Getty images: a photo business under pressure

I’m sitting here listening to Jonathan Klein talk with a variety of bloggers. Thomas Hawk, CEO of Zooomr, and Kristopher Tate, Founder of Zooomr, a photosharing site are here too. So is Marshall from TechCrunch.

Anyway, Jonathan just came from meeting with analysts and shareholders where he announced some bad news.

This is a business that’s seeing radical changes due to folks like Thomas. Thomas is an amateur. He gives his high-res images away for free, or for a low price if you want to use them commercially. He uses the same Canon 5D that other professionals are using. And, his images are often as good or better than the ones the pros are getting.

And Thomas is HARDLY the only photographer out there who is putting pressure on the professionals. Nikon and Canon are selling hundreds of thousands of digital SLRs every year, most of which go to amateurs or semi-pros who aren’t able to get their images onto Getty right now.

One thing. Go to Getty Images’ home page. Now go to Zooomr. And Flickr.

What do you notice? I notice a couple of things.

1) There’s a photo on the home page of Zooomr and Flickr, but not on Getty.
2) There’s a search box on Flickr, but not on Getty.

It’s interesting how cold the Getty site feels. Clinical. Which shows the bias of Getty. They don’t care about making the site entertaining, they want to make it easy for a magazine editor to find a photo and buy it.

Getty is the most profitable photo site and has many of the world’s best-known images in its archives.

It’ll be interesting to see how quickly they learn from upstarts like Zooomr and Flickr.

One thing I learned is that most of the most profitable images on Getty are of celebrities.

Comments

  1. Another interesting space is the on the video side. Getty offers the sale of stock video (and it’s not cheap).

    The availability of professional level equipment and editing software makes it much easier for an amateur filmmaker to produce professional grade digital footage.

    Combine that with the advances in video distribution / streaming / playback and you’ll soon see some low cost stock video become more accessable to businesses that could not afford a huge production.

    We put together a quick video for our site this past weekend using a panasonic DVC30, handheld steadicam, and Final Cut:

    http://www.convos.com/home/video-our-first-video.html

  2. Another interesting space is the on the video side. Getty offers the sale of stock video (and it’s not cheap).

    The availability of professional level equipment and editing software makes it much easier for an amateur filmmaker to produce professional grade digital footage.

    Combine that with the advances in video distribution / streaming / playback and you’ll soon see some low cost stock video become more accessable to businesses that could not afford a huge production.

    We put together a quick video for our site this past weekend using a panasonic DVC30, handheld steadicam, and Final Cut:

    http://www.convos.com/home/video-our-first-video.html

  3. Whoa, I think you’re jumping the gun a little in your analysis. Getty is also aiming at graphic designers (I used to be one before I found out about The Internets) and if I was to point at a factor hurting Getty I would point at the web for sure, but because of much lower production costs in web design more than anything. Customers are tighter with web-based graphics budgets. Getty isn’t cheap. The guys they deal with aren’t cheap. They probably still have a lot of overhead from when they did business by cd collections rather than the web (Remember Photodisc? And endless free Photo catalogues? That’s padding out their mid-quality offerings).

    I’ll say this: iStockPhoto isn’t bad, but it’s still not a patch on Getty’s better collections, where you might buy sole worldwide use of an image. And don’t forget that where Flickr might give them trouble is the outright theft of material from Flickr; we always thought the better of stealing from Getty, because you know they’ll come and get you sooner or later.

    I’d be pretty careful before I point to Web 2.0 as a Getty slayer, but I’m curious about your thoughts on the theft possibility.

  4. Whoa, I think you’re jumping the gun a little in your analysis. Getty is also aiming at graphic designers (I used to be one before I found out about The Internets) and if I was to point at a factor hurting Getty I would point at the web for sure, but because of much lower production costs in web design more than anything. Customers are tighter with web-based graphics budgets. Getty isn’t cheap. The guys they deal with aren’t cheap. They probably still have a lot of overhead from when they did business by cd collections rather than the web (Remember Photodisc? And endless free Photo catalogues? That’s padding out their mid-quality offerings).

    I’ll say this: iStockPhoto isn’t bad, but it’s still not a patch on Getty’s better collections, where you might buy sole worldwide use of an image. And don’t forget that where Flickr might give them trouble is the outright theft of material from Flickr; we always thought the better of stealing from Getty, because you know they’ll come and get you sooner or later.

