The sharp rise in content marketing by corporations has demanded a commensurate rise in content acquisition from traditional sources, and has opened the door to niche platforms and services such as Thismoment and Newscred. The impact to the photo industry has been mixed. On one hand, image licensing agencies – and specifically large-scale aggregators like Shutterstock – have benefitted from their inroads into corporate clients, expanding and servicing a segment that is marketing-focused with high volume transactions. On the other hand, UGC (corporate-generated) and platforms (like Chute) that harvest UGC have challenged traditional sourcing.

Newscred home page
NewsCred’s home page

Who better to get an oversight on these recent trends than someone at a Content firm?  Kristine Stebbins, VP Strategic Services at Filter – a company that focuses specifically on digital content for a range of clients including Microsoft, Nike, and Google – provided some insight.

On the growth within the content management industry…

[There has been] a significant increase in content management services over the past 2-3 years, [with concentration in] B2C consumer goods, luxury goods, high-ticket items especially for e-commerce digital experiences and technology. It is difficult to quantify exact numbers, but I do [know] that all of my clients either already have a CMS or [are] considering a CMS to support their content operations model.

Filter home page.
Filter’s home page.
On in-house acquisition strategies, challenges maintaining rights…

I find that clients, who do not offer content as a product, really struggle with [acquisition].  Specifically, they need the content, but are chronically under resourced to acquire, obtain or create this content – so they do attempt to grow “in house” teams, but find it difficult to sustain those teams given the ebb and flow of need.  That is a way that Filter can support these teams, given our flexible resource model we can scale a team quickly to meet a content need and then wind that team up when the need diminishes. 

We see a dramatic increase in the need for visual media – defined as pictures and videos – of all sorts.  We work to acquire content and obtain and negotiate rights for content usages on behalf of our clients.  There are always challenges in this space, especially given some of the challenges of connecting rights management criteria directly to the asset itself.  There are some platforms/systems that can help clients track usage rights, but it remains a time intensive process and it is a critical issue given that legal rights need to be adhered to.  We also see a ton of latent visual content in our clients DAM systems often times with no direct information about rights and one of the big challenges is going be [in a timely manner] to do the forensics necessary to track down the appropriate usage rights and information. 

Widen is one of the companies offering collaborative DAM solutions
 A collaborative DAM solution ( Widen) 
On the use of UGC…

A few years back UGC was the perceived panacea for clients, as they believed that the majority of content they really needed would be created by their users.  We now know that is not the case.  There are some areas where UGC content can be very beneficial – especially in categories where “support” content is important – and clients can create a platform where customers can support each other with their questions.  That being said, there is a place for UGC content to be integrated into a content marketing model, but it needs to be structured, curated and resourced appropriately to ensure success.  Typically, I see clients under estimate the amount of resourcing needed to ensure UGC content is actually valuable for distribution.

On the role of media licensing companies, and how they can address the needs of the content marketer…

One of the biggest impediments for the photo industry – still – is being able to get the large photo files to source destinations quickly from remote locations, and having access to cloud services that enable the photographer to more easily upload these images to the cloud for faster editing, art direction and decision making on usage preparing for download to appropriate channels. The photo editor needs to be a photo expert, story teller and “content engineer” so that they can see the photo, understand the story it conveys, and is able to quickly tag, identify and curate the content in an appropriate manner so that it can be quickly accessed or distributed to appropriate targets or channels. 

They could make it easier to buy content packages based on target audience needs that are complete packages with various content components, and that allow for redistribution on clients’ sites. If the content could “automagically” vaporize when rights expire, either by date or other criteria that would be super awesome! Time is of the essence here, and a combination of capability and technology to support the rapid response is necessary to be relevant in the speed game.

Shutterstock home page
Digital media licensing company Shutterstock might need to adapt to survive


Firms like Filter have long acquired content from traditional photo sources, and continue to do so on behalf of their clients, but there’s a clear disconnect between supply and demand; today’s content marketers are seeking new supply channels that are sensitive to their requirements, and that are reflective of the small-use/large volume trend lines. While UGC might not be the ‘panacea’ (rights issues, curation), its hassle-free, passive approach to end users still resonates, and doesn’t demand byzantine licensing, pricing, and distribution models. Many industry leaders are already supporting content marketing platforms (like Getty/Newscred), and quickly filling existing and new opportunities, but it’s clear that the map of digital distribution has grown far outside the visual media licensing community.

Robert Henson will be moderating a panel on Image embedding at the annual PACA conference on Tuesday, October 21. 

Photo by InvernoDreaming

Author: Robert Henson

Robert Henson is a stock photography industry professional and analyst with a long executive career in top photo licensing companies. He is also a popular speaker and an insightful innovator. He was previously the VP , Business Development at IMGembed.

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