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Commission change - James West comments

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53 minutes ago, John Mitchell said:

 

If Alamy does go this route, I would hope that they define "exclusive" as not being available on other stock agencies only -- i.e. the definition should not include images on POD sites as well as those that we license through our own websites. I would probably pull some duplicated images from non-performing agencies. However, like many others, I have a lot of images sitting on POD sites that I'd like to leave there.

 

P.S. It seems that the 50% exclusive offer is more appealing to UK contributors because many of them have apparently not placed their images anywhere else, even though Alamy has counseled against this in the past. Correct? It strikes me as being a bit odd that an agency that has never asked for loyalty, even advised against it, is now thinking of rewarding it, doesn't quite add up.

 

Not in my case, no. I have many of the same images in several 'macro' 'agencies' (whatever those two terms mean these days!), though some are unique to individual agencies, for various reasons. 

I do not for the life of me see how such a scheme could possibly be managed. As others have said, it would take some considerable time for images to be removed from other places and even then, there is no guarantee that distributors would readily comply with take-down orders. And, ironically, although I have endeavoured to restrict movement of my images as far as possible, one of those third parties would be Alamy itself! And how would Alamy ensure that the images truly were on Alamy alone. They have proved themselves next to worthless in following up infringements (they have never, to my knowledge actively searched for any). How on earth would they keep on top of genuinely 'exclusive' images? I don't believe that they would/could. 

In any case, aside from managing the system, as others have said, what benefit would it be to anyone?  They have had many options in place for YEARS (including an exclusive option), and have done next to nothing with these options. They are full of great ideas, which - sadly - ultimately lead nowhere. 

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19 minutes ago, JeffGreenberg said:

Sadly, by contribs ratting on each other.

Maybe by spot checks via Google Image???

GI itself often limits what it displays, and to whom, and where. Not 100% reliable. 

Edited by losdemas

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Is exclusivity really a benefit for the customer? In Germany we have an evil airline called "Lufthansa". It is the biggest airline in the country and uses its power to mob some other airlines out of airports. For example it says "If you want Lufthansa to buy a certain number of slots at your airport, you can't allow Emirates to also make your airport their local hub!". It's a different kind of exclusivity of course, but for the customer, who wants to book a flight, such business practices are quite annoying. He would like to have both Emirates and Lufthansa at his airport to have some competition.

 

In the stock image example it is the same principle. The exclusivity restricts the customer's ability to choose between competing agencies.

 

At the same time exclusivity does not benefit any agencies, if most of the other agencies are also exclusive. It just means that every single agency has less images than without exclusivity. Imagine agency 1 had images A,B and C and agency 2 had images D,E and F. Wouldn't it be better for both if both could offer images A,B,C,D,E and F?

 

Of course for the photographer exclusivity is also bad. So it looks like it's bad for all parties involved.

 

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1 hour ago, MilesbeforeIsleep said:

Bill, but could you clarify what--in the world of stock photography, especially editorial--counts as talent?  Is it something more than the ability to upload images which customers license?

 

Thanks,

Michael

 

Hi Michael

 

You ask the big question, and then partially answer it yourself.

 

Talent is definitely something more than the ability to upload images which customers license.

 

Talent is getting ahead of the customers' image needs. It is about consistently making images that amaze the customer. Amaze the customer because they did not know they needed that image treatment of the subject, until they were amazed by yours. When the customer inevitably stops being amazed by your by now familiar images, talent is about again getting ahead of the customers' needs so you can amaze them yet again.

 

Talent is about looking at a lot of great images by others. Then having that inner confidence to become inspired by those images that are more talented than yours.

 

Talent goes beyond seeing your subject. Talent is about thinking about that subject, and what you want to communicate. Talent is then communicating that thought clearly, through your photographic craft. Seeing is only one minor step. Thinking is the most important step.

 

Buying a camera is like acquiring the ability to type. Just because you have the ability to type and know the alphabet, does not make you a talented writer. To be a talented writer you have to have something to say, and then say it skillfully. Same with photography, or art, or dance, or theater, etc.

 

There is no simple answer to acquiring your talent, except with constant craving to communicate real thoughts you will acquire more talent than the less committed unthinking others.

 

Talent needs to be rewarded.

 

Thanks for asking Michael.

 

Bill

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14 minutes ago, losdemas said:

 

Not in my case, no. I have many of the same images in several 'macro' 'agencies' (whatever those two terms mean these days!), though some are unique to individual agencies, for various reasons. 

