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December sales - take two


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50 minutes ago, Milo J said:

It matters because return per download was generally higher in the "good old days", for both stills and video.

I don't mean to dispute everything you're saying, but I don't buy that argument either.  My historical average return per download since 2012 has been $30.93.  Last month (November 2020) my average was $30.59.   I agree that the trend is on the downward slope, but the "good old days" are still here for video.  I can't speak for photos, but I think those golden days ended a decade ago or more.

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Don't know what happened to the generic milestone thread, but I just came across this on my dashboard: What are the chances of arriving at such a perfectly even number (in fact, the sale tha

Milo, it is interesting that we have nearly the same number of downloads but look at the difference in dollar volume.  Wow. That's a 26x higher return per download.  I don't think anything could bette

Since the original one got deleted by accident... My December is going okay, no spectacular single sales, but a steady flow of regular stuff coming in. SS is again well ahead of AS.

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1 hour ago, Doug Jensen said:

I don't mean to dispute everything you're saying, but I don't buy that argument either.  My historical average return per download since 2012 has been $30.93.  Last month (November 2020) my average was $30.59.   I agree that the trend is on the downward slope, but the "good old days" are still here for video.  I can't speak for photos, but I think those golden days ended a decade ago or more.

I can't speak to photos in the good old days from personal experience, or when those good old days were over. (I just know that I missed them, lol.) I know Laurin once mentioned a payday of $800 a day, but of course he was there at the very beginning, and his photos are masterpieces.

Anyway, that's a long beat to death horse. You'll never know how well some of your shots might have done as photos, and I'll never know how much more my stills might have earned back in 2012. Too many variables.

One thing I do know: I sometimes shoot both stills and video of the same subject, at the same time. For some of those sets, video has outperformed stills by a wide margin, but for others they are dead even in earnings, with the same number of assets.

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It's true: stills now simply bring in dramatically less than videos seem to. On average, anyway. Yes, the golden age is over. At least for most of us. There are still a few exceptions, of course.

But success stories like earning over 20,000 dollars with a single image only on shutterstock are definitely over.

In a few years, that will also be the case with videos. Then there will perhaps be databases where you can buy 3D models for 3D printing houses, sneakers or vehicles.

But what counts in the end is not the RPD or the RPI, but the RPT - Return per Production Time. How much time do I invest in an image - the production, the keywording, the upload. What is the hourly rate, how much do I earn with this image relative to the time invested. I also have to consider the cost of the necessary hardware and software. And the cost of models, photo studios, traveling costs and for some, staff if it's a consortium.
That is what counts. Nothing else. Of course, that only applies if you look at it from a purely economic point of view. If you look at images or films simply as a leisure pastime, that's something else.

This is where my personal problem lies. I used to make an image - sometimes with very little effort, sometimes with a lot of effort. It always paid off. Today I have very few hits. My aim has somehow been lost. I would be interested to know if this hit rate would be higher with videos.

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18 minutes ago, Wilm Ihlenfeld said:

But what counts in the end is not the RPD or the RPI, but the RPT - Return per Production Time. How much time do I invest in an image - the production, the keywording, the upload. What is the hourly rate, how much do I earn with this image relative to the time invested.

Absolutely true.  I have said the same thing many times and I agree 100%.  I think a lot of people never bother to calculate that number for themselves because deep down they know it won't be good for them.  I'm still over $200 per hour.

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27 minutes ago, Doug Jensen said:

Absolutely true.  I have said the same thing many times and I agree 100%.  I think a lot of people never bother to calculate that number for themselves because deep down they know it won't be good for them.  I'm still over $200 per hour.

As for your calculation, we will never agree, Doug.
No matter how much I enjoy creating an image, I still always calculate that time in. As well as the other possible incidental costs. So I'll never come up with your hourly rate.
But we had that topic a long time ago.

Nevertheless, the basic economic principle remains - no matter how one calculates it for himself/herself.

What I would really be interested in, though, Doug - if you want to say it: What's it like for you? How are your new videos performing? The latest 10 or 20%? Do you get new video files - if you rank as well as you do - successfully positioned? Or do they also start as poorly as I know for the most part from stills?

