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Why I don't believe SS is raking in the bigger profits like many believe even with the new payment structure


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13 hours ago, Wilm Ihlenfeld said:

Annie, 

even in the golden old days I had just a third of your downloads on the best days. Therefore, this is and remains impressive for me!

Thanks. A small snapshot of history, Wilm. LOL

All from just photo sales too. (I started selling video later that year.)

Never going to happen again in microstock - not for me anyway. 2017 was the year that everything changed. Can you remember Mihai doing that big SS graphs thread a couple of years ago? A lot came out of that.  2017 was big crunch-time for SS and thats when they made a heck of a lot of changes - most of which negatively impacted contributors. All resulting from losses in the market to iS/G. 

And then along came Unsplash. I remember when Laurin showed it to us here on the forum - and we all went, what the?  Prior to that - and the reason why I had so many sales, was when I started in 2012/3, I aimed for the Internet market and researched what they wanted. It was just starting to boom back then. Prior to that was mainly print media.

But nowadays the internet market microstock sales has greatly diminished. In recent times, I even see lots of blogs posts on Pinterest  telling people how to get great photos for free and directing them to Unsplash. That was my market! lol. 

Never mind, the end of era for big photo sales in Microstock - at least for me. Time to either change what we do - or do other things. 

 

ETA: Another reason why I had so many sales back then, was that I ran my port like a paint-by-numbers thing. From my accounting background, I wanted some ratios to work with, so I set up all of these sets on SS to find what sold, and what I could keep adding to, and when I should stop adding to a particular set. I used them for everything - even down to what colors sold better than others. If you know anyone who knew me back, they would laugh and call me, the numbers queen. lol

Anyway, wishing you all the very best for the future, Wilm. Have fun. 

 

2016Screenshot 2021-04-09 062513.jpg

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10 hours ago, Steven Tritton said:

Thanks for sharing Annie. This is very interesting information. Also, good to see you return and post on the forum! :) 

Thanks Steve. A couple more posts from me and then I'll have to leave. 

I've been trying new things in the past 3 or 4 months. One of which is showing a lot of promise, so I'm ploughing my resources into that. 

I decided to leave my photo port up here on SS,  when I saw that my photo RPDs can be the same as 2016 - as I posted above for you. I've taken my video port down from here temporarily. But its more of an experiment than anything else. I want to test whether all of these small video subs are actually incremental sales that wont be made elsewhere.

I did this back a few years - take down my video port from SS for about 3 months. And back then, my sales on AS and P5 went right up. And then down again, when I opened it up again. So I am trying to see whether buyers are still shopping around - or whether they are locked in by SS to special packs. 

Anyway, its worth a try. 

Have fun, if I dont speak to you for awhile. 

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8 hours ago, HodagMedia said:

We've known from the start, as Jon was quoted as saying the same, the agency makes money when people pay for a subscription and don't use or download all the allowed images. At the same time, when we were being paid 35/38 cents, SS was charging the same as now for the 750 packs, and they lost money on every download, while hoping people wouldn't use the who allowance? The part that points that out is the actual amount collected from a 750 pack and how SS is actually losing money by paying us a dime. In the past they were losing even more, paying us 35 cents. (IF someone used their whole allowance)

There are two sides to this sub thing.  Sometimes they win, some we win.

 

Some good points, Pete. 

I can remember when they brought those big packs in. It would have been daring at the time - ultra low prices whilst still paying 25c to 38c to contributors.  And yes, Jon saying, its ok, we'll make money from the un-used.

But as time went on, it became more and more of an unworkable model because they didn't account for more and more contributors reaching upper and top tiers. And finding that - perhaps indeed - buyers used up more of their packs then first expected. After all, they have 2 to choose from. The 750 pack, mainly being used by big ad agencies, newspapers publishing houses and the like, who do indeed use up most of their monthly packs. 

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On 4/7/2021 at 9:40 AM, Steven Tritton said:

It's quite widely believed that SS is scoring big $$$ as a result of the new payment and commissions structure that was introduced last year. I personally don't believe this is the case.

To illustrate the point I suggest the following hypothetical scenarios using a previous commission payment of say 40% compared to the new 15% following the reset. I suggest it's not the commissions SS is paying out to contributors that hurts the bottom line, but the heavily discounted sales prices under the new subscription model.

