average $101 to $250 per images. In a few cases they pay more, but seldom less.

26.6% of respondents were either graphic design firms or freelance graphic artists. If we add on the 6.7% in advertising agencies fully one-third of respondents are the kind of customers who a few years ago only purchased RM and traditionally priced RF images. Most of the graphic design firms and freelance graphic artists are 1 to 4 person shops and purchase stock imagery a high number of times per year.

Unfortunately, Cutcaster didn’t ask these professional users whether they used RM, RF or microstock, but they say, “We assume they are using a mixture of both of just RF. Also we think some of the higher end buyers who didn’t know about the more affordable microstock imagery are starting to find these new agencies and pricing models and moving their licensing dollars to those companies.”

I believe that every “high end buyer” has been fully aware of microstock for some time and these customers already use it as often as they can based on the requirements of their particular projects. Thus, in my opinion it seems unlikely that there will be much growth in the number of microstock images used by high end buyers, but the survey doesn’t provide us with any data that would support either of these conclusions.

When asked, “What are your top three resources for finding stock photos?” as might be expected Getty Images and Corbis dominated the list. This would indicate that the professional buyers are still using the traditional sites to a great extent for their purchases. If that is the case then small businesses and consumers who are not on the radar of traditional sites are currently purchasing the vast majority of microstock images.

My estimates based on the fragmentary information available is that worldwide there are about 4.5 million images licensed each year at traditional prices and close to 100 million images licensed at microstock prices. The microstock market is a huge market to ignore.

In a totally different context Claudia Micare of Getty Images recently confirmed that the customers who purchase images at subscription prices and those who buy images at traditional RF prices “barely overlap.”  Thus, with its new contract Getty plans to more aggressively offer the same images at two different price points to different customer groups.
One of the more interesting responses to the Cutcaster questions was the answer to “How frequently do you purchase stock photography in a typical year. 144, or 41.9% of the respondents purchase stock photography more than 50 times a year and that doesn’t say anything about how many images they purchase each time. Another 29.7% purchase stock more than 10 times a year. Only 23 of these professional user purchased stock less than twice a year.

Given this heavy usage the amount they typically spend for each image is revealing.

Price Charged Percentage
Free 5.3%
Less than $5 12.0%
$5 to $15 13.3%
$15 to $50 16.0%
$51 to $100 13.3%
$101 to $250 25.3%
Over $250 14.7%

More than half regularly spend more than $50 per image. This figure is higher than one would normally think of as microstock prices, although currently there are certainly some microstock offerings in this range. The $51 to $100 price range is less than RM and traditional RF sellers would like to get for the use of their images, but most or these photographers will have to acknowledge that they are seeing a lot of sales these days in that price range. One quarter of those responding were in the $101 to $250 price range which is typical for a lot of RM sales today.
It is interesting that Custcaster conducted this survey to try to learn mover about “professional” users. One would assume they are trying to reach these buyers and yet the highest price for most of the images on their site is less than $15. Sixty-nine percent of the professional users say they normally pay more than that for the images they purchase – many a lot more. Are they just motivated by low prices, or is there some other reason why they search the Getty Images and Corbis sites for the images they need?

Copyright © 2011 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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