    I’d be pretty careful before I point to Web 2.0 as a Getty slayer, but I’m curious about your thoughts on the theft possibility.

  5. kevintel: that’s true. Most amateurs aren’t going to hire lawyers to come after you if you steal their images. Getty will.

    But Thomas is already getting quite a few commercial jobs, but for less than a typical Getty photographer will get.

  6. kevintel: that’s true. Most amateurs aren’t going to hire lawyers to come after you if you steal their images. Getty will.

    But Thomas is already getting quite a few commercial jobs, but for less than a typical Getty photographer will get.

  7. iStockPhoto, which was acquired earlier this year by Getty, already addresses your criticisms of Getty, Robert. As far as I know, iStock preceeded both Flickr and Zoomr — and could teach both companies a lot about actually monetizing their great graphic content.

    Getty has to still play to their traditional media customers but with time, I suspect you’ll see the bulk of their business organically move to the iStockPhoto brand.

    Last point on this is that photographers typically specialize. Those that specialize in Stock should probably stick with Getty, but those that specialize in events / sports etc. should absolutely use tools and networks like Flickr to promote their work.

  8. iStockPhoto, which was acquired earlier this year by Getty, already addresses your criticisms of Getty, Robert. As far as I know, iStock preceeded both Flickr and Zoomr — and could teach both companies a lot about actually monetizing their great graphic content.

    Getty has to still play to their traditional media customers but with time, I suspect you’ll see the bulk of their business organically move to the iStockPhoto brand.

    Last point on this is that photographers typically specialize. Those that specialize in Stock should probably stick with Getty, but those that specialize in events / sports etc. should absolutely use tools and networks like Flickr to promote their work.

  9. It’s not so much Flickr and Zoomr that’s killing Getty, but all the upstart stock photo sites that sell decent images at a 10th or 50th of the price. We use iStockPhoto.com for most of our stock photo needs, with photos never costing more than $5.

  10. Those are some good observations. I’ve been thinking about this too. I’m of the opinion that pro amateurs and flickr aren’t going to completely displace Getty, Corbis, et al. But they’re going to erode their lower end and will probably precipitate changes in how professional stock images are priced and licensed.

    And I’m hoping professional stock photography is going to start looking a little more like amateur, “user generated” photography. Maybe that makes no sense; maybe pro photographers will hold on to what differentiates their work. But I think taste is changing, people are more accepting of uncorrected color, bad focus, etc. I’d like to see that cause an overall shift in taste, along with a move away from professional cultural production.

  11. It’s not so much Flickr and Zoomr that’s killing Getty, but all the upstart stock photo sites that sell decent images at a 10th or 50th of the price. We use iStockPhoto.com for most of our stock photo needs, with photos never costing more than $5.

  12. Those are some good observations. I’ve been thinking about this too. I’m of the opinion that pro amateurs and flickr aren’t going to completely displace Getty, Corbis, et al. But they’re going to erode their lower end and will probably precipitate changes in how professional stock images are priced and licensed.

    And I’m hoping professional stock photography is going to start looking a little more like amateur, “user generated” photography. Maybe that makes no sense; maybe pro photographers will hold on to what differentiates their work. But I think taste is changing, people are more accepting of uncorrected color, bad focus, etc. I’d like to see that cause an overall shift in taste, along with a move away from professional cultural production.

  13. As you said, celebrity images is one of the things that Getty makes money from. And although Flickr and Zoomr have a lot of good pictures, not all of them are useful in anything else than journalism. Mainly for rights reason. Most people don’t have model releses for all the faces they post to those sites.

    A site that has done something different is istockphoto.com, which is very stringent on what they let onto the site. It all has to be stock photography with model releases from all participants, etc. Still, you can buy the photos for $1.00 and up. That approach can really kill off the old expensive stock photo agencies.

    For the record, I have no affiliation with istockphoto, other than as a buying customer (I have spent $10) and as an aspiring photographer.

  14. As you said, celebrity images is one of the things that Getty makes money from. And although Flickr and Zoomr have a lot of good pictures, not all of them are useful in anything else than journalism. Mainly for rights reason. Most people don’t have model releses for all the faces they post to those sites.

    A site that has done something different is istockphoto.com, which is very stringent on what they let onto the site. It all has to be stock photography with model releases from all participants, etc. Still, you can buy the photos for $1.00 and up. That approach can really kill off the old expensive stock photo agencies.