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5 minutes ago, Wilm Ihlenfeld said:

What I would really be interested in, though, Doug - if you want to say it: What's it like for you? How are your new videos performing? The latest 10 or 20%? Do you get new video files - if you rank as well as you do - successfully positioned? Or do they also start as poorly as I know for the most part from stills?

The problem with SS is there is no easy way to calculate those numbers unless you want to do it painstakingly by hand, which I am not willing to do.  But, yeah, I would be very interested in downloading a spreadsheet that could show how my most recent submissions are performing.  But then again, with that said, lack of sales in the first few weeks or months or years does not mean that a clip won't eventually provide a very good return.  Every month I have clips sell for the very first time that have sat dormant for years.  It is like having a bunch of forgotten seeds that suddenly sprout and bear fruit.   As I know you agree, the RPT is all that what matters and that can come at any time in the clip's life.   Almost all of my clips are 4K so they still have a lot of life in them.

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18 minutes ago, Wilm Ihlenfeld said:

Do you get new video files - if you rank as well as you do - successfully positioned? Or do they also start as poorly as I know for the most part from stills?

Let me address this separately, I am a firm believer that every clips stands alone regardless of who submitted it.  If someone who just joined SS submitted the exact same clip with the exact same metadata as I have,  I am certain it would have the exact same chances of success or failure.  The fact that I have been around longer, have earned more money, have a bigger portfolio, etc. would not help that clip.  Every clip stands alone.

In fact, I could make the argument that it would be in SS's best interest not got give my clips priority because I am at a higher earning level than a newcomer.  If they sell my clip, they keep 70%.  If they sell a newcomer's clip they keep 85%.  But I don't think that's how it works anyway.  Every clips stands alone.

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Just for the hell of it I went through my November sales to see how many clips sold for the first time that month.

Out of 89 downloads, at least 12 of them were first-time sellers.  That's 13% of the month's total.

Combined, they earned $436 which is an average of $36 per download, which is higher than my lifetime average, so it kind of flies in the face of the attitude that earnings per download are dropping.

  • 5 were submitted in 2020 (one sold within 48 hours)
  • 1 was submitted in 2019
  • 1 was submitted in 2017
  • 5 were submitted in 2016

So far in December, 4 downloads out of 61 have been first-time sellers.

  • 1 was submitted in 2019
  • 1 was submitted in 2018
  • 2 were submitted in 2016
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1 hour ago, Doug Jensen said:

Let me address this separately, I am a firm believer that every clips stands alone regardless of who submitted it.  If someone who just joined SS submitted the exact same clip with the exact same metadata as I have,  I am certain it would have the exact same chances of success or failure.  The fact that I have been around longer, have earned more money, have a bigger portfolio, etc. would not help that clip.  Every clip stands alone.

In fact, I could make the argument that it would be in SS's best interest not got give my clips priority because I am at a higher earning level than a newcomer.  If they sell my clip, they keep 70%.  If they sell a newcomer's clip they keep 85%.  But I don't think that's how it works anyway.  Every clips stands alone.

Hmmm,

of course I have no idea at all how the algorithm works.

But I personally believe that there is a kind of contributor ranking. That influences where the new uploads are found in the search. That the same clip (or image), uploaded by a "good" ranked contributor is positioned better than by a "bad" ranked contributor. "Good" or "bad" in the sense of: He takes good landscape pictures. She takes good architectural pictures. He takes good event pictures. And she takes good food pictures. And that contributor offers perfect editorial images. Something like that...

And, that is important for the perception of the microstock agency and its offer: It doesn't matter whether the "good" contributor gets more commission than the "bad" one. For the portfolio of the agency, the market value is much more important than a few percent more or less for the individual contributor.

 

I can't prove that, of course.

 

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24 minutes ago, Wilm Ihlenfeld said:

Hmmm,

of course I have no idea at all how the algorithm works.