Sales Scenario One

  • $100 sale
  • 40% paid to contributor ($40)
  • 60% earning for SS ($60)

Sales Scenario Two

  • $1 sale
  • 15% paid to contributor (15 cents) 
  • 85% earning for SS (85 cents)

No matter which way you slice the pie, the new model means much less income for SS (as well a contributors). I can't see how the new model is in SS's best interest as widely believed. Sooner or later the earnings drop is going to become apparent in their quarterly financial results.

 

   

 

I can't say whether you are right or not but I find I am now deleting files that sell for 10 cents even though they are among my best-selling assets. It annoys me every time and little by little my collection is shrinking. So whether they are earning more or less now is sth I can't work out but the reality is that they have annoyed a larger section of the contributor base. With so many young photographers now choosing to give their photos away the question is will SS continue to be able to rely on a steady supply of material. In comparison to other agencies the number of photos at SS seem to me not to be increasing as rapidly as it is elsewhere.

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12 hours ago, Milleflore Images said:

Thanks. A small snapshot of history, Wilm. LOL

All from just photo sales too. (I started selling video later that year.)

Never going to happen again in microstock - not for me anyway. 2017 was the year that everything changed. Can you remember Mihai doing that big SS graphs thread a couple of years ago? A lot came out of that.  2017 was big crunch-time for SS and thats when they made a heck of a lot of changes - most of which negatively impacted contributors. All resulting from losses in the market to iS/G. 

And then along came Unsplash. I remember when Laurin showed it to us here on the forum - and we all went, what the?  Prior to that - and the reason why I had so many sales, was when I started in 2012/3, I aimed for the Internet market and researched what they wanted. It was just starting to boom back then. Prior to that was mainly print media.

But nowadays the internet market microstock sales has greatly diminished. In recent times, I even see lots of blogs posts on Pinterest  telling people how to get great photos for free and directing them to Unsplash. That was my market! lol. 

Never mind, the end of era for big photo sales in Microstock - at least for me. Time to either change what we do - or do other things. 

 

ETA: Another reason why I had so many sales back then, was that I ran my port like a paint-by-numbers thing. From my accounting background, I wanted some ratios to work with, so I set up all of these sets on SS to find what sold, and what I could keep adding to, and when I should stop adding to a particular set. I used them for everything - even down to what colors sold better than others. If you know anyone who knew me back, they would laugh and call me, the numbers queen. lol

Anyway, wishing you all the very best for the future, Wilm. Have fun. 

 

2016Screenshot 2021-04-09 062513.jpg

You are way ahead, Annie.

I have just compared our stats. In those 11 days I only made 34,5% of your (photo) income.

My best years were 2015 and 2016. In 2017 I already had 37% less downloads than in the previous years. Things got really bad in November 2017, when the sharpest drop was felt.

I'll just let this expire at shutterstock. And am generally unmotivated for microstock. I upload almost nothing anymore. But that's also because I hardly ever get around to it. Too much work right now.

Anyway, stay well, Annie! And keep on being successful – no matter where your journey takes you.

You are among the many helpful and sympathetic people here on the forum. It would be a pity if one day you should no longer be here.

 

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15 hours ago, Milleflore Images said:

Some good points, Pete. 

I can remember when they brought those big packs in. It would have been daring at the time - ultra low prices whilst still paying 25c to 38c to contributors.  And yes, Jon saying, its ok, we'll make money from the un-used.

But as time went on, it became more and more of an unworkable model because they didn't account for more and more contributors reaching upper and top tiers. And finding that - perhaps indeed - buyers used up more of their packs then first expected. After all, they have 2 to choose from. The 750 pack, mainly being used by big ad agencies, newspapers publishing houses and the like, who do indeed use up most of their monthly packs. 

And before that we had "unsustainable" from iStock for the same reasons. Too many people had reached levels where we were getting paid better from all the promises of, levels. First was IS, then FT adjusted and created new levels, followed by pretty much everyone else, 123RF just combined and reduced. The last one to flip was SS. I think that's a good point though. Too many people reached the top pay levels. The Jan. reset is the worst of all, because people have to claw their way up again, only to be kicked down at the start of the next year. Just not right.