    For the record, I have no affiliation with istockphoto, other than as a buying customer (I have spent $10) and as an aspiring photographer.

  15. I don’t see where something like Zooomr or Flickr is going to be causing hurt to stock photo houses. I would say there’s probably an overall decrease in budgets where one would buy photos, so they’re not selling as many, especially if their photos are expensive.

    And if Thomas has sold photos, he’s not an amateur. That’s the difference between professional and amateur–whether you sell your work or not.

    And I also imagine that the work Thomas is getting is specific to his position as a relatively well known weblogger as much as it is to his photographic skills.

    I don’t understand this desperate desire to prove that amateurs are going to kick professionals out and take over the world. Can’t we respect the time and dedication a professional puts into their career. Just because Nikon and Canon have made it easier to be hack photographers, doesn’t mean we’re all going to end up the next Walker Evans.

  16. I don’t see where something like Zooomr or Flickr is going to be causing hurt to stock photo houses. I would say there’s probably an overall decrease in budgets where one would buy photos, so they’re not selling as many, especially if their photos are expensive.

    And if Thomas has sold photos, he’s not an amateur. That’s the difference between professional and amateur–whether you sell your work or not.

    And I also imagine that the work Thomas is getting is specific to his position as a relatively well known weblogger as much as it is to his photographic skills.

    I don’t understand this desperate desire to prove that amateurs are going to kick professionals out and take over the world. Can’t we respect the time and dedication a professional puts into their career. Just because Nikon and Canon have made it easier to be hack photographers, doesn’t mean we’re all going to end up the next Walker Evans.

  17. Henrik reminds me that I should have disclosed –> I am a (lazy) contributor to iStockPhoto and have also purchased image licenses with my profits there.

    That reminds me –> the primary reason I recommend iStockPhoto to photographers is that it’s the site that is most likely to help improve your talent. On iStockPhoto, every single picture I upload gets critiqued by professionals – their feedback is sometimes brutal but my accepted rate has improved dramatically since I started listening to them.

    Free photo communities will never compete for the same consumer as microstock websites –> buyers of stock images need garuanteed unambiguous commercial licenses and they need very targeted search capabilitiies where free sites don’t actively enforce copyright and benefit more from browse than search.

    So, iStockPhoto doesn’t need to worry about ZOOMR but likewise, I don’t think Getty’s going to get into photo hosting and “interestingness”.

  18. Henrik reminds me that I should have disclosed –> I am a (lazy) contributor to iStockPhoto and have also purchased image licenses with my profits there.

    That reminds me –> the primary reason I recommend iStockPhoto to photographers is that it’s the site that is most likely to help improve your talent. On iStockPhoto, every single picture I upload gets critiqued by professionals – their feedback is sometimes brutal but my accepted rate has improved dramatically since I started listening to them.

    Free photo communities will never compete for the same consumer as microstock websites –> buyers of stock images need garuanteed unambiguous commercial licenses and they need very targeted search capabilitiies where free sites don’t actively enforce copyright and benefit more from browse than search.

    So, iStockPhoto doesn’t need to worry about ZOOMR but likewise, I don’t think Getty’s going to get into photo hosting and “interestingness”.

  19. Shelley: but the world of photos are radically changing. When I almost became a professional photographer in the 1980s, making good images was much more difficult than today. And, distributing those images was much much much more difficult. Heck, during the 1989 earthquake it took us six hours to get a black and white photo out of Silicon Valley to a newspaper on the East Coast.

    THAT is why things are changing. Back then the only way to get good images for publication was to go to things like Getty. Today I can find hundreds of thousands, even millions, of good, publication-quality, images on Flickr and other photo sharing sites for far less than I’d pay Getty.

    But, I’m totally into professionals making money doing this stuff. My Photowalking show will talk about this more in the future.

  20. Shelley: but the world of photos are radically changing. When I almost became a professional photographer in the 1980s, making good images was much more difficult than today. And, distributing those images was much much much more difficult. Heck, during the 1989 earthquake it took us six hours to get a black and white photo out of Silicon Valley to a newspaper on the East Coast.

    THAT is why things are changing. Back then the only way to get good images for publication was to go to things like Getty. Today I can find hundreds of thousands, even millions, of good, publication-quality, images on Flickr and other photo sharing sites for far less than I’d pay Getty.

