iStockers, Why the Shift to Subs is Good

I have been an iStock contributor since 2008, and an exclusive contributor since May 2010. I have written a series of posts for Beyond Here about stock photography and the changes going on at iStock. Today I tackle the growth in subscription sales and, for iStockers, why the shift to subs is good.

In September 2014 iStock announced changes to the subscription program. I covered those changes in this post. Since then my subscription sales have been growing strongly. I summarized that progress in this post. Another month has passed. I have had another strong month for subscription sales, and many iStockers are reporting their strongest subscription sales month. So what does that mean?


iStock is a viable option for big buyers shopping for an image subscription program

Well, it means that iStockers are seeing more downloads of their images at a lower average price per download. My experience is that my ‘normal iStock’ downloads initially declined and have now remained steady. For those of us who have been iStockers for several years, it is a big change not to see your balance changing frequently. Instead of being reported in real time, the downloads through the subscription program are only reported once per month.

More downloads, lower average income per download. Why would this be good?

I see four key reasons for iStockers, why the shift to subs is good.

(1) The subscription program drives repeat business. One benefit of a subscription program is that it builds repeat business for iStock. Buyers use the service each day or week or month for many, many months. This can only be good for contributors in the long run. We want buyers shopping at iStock and continuing to shop at iStock.

(2) Greater consistency of income. Lots of downloads at a low average income per download produces consistent income from month to month as you are not reliant on a single large sale. While you may not see your balance moving every day, when the sub downloads are reported you can see the subscription program is being used daily by buyers. I expect we will see much less variability in income from month to month as the subscription program continues to grow.

(3) In time, buyers will move from competitors. It has long been felt that the quality and variety in the iStock library is superior to other microstock sites. (Keep in mind, I am biased as I am an iStock contributor! The reality is that I haven’t checked competitors sites for some time). Now that the subscription program appears to be gaining traction with buyers, we can expect that clients will move to iStock over time – continuing the growth in iStock subs downloads.

(4) Big buyers will be attracted by the subscription program. The real benefit of the subscription program is for large volume buyers who need large numbers of images per month. Think ad agencies, newspapers, and magazines. Big buyers coming to iStock will be positive for iStock contributors.


The iStock sub program is making a noise

On the flip-side, because of the growth in sub downloads and the lack of growth in ‘normal iStock’ downloads it has become very hard to achieve redeemed credit targets. My personal experience is that this year I am unlikely to achieve the redeemed credit target required to maintain my current royalty level. I expect this is the experience of many contributors, and see iStock being under pressure to change the redeemed credit targets. I hope I’m right as I don’t fancy a reduced royalty rate.

Thanks for reading iStockers, why the shift to subs is good.

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