Monday, March 02, 2009

Pondering Microstock

Easy Chair Photo

I am kicking back with the BigStock Free Photo of the week, cooling my heels waiting for my camera to arrive. My mind is on how I will pay of the debt load I took on to buy the camera.

BSP is just about to break the 3M image barrier. Looking through the site, one finds the vast majority of photos have zero downloads. There are many photographers (perhaps the majority) whose sales are less than the minimum payout.

Fotolia claims to have 5M images. They have a similar popularity system.

I can't help but notice that I have a followerless blog with technorati score of 1. (The proper term for folks like me is "pariah"). Microstock is driven by the same popularity system. I am quite certain that I would rank with the faceless masses on any of the programs.

In the modern world, artistic talent is unvalued. This is especially true in Utah. Utah has an extremely large number of artists, but a very small number of art patrons. I like Microstock as it allows Utah artists access to markets where people actually buy art!

I determined several years ago that the best business model for Utah is to be an art promoter. That is, a person who leeches off the artistic talents of others.

There is a strong need for content promoters: In an press release, Kelly Thompson noted:

"We recently surveyed 1,000 Americans and discovered that more than 30 percent are downloading images from the Internet and using them for personal or professional projects without license rights, demonstrating the need for more knowledge about finding safe, authorized imagery"

The art promotion model pounds the drum that people should buy art, and that stock photography is affordable (about $1 an image).

My business model is one where I would scream at bloggers, amateur web designers and scrapbookers with the message that buying stock photography supports local arts. If your blog post isn't worth embellishing with a dollar image, is it worth writing at all?

The one problem I have is that I really don't like the format of any of the stock web sites.

The first big problem is that most of the microstock web sites have too much of an internal focus for my tastes. Fotolia doesn't have a bio page. BSP has a bio page, but they don't have the decency to give artists a hot link. Worst of all, a very large number of microstock sites are owned by the same firm ... a firm which is trying to have total domination over the industry.

I hate being dominated.

As I study these programs, I can't help but feel that I would do better to simply start from scratch and design my own microstock site. After all, my business model is to leech off the creative efforts of others.

I've been told that the best way to rob a bank is to own one.

Were I to design a Microstock site, I would design it as a program that promotes photographers and graphic designers as individual artists.

Yes, yes, yes. The first step to world domination is to gain people's trust. (oops, I didn't write that outloud. I hope.)

The BSP free photo of the week is a high resolution photo. BSP has a pile of 500 free low res photos which you can see here. I like every thing aboug BSP except their price model as you have to buy 300 credits to hit the elusive price point of $1 per low res image.


Scott Hinrichs said...

Services like iTunes proves that selling media online can be profitable and that there are many that are willing to pay for media content.

The public probably needs more education on image use. People have been used to paying to own music recordings for decades, but the average Joe hasn't been used to paying for using copyrighted images.

y-intercept said...

People are also pretty new to the idea that everyone is a publisher.

The Microstock companies are actually doing quite well. The download counts seem to indicate that photos are selling by the tens of millions.

Unfortunately, the structure of these firms (and media consolidation) are muting the message about buying content.