Michael Jay Fotograf Berlin

Selling photos across agencies

Shutterstock “testing” new price plans

In a forum post, Shutterstock has announced they are “testing” (a rather common way of saying “introducing”) new price plans for some of their customers.

The new packages come in between the customers who are only occasionally shopping for images and go for an image pack and those who will use images almost daily and are better off with the subscription packages. From a market point, this offer somewhat makes sense as measure of customer retention.

The new images packs offer a monthly volume of 10 Images or 50 images and come at prices of $29 and $99 a month according to a screen shot shared in the forum.

How does this compare to the competition?

If my memory serves me well, among the better known agencies Depositphotos was the first to introduce small subscription offers. Their current plan consists of 30 images for $29 a month.

At iStock, I only get to see Euro prices, they do offer subscription packages with 10 images for €35 (probably $39), 25 images for €55 ($59?) and 50 images for €85 ($99?)

Adobe Stock offers a subscription with 10 images in addition to their Creative Cloud offers for roughly $30 a month.

What do we get as a contributor?

Shutterstock has obviously already found that paying out subscription royalties of 25 to 38 cents per download will not go well with the community of contributors. In their announcement, they stated that we are going to be paid for those subscription packages based on our individual earning tier. For beginners this would mean a 20% share of the revenue, if you have reached the second tier you would get 25% of the customer price and at the highest level 30%.

Based on the subscription prices these percentages are likely to be applied on the average price per images of the subscriptions: The smaller package of 10 images costs $29 or $2.90 per image. The payout to contributors for this package would be $0.58 for the lowest and $0.87 for the highest earning tiers. The larger package with 50 images per month comes at $99 or just below $2 per image, so the payouts would be $0.40 up to $0.60. These earnings are supposed to be entered in the “Single & Others” column of the earnings page.

This had lead to wide spread contributor protests against Depositphotos; at Deposit contributors will only earn their subscription royalties for each download made in the monthly subscription, effectively limiting the payout for Deposit to a maximum of 30% but likely well below that and far below what contributors used to get from comparable credit sales. It has also lead me to stop supplying new images to Depositphotos last year.

At iStock, with their new terms to be introduced earlier this year but still delayed, non-exclusive contributors are supposed to earn 15% based on the customer’s effective price. This would translate into roughly 60 cents for a download from a 10-a-month subscription ($39 / 10 downloads = $3.90 per download, 15% of which would be 58.5 cents) down to 30 cents for the 50 images subscription. In theory, prices higher than this could be reached whenever the customers do not use up their monthly volume but the smaller a subscription volume, the lower it seems that this probability comes true.

With Adobe Stock, contributors are supposed to earn a fixed percentage of 33% with minimum payments guaranteed for larger subscriptions. With the 10 images/$30 subscription this would translate into 0.99 sales and I indeed see quite a lot of those coming in. So it appears that Adobe/Fotolia are paying the best prices to contributors for this kind of subscription.

All in all, the new Shutterstock offer addresses a range of clients that do find offers on competing sites already, so from a business point of view it was a logical and expectable step. The payment to contributors falls short of what Adobe offers to their contributors but is well ahead of iStock and especially Depositphotos. I have no doubt that these subscription offers are here to stay, despite the wording says “testing” I can’t see a real reason why this test would be considered a failure.

The only thing we don’t know yet is how much of the Single Image sales at up to $2.85 are going to be sacrificed by these new offers. But since they are available on the market already, there is no way to avoid them.

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