But I personally believe that there is a kind of contributor ranking. That influences where the new uploads are found in the search. That the same clip (or image), uploaded by a "good" ranked contributor is positioned better than by a "bad" ranked contributor. "Good" or "bad" in the sense of: He takes good landscape pictures. She takes good architectural pictures. He takes good event pictures. And she takes good food pictures. And that contributor offers perfect editorial images. Something like that...

And, that is important for the perception of the microstock agency and its offer: It doesn't matter whether the "good" contributor gets more commission than the "bad" one. For the portfolio of the agency, the market value is much more important than a few percent more or less for the individual contributor.

 

I can't prove that, of course.

 

 

I'm following this conversation with interest. 

I'm curious as to how SS (or AS) would determine who is a 'good' contributor given that they have several hundred thousand of them. 

For what it's worth, last month 10% of my downloads were 1st timers. So far this month, that percentage is 35%.

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19 minutes ago, Charles Lewis said:

 

I'm following this conversation with interest. 

I'm curious as to how SS (or AS) would determine who is a 'good' contributor given that they have several hundred thousand of them. 

For what it's worth, last month 10% of my downloads were 1st timers. So far this month, that percentage is 35%.

Charles,

if you had a business - a mall or something like that. How would you organize your shelf display? I assume that you would perfectly position the products of which you know that their manufacturer delivers perfect goods. Goods that have always sold well so far. Who has a feeling for what sells.

It is more difficult in this case: the producer is known for delivering good wine that has always sold well. Now, all of a sudden, he's also offering sausage. Then, of course, it becomes a little more difficult.

Microstock agencies are ultimately the same as search engines. They position at the top what - presumably - will bring in the most sales/money.

That's why I'm still convinced that there is a starting ranking for every new image that is accepted. This ranking is influenced by several factors. And I am quite sure that one of the factors is the (secret and internal) contributor ranking.

 

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6 minutes ago, Wilm Ihlenfeld said:

Charles,

if you had a business - a mall or something like that. How would you organize your shelf display? I assume that you would perfectly position the products of which you know that their manufacturer delivers perfect goods. Goods that have always sold well so far. Who has a feeling for what sells.

It is more difficult in this case: the producer is known for delivering good wine that has always sold well. Now, all of a sudden, he's also offering sausage. Then, of course, it becomes a little more difficult.

Microstock agencies are ultimately the same as search engines. They position at the top what - presumably - will bring in the most sales/money.

That's why I'm still convinced that there is a starting ranking for every new image that is accepted. This ranking is influenced by several factors. And I am quite sure that one of the factors is the (secret and internal) contributor ranking.

 

I understand all that but it doesn't really answer my question as to how SS might determine a 'good' contributor or attribute a ranking to that contributor. I could see how a ranking might happen based on purchases, views or even rate of uploads. However, I don't see how a subjective ranking could be made (e.g. good landscapes) given the sheer number of contributors.

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4 minutes ago, Charles Lewis said:

I understand all that but it doesn't really answer my question as to how SS might determine a 'good' contributor or attribute a ranking to that contributor. I could see how a ranking might happen based on purchases, views or even rate of uploads. However, I don't see how a subjective ranking could be made (e.g. good landscapes) given the sheer number of contributors.

I can't answer that question, Charles.

But what is for sure: An algorithm, controlled by an artificial intelligence (with all database mathematics in the background) must determine that. It is not possible otherwise.

Contributors upload new images. Nevertheless, the search result on page 1 to page 10 remains unchanged. Obviously, because it is determined that the new image does not approach the "value" and saleability of the first 1000 images.

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Unless the unique new outstanding landscape image is uploaded. Somebody then decides that it is worth trying to displace one of the top dogs with it. But that must then - from my point of view - be a human decision. But even with that I can be completely wrong.

Shutterstock, knows how it works. But they won't tell us.

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My hourly rate is now infinite! I now do nothing and have done nothing for 2 years and yet I still get $80 to $100+ every month (mostly from images uploaded in 2012-2013)!

Two years ago, I still uploaded stuff but it never or hardly sold...........so I stopped making the effort. Who knows? Maybe it's worth uploading again in January 2021 when everyone is totally disgusted with the reset and stops submitting.🙃

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3 hours ago, Wilm Ihlenfeld said:

Unless the unique new outstanding landscape image is uploaded. Somebody then decides that it is worth trying to displace one of the top dogs with it. But that must then - from my point of view - be a human decision. But even with that I can be completely wrong.

