Paca launches new search engine for image buyers

Picture Archive Council of America  (PACA) has launched a search engine that allows image buyers to find images across the collections of the PACA member agencies. Paca calls it:  “a huge impact on the way image buyers utilize the Internet to purchase licensed images. 

PACA’s pacaSearch™ is a free, Web-based stock image mega meta-search engine. It is set to launch today. The solution has been developed in-house its goal is to help image buyers find licensable images only. This makes it different from Google where any image will show up in a search. As such it is exclusively targeted at professional image buyers.

Once a buyer submits a keywork into the searchbox, the search then returns a screen that shows the amount of images each member-library has in their files with that keyword. It also shows the relative percentage of images in each each collection with that keyword, potentially pointing to more specialist libraries. When a user clicks on the library link they are taken directly to the search results on the libraries’ pages.
PACA members have access to traffic reports that include statistics detailing the number of searches, most frequent terms, and terms with no search results.

PACA’s pacasearch enters a space where a number of other companies are operating like Stockphotofinder, Stockindexonline and Picturemaxx. Each of these operate in a slightly different fashion. Industry commentator Paul Melcher wrote a post about pacasearch when it was first announced. In the post he points to several competing solutions that are already available. He also points to shortcomings he feels are built into the software like the fact that it’s based on the quantity of images, not quality. Read his full post here. He concludes by saying:

“For picture professionals to regroup and to come out with a product like this is shameful. It clearly shows what is terribly wrong with commercial stock distributors who seem to have no clue on how to properly service their clients. It’s a monument to PACA’s archaism and its members complete ignorance of their market”.

PACA quotes a number of other in its press release that do feel this new tool will be useful for their daily business:

“pacaSearch is a powerful new tool for highly focused research across a wide range of excellent stock photo agencies,” stated Judy and Roger Feldman of Feldman & Associates.

“Learning about the functionality and usefulness of the PACA enhanced directory put a big smile on my face,” Lee Horton, Multimedia Editor, K12 Inc. said. “As a photo editor and art buyer I search multiple sites daily. This tool puts more control in my hands.

Best thing to do then is to try out the new service and see if it serves the need of your business. Feel free to share any feedback here and we’ll pass it on.

Marco | Editor

Editor at large and founder of a bunch of stockphoto businesses

3 thoughts on “Paca launches new search engine for image buyers

  • February 25, 2010 at 11:03 am

    I’m with Melcher on this one. I remember discussions about setting up something similar amongst specialist libraries in the UK about 10 years ago – and even then the aim was to show the user some pictures at the end of their search (we are in a visual industry are we not?) not a page of data.

    This is targeted at professional image buyers? How many professional image buyers need to be told that Getty have more pictures than anyone else of any given subject? Or that a library specialising in one subject will have a higher % than a general library? People know this stuff already.

    And it’s symptomatic of the state of our industry that it’s all about numbers. No mention of quality or exclusivity or even price – none of the things that make people want to buy an image. This is pandering to the attitude that has seen the market flooded with millions of bog standard images. Oooh look, agency ‘x’ has 50,000 pictures of Venice and have come top of the league table on Paca search – that must be the place to go. Well, no, not if those 50,000 are unedited ‘holiday snaps’.

    There are more specific problems. If you put Venice in as a keyword, the two specialist libraries who come top of the % of collection table are fine art collections. Follow the search through and see how many actual pictures of Venice you get – bugger all. Lots of Venetian art, not much Venice. There seems to be no advanced search facility to bring up more tailored results.

    Of course your professional image buyer, looking for a picture of Venice, will go straight to a specialist travel library or one of the big general collections. They wouldn’t dream of going to an art archive. So who is this search facility for?

    Something else to put image buyers off. I’m assuming this only searches across libraries who are Paca members? Otherwise it would be Alamy coming top every time. So you have a web tool (which by its very nature is international) that only searches across a small number of mainly US based libraries.

    So your image buyer is supposed to use the Paca search tool to bring up a series of numbers from a handful of libraries that may or may not eventually show him/her some relevant pictures. And then they have to search Alamy and Photolibrary and Corbis and – who knows – even 4Corners where they will be able to do a targeted search and have immediate access to images.

    Can anyone explain why they would bother with Paca and not just go direct to the library sites? Or to someone like Picturemaxx who will at least show them some pictures?

    The only value I can see is for researchers looking for obscure or very specific content that may be housed in less well known libraries (assuming they’re Paca members of course). But Bapla already has a very effective referral service for these instances that I’m sure would work as well for Paca.

    The photography industry may be looking for the magic ingredient that will save its bacon. This isn’t it.

  • February 26, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    In an industry where there are so many smart and savvy users, it’s easy to pick a new service apart and find fault with its shortcomings. No one search tool can make everyone happy. But, PACA deserves credit for their contribution to the ongoing dialogue about how best to find what buyers are looking for. Anyone who thinks they could do it better should go ahead and do it. Much better to work toward solutions that raise the bar for everyone than to knock the ones that stuck their necks out and went for it.

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