    But, I’m totally into professionals making money doing this stuff. My Photowalking show will talk about this more in the future.

  21. Personal opinion. I am neither a photographer nor a graphic designer, I actually think I may be colour blind. However, I think that the audience each sight is geared toward is quite different, a fact which this article somewhat states. Still, I believe that sites such as Flickr will continue to gain viewership and popularity among amateur, professional, and semi-professional photographers. The recent trend toward social networking for all things not just leisure has pervaded the photography community. And, there is also a quite pervasive trend toward people, professionals included, attempting to ‘strike back’ at what they see as overly stringent and exploitative intellectual property and copyright laws.

  22. Personal opinion. I am neither a photographer nor a graphic designer, I actually think I may be colour blind. However, I think that the audience each sight is geared toward is quite different, a fact which this article somewhat states. Still, I believe that sites such as Flickr will continue to gain viewership and popularity among amateur, professional, and semi-professional photographers. The recent trend toward social networking for all things not just leisure has pervaded the photography community. And, there is also a quite pervasive trend toward people, professionals included, attempting to ‘strike back’ at what they see as overly stringent and exploitative intellectual property and copyright laws.

  23. I am not surprised that the most profitable images on Getty are of celebrities, as that reflects many of the most interesting blog posts about copyright that I have read by independent photographers.

  24. I am not surprised that the most profitable images on Getty are of celebrities, as that reflects many of the most interesting blog posts about copyright that I have read by independent photographers.

  25. Getty and Corbis will always have their place, just as fine art film prints will.

    Digital, at least, enables the prosumer crowd, to produce professional results. But it’s not a revolution, there will always be a Getty and Hollywood, just you can skip film school now, and raw practice, not needing to goto school to get access to the “tools”.

    But really, differing markets altogether…

  26. Getty and Corbis will always have their place, just as fine art film prints will.

    Digital, at least, enables the prosumer crowd, to produce professional results. But it’s not a revolution, there will always be a Getty and Hollywood, just you can skip film school now, and raw practice, not needing to goto school to get access to the “tools”.

    But really, differing markets altogether…

  27. I fail to see what’s bad about this. Cost of materials, production and so forth have gone down drastically due to advances in computer technology. Isn’t that what was SUPPOSED to happen? Any manager of a business that didn’t see this coming years ago should be fired!

    Yes, there are a lot of talented photographers out there who haven’t ever gotten paid for their work, just as there are a lot of talented musicians who have to do it all for fun. But all of that is changing even if those who are entrenched have to be pulled from their ivory towers kicking and screaming.

    Welcome to the 21st century.

  28. I fail to see what’s bad about this. Cost of materials, production and so forth have gone down drastically due to advances in computer technology. Isn’t that what was SUPPOSED to happen? Any manager of a business that didn’t see this coming years ago should be fired!

    Yes, there are a lot of talented photographers out there who haven’t ever gotten paid for their work, just as there are a lot of talented musicians who have to do it all for fun. But all of that is changing even if those who are entrenched have to be pulled from their ivory towers kicking and screaming.

    Welcome to the 21st century.

  29. Hi Robert,
    You said “But I think taste is changing, people are more accepting of uncorrected color, bad focus, etc. I’d like to see that cause an overall shift in taste, along with a move away from professional cultural production.”

    If that’s the case then why are you shooting HD video for your work? There’s a difference between looking amateurish, which is deliberate, and poor quality, which is neither deliberate nor excusable for a professional. I don’t believe we’re more tolerant of poor quality, in fact I think the bar for professionals is going up because of the fact that so many prosumers own 5Ds with $1,500 lenses.

    It’s still damn hard to take a professional grade image and do it daily, and what makes it hard has little to do with equipment.

  30. Hi Robert,
    You said “But I think taste is changing, people are more accepting of uncorrected color, bad focus, etc. I’d like to see that cause an overall shift in taste, along with a move away from professional cultural production.”

    If that’s the case then why are you shooting HD video for your work? There’s a difference between looking amateurish, which is deliberate, and poor quality, which is neither deliberate nor excusable for a professional. I don’t believe we’re more tolerant of poor quality, in fact I think the bar for professionals is going up because of the fact that so many prosumers own 5Ds with $1,500 lenses.

    It’s still damn hard to take a professional grade image and do it daily, and what makes it hard has little to do with equipment.