Shutterstock, knows how it works. But they won't tell us.

I'm fairly sure it works like it always did. Client goes to 'popular' and gets to see what everyone else likes/downloaded. Clients want something different and goes to 'New'. You uploaded your intrinsically suitable image yesterday and it appeared in new.........yesterday! Now it's on page 10 of new and client couldn't be bothered to look past the first 5 pages (500). Client never sees image and tries something else. 

In the old days, your image would have stayed on page 1 of new for 2-3 days and that same client would have bought it...but now they missed it due to sheer volume of stuff being added every day. At SS there's no curation and what may be a brilliant shot, still gets thrown in with the 'trash'.

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11 hours ago, stevemart said:

I'm fairly sure it works like it always did. Client goes to 'popular' and gets to see what everyone else likes/downloaded. Clients want something different and goes to 'New'. You uploaded your intrinsically suitable image yesterday and it appeared in new.........yesterday! Now it's on page 10 of new and client couldn't be bothered to look past the first 5 pages (500). Client never sees image and tries something else. 

In the old days, your image would have stayed on page 1 of new for 2-3 days and that same client would have bought it...but now they missed it due to sheer volume of stuff being added every day. At SS there's no curation and what may be a brilliant shot, still gets thrown in with the 'trash'.

After not uploading a picture here at all for 5 months, I've uploaded a few new ones in the last two to three weeks. One of them was accepted within 60 seconds and downloaded immediately - within a few seconds. But that was it. The other images disappeared immediately in the sink.

But there are other examples. I'm thinking of a contributor from Italy who is specialized in holiday and event images. The portfolio is relatively tiny, but the success is gigantic. Whatever he uploads: The image lands far in front and stays there.

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12 hours ago, stevemart said:

I'm fairly sure it works like it always did. Client goes to 'popular' and gets to see what everyone else likes/downloaded. Clients want something different and goes to 'New'. You uploaded your intrinsically suitable image yesterday and it appeared in new.........yesterday! Now it's on page 10 of new and client couldn't be bothered to look past the first 5 pages (500). Client never sees image and tries something else. 

In the old days, your image would have stayed on page 1 of new for 2-3 days and that same client would have bought it...but now they missed it due to sheer volume of stuff being added every day. At SS there's no curation and what may be a brilliant shot, still gets thrown in with the 'trash'.

I'd be very surprised if the average client goes past page 1 on any search.

Most clients arent people looking to pay a lot of money for a very specific image for a big project (those might do).  The majority are people after a quick image to stick on a website, use on social media or stick on a blog.  These are subscription sales.  Most wont have a the time or effort to find the "perfect" image.  They'll pick the one that'll do the job as quickly as possible.

"Popular" is likely the best option for those people because let's face it, the lack of any form of quality standards at SS now means "new" is populated almost entirely by terrible quality snapshots complete with keyword spam.  People arent going to waste time looking through hundreds of underexposed, clipped mobile phone snapshots to find the subject, they'll go straight to popular and page 1 because those images work, they've sold, they're ranked, they'll do the job.

You can try this trick yourself, pick a topic, any topic and search first on popular then new...and look at the difference in quality!

I think most of us finding our older images still sell far better than new for the reasons you specified.  Previously images lasted longer to get seen, get sold and get ranked.  Because of that they're still ranked and popular today.  New stuff we upload, even if better, just gets buried in a sea of crap so it never gets seen or sold. 
There are exceptions, especially for niche markets and some can popup and sell after many years of nothing but its rarer.

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2 hours ago, Former_Poster said:

I'd be very surprised if the average client goes past page 1 on any search.

Most clients arent people looking to pay a lot of money for a very specific image for a big project (those might do).  The majority are people after a quick image to stick on a website, use on social media or stick on a blog.  These are subscription sales.  Most wont have a the time or effort to find the "perfect" image.  They'll pick the one that'll do the job as quickly as possible.

