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A summer of 2018 review

It’s not by lack of topics ( there are many). Nor is it by lack of interest. It’s just a lack of time. Sometimes there are not enough hours in the day and if something has to be sacrificed, unfortunately, it is this blog. However, the call is sometimes too strong to ignore so here is, briefly, ( in no particular order):

Beer and stock photos:

A while back, we wrote how brands would soon realize that stock photography offers a substantial untapped marketing avenue to them. Not in licensing photos to promote themselves but in creating stock content and providing it for free. Here is the thinking behind it:  As we all know, a well-crafted stock image can be licensed a few hundreds of times. Each time, it is published in a different publication, it is viewed many thousands or millions of times. Add it up, and you quickly realized that an image can receive multi-million views. If you happen to be the lucky photographer, you make some money. However, if you are a brand, your product is viewed by millions of potential buyers. Free advertising.

Up to now, stock photo agencies would decline to offer images with recognizable brands or logo in them, for the simple reason that they didn’t have the release rights. However, if a brand provides images containing their products or logos, then the legal barrier is lifted. It’s their brand, and they can do whatever they want. Sure, the competition would never use them, but that still leaves millions of others that would.

Photo by Elevate on Unsplash

The risk is that images might be associated with damaging content, like porn or violence. However, a restrictive license can easily prevent this.

Still, stock photo agencies could see this as a potential intrusion in their core business and refuse to distribute them. However, that was before the explosion of free stock photo sites like Unsplash and many others. Those are not in the business of licensing content ( for a fee anyway), nor are they too picky about what they offer. In fact, if they can differentiate from the stock photo traditional offering, they win.

An image offered on Unsplash can be view tens of millions of times even just on their site, even if never downloaded. A brand, any brand, would be more than happy with this level of exposure.

The larger brands also are experts in knowing what their consumers like, as they have extensive marketing experience. Thus they can create images that precisely matches the tastes and trends of a target audience. Much better than any stock photographer in the world. Therefore, their stock photos are more inclined to draw the right viewership.

The reason we bring this up? The largest beer manufacturer in the world, Anheuser Busch, just released two sets of stock beer photos distributed by Pexels, Unsplash, and others. Focused on diversity and more realistic beer drinkers, they aim at better reaching their existing and potential customer base. At a time when beer consumption in the US is dipping, reaching out to an audience via new channels is vital for Anheuser Busch. Expect more brands in various verticals to follow this path. Ultimately, they could disrupt the stock photo market by flooding it with high end, well researched free images. They certainly can afford the best photographers.

Keywords vs. Images :

To help website market themselves, Google released of a new feature in its analytics arsenal. Users will be able to track traffic that comes in from a Google Image search. This is important for two reasons. One, most searches are done via a google image search these days than text-only search. It is essential for a website to be able to segregate the origin of its incoming traffic.

This box might change how stock images are bought

Second, because websites are now going to pay much closer attention to what type of images they publish. It is already common knowledge that a website with pictures is more appealing than one just full of text. However, with a detailed account of which image bring what amount of traffic, smart marketers and SEO experts will seek out the most performant photos possible.  Searches on stock photo website will no longer be about aesthetics or accuracy but rather on potential traffic performance.

Armed with empirical data, image buyers will soon start purchasing those images that combine perfect elements ( like dominant colors, types of composition, etc) that converts an image into traffic. Blurry at first, the knowledge of what elements work will soon become more manifest, in particular with the use if image recognition and thus force the savvy stock photo agency to review their editing policies. Businesspeople shaking hands and other stock banalities won’t cut it anymore. In fact, originality and exclusivity might just return to the top.


The new stock photo landscape:

While many stock photo agencies like to call themselves photo agencies, they are really just feeders to one of the big three ( Getty, Shutterstock, Adobe Stock).  Most of their sales, if not all, are done via the distribution of their assets to one ( or all) of them, and little is done directly.

Most visible are the most recent UGC based photo agencies like EyeEm, 500px, Foap or Snapwire. After accumulating massive content via sexy mobile apps or sharing websites and announcing the creation of their new, disruptive, independent marketplace loudly, they all end up distributing their images via one of the big  3.

