Are bigger libraries the answer to pricing pressures?

Judging by the news this week it seems Stock Photography companies are involved in an arms race for the size of their collections. With increased pressure on prices perhaps the hope is that that adding a significant amount of new images to sites will help keep revenues up (or stop the decline). But is this really the best way forward? Will fast growing image libraries deliver the desired results?

This week Fotolia announced it now has over 8 million images in its inventory, Dreamstime stands at just over 7 million while THP, a photo aggregator released that it now has over 12 million images on offer. Alamy in the meantime has chosen the quantitative path from the early days and its counter has reached 17.37 million images.

One of the main concerns will be how these images will be found. There have been innovations in both search technology and the presentation of images but they do not seem to be adopted broadly. Doing so, would at least ensure the new images can be found more easily and the Long Tail of Content gets tapped into by clients. While companies like Imense, Picscout, Idee and now Google are developing their visual search capabilities the sites that offer images have stuck to search mechanisms that are over a decade old.

Now that Picscout has developed technology to connect images found on the web to its owners directly it appears that in the long run a bigger offer will not be a great differentiator (who can compete with Google Images?). The question is why these companies are choosing this strategy of more is more. Are there plans to improve search? Will pricing be improved? Or is this merely the result of cheaper technology that allows companies to host large quantities of images at a low cost.

This race may not really present users with the long tail of images, in fact, it may be getting ever more difficult for image users to find the right picture in a growing pool with limited differentiation.

picture: Stock Exchange | Life belt | Tatlin

Marco | Editor

Editor at large and founder of a bunch of stockphoto businesses

2 thoughts on “Are bigger libraries the answer to pricing pressures?

  • December 18, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    Good article which just starts to tickle some of the issues.

    I suspect the likes of Getty would love to snaffle up a couple of the other micro-payment stock sites and achieve something close to a monopoly, whereupon they could start pushing prices up.

    As anyone who has read anything written by me (almost including my shopping list) would know, I’d be more than happy to see the wheels come off the micro-payment model because pretty much the only beneficiaries so far have been the aggregators, while the vast majority of photographers have seen their revenues hit by a business model which doesn’t come close to replacing the quality and convenience of the smaller agencies and individual photographers.

    Picscout for the masses would really turn things upside down, and can’t be so far away.

  • December 19, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    There definitely has been a relatively recent trend to enlarge stock collections. I assume the motivation is to be able to offer bulk ‘one stop shop’ and subscription type deals to clients.

    Looking at the picture credits in books these days it is common to see nearly all the images from just one or two sources.

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