"Popular" is likely the best option for those people because let's face it, the lack of any form of quality standards at SS now means "new" is populated almost entirely by terrible quality snapshots complete with keyword spam.  People arent going to waste time looking through hundreds of underexposed, clipped mobile phone snapshots to find the subject, they'll go straight to popular and page 1 because those images work, they've sold, they're ranked, they'll do the job.

You can try this trick yourself, pick a topic, any topic and search first on popular then new...and look at the difference in quality!

I think most of us finding our older images still sell far better than new for the reasons you specified.  Previously images lasted longer to get seen, get sold and get ranked.  Because of that they're still ranked and popular today.  New stuff we upload, even if better, just gets buried in a sea of crap so it never gets seen or sold. 
There are exceptions, especially for niche markets and some can popup and sell after many years of nothing but its rarer.

I have no doubt that everything you say is true for the vast majority of clients....they never get further than P1 of popular to make a choice. But like Wilm, I uploaded a few shots (in May) before the earnings announcement and I did get a couple of sales on those fresh shots almost immediately before they too plunged into the abyss of the never-to-be-seen-again landfill. Therefore, there are some clients who look in 'New' but with only one or two sales those images disappear from the first page of 'New' as quickly as all the others that never sold and presumably go in the rear pages of popular where they are indeed never seen again. In the old days, with far fewer submissions, your image in 'New' remained on the first page of 'New' for at least a couple of days where it could get traction after being downloaded more than just a couple of times. Now an image is gone from that first page of 'New' within a couple of hours as it gets deluged by others for the most commercial subjects. I'm glad I do still have some images on the first page of popular subjects many of which date from my first 12 months here in 2012 and 2013 but for me it's been pointless uploading new material since 2018 and so I've hardly done it (around 50 images uploaded since then) because it really seems pointless investing the effort when there is no reward.

My top 5 images, all of which were uploaded in 2012 and 2013 and which account for 35% of my lifetime sales still sell on a regular basis today (but nowhere near as frequently as in the past....naturally)!

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3 hours ago, Wilm Ihlenfeld said:

After not uploading a picture here at all for 5 months, I've uploaded a few new ones in the last two to three weeks. One of them was accepted within 60 seconds and downloaded immediately - within a few seconds. But that was it. The other images disappeared immediately in the sink.

But there are other examples. I'm thinking of a contributor from Italy who is specialized in holiday and event images. The portfolio is relatively tiny, but the success is gigantic. Whatever he uploads: The image lands far in front and stays there.

I recall getting quite a bit of flack for this a while back, but I'll say it again because SS has more or less verified it now...portfolios are given a performance ranking based on a number of factors including port size, sales ratio, history, etc. This performance ranking indeed helps with search ranking, or at least it used to. Now though I think SS uses a mix of the same algorithmic approach as AS; purposely rotating out top performing images long before their organic expiration date in order to keep the search results looking dynamic to buyers. 

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9 minutes ago, Foodio said:

I recall getting quite a bit of flack for this a while back, but I'll say it again because SS has more or less verified it now...portfolios are given a performance ranking based on a number of factors including port size, sales ratio, history, etc. This performance ranking indeed helps with search ranking, or at least it used to. Now though I think SS uses a mix of the same algorithmic approach as AS; purposely rotating out top performing images long before their organic expiration date in order to keep the search results looking dynamic to buyers. 

Foodio,

but this is by no means true for all images. I have images that I uploaded during Nebuchadnezzar's lifetime and they still enjoy very good positioning. Once shutterstock changes that, then it goes dramatically downhill for me as well. Because I profit as an old contributor (with his old images) from this old ranking system. The new contributors no longer enjoy this benefit. Therefore, they can offer the greatest images, much much better than mine - they still always lag behind.

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12 minutes ago, Former_Poster said:

Where have they sort of verified it?

From what i can see, individual images tend to get ranked not profiles.

I knew I would get this question but honestly too lazy to look for it now. It was buried in a SS blog post, posted around the same time AS fessed up to the fact that they were manipulating the searches to actively replace content that was becoming too popular. In any event to me it has always made perfect business sense to do it this way, either in whole or in part.

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