I do not for the life of me see how such a scheme could possibly be managed. As others have said, it would take some considerable time for images to be removed from other places and even then, there is no guarantee that distributors would readily comply with take-down orders. And, ironically, although I have endeavoured to restrict movement of my images as far as possible, one of those third parties would be Alamy itself! And how would Alamy ensure that the images truly were on Alamy alone. They have proved themselves next to worthless in following up infringements (they have never, to my knowledge actively searched for any). How on earth would they keep on top of genuinely 'exclusive' images? I don't believe that they would/could. 

In any case, aside from managing the system, as others have said, what benefit would it be to anyone?  They have had many options in place for YEARS (including an exclusive option), and have done next to nothing with these options. They are full of great ideas, which - sadly - ultimately lead nowhere. 

 

If Alamy had had two contract options, non-exclusive or exclusive, as some agencies do, right from the beginning, then I could see this plan working well. As it is, the transition to a 50% commission for exclusive images model would be very problematic.

Edited by John Mitchell

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I still come back to my idea of just lending Alamy the remaining percents. 35% now and 15% plus interest in three years from now. Or 40% and 10% later. That would give Alamy some money to work with now.

 

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1 hour ago, Skyscraperfan said:

I still come back to my idea of just lending Alamy the remaining percents. 35% now and 15% plus interest in three years from now. Or 40% and 10% later. That would give Alamy some money to work with now.

 

I don't think Alamy has a shortage of money just now. Two years of double digit growth and this year's ~2% growth should have them flush. James is taking action he thinks necessary to deal with flat or declining revenue in the future. Neither is happening just now. Also, they have One Million Pounds in reserve in case of an economic downturn. 

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1 hour ago, KevinS said:

I don't think Alamy has a shortage of money just now. Two years of double digit growth and this year's ~2% growth should have them flush. James is taking action he thinks necessary to deal with flat or declining revenue in the future. Neither is happening just now. Also, they have One Million Pounds in reserve in case of an economic downturn. 

We perhaps need to be careful not to assume increase in turnover has given a corresponding increase in profit. The increase in turnover may be largely due to a significant increase in the number of images, customers, and contributors. All of which increase costs. At the same time the revenue per image is falling, squeezing margins. A mere 2% growth in 2018 is very likely to have caused a fall in profits, hence the current panic...

 

Mark

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6 hours ago, JeffGreenberg said:

Many questions related to Alamy suggesting Exclusivity maintains 50/50.

 

a. Are there not already tens of thousands of exclusive images on Alamy?

b. Have not these exclusive images existed on Alamy for years & years?

c. Did Alamy have all those years to test higher pricing of those exclusive images?

c. What higher prices have ALREADY been reported for these exclusive images?

d. What would NO effort previously to raise Alamy exclusive prices evidence?

e. So is there NO evidence for higher price success via exclusivity other than NOT lowering cut 20%?

f. Are there past examples of new conditions introduced causing increased workload for contribs. & NO benefit?

 

Spot on Jeff.   There is no data to suggest that in exchange for exclusivity, a 50/50 split has any benefit to a contributor, Or, that an exclusive license would not eventually return a 9.99$ sort of sale price.... Some stated that they are okay with this sort of split for exclusivity trade-off, in which case you maintain status quo, until Alamy decides that a 30 / 70 or worse split is need to fund operations or goose a growth initiative...

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6 hours ago, Bill Brooks said:

In the days of stock photography catalogues, the real talent was rewarded by being included in the annual sales catalogue. Only the very best images from the agency collection were in the catalogue. If your images were second rate, they did not make the catalogue no matter how hard you worked. One image in a catalogue was worth $40,000 in sales over the life of the catalogue. The only way to get into the catalogue, and make more money, was to have better images in the agency collection than the other photographers in your agency.

 

Claiming that every photographer should be equal, regardless of their talent and value to Alamy, is just bizarre.

 

Our images are not all the same. Of course we should be divided based on talent. It is not about working hard, it is all about talent.

 

The internet is the great down leveler in the creative industries. Anyone can publish? The crowd has rights? Well the crowd does not have rights, if they are second rate.

Amongst those who buy and care about images, the level of the photography contained in some stock photos by the untalented has become a joke. Look at the stock photo fail articles on the internet.

 

There is an opportunity for Alamy and talented photographers in all of this.

 

Providing photographer incentives would be the way for Alamy to reward and inspire the talented, get rid of the occasionally lucky second rate photographers taking money from the talented, improve the quality of it's library, and therefore truly distinguish itself in a image crowded marketplace.

 

For one to advocate, no incentives to rise above the crowd, everyone equal, a reward for being around so long, jobs for life, security for all, no changes, is only a refuge for the second rate.

