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Stock Coalition gets going

When the going gets tough, the tough get going: The Stock Coalition has filed documents for non-profit status in the US State of Utah, and also partnered with New York-based stock content agency, Pond5.

The Stock Coalition was formed in response to Shutterstock dishing out a pay cut to its contributors in June, although an industry body representing the interests of stock content creators has been a long time coming. In the last 20 years race-to-the-bottom business models have arguably done more damage to the stock photo market, which once allowed photographers to generate a respectable income, than any other imaging sector.

Fierce competition among global stock agencies treating images provided by top photographers as mere commodities has butchered the market. Stock photography is now a supplementary and generally minor income stream. Shutterstock was once regarded as one of the better microstock agencies, thanks partly to superior market share and reasonable royalties rates.

Disgruntled Shutterstock contributors formed the Stock Coalition to represent the ‘global photographers, illustrators, videographers, animators and other artists who contribute their work to agencies for distribution’.

The initial goal was to negotiate a better deal with Shutterstock, but this proved futile. While it would be reasonable to assume Shutterstock is saving a monumental figure, it actually looks marginal based on the Q2 Financial Report.

The Coalition quickly garnered 5000 members in a Facebook group. It gradually transitioned from a chatty forum for stock professionals united by their dissatisfaction with Shutterstock, to an organisation with broader goals. The group launched a website, and an online shop, and began accepting donations to help cover operating expenses and registered as a non-profit organisation.

The Coalition is now seeking mutually beneficial agreements with stock agencies, with Pond5 the first to jump on board. It’s a clever move by Pond5, a ‘video-first marketplace’ which is looking to build its still image library. The agency offers contributors a 50 percent royalty rate for images, which alone is enough to pull attention away from the meagre lowest-tier of 15 percent offered by Shutterstock. Pond5’s big challenge will be gaining enough market share to generate a reasonable number of sales to keep contributors interested.

Greg Andreacchi, Pond5 head of Artists and Content, invited the Stock Coalition members aboard. Here’s an excerpt:
Pond5 wants to be your agency. We pay the highest royalties in the industry – both for exclusive and non-exclusive content. We allow our contributing artists to set their own prices for their work, and we allow you to opt in or out of the programs that make sense for you. Recently we’ve been actively assisting Coalition members in on-boarding large portfolios with the help of personal account managers. We’re bumping your customer service tickets to the top of our inboxes and making sure your content gets prioritised treatment in our curatorial queue.

But we also understand that, as a video-first marketplace, we have work to do to grow our photo and illustration business. Step one, of course, is getting the content, and you’re helping us out with that just fine. Looking ahead, we’ve budgeted out development resources to deliver, over the next several months, improvements to our image experience including a search U/X overhaul, collection clean up and algorithm enhancement, and SEO tweaks that will help boost organic traffic to our photo and illustration pages. This will be coupled with appropriate marketing efforts to effectively ‘relaunch’ our image offering and put us on the map when it comes to stills licensing.

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