  31. “Getty is the most profitable photo site… It’ll be interesting to see how quickly they learn from upstarts like Zooomr and Flickr.”

    Wait a minute. If Getty is the most profitable photo site, what should they be learning from Zooomr and Flickr? How to make less money?

  32. “Getty is the most profitable photo site… It’ll be interesting to see how quickly they learn from upstarts like Zooomr and Flickr.”

    Wait a minute. If Getty is the most profitable photo site, what should they be learning from Zooomr and Flickr? How to make less money?

  33. Jason: how to grow into new businesses. Shareholders demand growth, not just profits.

    So, any big company exec and employee better be looking for ways to grow audience, grow customer base, grow transactions, grow engagement, grow brand love, etc.

    Getty can learn a LOT from Flickr and Zooomr in those areas. Even their CEO admitted that.

  34. Jason: how to grow into new businesses. Shareholders demand growth, not just profits.

    So, any big company exec and employee better be looking for ways to grow audience, grow customer base, grow transactions, grow engagement, grow brand love, etc.

    Getty can learn a LOT from Flickr and Zooomr in those areas. Even their CEO admitted that.

  35. [...] I was interested in the stuff that Robert Scoble and Thomas Hawk have posted about meeting with Getty Images, the giant stock photography company, but not necessarily because I’m all that interested in photography (although I am). The interesting thing for me is how Getty — like a lot of other companies in different industries — is trying to find a way of transitioning its business from one model to another, effectively cannibalizing itself before others can do it. [...]

  36. “Shareholders demand growth, not just profits.”

    Actually, shareholders demand growth that represents ROI, not just growth for the sake of it. Grow into an area that’s going to lose you money, and your shareholders will have your heads unless there’s a long term plan.

    By the way, the home page you point to doesn’t have a search box because it lets you go to two very different sites, GettyCreative and GettyEditorial (plus the film stuff, of course). Go to the GettyCreative home page (http://creative.gettyimages.com/source/home/homeCreative.aspx) and you can search much more comprehensively.

    And this actually gets to the nub of why I always go to Getty and its ilk first. Getty’s advanced search lets me narrow down an image by collection (which are themed), keyword (much more comprehensive and professionally done that Flickr tags), and crucially orientation (if want an image to fill a space in a layout, I NEED to get the right orientation).

    If I go to Getty, I can pretty much gaurentee that I’ll find a usable image. If I go to Flickr, I might – or might not – find the image I want, depending on whether it’s been tagged well or not. Time spent searching through amatuer images is time wasted for me, and my time is very expensive.

    Oh, and of course, there’s another thing – Flickr doesn’t actually have very many images that are freely available for commercial use. There are far more than release under creative commons non-commercial licenses, which are useless for me.

  37. “Shareholders demand growth, not just profits.”

    Actually, shareholders demand growth that represents ROI, not just growth for the sake of it. Grow into an area that’s going to lose you money, and your shareholders will have your heads unless there’s a long term plan.

    By the way, the home page you point to doesn’t have a search box because it lets you go to two very different sites, GettyCreative and GettyEditorial (plus the film stuff, of course). Go to the GettyCreative home page (http://creative.gettyimages.com/source/home/homeCreative.aspx) and you can search much more comprehensively.

    And this actually gets to the nub of why I always go to Getty and its ilk first. Getty’s advanced search lets me narrow down an image by collection (which are themed), keyword (much more comprehensive and professionally done that Flickr tags), and crucially orientation (if want an image to fill a space in a layout, I NEED to get the right orientation).

    If I go to Getty, I can pretty much gaurentee that I’ll find a usable image. If I go to Flickr, I might – or might not – find the image I want, depending on whether it’s been tagged well or not. Time spent searching through amatuer images is time wasted for me, and my time is very expensive.

    Oh, and of course, there’s another thing – Flickr doesn’t actually have very many images that are freely available for commercial use. There are far more than release under creative commons non-commercial licenses, which are useless for me.

  38. Ok — I have the reverse test for you…

    Go to Flickr or Zooomr and show me the commercial licenses and the ‘buy now’ button. Or the image search with the well-edited and cross-referenced taxonomy.

    I agree that you can find some very good professional quality photos on these services, but tell me what company would be willing to use these for a major advertising campaign on the back of a creative commons license? Equally, do you want your kids popping up as the next Gerber baby because you forgot to change your default CC license for that shot?