Bill,

 

You should read more carefully, I did not say that all photographs or photographers are equal, what I said was that Alamy use to provide all photographers an equal opportunity

to license or sell, RM or RF, images.  That is what made Alamy the worlds largest library.

 

Bill,  I've been in the business of photojournalism since the photo editor of NEWSWEEK paged me during my journalism 204 class in 1978.  The picture he needed was page one world-wide

that week.  Actually I started working for a daily newspaper in 1975, when I was a high school student.

 

I've also handled an image, shot on a disposable film camera by an amateur journalism student, that was the only frame of a person involved in a HUGE nation-wide American story.  That photo made $80,000 in licenses in six hours and that was just television. How many sets of images have you created that were licensed, first time publication rights world-wide, for over

$165,000 USD?

 

Are you equal to me, in my opinion YES,  I will defend your right along with all contributors to Alamy to have the same opportunity to license (RM) or sell (RF) their images.  Just

as I will demand that Alamy keep the split 50 / 50 on all direct licenses.  I don't give a hoot about RF.....

 

Chuck Nacke

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11 hours ago, JeffGreenberg said:

Many questions related to Alamy suggesting Exclusivity maintains 50/50.

 

a. Are there not already tens of thousands of exclusive images on Alamy?

b. Have not these exclusive images existed on Alamy for years & years?

c. Did Alamy have all those years to test higher pricing of those exclusive images?

c. What higher prices have ALREADY been reported for these exclusive images?

d. What would NO effort previously to raise Alamy exclusive prices evidence?

e. So is there NO evidence for higher price success via exclusivity other than NOT lowering cut 20%?

f. Are there past examples of new conditions introduced causing increased workload for contribs. & NO benefit?

Worth asking James, especially A-D.

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If Alamy decide to offer higher commissions for exclusive images, how about having that apply only to new images, or images that have never been uploaded elsewhere? There could be an extra tab for customers to search on "New AND Exclusive". The fact that an image is exclusive does not mean that it has never been sold elsewhere.

 

There should be a minimum time that an image remains exclusive, eg one year, and then a requirement for 6 months notice to be given before exclusivity can be removed. This would give Alamy an opportunity to get a better price.

 

It would also give contributors a way to assess whether or not it was worthwhile ticking the exclusive box more often, without committing large numbers immediately.

 

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I guess the bottom line is that if Alamy decides to go for the 50% exclusive / 40% non-exclusive model, they are going to have to take a risk and trust that when contributors check the "Only Available on Alamy" box they are telling the truth to the best of their knowledge -- i.e. either that they have never submitted the image to another stock agency or that they have done their best to have it removed from other agencies. Alamy will also have to define clearly what they mean by "exclusive".

 

Amen (maybe)

 

 

 

Edited by John Mitchell

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If I was James and was going to shake things up, (which will introduce risk and upset people), I would go for something that incentivised contributors to  build sales. It should reward recent sales growth instead of past success from many years ago.

 

Newbies could start at a low commission rate but with the right commitment and ability there should be a clear path for them to travel to higher commissions. 

 

The challenge is to come up with something that works, gives some money to alamy to use for their growth plans  and is acceptable to contributors. 

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31 minutes ago, andremichel said:

If I was James and was going to shake things up, (which will introduce risk and upset people), I would go for something that incentivised contributors to  build sales. It should reward recent sales growth instead of past success from many years ago.

 

Newbies could start at a low commission rate but with the right commitment and ability there should be a clear path for them to travel to higher commissions. 

 

The challenge is to come up with something that works, gives some money to alamy to use for their growth plans  and is acceptable to contributors. 


If we sell more, we already get more money. That should be incentive enough. If somebody sells photos for $1000, he gets $500. If somebody sells photos for $5000, he gets $2500. That's a big incentive for selling as much as possible. We do not need an extra punishment for those who sell less than others.

Edited by Skyscraperfan
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46 minutes ago, Skyscraperfan said:


If we sell more, we already get more money. That should be incentive enough. If somebody sells photos for $1000, he gets $500. If somebody sells photos for $5000, he gets $2500. That's a big incentive for selling as much as possible. We so not need an extra punishment for those who sell less than others.

 

There may already be another incentive too? Better sellers might* be given a better Alamy Rank, so their images appear higher in search results, leading to more sales?

 

*Alamy don't disclose the algorithm, so this is guesswork on my part :unsure:

 

Mark

Edited by M.Chapman
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41 minutes ago, Skyscraperfan said:

If we sell more, we already get more money. That should be incentive enough.