At the same time, I think people forget, referral for new contributors. Same thing, as the agencies wanted artists to join and upload, we were paid "forever" a couple of cents for any of their downloads. Then it changed. Some dropped the referrals and SS I remember switched to two years. There was a notable forum person who said he made more from referrals than from his own sales. Now we get paid for buyer referrals. The only artist referral pay I see is Wirestock, but there could still be some others. When they have the people they need, the program ends.

So they haven't just been cutting prices, which will cut our returns, agencies have cut commissions as well. Moving up in levels or earnings is very difficult. I personally see that as little incentive to do new work or add images.

15 hours ago, Milleflore Images said:

 I want to test whether all of these small video subs are actually incremental sales that wont be made elsewhere.

I did this back a few years - take down my video port from SS for about 3 months. And back then, my sales on AS and P5 went right up. And then down again, when I opened it up again. So I am trying to see whether buyers are still shopping around - or whether they are locked in by SS to special packs. 

Anyway, its worth a try. 

Have fun, if I dont speak to you for awhile. 

Now that's interesting. Not sure the same has been tested positive for photos, but with 235 million photos only, there's sure enough a varied supply of almost anything. Video could be a different game. Please test again and report back? 🙂 Not going to change anything for me, I went Exclusive on Pond5 a couple years ago, but still interesting.

Buyers shopping agencies would be good to see, for us.

 

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8 hours ago, stevemart said:

Chanced upon Freepik today....consumer retail-ready templates with photo's available in abundance....why bother with SS &As or a designer when you can pluck this for free?

https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/food

Seems to be sponsored by AS!!!!!!!!!!!!!

 

This is crazy. I wonder how people are making money at these sites. They state: “With Freepik’s over 85 million monthly visits and 30 million user, you get almost instant exposure and stable income”

Here is a girl who after only two months as a contributor have earned more than 5,400 dollars ..!? (5 years old post):

https://www.freepik.com/blog/kirsty-pargeter-how-to-earn-money-with-your-designs/

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1 hour ago, oleschwander said:

 I wonder how people are making money at these sites.

If you want to use these images for free, you need to add attribution. That will work for many "customers" like bloggers, who don't mind adding an attribution to their blog post (or who simply don't care and don't do it...), but as soon as you want to use it commercially, you don't want to have to attribute the picture. Imagine an McDonal ad that has the text "Image by XXX/Freepick" added underneath the picture of a burger? That won't work.And if you want to use the images without attribution, you need a  paid premium account.  There are also quite many images that are only available if you have a premium account and half of the site works as advertisement for Adobe stock, so at least someone is profiting from this...
The premium membership It's just 13€ a month and has unlimited access, so I don't quite understand how any artist can really earn much that way, but apparently it works for some.

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@stevemart - Things are not always quite what they seem. If you look closely you'll see that the templates are not actually free...they are part of FP's premium licensing model. AKA subscription. Dig a little deeper and you'll also find that many (the better ones IMO) don't actually include the image. For that you have to go to (you guessed it) AS and pay for it. AS has been API partnered with FP for a long time now. Wouldn't be at all surprised if they had a deeper relationship. 

@oleschwander LOL. Over a million downloads for $5,400. Worst case scenario with SS even today would be $100,000. More realistically that would be between 300-500k.The short answer as usual is the only ones making money are FP.

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2 hours ago, Firn said:

If you want to use these images for free, you need to add attribution.

Yes, I noticed that about the attributions. But I would think that people give a s*** about it - like SS customers don’t care about the ‘rules’ here ... But of course they do what they can to get customers to the premium sales.

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2 hours ago, Foodio said:

Over a million downloads for $5,400. Worst case scenario with SS even today would be $100,000. More realistically that would be between 300-500k.The short answer as usual is the only ones making money are FP.

LOL. Try to make 5000+ dollars in two months here (not to mention 500k) ... most of the 1 million downloads are obviously for free.

 

2 hours ago, Foodio said:

The short answer as usual is the only ones making money are FP.

Of course - like here and everywhere. Don’t know if they are making profit at FP though. Do you know?

