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Stock Imagery Takes a Turn

(January 2007) posted on Tue Jan 02, 2007

Micropayment sites surge, while RM images look to come back.

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By Theano Nikitas

As the stock-image industry evolves, some trends are playing out as forecasted within these pages just a year ago. Consolidation through acquisitions, the strength of royalty-free (RF) licensing models, and the increasing popularity of subscription-based services all continue to have an impact upon the marketplace.

Just when you think you have the stock-image market all figured out, however, it twists and turns so as to keep you on your image-sourcing toes. This year, a few additional and important trends have been developing-trends that could very well affect the types of stock images you buy, and how you go about doing so. These new trends include:

* Micropayment sites-an even less-expensive version of RF and subscription models;

* New licensing avenues for rights-managed (RM) stock, and the possible comeback of this image model; and

* Modifications to technology in the form of better, more useful search engines throughout the stock-image marketplace.

Micropayment sites: for the people, by the people

One of the most interesting and, possibly, important trends stems from the fact that stock photography is no longer the exclusive purview of professional photographers and, in some cases, well-known photo agencies. With the availability of affordable digital cameras and a multitude of electronic outlets, everyday consumers are also posting and selling their digital images online either from personal websites or more formal venues-called micropayment sites-some of which are owned by larger stock agencies.

"Power in the marketplace is shifting away from control-of-content to control-of-distribution," explains Robert Gubas, VP of marketing at Getty Images. "Today, with the advent of accessible, moderately priced digital cameras, everyone is a photographer." Additionally, says Gubas, "When you also consider the availability of simple and reasonably effective search technology and the ability to market with greater precision, affordability, and measurability (via paid search), you have a situation where everyone can become a distributor and reach potential customers."

This "community-generated content"-which has already garnered its own industry acronym, CGC-includes stock photos, illustrations, Flash movies, and other content that’s created by amateurs, semi-professionals, and sometimes professionals themselves.