    It wouldn’t be hard to do, but Flickr and Zooomr will clearly have to create a well-defined business-to-business section if they truly want to compete with Getty.

  39. Ok — I have the reverse test for you…

    Go to Flickr or Zooomr and show me the commercial licenses and the ‘buy now’ button. Or the image search with the well-edited and cross-referenced taxonomy.

    I agree that you can find some very good professional quality photos on these services, but tell me what company would be willing to use these for a major advertising campaign on the back of a creative commons license? Equally, do you want your kids popping up as the next Gerber baby because you forgot to change your default CC license for that shot?

    It wouldn’t be hard to do, but Flickr and Zooomr will clearly have to create a well-defined business-to-business section if they truly want to compete with Getty.

  40. I love seeing photographers like Hawk and their increasing visibility. And the free flow of information is all great, but you have to pay the bills. Hawk uses a $3,000 camera and carries around probably another $2,000 in lenses and memory cards. How many “licenses” would you have to sell on iStock just to recoup your equipment costs, not to mention rent/mortgage, utilites, food, car, insurance, gas, college fund? I’d love to see great photography priced in favor of the photographer, whether they’re a pro or an amateur. There may be a better model than Getty, but giving your photos away free only works if you have a day job outside of photography. And it damages the people who make a living as photographers.

  41. I love seeing photographers like Hawk and their increasing visibility. And the free flow of information is all great, but you have to pay the bills. Hawk uses a $3,000 camera and carries around probably another $2,000 in lenses and memory cards. How many “licenses” would you have to sell on iStock just to recoup your equipment costs, not to mention rent/mortgage, utilites, food, car, insurance, gas, college fund? I’d love to see great photography priced in favor of the photographer, whether they’re a pro or an amateur. There may be a better model than Getty, but giving your photos away free only works if you have a day job outside of photography. And it damages the people who make a living as photographers.

  42. You say:

    “They don’t care about making the site entertaining, they want to make it easy for a magazine editor to find a photo and buy it”

    Like it’s a bad thing. And actually, that is their purpose and they live up to it admirably. Being all Web2.0 and flashy just for the sake of it is lame. This is not a site for a casual user, it is a site that makes one’s job more convenient, they dont care about entertaining the average tom/dick/harriet b/c its not in their interest.

    it’s kind of like ubuntu – nice flashy wm’s and stuff because it’s supposed to be for home use/entertainment whereas at work, i use a commandline and stippped down BSD or unix variant b/c i need to do work and it’s more convenient than a gui….

  43. You say:

    “They don’t care about making the site entertaining, they want to make it easy for a magazine editor to find a photo and buy it”

    Like it’s a bad thing. And actually, that is their purpose and they live up to it admirably. Being all Web2.0 and flashy just for the sake of it is lame. This is not a site for a casual user, it is a site that makes one’s job more convenient, they dont care about entertaining the average tom/dick/harriet b/c its not in their interest.

    it’s kind of like ubuntu – nice flashy wm’s and stuff because it’s supposed to be for home use/entertainment whereas at work, i use a commandline and stippped down BSD or unix variant b/c i need to do work and it’s more convenient than a gui….

  44. The Getty site uses popup windows way too much. I think that we need to take back the web and let the user make new windows when they want them, rather than constantly forcing it.

  45. The Getty site uses popup windows way too much. I think that we need to take back the web and let the user make new windows when they want them, rather than constantly forcing it.

  46. Robert:

    I think you are right to observe Getty Images and how it looks compared to new disruptive market entrants like Zooomr, Flickr etc.

    But we can take this a lot further. The reason Flickr and Zooomr are getting traction (and maybe why Getty is sagging) is not just about how they look (clinical vs community), its about how they are solving the problems for customers and who are the customers.

    Getty cleary serves a very important, demanding client base who struggle with problems like this: “How do I quickly get a great, pro-quality, striking image for my magazine/brochure/ad campaign etc.”

    This is a great business and Getty dominates it.

    But Flickr and Zooomr are disrupting the market by giving access to a far wider audience. Web designers, small businesses and others are struggling with a slightly different problem which these sites solve: “How do I quickly get an ok-to-good, cheap picture for my web site, blog (or other app.)?

    It is not a surprise to see Flickr and Zooomr gain ground in the low-end marginal customers, with increasing traction for serious professional applications. Also it is not surprise that Getty is trrying to enter into the disruptive business model by buying iStockphoto.

