What’s Next At Getty

Posted on 11/9/2016 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

The Getty Unification Project that creates common platforms where both iStock and Getty Images contributors can upload their images and bring them into the Getty marketing system opens the door for a lot of potential new changes. If, or when, any of the following issues will come to fruition is unclear. But, Getty or iStock contributors and anyone considering offering images to either of these companies should consider the implications of these possible changes.

There are rumors that Thinkstock will be closed down and all of its imagery moved to iStock.
Already, a huge percentage of the Thinkstock collection is made up of images that were first offered on iStock, or the RF section of Getty Images.com.



Getty’s launch of its Thinkstock subscription service in 2010 made a lot of sense as a way to draw customers away from Shutterstock without creating an iStock subscription offering. It was effective to a certain degree, but not enough to keep Getty’s Midstock division (iStock and Thinkstock) from continuing to decline while Shutterstock continued to grow revenue.

In March 2014 iStock launched a subscription service based on what they had learned from Thinkstock. While the number of iStock single image downloads has declined in the last two years image creators tell me that they now receive 4 subscription downloads for every single image download and the number is steadily climbing every month. This number does not include Thinkstock downloads. If they were added to iStock subscription downloads, total subscription downloads would be a much higher ratio of iStock single image downloads.

By way of comparison, Shutterstock has about 9 subscription downloads for every single image download.



Based on my July analysis of 430 of iStock’s leading contributors, I came to the conclusion that iStock had about 7 million single image downloads in the previous 12 months. I have since come to believe that the contributors I have been tracking for several years may have been cutting back on production and there may be some newer contributors working their way into the top tier. I have no way of determining who these contributors might be, but I no longer think the people I track represent one-third of the collection’s total image downloads. Now, I’m estimating that iStock may have had 8 million single image downloads between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016.

For purposes of comparison Shutterstock had about twice as many.



If iStock had 8 million single image downloads and 4 times as many subscription downloads that would make total downloads for the year in the range of 40 million. iStock single image downloads are also at a higher average price than Shutterstocks.

Thinkstock’s subscription prices are about 30% lower than iStock’s. Once Getty moves all the Thinkstock customers to iStock, in order to hold onto the those looking for a better deal Getty may be able to offer an additional collection within iStock (they already have Essentials and Signature) at a new, lower price. This lower priced collection could be made up of only those images that have not been downloaded in 2 years. There are many good images in this group, they just haven’t sold because they haven’t been seen due to the huge oversupply of images in most subject categories. Giving customers a chance to see these images could generate additional sales. When images start selling they could easily be moved to a higher priced category.

Bringing all the customers to one central site will cut the costs of operations and should offer a stronger presentation to the customer.

Combining iStock.com and Gettyimages.com


Unification will make it easier to move images from Getty’s premium RF collection into iStock and vice versa. Getty has already placed a lot of its premium RF images into Thinkstock and iStock.

To date none of major image suppliers have been able to effectively hold the price line on certain images that are in high customer demand, and move images where there is lower demand, or no demand at all, to lower price points. In this way they could generate some revenue from these low demand images while still maintaining higher prices for images that many customers want to use. With Unification Getty might be able to do this.

Up till now the tendency has been to let the image creator or supplier determine the market price for their images. Many suppliers insist that their images should only be offered with an RM license. As a result, many customers avoid even looking at RM images because they expect the licensing to be too complicated, or the price too expensive. Those who do look often negotiate very low prices for their use and sellers (particularly those with no production costs to worry about) are willing to accept whatever is offered. The whole idea of RM licensing is defeated.

Basically, any RF image can be licensed at any price point no matter how popular, or unpopular, the image might be. There needs to be some system that establishes a minimum price for images that have been licensed and higher prices for certain popular images. Some customers will not be able to afford the higher price, but if they can’t then they should not be given the image anyway.

The first tier of minimum price doesn’t have to be that high, but it should probably rule out the image being available as part of a subscription. There could be more than one tier for images that have shown that they are in high demand. A new image would have to prove itself before it is raised to a higher tier.

With Unification Getty will be in a position to better combine the offerings of iStock and GettyImages.com. It is not at all clear that they will do it effectively. It is worth noting that when Stocksy was founded in 2012 many of their early contributors asked when they would start offering subscriptions. The Stocksy owners made a conscious decision not to offer subscriptions. Many contributors, thought they were missing out on a lot of sales volume, but Stocky made the decision that, at least for their collection of images, it was better to hold the line on a minimum single image price. That seems to have served them well.

Getty could adopt that strategy and still have a separate collection of images available for subscription. Whether, or not, they will do it, only time will tell.


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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