 

Who's to say how much incentive is enough? The current system still doesn't discourage bulk submissions of mediocre images in the hope that quantity will produce more sales. 

 

41 minutes ago, Skyscraperfan said:

 If somebody sells photos for $1000, he gets $500. If somebody sells photos for $5000, he gets $2500. That's a big incentive for selling as much as possible. We so not need an extra punishment for those who sell less than others.

 

I do not automatically mean those that sell more should automatically get a higher commissions.  

 

Admittedly I haven't explored this in any detail, and any solution I spout here will upset some people, but one possibility would be for an algorithm to calculate your commission % based on your average RPI from the previous 12 months relative to the Alamy average for last year. There would be a minimum (20%?) and a maximum (80%?) and the calculation would give your value somewhere in between.  

 

We could even get more complex by only taking into account images submitted over the last 4 years. So if you can improve your submissions and the old bad ones fall out of the equation over time. If you stop submitting, after 4 years you drop back to the newbie commission rate. 

Edited by andremichel
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Actually some of my best selling images are among those I have already uploaded more than ten years ago. It would make no sense to me to upload photos just because we should upload a certain number of photos per year.  If those photos are worse than my old photos, that would hurt my Alamy rank. The system you propose would just make me delete my old photos and upload the same photos again, just to get a better commission.

A low commission for newbies is not the right thing, if you want to attract new photographers. Especially in the combination with exclusivity. I think Alamy had a program for students that even gave them 100% commission for a while. That's how you attract new photographers.

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25 minutes ago, andremichel said:

The current system still doesn't discourage bulk submissions of mediocre images in the hope that quantity will produce more sales. 

 

I'd like to see Alamy publicise the Alamy Rank algorithm to encourage the contributor behaviour they need (i.e. maximise revenue per image in their portfolio)

 

IMHO Alamy Rank should be based on

  • a modified version of CTR% (which includes downloads and lightbox additions as well as zooms)
  • and revenue (or unit sales) over the previous 6 months, divided by the number of images in a contributor's portfolio

If Alamy disclosed this part of the algorithm (in detail, for example 50% of your rank is based on.... etc.), and then made it clear how Alamy Rank affects your position in search results. This would encourage contributors to; 

  • actively trim their portfolios to remove any "dross" and duplicates
  • tightly keyword to improve CTR
  • avoid uploading duplicates

At the moment the way Alamy Rank works is kept secret (for commercial reasons) and any info is largely "hearsay" on the forum. IMHO Alamy need to be more upfront.

 

Oh, and while Alamy are at it, remove the counter-productive "discoverability" index from AIM.

 

Mark

 

Edited by M.Chapman
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4 minutes ago, geogphotos said:

If we sell more, we already get more money. 

 

Untrue.

 

Incentives?

 

2006 $18,625 from approx 6,000 images

 

2018 Now 60,000 images and circa $14k - about to be cut further

 

This is an unequal struggle. Ten times more images ( at great cost) to earn less money. 

 

Hence in 2012 I pushed the non-exclusive button and last year earned more elsewhere than at Alamy

 

What incentive to be image exclusive at Alamy?

 

I0000Q3y74nJRpTY.jpg

 

I00007ypqvCqgJ8I.jpg

 

Just to get my head around this. If being honest, is your portfolio as a whole of the same calibre/quality/good mix now, compared to 2006 or has it suffered in any way due to this enormous growth in ways such as overlap, similars, less time spent editing, keywording etc.? Are you seeing this "trend" elsewhere or is it just at Alamy where you're experiencing this?

 

I mean I agree, so does my numbers, that it has been tough and there is a great difference in profitability/returns 2006 vs now, but it doesn't look anywhere as dramatic as what I can deduce from your graphs. Forgive me, but I can't help but thinking "has he grown too fast?", "he might have let standards slip" or "there might be an awful lot of overlap/similars?". Not trying to be rude, I'm just being completely selfish and trying to get as much understanding out of whatever data one comes across - everyone's reality is different - mine in regards to Alamy is that it is one of the few places where I see pretty immediate correlation between work and sales, giving me reasons to think, despite the likely drop, where I get not the highest net RPI, but reasons to be positive and invest time. Yours look like you're working hard to just stay still, which can't be very motivating of course and makes me understand your upset much better.

 

Trust me, all expressed comments/thoughts are with the best of intentions, absolutely no malice or upmanship.

