25. March 2013
Today an exciting new stock agency went live. Owned by the artist, directed by the founder of Microstock - Bruce Livingstone.
- on Shutterstock: http://www.shutterstock.com/cat.mhtml?gallery_id=66216
- on stocksy: http://www.stocksy.com/profile/cobaltstock
- on istock: www.istockphoto.com/cobalt
- on Dreamstime: http://www.dreamstime.com/cobalt_info
- on eyeem: www.eyeem.com/u/cobaltstock
You can also follow my journey in the stock world on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cobaltstockcom/169793413171571
On this page I will be sharing my personal experiences with the agencies I am working with. I will also discuss my general expectations of what I believe are good services an agency can offer to media producers. When choosing a business partner I am not just looking for the easiest sales potential, but would like to enter a longterm, mutually beneficial, trustworthy and most of all: truly professional business relationship.
If you are new to working with stock agencies then maybe my personal experiences might be another valuable piece of information in your online journey to find the right partner. When I started out I learnt a lot from reading other peoples experiences. So in the spirit of information sharing 21st century style I would like to give my experiences back to the community of media producers.
Communication and Trust
You are selling creative content all over the globe via international stock agencies. Basically you send your beautiful creations and hard work to people you have never met. Hoping they will sell your content well to customers you will never even know. You need a lot of trust to be able to do this. Trust they take good care of your content, trust that their technology works, trust they will collect the money from the customer and again trust that they will transfer your correct royalty. Obviously the agency also has to trust you - that you really are the creator of the content you upload, that you will be a reliable business partner, that you recommend them to customers etc...
For all of this to work smoothly, you need good communication. Whatever questions you have, you need to know and be reassured they will answer you. And if there are any problems or misunderstandings that they will talk to YOU first and not their lawyer. Since you are working internationally you can probably not afford a court case anyway. Not unless you are a big studio with large financial resources.
There are many ways to communicate with an agency. Telephone, email, snailmail, site mail (contributor support) and forums. These are usually two way communication paths. Then there are newsletters, blogs, facebook, twitter, guidelines where the agency informs their thousands, sometimes over a thirty thousand (?) partners of what is going on.
In addition to direct communication you also have a huge and very well networked stock media community of artists, designers and buyers that can help you and answer your questions. Before you sign up with a stock site, inform yourself on the industry forums and blogs what the companies reputation is. The internet really helps the small time artist in this way.
Obviously keep in mind that companies are not hard rooted computer programs but fluid entities with lots of staff. They make mistakes. They learn from their mistakes. They evolve. Some die...
Keep your pulse on the rumour mill, but accept it as such. Think. Only you can decide what is best for your business.
So when you are reading around the internet - what kind of reputation does a company have? What kind of reputation does their communication have?
The most active and helpful forum is certainly msg.
I visit it daily for the latest news of what goes on in the stock world. It is not just for micro stock producers, but also midstock, macro and RM producers. As the prices of the "micros" have gone up a lot in recent years and the "macros" have very high list prices on their websites and but can offer huge discounts to their buyers, the markets are no longer separated. All agencies offer their products via the internet, so the customer is in the lucky position to go "agency shopping and hopping" with a few mouse clicks.
There are also various Facebook groups in many different languages, Flickr discussion groups etc... Most companies also have their own very active forums.
Traffic and trends:
When choosing a business partner - how do you know if they have a large market share and earnings potential? Obviously agencies will usually not share their personal earnings or revenue with you, but the internet does offer a few tools.
Many people believe that the traffic of a website is directly related to the amount of business it does. As agencies sell their digital products directly over the internet, the visible traffic should give you an indication on how many customer projects are being filled with the companies media. It does not however, tell you how much money the agency is earning or how much you can make there. Obviously a company that sells media for 1 cent a download would have much higher traffic than one that sells for 100 US Dollars on average.
The agency name as a keyword can give you interesting insights into which countries an agency is active. Just enter a few names and look at regional distribution. If you have specialized regional content this can help you in deciding which business partner to work with.
Glassdoor is a US based review site were employees comment on their work experience and their managers. Again, take it with the usual suspicion, obviously people who have lost their jobs or feel unfairly reprimanded will use a site like this to vent. But similar to product reviews on amazon and elsewhere, it does give you an interesting insight about a company. Just another piece in the puzzle in your search for reliable business partners.
As a supplier the artists as a community can influence the growth of a company. If we do not upload good content, the agency cannot grow. You see tis with many of the smaller sites that are struggling to attract good content and also larger sites can suffer when the community decided to pull their support and favors a competitor. The customers have the biggest influence, but many suppliers are customers as well, so the sentiment in the designer/artist community is very important for the success of a site.
For RF stock photography I was photo exclusive with the istockphoto marketplace.
Update 13.March 2013: I have given up my gold crown and will be uploading my portfolio to several agencies.
You can follow my journey on my facebookpage
I am video independent and work with most agencies in the market.