The Puffer Fish of the imaging market, as described in my previous blog, have large volumes of fleeting image assets. Yes, dear Wall-street analyst, they may have been experiencing double-digit growth temporarily, but we believe that originates from non-organic growth and growth attributable to the incorporation of that non-organic supply into the global brand, in Getty-Images‘ case for example. If you keep buying stock photography companies, you delight existing buyers with an ever-increasing supply, but the novelty of that supply wears off real fast. In the end, that apparent growth comes at a high cost. So witnessed by the most recent disappointing earnings reports.
Jupiter-images is literally pursuing an image super-store strategy, a copy of Getty-Images’ strategy. They too, have been buying stock companies. Stock companies strike deals with photographers to create a good-looking selection. Yet, most images have a value that is entirely photographer agnostic. The value is in the photograph, not the photographer. So, a super-store of images, by definition, contains a small number of sellable images.
But the real interesting fact about the imaging industry (and many related to it) is that all images have fleeting value, especially after they have been sold for the first time. Photography is the ultimate Long Tail market, with a very, very long tail and a tiny body. A great reason why any player with a “premium” imaging strategy is relegated to selling to a very small and concentrated set of buyers.
Not unlike the music industry where we are used to buying music collections on CDs, a large part of the stock photography market still sells collections of photographs to artificially increase the number of images sold and the average sales price (ASP) per image. As a result, investors may think the ASP is somewhat stable and predictable, and the value of the super-store may not be as grim as it seems. But Super-stores will never contain enough image variations to meet Long Tail demand. As a result, commissioned photography is still going strong.
Most photographers that produce sellable images still sell their images offline and commissioned. The ones that do sell online, literally use a total of hundreds of photo-sites today to tap into a Long Tail demand. All these factors are hardly evidence that Getty Images is indeed meeting the needs of the photography market.
On a side note: MacNN reported this week that Adobe had halted its stock photo library; perhaps it is getting ready to buy Getty-Images? I think they are smarter than that.