It is not a surprise really since they are the only ones that have successfully scaled to the point of owning the majority of the professional image buyer marketplace ( the only one that matters). They maintain their hegemony via a combination of extensive content and large marketing budgets, making it very difficult, very expensive, if not impossible for newcomers to claim a space.

The new stock photo landscape

The older stock photo agencies that remain in business have all but a few realized that if they wanted to survive, their only option was to add their collection to one of the three as well. The irony, sometimes, is that they join the rank of an agency responsible for pushing them out of the marketplace. Not only does the big agency get their clients, but they also get their content as well. In other words, the big 3 have successfully established themselves as the only sales platforms. If a buyer needs photos, they go to them, and if an agency needs to sell images, they also got through them.

The stock photo industry landscape is now composed of two fractions: the feeders( the majority of them) and the sales platforms ( Getty, Shutterstock, AdobeStock).

 Photojournalism is missing a moral compass

The summer of 2018 has been brutal for photojournalism. First, the no longer prestigious World Press Photo opened its Instagram account to a photographer that proceeded in mocking world hunger, showing little to no remorse. Already often criticized for considering posed photography as a form of photojournalism, it exceeded the bounds of decency when it felt adequate to publish images of starving Indians in front of plastic food. Facing massive criticism, it opted to keep the pictures posted, stating: “We believe that controversies are not best handled by deleting images. We think they should be debated in a constructive way. We do not think it serves transparency to remove the photographs and the associated comments,”. In other words, we stand by our lack of policies and lack of moral compass.

The second was the revelation, after a multi-month investigation by the CJR, of rampant sexual harassment in its midst. From male photo editors abusing their powers, to photo agencies turning a blind eye to the behavior of some of its members to workshops ignoring its repeated culture of abuse, the report shed an embarrassing light on those whose primary task is to combat injustice in the world. The result? A few “internal investigations,” some “updated internal policies” and one resignation. In other words, the guilty parties escaped with a little slap in the hands, and it will not be a surprise to see this sickening culture continue.  Even the photojournalism Festival Visa Pour L’image currently being held chose to ignore it.

The world of photojournalism is a tiny, closed universe. It should not be this hard for it to come together to clean its front steps. Otherwise, at a time where it’s losing it credibility and its funding, it will also lose what makes it unique: its authenticity.

Getty emerges from the private equity hell hole with $2 billion in debt.

After more than ten years, Getty Images exits the murky waters of private equity. Probably a decision they will forever regret, Getty Images decided to pull out of the stock market by relying on a private equity firm to bring it private. To combat a forever declining stock price, burdensome regulation, and a lack of innovative freedom, it probably looked like a good idea at the time. However, private equity companies being what they are, they quickly leveraged Getty to take for themselves massive loans which the company had to repay. After all, that is the way they function. The result ? from $265 million of debt when they exited the public market, Getty is now $2.35 billion in debt.

Because the company is reliable, allegedly earning over $800 million a year, the debt can be renegotiated ad nauseam until pardoned or paid back. After all, selling and buying debts is a healthy market. However, it will nevertheless continue to put the leadership of the company under the uncomfortable scrutiny of its bondholders. Getty and its last owner, Carlyle, probably sought a buyer before agreeing to the family sale. Seeing that a stock photo agency would never sell for $3 to $5billion ( the value of the company plus the debt), they tried to transform it into a media tech company under the leadership of ex-Yahoo executive Dawn Airey. Apparently, the pivot didn’t work or worked too slowly. She is now out, replaced by company insider Craig Peters, signaling a return to Getty Images core values supported by a smart dose of technology.

No changes are expected to emerge until the end of 2018. However, 2019 will signal a new beginning for the company who will seek to challenge Shutterstock’s growth while carefully control Adobe Stock necessary expansion.




=> While time might not allow me to write as often as I would like, I still keep tabs and comment on news event in the industry via brief but insightful posts on Facebook. You can find them here:

Author: pmelcher

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