First off, Fotolia launched The Infinite Collection a few days ago with the words that it´s "the first traditional stock library to be created by a microstock agency". Does The Infinite Collection pose in any way a threat to Shutterstock in particular and to the microstock photo industry in general? Do you think Fotolia will permanently lose contributors to other microstock agencies like Shutterstock because Fotolia´s contributors will see The Infinite Collection as a competition?
The quality of the images in Fotolia´s new collection is inferior to those that are being submitted to Shutterstock at the moment. In fact, we would have rejected many of the images they have chosen. I´m not sure what the advantage to the buyer is?
No matter what people pay,
they want value for their money. I´ve been following the threads in
the microstock forums (as I always do) and contributors aren´t happy
that inferior images are selling for $20 - $80 each. Here is one example,
one of many, that contributors are pointing to:
[an image from Image Source]
We do not see this new offering as a threat to Shutterstock.
What´s your opinion on the midstock model? Is it possibly "already dead" (Alan Meckler) or is it the future (Bryan Zmijewski)?
Additionally, you said in April: "If Getty can use iStockphoto to upsell its customers, why can´t we use higher-priced photos to start moving into its market?"
There is a customer for every price point as long as the value proposition is there. The question is, which are the most important customers to target? And at what time? We are concentrating on our current subscription model as well as footage at this time.
iStockphoto recently announced price increases beginning in January, and with respect to the last question: can we expect a new pricing scheme from Shutterstock in 2008?
We evaluate our prices constantly. At this time we have no plans to make a change -- but I wouldn´t rule out a price increase in 2008 for our buyers or a commission increase for our submitters.
Corbis´SnapVillage is about six months old now. Frankly, did you lose so far any customers (image buyers) to SnapVillage´subscription offering?
We haven´t heard of anybody jumping ship for Corbis. Why would a Shutterstock subscriber with access to almost three million images and a proven track record for getting what they need move to a new agency with fewer images?
Our subscribers like us -- they would need much better incentive to move away from us.
"Shutterstock on the Red Carpet" was announced in June with the high aim "to be a leading resource for the entertainment/celebrity sector as well." How is the program running?
Secondly, do you think that a new start-up like All Access Photo Agency -- in case it will survive -- is a threat to Shutterstock on the Red Carpet because it offers celebrity images for free use in print and online?
We have been running the program on a limited basis successfully since its inception. You can see all of our editorial images here. If you change the sort order to "newest first", you will see plenty of shots that required special access to capture -- access that a photographer wouldn´t have been able to get without this program.
We just hired someone to deal specifically with editorial images, and we will be pushing the Red Carpet program further into the spotlight in the coming months.
As far as free images go -- wouldn´t a contributor rather get paid?
I imagine All Access Photo Agency will attract some images; that is, until contributing photographers realize they can be compensated for those images elsewhere.
2007 will remain in the annals of microstock as the year with certain market participants showing very high image numbers in their database. Fotolia lost later somehow some images, gone and away, bye-bye.
When everyone thought "OK, we´re done with this 2-million-plus-images-race", Dreamstime declared that it has "increased its gallery of photos by 500,000 images in just four short months earlier this spring", June ended over there "with over 200,000 accepted (quality approved) images received" and the company was able to predict that "the forecast indicates Dreamstime will have a library of more than 2 Million by the end the year" which happened already in late November. Finally also in November "a growing approval ratio (up to 70% from 50%)" was announced.
Though both agencies are direct competitors and I very probably will never see you running through the streets of New York with a promotional Fotolia or Dreamstime T-Shirt: is it in general really possible to grow a microstock database so fast and still maintain certain quality standards? On the other hand, with an image approval rate of "less than 40%" also Shutterstock surpassed in late June the 2-million-image bench mark. Now, how did Shutterstock do that?
We raise our standards for image acceptance every month and still we continue to gain imagery at an incredible rate. We´re very picky, and it shows in our library. As we´ve raised the bar on image quality, our submitter base has only grown. We consider the integrity of our collection to be absolutely crucial to our continued growth.
We also have a reputation for the fastest review times in the industry. We have constantly refined our reviewing interface to provide the quickest turnaround, to minimize the time submitters have to wait before they can start seeing returns from their content.
We have analyzed each step in the review process many times in order to streamline it as much as possible. We are also constantly refining the tools we offer submitters, to make the submission process as smooth and efficient as possible. In some cases a contributor can submit an image and have it on our site in the same day -- on Christmas Day no less! No other agency has been able to accumulate images at the rate we have achieved while continuously improving the overall quality of its library.
What has been the most interesting development at Shutterstock for you in 2007?
The most interesting development for us in 2007 has probably been what is most interesting to any company: a tremendous pace of growth. Half way through the year we hit the two million-image mark, a milestone that represented a doubling our collection in a 12-month period.
At the same time, the images being submitted were more numerous and more beautiful than ever before and subscribers kept signing up. It´s been a very exciting year.
2007 has also been the year we really got serious about footage -- the footage site is gaining real momentum ... stay tuned... .
The end of the year 2007 is close. What can we expect from Shutterstock in the next 12 months?
We´ll have a stronger and larger image collection, more customers to make our contributors happy, and more submitters supplying incredible content. We plan to reinforce the Shutterstock brand in the market, becoming a household name among stock photo and stock footage buyers.
Where do you see Shutterstock in terms of annual revenues at the end of 2007? You once indicated to have annual revenues of over $10 million.
Referring to annual revenues, which companies do you estimate are on position 3, 4, 5 and 6?
I´m afraid I can´t give you specific numbers for Shutterstock revenues, nor would I want to speculate regarding an industry ranking. I can say that we are very happy with our 2007 growth and with our prospects for 2008, and we are investing a tremendous amount of time, money, and resources to meet our goals for ourselves and our submitters.
I was surprised to notice that Shutterstock will attend the German Picture Agency and Buyer Fair PICTA in early March 2008 in Hamburg as an exhibitor. To my knowledge it´s the first time that a global microstock company is listed as an exhibitor during this fair. Is this an early hint that Shutterstock will open an office in Europe?
Secondly, in my mind Jon Oringer rarely gives any interviews and rarely visits any of those conferences or sits on any of those panels. You like to stay in your office, dedicated to your work, you told me once. But will you be in Hamburg?
We have decided to attend PICTA because Germany is a strong market for us. I may attend the show in Hamburg, we haven´t decided for sure.
"Microstock was yesterday, the next wave is only about new technology enabling image content distribution". How does this sound to you?
Plain nonsense or a description of the coming years?
Obviously, I´m a big fan of community acquired content and journalism. I don´t necessarily see a change in the way that royalty-free images are sold though. Buyers demand a certain level of vetting when looking for images. We make sure our commercial images are model released and our editorial images are newsworthy.
We get to know our contributors so that our buyers trust that we trust our own sources. We take that extra step to make sure all content is ready to be licensed and used. Innovating new technology and new demand is definitely the key to our staying ahead.
But no matter what that innovation looks like, be it product or service, we must continue attract the best content and earn the trust of buyers at the same time. It´s easy to say, but hard to do.
Jon, thanks for taking the time this weekend for our short conversation.
I have plenty of others questions, but I hope we can sit down together for another update in 2008.