Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Shutterstock Vector Sales Not Doing Well

Vector graphics earning in Shutterstock had been on increasing trend for a very long time. Contributors were working very hard to produce more and more high quality vectors. The competition was stiff as ever, but we survived. Not this time, though.

Reading posts from everywhere around the Internet, I can see that we've probably hit the peak somewhere in 2013. 2014 is a decline for Shutterstock and it is still declining. Yes, probably only Shutterstock is declining because other agencies have been neutral. Sad, but true.

I am seeing a sharp drop in my sales at Shutterstock just like everyone else. Many have come up with theories such as:
- search algorithm changes by Shutterstock
- server uptime issue
- summer holiday
- tight competition among contributors
- Getty giving away free images
- ... and many more...

Everything above could be true, but I personally don't think of that. I think Shutterstock is losing clients.

Fotolia introduced DPC (I have opt out because I don't like the idea).
IStock introduced subscription model.
DepositPhotos and 123rf are advertising heavily.

All these are hurting Shutterstock sales and we don't see our overall earnings spread evenly because the income of our vector images are getting less and less everyday in other agencies when they "silently" played around with their royalties, ranking system, and buyer packages.

The trend of "race to the bottom" is also worrying one. Agencies are fighting a price war. Contributors and agencies are suffering because of this. Jon Oringer knows this (who would have know better, if not Jon?). If I am Jon, I will probably start diversifying my investment into other new revolutionary ideas.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Uploading Timing Strategy

One thing often comes to every contributor mind is that whether you should upload now, or later?

There are many factors that affects your sales. Below is a list that you may want to consider with some explanations of what you can do about it.

  • Approved on weekend - If your works happened to be approved on weekend, then you will definitely misses a good chance for good downloads. Without good downloads, your new vectors will be "buried" by other new vectors that approved on weekdays. Although it is good to be approved on Monday, but I realize that you have no control over this, especially agency like Shutterstock could approved your vector between few hours or 2 weeks later. However, some agencies like DepositPhotos does have some consistency in approving your stuff. So, plan it right ;)
  • Summer holiday - Summer holiday are often referred to months from June to August. Contributors consider these as slow months. While, it is good to take a break in these 3 months because there are less downloads - it also means that your competitors are taking a break too. So, visibility of your vectors got higher too.
  • Good downloads months - March, April, May, October and November are good months. You should not miss these five months. Work hard before and during them.
  • Trends - Should I follow trends? Now, everybody is talking about flat icons. And Christmas is coming too. The answer is yes, you should follow trends and never go against it. 
  • Should I draw more vectors first, and upload all at once? No, you should upload as often as possible. It is tiring and daunting to think of good keywords. Uploading 30 vectors at once could take you 2-3 days. Also, uploading a lot of vectors at one time could potentially increase your rejection rate.
As a conclusion, I do believe timing is something not to be ignored if you want to maximize your profit. Good luck.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

iOS 7 Tab bar Icons by IconBeast

IconBeast has once again updated their iOS icons with the latest iOS 7 tab bar icons. These icons are designed specifically for iOS 7. If you an iOS developer, this icon set is for you. The good thing about IconBeast is that they really thought deep about design. This 300+ iOS 7 tab bar icons comes with grey + an active blue color. The active blue color contains slight modification - so essentially, they are more than 300+ icons here in this pack.

iOS 7 Tab Bar Icons (Black)

iOS 7 Tab Bar Icons (Grey)

iOS 7 Tab Bar Icons (Blue)

This icon set is selling for $25 and it is essentially one of the cheapest rate in our microstock industry.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Shutterstock Search Rotation Myth is a Truth

Contributors have always been mentioning about Shutterstock's search rotation. What is a Shutterstock's search rotation? It is when Shutterstock modified the search engine to test out how well it will affect the overall downloads in the site. I have always believe that this is either a bug or a myth - but recently, Shutterstock has come out to claim that this is indeed a truth.

Here is a quote from http://submit.shutterstock.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=130239&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=135

Hello all,  
At Shutterstock, we perform regular tests of small modifications to search. Those tests are typically released to limited segments of the overall customer population. If a test wins over time – which typically means that the changes have demonstrably increased the total number of customer downloads – then the resulting improvements are accepted and deployed.  
Search testing and analysis is a continuous process of small improvements that generally won’t result in dramatic swings in search. Changes are carefully tested and evaluated to make sure that the overall effect on customer downloads and/or purchases is a positive one.  
Customer demand, content differentiation, keyword quantity and quality, global holidays, seasonality and other factors can affect an individual contributor's day-to-day earnings. We recommend allowing a little time before evaluating the effect on your personal portfolio.  
Sincerely, Anthony Correia Director, Contributor Success Shutterstock|Bigstock

So yes, many of us have been experiencing a swing of downloads from time to time. Shutterstock is doing testing on what can contribute to the best result. I wouldn't say this is a bad thing because afterall, the most important thing is, customers need to be able to find the images they want in the shortest possible time. That would then be able to retain a customer for a longer period of time.

So, what should we do now? There are two things that we can do in order to minimize our risks from this.

  1. Title and keywords. Shutterstock may change the weight given to the number of keywords we put in, and the length of title as well. So, as a contributor, mix your uploads with different quantity of keywords (in the title as well).
  2. Time of upload. You should upload frequently, and not upload hundreds of file in one shot. This is because the freshness of your files may also contribute to the factor.
I totally support Shutterstock hard work on this because this is an important factor that contribute to our success. 

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Single and Other Downloads Brings Joy to Shutterstock's Contributor

I have been submitting my vector graphics to many different agencies in the past 3 years, and it seems that only Shutterstock is improving in a very constant and improving ways. The IPO of Shutterstock must have really been working out. To be frank, I have been really skeptical about the IPO because it means "change". I don't want to it to change because it has been good so far. But, Shutterstock proves me wrong. Not only the sales has been improving, but the feature of the sites are upgrading too. One very good example would be the Follow, Set, Same Artist, and Customer also Liked features. These features bring back sales to old images and open up an opportunity to new images too. I love how they want their buyers to maximize their download, instead of playing cheeky -  since the more subscription downloads a customer used, the less profit for Shutterstock.

Let's get back about sales in Shutterstock. The very special thing about what's happening recently is the "Single and Other Download" sales  A customer cannot see this package in Shutterstock's Subscribe Page.
So, how exactly Shutterstock bring in these "Single and Other Download" sales? I suspect this is done by a real salesman that walks into a customer office, and sell it.

The prices of "Single and Other Downloads" varies from $0.88 to $120.00. Nobody knows what's exactly happens to it and how did it took place. But, recently Scott Braut from Shutterstock hinted us about it. Here's a snippet of his explanation:

While individual user reports might be describing a variety of customer purchases, we also had a single large-volume educational book publisher purchase a large number of licenses today. 
High "single image" royalties are often the result of a prenegotiated agreement with volume buyers such as large publishers and advertising agencies. These volume buyers may require additional license or workflow features, such as the option for sensitive use, indemnification, multi-user accounts, prenegotiated pricing, and special billing and workflow features.

There goes the two very important point, "large-volume education book publisher" and "prenegotiated agreement". This is important because this means Shutterstock is doing something more than just online marketing. They are now sending marketing agent to workplaces and sell our images. One of my friend told me that IStockPhoto agents do come to his office and sell/market/negotiate prices. They show his boss about new and interesting photos + "gently warn them" not to steal their photos.

Contributors has been reporting a good sales on "Single and Other Downloads" recently, and I hope this continues. While we are really happy about it, we should also hope Shutterstock can cover the cost of their marketing, because when it don't, we are the first to be doomed.