Moving iStock Forward?

Last weekend iStock, one of the leading microstock photography agencies, implemented some significant changes in the pricing of their images. I outlined those changes in the post My Take On this Weeks iStock Announcements. So what has happened since then, and is it moving iStock forward?

The most significant change iStock introduced was to make files of all sizes the same price. Previously a small size image would be cheaper than a larger size. That meant that buyers who were using the image on the web only would buy the smallest size, and a buyer who was going to use the image in print would buy a larger sized image for a higher price. After the changes, all sizes are the same price.

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Contributors will have to wait until subscription sales are reported to fully understand the impact of the changes

So what has been the impact on buyers and contributors? After less than a week of the ‘new iStock’ there is mixed reaction from buyers and contributors. Buyers who mainly purchased small size files for web use have been very vocal that the changes have resulted in a large price increase for them. And in effect, for this buying group, they have. These buyers have expressed their anger in iStock discussion forums and in social media. Many have said that they will use up their current credits and then move to other microstock agencies. To see some examples, check out the iStock facebook page. For me, as an exclusive iStock contributor, it’s pretty ugly reading.

What is unknown is the response from large buyers who mainly purchase larger sized files. For this group the changes are effectively a price decrease. So that should mean an increase in downloads.

The way the new pricing structure works, this group has an incentive to use the subscription program rather than make individual downloads. While individual sales are reported as they happen, subscription sales are only reported in the middle of the following month. So subscription sales being made in September will not be reported to contributors until the middle of October. It won’t be until then that contributors will know whether there has been a large increase in downloads from this buyer group.

What has the contributor response been to date? Well, it has been more balanced than the buyer response. Some are reporting an increase in sales, but many are reporting a decrease. Contributors with a lot of content in the Vetta collection seem particularly upset. These high priced files have become much more ‘affordable’. The price decrease also means a decrease in royalty per download for the contributor. To generate the same total royalty will need a large increase in volume which is not apparent yet. But in reality, contributors will not know the total impact until subscription sales are reported in the middle of October.

What’s my experience? My downloads and average $ per download have both decreased since the changes. That said, we are less than a week since the changes were made.

I am going to resist the urge to jump to any conclusions until we have more data. I’m sorry and disappointed that many buyers of small images are upset and are considering moving to competitors. But I don’t yet know the impact of larger buyers through the subscription program. I will wait to see those results before considering changing course.

I am hoping there has been a large increase in subscription sales. iStock and its owners, Getty Images, will be hoping so too. The direction they are taking iStock is very difficult to reverse, and the customers who leave will be nearly impossible to attract to return. Such a big move would not have been made without detailed research – now I hope the reality matches the research. Fingers crossed.

Are you an iStock buyer or contributor? Do you think the changes are moving iStock forward?


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