We interviewed Turi Munthe , CEO of Demotix in 2009. Regular contributor Mohamed Farah followed this up interviewing the new editorial Sales Director, Ossie Ikeogu at this London based citizen journalism website and photo agency. Ossie talked about his own experience in the stock photography industry, changes and developments at Demotix and their latest partnership with Daylife.
How did you get started in the industry?
It was a happy accident while working in a mortgage company as an account manager. A friend working for Tony Stone got talking about the work they do there and it got me interested. I then looked into a vacancy at the Image Bank and applied and got a job as corporate account manager. It was quite a change from looking at spreadsheets and numbers all day to moving onto a much more creative field and visual industry really. The great thing about it was the sense of immediacy that gave me a buzz. Seeing work that I licensed on TV shows, adverts and corporate billboards gave me a buzz. I kept boring my friends by pointing out every image I had a hand in licensing!
Where did you work before Demotix?
Well the Image Bank was bought by Getty in 2000 and that was quite a change. When they bought it Getty was focussing on digitising the company. It had an approach that looked at really modernising the company. Image Bank didn’t have an online search, they dealt primarily with transparencies and Getty really changed that. That was a relief that everything started to go online. We didn’t have to send transparencies to clients via couriers anymore and that really did make a huge difference. Later on in my career, I also worked at Digital Vision, TIPS images and Corbis before I found my way to Demotix.
Does working in a small company mean there’s a lot of pressure for you to deliver?
Absolutely, but it’s a good sense of pressure. The pressure stems on the fact we have a lot of content that we receive on a daily basis. We put the pressure on ourselves to place the content and reward our photographers for the amazing content they supply.
You sell images to big organisations worldwide, what partnerships have you developed that you’re most proud of?
Perhaps the biggest coup to date is with a software developer called DayLife who offer solutions to news aggregators and news organisations whereby they can build image rich galleries. This powers their websites and powers their news in a way that it interacts with the visitors of those websites. We’re in an early partnership that means they will push Demotix content as a one size fits all solution to their clients. At the moment they partner with Getty, Reuters and AP, so for Demotix to join the roster of those illustrious companies is quite a coup for us.
As the editorial sales director, you are responsible for securing new business for your company, what qualities do you think are most important in your role?
Interesting question, you have to be fairly thick skinned! Be persistent and able to listen to your client and identify a solution. Then match your portfolio and product to their request. You also have to be opportunistic in spotting a lead by reading the trade press or through contacts, friends or just word of mouth in the pub and acting on it. But persistence is key, and being tenacious doesn’t hurt either.
How does the current economic climate affect your work?
We’re cutting our cloth according. There’s still an appetite for news, for example Haiti. That was the best example this year when an emergency broke miles away but the visual impact was still important in relying the enormity of the situation, not just in a news sense but also in a relief sense. The days and weeks after, various charities were trying to raise relief funds and they needed that visual imagery and we were at hand to supply them through our photographers, as they couldn’t get photographers of their own. We are striving to supply other such images that may otherwise go under the radar, such as the Maoist insurgency in Nepal and we’ve put in measures in place will help us keep ahead of the competition.
What modifications have you made to make your site more accessible to your users?
We’ve redesigned of the website, given it a total overhaul. We’ve improved the visibility of website, introduced individual captioning for images and encouraged contributors to take more care in keywording and captioning. Another new feature is the Demotix uploader that can be downloaded directly onto your desktop. Photographers will have easier uploading and they will not have issues with the ftp upload and the problems they had with that. The daily images received have gone up from around 350 images to about 600 images as a result of all these changes. We are really working at capacity at the moment. Another aspect is self publishing for our top contributors, but we don’t sell any images until we have verified the content. This just allows contributors to have greater exposure of their work among colleagues until a member of the team can verify it.
Where do you find your business and industry info?
A number of sources. A site we use at the moment is journalisted.com which is a great database for searching journalists and writers that have commented on various news stories. It’s a good way of us getting in touch directly with people who are reporting on the news and offering them an alternative and making sure they have images that will go with the text they’re writing. Also industry events such as the Frankfurt book fair we attended recently, we’re a member of Bapla of course and will be doing their trade shows and we will be having a presence in other such events to build on our client base.
Tell us about your new pricing structure that you’ve introduced?
We’re about to roll out ecommerce on the website which we feel will transform our life in billing clients. There’s going to be less of the manual aspect of invoicing clients. More importantly, when people type in news stories into google, invariabley you will find links to demotix in the first page and we need to take advantage of this increased visibility and we feel that the new pricing structure will attract new clients and help them quickly and easily price their images and buy them. We’re also showing some flexibility in our pricing depending on type of usage (online, print, charity work or subscriptions).
Finally, what changes in 2010 at Demotix excite you?
Moving footage will be a great addition. Because we’ve seen there’s an appetite for it from contributors wanting to add moving footage to their stories. We’re introducing it very soon with a degree of in trepidation as it’s a whole new market and a whole new client base we have to establish. However it has been a no brainer for us to move forward with it as the request has been overwhelming. We’re also working more as a traditional newswire as we have been approached recently about the stories we offer and we will be supplying rss feeds with purely news in text form. This is because clients have been approaching us more and more about not just supplying the imagery but they are increasing interested in the body of text.