How mature is this mature market?

They say the micro stock world is a maturing market. But how mature can a market be when new players seem to jump in everyday?

It is a mature market in many ways but in a lot of ways the players still act very immature. I think the most recent debate about rate changes illustrates this. And I mean this in a economic, business, 30,000 ft view point and not as a disparagement of any individual, although some players do tend to shoot their mouths of before thinking from time to time (I include myself here).

Just compare the way many contributors deal with the concept of an agent. Some are exclusive with one agency while other are free range independents who have several agencies representing their work.

Individual contributors will most likely figure out the way of working that they feel best produces the most income for themselves. But if you look at some other markets that use talent agents - performer, modeling, movie stars you'll find that an actor or model hires one agent or agency to sell their talents to the highest bidder. It is in the agents best interest to sell the clients talent in order to receive their cut and they are not competing with other agents selling the same client.

Can you imagine Brad Pitt's agent talking to a movie producer about an upcoming film and the movie producer say "Stop, no need to sell me on the box office potential of Brad Pitt. Believe me I know all about it, in fact I've already signed a contract with Brad Pitt's other agent who offered me the same Brad Pitt for half the price. Let's do lunch."

If you look at Hollywood, they started out with a studio system where the studio was in control of the actors careers. They then progressed with unions and free agent status. Along the way they figured out that an individual actor did not have perhaps the business know how or the time to analysis offers or work contracts to their advantage. Thus the Hollywood agent as their go between between the buyer and contributor was born.

Now unless a stock contributor has a very distinct style that is apparent in every image they produce, one could argue that each individual image (not similar) represents a unique item that could be represented. So the argument would be that a individual image could be exclusive but not necessarily at the same agency as all of the other images from that same contributor.

This is a different case than someone putting the exact same images on multiple sites and letting them duke it out on price with the lowest price winning.

The only way for contributors to see a real increase in the value of their work is for agency's to compete on something other than price. Brad Pitt's representative is competing against cheaper, less proven actors. The only question is if the movie producer can afford the proven box office performance of an A list star (or can't afford not to have the A list star).

Stock agencies on the top tier have to be looking at the big picture and ask themselves why they would want to compete on price with a death spiral to the bottom. That's the strategy for a new comer with investment capital to burn trying to gain market share. The more mature agencies want to compete on usability, exclusive images, customer service etc. Higher value components then just "mine is two cents cheaper then yours".

As a contributor I think you also have to ask yourself: what kind of company do I want to associate my work with? Are you a "Walmart" photographer? Or a "Target" photographer?

Walmart competes by selling a 10 gallon jar of pickles (and nearly bankrupts "contributor" Vlasic in the process) while Target sets it self apart by offering unique boutique, exclusive offerings.

So I guess I'm saying that I completely understand a commission model that rewards exclusive contributors and discourages non exclusive contributors. Its the best direction for the industry weather or not it works best for any individual. It takes the competition away from price and moves to a competition based on quality.

But what do I know? Flame away!

Here's another example: Apple. Apple sells overpriced products that run less software but they enjoy huge profits and sales while their competitors look to exit the market. What does Apple sell? Exclusivity, fashion, design and usability. It doesn't compete on price at all.

Photo credits: Peanutroaster.

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May 03, 2012


Going exclusive looks so tempting, when you look on extra earnings and other benefits.... But ... compared to other sites is my image acceptance one of the lowest on DT, earnings around the same (changes from month to month) and surely, some images not accepted here are doing great elsewhere. That's why I don't want to commit. BUT - I agree to have a same image over many sites is mass production for low cost and exclusivity (like Apple ;) is ideal. For that, I would like to have more exclusive images on DT, because I think, if you commit images to be exclusive, you don't have to sacrifice the potential and creativity of the photographer in areas not supported by the site. Saying that, I wish DT was giving little more appreciation to exclusive images (then 2.5% extra) to motivate me to lock image "forever".

May 03, 2012


I've wrestled for a year on whether or not to go exclusive. I contribute to three stock sites and I think it's very interesting to see how my best selling images vary from site to site. My highest selling image on DT has barely a couple of downloads on another site and vice versa. I like the changes that were recently made to Levels. Changes were recently made to another site which severely impacted my earning there for Editorial images. The scales are starting to tip towards DT.

May 03, 2012


I like the better pay outs being exclusive and I like the photos are getting more views, being higher up in the searches. I am still discouraged by the acceptance rate, the reasons seem really random most the time!

May 02, 2012


Before going exclusive I had my images listed on 2 other sites...supposed to better than DT according to many out there. When I went exclusive with DT I had almost the same images on the other sites...neither of them delivered any sales on those images. It took me almost two weeks to get my stuff sorted with them and get exclusive with DT. Won't look back either.

May 02, 2012


Wordplanet - As your acceptance level rises I think the issue of wanting to find a home for those rejects becomes less of an issue. For the most time I just accept it and move on. But again I'm not really encouraging for any individual to be exclusive or not. I just see it as a good overall strategy for the industry.

The argument I didn't talk about is that a different set of buyers might with different agencies. I'd assume the top buyers subscribe to a few of agencies (more than one hoping to see different images!!!) so that would be a case for not being exclusive. But a credit buyer might be looking at a number of agencies and then it would be a cost issue (assuming the same photo was available at several agencies).

May 02, 2012


This wasn't meant to solve the exclusivity decision for anyone. I'm exclusive and enjoy the benefits but I'm constantly wrestling with the idea that I could be losing money or not. But these are individual decisions. As an overall macro view of the industry it seems that agencies battling it over attracting exclusives is better for the contributors.

May 02, 2012


You are perfectly correct in your analysis. Regarding the question of: Is DT a Wallmart & Taget type of stock house or a Nieman Marcus, I don't know where exactly to put it on the scale but I am sure it is not on the very top. Which is a good thing for me and other people like me who would not stand a chance to get accepted at Corbis or ********.

Regarding exclusivity, it is very convenient for me to be exclusive here, since I don't have the time to maintain several accounts. And as I said before not every country club is ready to accept me:) but for more advanced and prolific photographers there is no question it pays financially to be no exclusive.

It is a complex process to figure out where to draw the line and how much exclusivity is really worth for DT. The last move seems to favor the exclusive contributors, but frankly I see it negatively on the bottom line for now. Maybe it is still early.

May 02, 2012


I'm not ready to go exclusive with DT but I have been putting more exclusive content with them and finding that it helps increase my sales.
In many ways, I can see the benefit of exclusivity since it sure would be easy to only have one micro agency to upload my images to. Right now, with about the same number of images on the "Walmart" site, it's beating out my DT earnings sometimes by 2 or 3 to one some months, but other months DT is a close second. With that other site on the selling block, things may change (and not for the better there) so your blog is making me think I should experiment with putting several on DT exclusively and seeing where it gets me.
The thing I find is that the various sites accept such different images - best sellers on one get rejected by others - so I like having other outlets for my photos.
Maybe this month I'll put most of my new images on here as exclusive and see how it works.

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