    The trend of disruption tends to follow a similar pattern across many industries, whether it is PCs vs large computer systems, iTunes vs CD sales or a free commuter newspapers vs established newspaper giants. Cramming some aspect of the new disruptive thing into the current business model is a common response. (Newspapers did this with their online strategy for most of the past five years. Doesn’t work.)

    The very difficult challenge for Getty Images, or any other company in this position, is to balance these two conflicting corporate goals:
    * Support the current business and its customers;
    * Grow new business opportunities which potentially cannibalize the current business;

    There is a method to do this, but it is certainly not easy.

    Separate strategic business questions into three files
    1)Revitalizing the current business;
    2)Abandoning processes, products and services that customers no longer value or can’t earn their keep;
    3)Creating new opportunities for the future.

    Details on how this technique would apply in the newspaper industry are discussed in the link below. It would seem to apply to Getty’s business as well:

    http://www.ondisruption.com/my_weblog/2006/10/fivews_for_fixi.html

  47. Robert:

    I think you are right to observe Getty Images and how it looks compared to new disruptive market entrants like Zooomr, Flickr etc.

    But we can take this a lot further. The reason Flickr and Zooomr are getting traction (and maybe why Getty is sagging) is not just about how they look (clinical vs community), its about how they are solving the problems for customers and who are the customers.

    Getty cleary serves a very important, demanding client base who struggle with problems like this: “How do I quickly get a great, pro-quality, striking image for my magazine/brochure/ad campaign etc.”

    This is a great business and Getty dominates it.

    But Flickr and Zooomr are disrupting the market by giving access to a far wider audience. Web designers, small businesses and others are struggling with a slightly different problem which these sites solve: “How do I quickly get an ok-to-good, cheap picture for my web site, blog (or other app.)?

    It is not a surprise to see Flickr and Zooomr gain ground in the low-end marginal customers, with increasing traction for serious professional applications. Also it is not surprise that Getty is trrying to enter into the disruptive business model by buying iStockphoto.

    The trend of disruption tends to follow a similar pattern across many industries, whether it is PCs vs large computer systems, iTunes vs CD sales or a free commuter newspapers vs established newspaper giants. Cramming some aspect of the new disruptive thing into the current business model is a common response. (Newspapers did this with their online strategy for most of the past five years. Doesn’t work.)

    The very difficult challenge for Getty Images, or any other company in this position, is to balance these two conflicting corporate goals:
    * Support the current business and its customers;
    * Grow new business opportunities which potentially cannibalize the current business;

    There is a method to do this, but it is certainly not easy.

    Separate strategic business questions into three files
    1)Revitalizing the current business;
    2)Abandoning processes, products and services that customers no longer value or can’t earn their keep;
    3)Creating new opportunities for the future.

    Details on how this technique would apply in the newspaper industry are discussed in the link below. It would seem to apply to Getty’s business as well:

    http://www.ondisruption.com/my_weblog/2006/10/fivews_for_fixi.html

  48. “They don’t care about making the site entertaining, they want to make it easy for a magazine editor to find a photo and buy it”

    Bingo. What was your point again, Robert?

  49. “They don’t care about making the site entertaining, they want to make it easy for a magazine editor to find a photo and buy it”

    Bingo. What was your point again, Robert?

  50. The sad reality behind all this techno-worship of the booming free photo sites is is the career prospects of a lot of professional photographers have tanked. The people who are making the profits are the aggregators of content, not the content creators, who have found their fees and rates plummeting.

    In that sense, all that cheap digital photography has done is turn people who used to be skilled professionals into digital sweatshop pieceworkers.

    The sheer ubiquity of pretty poor digital images, has subsumed decent work under a tsunami of shoddy images and has removed any economic incentive to excel as a photographer.

    If in a market where you have to work like a hamster on a wheel to keep cranking out $1.00 images for an RF stock house, wheres the incentive to produce good work (apart from lowest common denominator saleable widget-images)? Any creative impulse will have to be shelved in favour of struggling to make a living – a full time living I might add…not a part time monetized hobby which undercuts full-timers. So much for the rewards of risk taking.

    And thats assuming of course, that you can earn enough to buy the gear to do the job in the first place, because part timers giving their work away does nothing for the photography business as a whole except accelerate the bottoming out of full-time photographers incomes.