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3 minutes ago, M.Chapman said:

 

I'd like to see Alamy publicise the Alamy Rank algorithm to encourage the contributor behaviour they need (i.e. maximise revenue per image in their portfolio)

 

IMHO Alamy Rank should be based on

  • a modified version of CTR% (which includes downloads and lightbox additions as well as zooms)
  • and revenue (or unit sales) over the previous 6 months, divided by the number of images in a contributor's portfolio

If Alamy disclosed this part of the algorithm (in detail, for example 50% of your rank is based on.... etc.), and then made it clear how Alamy Rank affects your position in search results. This would encourage contributors to; 

  • actively trim their portfolios to remove any "dross" and duplicates
  • tightly keyword to improve CTR
  • avoid uploading duplicates

At the moment the way Alamy Rank works is kept secret (for commercial reasons) and any info is largely "hearsay" on the forum. IMHO Alamy need to be more upfront.

 

Oh, and while Alamy are at it, remove the counter-productive "discoverability" index from AIM.

 

Mark

 

 

This will never happen, and rightly so. Once you publish how images are ranked it will result in gaming of the system. People will tinker, correctly or otherwise, images so they fit what is being looked for in the search. This results in each image having more or less the same rank and no there'll be no way to define which image should be at the top. 

 

For a search Algorithm, scorecard to work it has to be undisclosed and only then will it be affective. If you tell 100 people to choose a random number between 1-100 and that one of these numbers will be picked out for a prize, you'll get a randomised mix. If you tell them the winning number is likely to be between 1-5 then there won't be many selecting anything else other than those numbers. You'll either be splitting the winnings between the 100 or fighting over them. 

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10 hours ago, M.Chapman said:

We perhaps need to be careful not to assume increase in turnover has given a corresponding increase in profit. The increase in turnover may be largely due to a significant increase in the number of images, customers, and contributors. All of which increase costs. At the same time the revenue per image is falling, squeezing margins. A mere 2% growth in 2018 is very likely to have caused a fall in profits, hence the current panic...

 

Mark

 

Following up on my earlier comment. Alamy's operating profits (Turnover less cost of sales, distribution and  admin costs) were around £1.6M in 2017. Over previous 2 years their group staff costs have risen by about £1.7M. If their staff costs have risen again in 2018 then a 2% increase in sales may not generate enough to cover such increases. The weakening £ versus $ will also be having an effect. The weakening £ should make overseas sales more valuable, but Alamy said sales were only up 2%. At the same time overseas labour costs in USA and India (when converted back to £) will probably have increased. In the video James mentions that they monitor profit on a monthly basis. I  suspect Alamy's monthly profits are falling month by month and may even be showing a loss in recent months. Why else would Alamy announce a 20% cut on your contributors commission just before Xmas? Or is it just corporate greed after all?

 

Mark

 

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14 minutes ago, Duncan_Andison said:

 

This will never happen, and rightly so. Once you publish how images are ranked it will result in gaming of the system. People will tinker, correctly or otherwise, images so they fit what is being looked for in the search. This results in each image having more or less the same rank and no there'll be no way to define which image should be at the top. 

 

For a search Algorithm, scorecard to work it has to be undisclosed and only then will it be affective. If you tell 100 people to choose a random number between 1-100 and that one of these numbers will be picked out for a prize, you'll get a randomised mix. If you tell them the winning number is likely to be between 1-5 then there won't be many selecting anything else other than those numbers. You'll either be splitting the winnings between the 100 or fighting over them. 

 

I strongly disagree. If the algorithm is correctly designed the only "gaming" that will be possible will be to the Contributors and Alamy's advantage. The current mess doesn't help Alamy meet it's objectives. Where's the benefit in "random" behaviour?

 

Also I didn't suggest disclosing the full details of how images are ranked, only how a contributor's Alamy rank is calculated. 

 

Mark

Edited by M.Chapman
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Just now, M.Chapman said:

 

I strongly disagree. If the algorithm is correctly designed the only "gaming" that will be possible will be to the Contributors and Alamy's advantage. The current mess doesn't help Alamy meet it's objectives. Where's the benefit in "random" behaviour?

 

Mark

 

Hi Mark. I used to work as a Credit Scoring Analyst for12 years before going full time photographer, designing scoring systems and applications. It's industry practice not to reveal this data as people will game the system... human nature. If you tell people what you want to hear, well, that's all your going to hear.

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If the algorithm just determines the ranking of the images in the search results, it is okay that the algorithm is hidden. However, when the algorithm is hidden, it makes no sense to reward somebody financially for getting a high rank determined by the algorithm. Just imagine a company which gives a bonus to its employees, but they have no idea why they got the bonus.

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