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.

65 thoughts on “Getty images: a photo business under pressure

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. “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?

  8. “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?

  9. 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

  10. 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

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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….

  14. 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….

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