CEPIC 2011 - a look into the photography industry
ByLiz PepperThroughout the congress and since returning, I’m regularly asked two key questions:
- What did I think of the general state of the industry reflected as reflected in the mood of the conference?
- What do I think is the future of this stock business?
To attempt to answer the first question, I will start by saying one of my objectives for attending the congress was to speak about business development with as many existing and new contacts as possible over the course of four days. As with anything, I believe you get out of it what you put in, and it’s up to you to go out and make business happen and enjoy it!
I understand that for people who have experienced the days when it was comparatively easy to make good money in this industry and are now fighting against considerably greater competition and falling prices, that it can be difficult to be upbeat. There is also nothing wrong with wanting to get out of the industry. Over the last year, I’ve seen the trend in this direction as we have been approached by an increasing numbers of companies asking for a valuation of their assets with a view to selling up.
I would however put the individuals and companies in the above category, well in the minority amongst the CEPIC attendees. My overall conclusion was that I found the congress to be have been very positive and the mood upbeat. Probably what I noticed most since the last CEPIC was the development in strategies people had taken on and were fulfilling. Company owners have realised the need to look to new business opportunities in order to compete in a tougher market and have already taken steps and business decisions in this direction or were at CEPIC actively looking for ideas and collaborators in order to do this.
It’s no longer just about signing up more distributor agents or stock piling more content to sell. I would say it’s now about differentiation, developing a distinct proposition and certainly about new ways to monetize content. As a sales person, I would also add that we shouldn’t underestimate the value and power of client relationships to develop new business.
To answer the second question above, I could very easily reply “who knows?” That would probably be the most accurate answer. The industry currently has very divergent and varied business models working within it from free images, microstock imagery, stock Royalty Free, press photography, archival content, Rights Managed and assignment photography and pretty much every niche and variation on all of the above. A multitude of business models exist and are successful or not successful depending on how the businesses are managed and run.
I do not think the future lies in any one direction or a specific business or licence model and the industry will continue with a mix of many licences and price points. There is no doubt that every company constantly needs to look at its business model, analyze, adapt and develop along with client needs and buying behaviour.
Microstock agencies have led the way in leveraging technology. They have been very successful in driving web traffic through SEO, affiliate marketing and utilizing social media to build stakeholder communities. Traditional agencies are certainly learning what elements of the microstock business model can be adapted to their businesses and many have developed successful apps and are now harnessing social media very effectively.
Every content provider has to ask itself what it has of value? Is it the content? Is it the strength of its technology or the customer service? Is it web traffic or key client relationships? Brand reputation? Distribution network and global turnover or strength and market share in a specific territory? Whatever the answers here, it is the strengths and the value of the business that needs to be leveraged going forward. This can be done fast through major investment in technological development or acquisition or much more cost effectively: for example via strategic partnerships with companies with complementary strengths and value proposition to pool resources, local knowledge and client bases in order to expand.
When prices are being driven down in an industry by the saturation of content, competition from microstock and decreasing client budgets, it will become increasingly important to look into ways of increasing the value of your product in order to hold up pricing levels. This can potentially be done by developing whole new products or services where a client doesn’t pay for the image. Instead the image is just a small part of the ultimate package and is integrated into the new product or service that the client buys.
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