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4 hours ago, Foodio said:

@stevemart - Things are not always quite what they seem. If you look closely you'll see that the templates are not actually free...they are part of FP's premium licensing model. AKA subscription. Dig a little deeper and you'll also find that many (the better ones IMO) don't actually include the image. For that you have to go to (you guessed it) AS and pay for it. AS has been API partnered with FP for a long time now. Wouldn't be at all surprised if they had a deeper relationship. 

@oleschwander LOL. Over a million downloads for $5,400. Worst case scenario with SS even today would be $100,000. More realistically that would be between 300-500k.The short answer as usual is the only ones making money are FP.

Must confess to not looking more closely.........seems to be a general level of 'business dishonesty' in this world of stock photos. I refer also to all the complaints on Trustpilot about SS and AS about being unable to cancel a subscription package which was first seemingly advertised to the customer as 'free'! We're in a bandit industry, it would appear! 😄

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On 4/7/2021 at 2:40 AM, Steven Tritton said:

It's quite widely believed that SS is scoring big $$$ as a result of the new payment and commissions structure that was introduced last year. I personally don't believe this is the...

No matter which way you slice the pie, the new model means much less income for SS (as well a contributors). I can't see how the new model is in SS's best interest as widely believed. Sooner or later the earnings drop is going to become apparent in their quarterly financial results.

By the way, I don't know if I'd say you are wrong. Maybe they are making less? But until we see the next quarterly and maybe one after that, because they will compare to 2020 1st quarter, we can't really see how this change is effecting them. We're all just posting theories and ideas.

I do agree with how it's taking away income from most of us.

 

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8 hours ago, HodagMedia said:

By the way, I don't know if I'd say you are wrong. Maybe they are making less? But until we see the next quarterly and maybe one after that, because they will compare to 2020 1st quarter, we can't really see how this change is effecting them. We're all just posting theories and ideas.

I do agree with how it's taking away income from most of us.

 

Yes we'll need to wait for the report. Maybe my thinking that Shutterstock's income is falling is a reflection of what I have experienced this year because the fall in my earnings is not just due to the new payment structure alone but an overall lower number of sales and lower commissions due to lower sales price. And if content is actually selling at lower prices then it is a given Shutterstock is making less money. But sure, this lower income from its customer base is being somewhat compensated by gouging contributor earnings and probably other savings measures, such as reducing the expense of paying reviewers and being replaced by AI at some level of the review process.  

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7 hours ago, Steven Tritton said:

And if content is actually selling at lower prices then it is a given Shutterstock is making less money.

Again, Shutterstock is not selling content for lower prices. Their pricing structure for customers has not changed, just our commissions have been lowered.

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Well if it isn't lower prices then I suppose Shutterstock have successfully converted a larger number of its customers to take up the bigger subscription packages. Video is a strange beast, with some contributors earning less than a dollar on some sales. So at level two (20%) if a contributor earns $1 on a sale then the video sold for $5 - much lower than the advertised prices.

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On 4/11/2021 at 3:52 PM, Steven Tritton said:

Well if it isn't lower prices then I suppose Shutterstock have successfully converted a larger number of its customers to take up the bigger subscription packages. Video is a strange beast, with some contributors earning less than a dollar on some sales. So at level two (20%) if a contributor earns $1 on a sale then the video sold for $5 - much lower than the advertised prices.

Good observation, Steve. SS has indeed lowered their prices on video. Big time. 

People forget about video sales, but because that's where the much, much greater margins are, they can have a greater impact on revenue - for both agency and contributor.

SS has been cannibalising their own video sales for a few years now, notably since they first brought in the $1.50 commissions about 3 years ago, to lock in buyers in defense against iS/G's meager video pricing. But of course, since they announced video subscription plans earlier last year, its been much, much worse. Much, much lower prices.

Luckily, however, there are certain type of video sales that are exempt from subscriptions, namely:

RESTRICTIONS SPECIFIC TO FOOTAGE

  1. Use any Footage in a multi-media production distributed via broadcast, cable network, OTT video service (e.g. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon), or in theaters.

And this is why, depending on their type of content, some contributors are not largely harmed by these changes and still receive very high royalties. This was discussed on another thread back in early 2020. 

