One of the things I always have fun speaking with peers about is just how little the things that matter most in our industry matter to people outside of it. When we slightly shifted our agencies focus from development to search engine optimization, I bet that every one of my family and friends asked ‘is there any money in that?’ While I understood that to many outside of the digital world had no clue what SEO was, I could help but think to myself:
Seriously people, it’s a 5 billion dollar industry. It is the single most frequently searched item on Google, and you didn’t know that it existed…
While I’m not sure to what extent, I’m certain that the photo stock industry is the same sort of monster. While many experts argue that growth in the industry has slowed as supply greatly outweighs demand, the stock photo industry is also a $5 billion dollar industry.
Led by names like iStockPhoto, Shutterstock and DepositPhotos, these titans of the industry represent the majority of stock image sales. While many expected the rise of Microstock websites across the internet to cut into these companies profits, it really hasn’t. They have maintained growth and evolved their own pricing structures to keep revenues high. It seems as though the Microstock websites are cutting simply cutting into each other’s piece of the pie.
An industry fighting fraud
As one might expect, the stock photography industry is in an epic battle with images being used outside of their license. PicScout, a website set up to identify images that are being used and sold without rights, estimates that roughly 85% of all images used online are being used without the proper license.
It seems though, that the overall health of the industry makes this fact a mute point for the bigger names in the industry. They understand that theft occurs in the stock photography industry, and while the actual process of finding stolen images and having them taken down isn’t that difficult of one, the payoff doesn’t seem to warrant the work involved.
Future of the Stock Photography Industry
If asked a half-decade ago what I thought the state of the stock photo industry would be, I would have guessed that with the rise of Microstocks, we would have seen a fall in sales for companies like iStockPhoto and DepositPhotos. The resiliency is mostly thanks to the consistency in demand for editorial images.
Over half the sales in the stock industry are editorial images, and the other half (or slightly under half) are commercial images that a typical industry would use on their website or blog. It seems as the main source for editorial images will remain Getty images, and sites of similar size and capabilities.
As long as this demand exists, which should be forever, the stock photography industry is going to be fine.