  51. The sad reality behind all this techno-worship of the booming free photo sites is is the career prospects of a lot of professional photographers have tanked. The people who are making the profits are the aggregators of content, not the content creators, who have found their fees and rates plummeting.

    In that sense, all that cheap digital photography has done is turn people who used to be skilled professionals into digital sweatshop pieceworkers.

    The sheer ubiquity of pretty poor digital images, has subsumed decent work under a tsunami of shoddy images and has removed any economic incentive to excel as a photographer.

    If in a market where you have to work like a hamster on a wheel to keep cranking out $1.00 images for an RF stock house, wheres the incentive to produce good work (apart from lowest common denominator saleable widget-images)? Any creative impulse will have to be shelved in favour of struggling to make a living – a full time living I might add…not a part time monetized hobby which undercuts full-timers. So much for the rewards of risk taking.

    And thats assuming of course, that you can earn enough to buy the gear to do the job in the first place, because part timers giving their work away does nothing for the photography business as a whole except accelerate the bottoming out of full-time photographers incomes.

  52. [...] Recently I’ve been reading more of Robert Scoble’s postings and a topic he recently started discussing struck a cord with me. His fairly recent post Getty images: a photo business under pressure was of interest from a work standpoint two fold. In addition to pursuing a profession in photography I’m also a web strategist for a tech company here in northern California. The points made in Robert’s post hold true in my eyes on some level. The social media component of Flickr and Zooomer (photosharing sites) are going to have a deep impact on how stock photography sites including Getty transform over the next few years. There is a significant caveat to this statement though. On the photo business side stock photography sites thrive based on exclusivity displaying what they feel is the best of the best. In this regard I doubt that this layer of their business will change. I wouldn’t be surprised though if in the future they add new layers to their business that tap the growing surge of amateur work. I can see “amateur” being the in style for stock photography at some point. From the web strategist hemisphere of my brain Getty has a lot to improve on their web site and no doubt sites like Zooomr and Flickr will impact stock photography site design. Having tracked Corbis and Getty over the years I have no doubt that as they find value in these photosharing sites they may revise their designs and even more aggressively acquire or partner with these sites. [...]

  53. I would have to agree that Getty has become cold not only with it’s website, but with it’s photographers and employees. It is like a regular corporate juggernaut, not like it is any surprise. Although it is easy to shop on Getty, it is always a pleasure to walk into a place where they know your name and how to make you happy. Sometimes you have to take a chance on the smaller guys who have the means to make things the way you’d like and give that extra human touch. I am a graphic designer and I have become very familiar with stock photography sites big and small. I have to say that when I went to Glowimages the other day, I was very pleased with the hands on service I received when I called in and had a couple of questions. I spoke to a person, not a recording, and I found the site easily navigatable. Check em out if you have a sec. http://www.glowimages.com/index.cfm?/start_EN

  54. I would have to agree that Getty has become cold not only with it’s website, but with it’s photographers and employees. It is like a regular corporate juggernaut, not like it is any surprise. Although it is easy to shop on Getty, it is always a pleasure to walk into a place where they know your name and how to make you happy. Sometimes you have to take a chance on the smaller guys who have the means to make things the way you’d like and give that extra human touch. I am a graphic designer and I have become very familiar with stock photography sites big and small. I have to say that when I went to Glowimages the other day, I was very pleased with the hands on service I received when I called in and had a couple of questions. I spoke to a person, not a recording, and I found the site easily navigatable. Check em out if you have a sec. http://www.glowimages.com/index.cfm?/start_EN

  55. I yes working as an engineer is a very intereting career, but when you find yourself where you have to cope with serious pressure is challenging and enhance your technical capability.One sholud be ready to be proactive in the technical world itself as we are in the elctronics world it.I work with Tractor and Equipment and Caterpillar company in Sierra Leone I do have to cope with pressure since I have to respond to customer call with regards complaims about braeksdowns on machine, servicing and repaar this make my job more challenging and full of pressure which I normal strive to manage.

  56. I yes working as an engineer is a very intereting career, but when you find yourself where you have to cope with serious pressure is challenging and enhance your technical capability.One sholud be ready to be proactive in the technical world itself as we are in the elctronics world it.I work with Tractor and Equipment and Caterpillar company in Sierra Leone I do have to cope with pressure since I have to respond to customer call with regards complaims about braeksdowns on machine, servicing and repaar this make my job more challenging and full of pressure which I normal strive to manage.