 

BTW, I am not very hopeful re. my little experiment of seeing whether footage buyers shop around or not. I have over 3,000 videos , so its worth a try. It may have been possible 3 years, but its getting more and more unlikely with these battles between G and SS. And of course, there's now Storyblocks, etc. 

My only hope long term, is the end of covid and the Aussie tourism returning to normal. That's where I used to get the big multi-media sales outlined above. I did receive on $98 video commission here in March, but they're not that frequent for me since the bushfires and then covid killed our tourism market. 

Time will tell. 

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I don't do videos, so I don't have any observations regarding this matter. So maybe I should correct my statements in regards that they only apply to image sales.

For images the prices for customers have stayed the same ever since I started being a Shutterstock contributor. Shutterstock has lowered the commissions for contributors in the middle of 2020, the prices for customers stayed the same, so the margin is obviously going to Shutterstock.

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2 hours ago, Milleflore Images said:

Good observation, Steve. I wanted to keep track of this thread to see where you were going with this, and I'm glad I did. SS has indeed lowered their prices on video. Big time. 

People forget about video sales, but because that's where the much, much greater margins are, they can have a greater impact on revenue - for both agency and contributor.

SS has been cannibalising their own video sales for a few years now, notably since they first brought in the $1.50 commissions about 3 years ago, to lock in buyers in defense against iS/G's meager video pricing. But of course, since they announced video subscription plans earlier last year, its been much, much worse. Much, much lower prices.

Luckily, however, there are certain type of video sales that are exempt from subscriptions, namely:

RESTRICTIONS SPECIFIC TO FOOTAGE

  1. Use any Footage in a multi-media production distributed via broadcast, cable network, OTT video service (e.g. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon), or in theaters.

And this is why, depending on their type of content, some contributors are not largely harmed by these changes and still receive very high royalties. This was discussed on another thread back in early 2020. 

 

BTW, I am not very hopeful re. my little experiment of seeing whether footage buyers shop around or not. I have over 3,000 videos , so its worth a try. It may have been possible 3 years, but its getting more and more unlikely with these battles between G and SS. And of course, there's now Storyblocks, etc. 

My only hope long term, is the end of covid and the Aussie tourism returning to normal. That's where I used to get the big multi-media sales outlined above. I did receive on $98 video commission here in March, but they're not that frequent for me since the bushfires and then covid killed our tourism market. 

Time will tell. 

Very interesting Annie. I'm finding that despite the $$$ decline in video sales, they remain far more worth it than images, at least here on Shutterstock. I had my lowest video sale to date just last month at $1.99 but most are over $5.00 to $16.00 per sale. Yeah still much lower than the $20 to $30 I was typically getting prior to the payment restructure where I recall everyone was on a flat 30% rate. This is why, proportionally, my video port has grown much more in the last 12 months as they are what boost my overall earnings much more than images. Actually just this current month (April), images make up only 9 per cent of my overall monthly income on Shutterstock, and that's with a couple of OD's at an RPD of $1.58.    

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1 hour ago, Steven Tritton said:

Very interesting Annie. I'm finding that despite the $$$ decline in video sales, they remain far more worth it than images, at least here on Shutterstock. I had my lowest video sale to date just last month at $1.99 but most are over $5.00 to $16.00 per sale. Yeah still much lower than the $20 to $30 I was typically getting prior to the payment restructure where I recall everyone was on a flat 30% rate. This is why, proportionally, my video port has grown much more in the last 12 months as they are what boost my overall earnings much more than images. Actually just this current month (April), images make up only 9 per cent of my overall monthly income on Shutterstock, and that's with a couple of OD's at an RPD of $1.58.    

I am not surprised. You have some great aerials, Steve.

BTW, this is very cool!  Did you make this with After Effects?

Happy Easter Dynamic Blue and Stock Footage Video (100% Royalty-free) 1069458016 | Shutterstock

If you're proficient in AE, then there's lots of different things you can do with it. 

I was making animated word clouds which were doing very well. I must go back to doing those some day soon.

Animated Word Cloud Stock Video Footage - 4K and HD Video Clips | Shutterstock

 

Here's one of mine:

Investing and share market related words animated text word cloud, dark blue background. Stock Video | Adobe Stock

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