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42 Months of Stock Footage Financial Data July 1, 2012

I normally don’t analyze my sales information mid-year, but this year, I thought it might be a good idea to get a “snapshot” of my sales over the past 42 months, from January of 2009 to June of 2012.

I ran the numbers for my top four agencies, RevostockPond5iStock, and Shutterstock.  It is from these four agencies where the bulk of my stock footage income is generated.  What I found was two agencies are apparently on a downward trend, one is fairly consistent, and one stands out as performing admirably. Below are tables that illustrate my sales over the past 42 months at these four agencies.

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Naturally, I’m omitting the actual dollar amounts, but you can still see the “trends” from these charts. Which stock footage agencies are the best? That’s for you to decide.

Screen-Shot-2012-07-01-at-9.36.12-AM1

Revostock was the first agency I submitted to back in late 2008.  It seemed to hit its stride around year two, but lately, sales there have been less than stellar. Why? That’s hard to determine. Am I the only one with lower sales on Revostock, or are sales overall just down? These agencies don’t provide us with any clue as to how they are doing, which I strongly believe is something we contributors should get, at least yearly. We do, after all, provide them with their inventory. Without us, they’d have nothing to sell.

I think that perhaps Revostock is becoming more associated as an agency that provides top-notch templates for After Effects and Motion, rather than a stock footage provider.  If that’s the case, my best times on Revostock may be behind me since I am not a template creator.

  • Percent difference from the first half of 2011 and first half of 2012:
    Down 40%

Screen-Shot-2012-07-01-at-9.37.24-AM1

Pond5 has been a consistant earner for me since the beginning.  While there are ups and downs in sales like everywhere else, overall, the trend is at least stable, if not slightly upward.  So long as this continues, I’ll be satisfied with Pond5.

What does concern me, however, is Pond5’s extremely liberal acceptance policy. I believe some producers take advantage of this by flooding their portfolios with everything and anything just to guarantee their clips will be seen in customer search results. Quickly mass-producing stock clips shouldn’t become the norm. There are contributors on Pond5 that aren’t on other more strict agencies. They say it’s out of principle, that they don’t like the pricing or commission policies, or that editorial clips aren’t accepted. But I really think the reason those producers favor Pond5 because they know most of their clips would never be accepted anywhere else. Quality over quantity is something Pond5 needs to work on. They proudly touoted in early 2012 that they had reached one million stock clips. But having more isn’t necessarily a good thing, which is a policy I hope some contributors adopt.

  • Percent difference from the first half of 2011 and first half of 2012:
    Down 10%

Screen-Shot-2012-07-01-at-9.38.23-AM1

iStockphoto is arguably the largest stock agency on the web.  It is certainly the best known.  But lately, sales there have been faltering.  Since no agency gives contributors any hints as to overall sales or how the company is doing, we can only guess.  I suspect one of two things are happening at iStock.

First, I believe that iStock even more so decided to heavily favor exclusive contributors in customer search queries. From what I’ve been reading in forums, other non-exclusive producers like myself have noticed a downturn in sales lately, starting in early to mid-2011. The best month I ever had on iStock was in January of 2011 (month #25). Then after than, it was generally downhill. Did iStock change something in February? I feel they did. But I have no proof one way or the other, except for my own sales numbers. Exclusive participants seem to not be experiencing this issue, or they are just deciding to not be publicly vocal about similar misfortunes. (Although, come to think of it, I’ve had a few personal inquiries from iStock exclusive producers asking me about my opinions of other agencies…)

Secondly, it may just be that customers are simply starting to realize that there are alternatives. Since most, if not all, of these alternate stock agencies have very competitive prices, buyers may have begun to migrate elsewhere.

  • Percent difference from the first half of 2011 and first half of 2012:
    Down 48%

Screen-Shot-2012-07-01-at-9.39.27-AM1

Shutterstock has been the biggest success story for me these past 6 months or so. It has been during this time that I’ve noticed my sales are steadily tracking up.  Is it a coincidence that my Shutterstock sales started to climb right around the same time my iStock sales were dipping? Perhaps customers are indeed starting to “shop around” for better deals. Also, like other Shutterstock contributors, I’ve received personal emails from Shutterstock asking my opinion on how to improve the service. That’s the sign of a healthy agency that is investing time and resources to become a powerhouse in the industry.

  • Percent difference from the first half of 2011 and first half of 2012:
    Up 41%

Being a non-exclusive contributor, I’m not “pulling” for any one agency to succeed while others fail.  My income is generated by combining sales from all agencies where I actively contribute new video clips.  If one or two falter, my bottom line drops.  So while I’m happy Shutterstock and Pond5 are good earners, the fact that Revostock and iStock are down means less money for me.

From what I hear from other stock producers like myself, they are experiencing similar results.  After all, this is summer, which is historically a slow sales period.  Only time will tell if things improve in the coming months.

UPDATE:
I’ve been getting quite a bit of action and inquiries on this post. One of the more popular questions is how the charts relate to each other. In the above examples, they don’t. So, I decided to make one more diagram that will hopefully show the relationships among these four stock footage agencies. This new illustration is below:

42-Months-Combined

James Orlowski

James Orlowski is the owner of Orlowski Designs, LLC. He is an accomplished videographer and producer with nearly 20 years of video production.

A graduate from Penn State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Communications and a Master's Degree in Multimedia from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, PA, he has years of experience shooting and selling stock footage on many of the major Internet-based microstock footage agencies.

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