Back in February of 2007 (Free photos (and $13 Superbowl ads), 2/1/07) we wrote about the (at the time) latest hair-brained idea - free photos. The idea was that if a photo hadn't sold for many months, it would get tossed into the "free" file, in hopes of driving other sales.
A Google search for "free stock photos" (here), revealing just who wants to give photos away for free. In fact, those top Google postions are, in fact, paying for the opportunity to market free photos. Just how much does it cost to place those ads, and what does it cost them whenever you click on them?
Well, we did a little research, and here's what we found:
What does all that mean? Well, to appear in that search term's results, knowing we want to appear in the top three positions, we're paying a minimum of $2.47, and a maximum of $3.58 - PER CLICK-THROUGH, to appear in the top 3. When we set a maximum per-click cost of $5, we learned that $3.58 was the most we'd probably pay. Although once we started the ad, the auto-adjusters for those three would likely auto-increase their per-click payment maximums, and the cost would go higher. Setting a budget of $500 a day (just to get a cieling), and with Google looking at the estimated clicks per day, we can expect to pay up to about $310 per day, all for the privledge of giving away free photos, hopefully as a loss-leader to get you to buy one or two. If we were to adjust downwards to $1.50, then we plummet to the bottom 4-6 listings, meaning we lose a ton of traffic because of our placement:
Thus, not only are the photos free, several hundred people a day are clicking on those top three ads (combined) and the advertisers are hoping you'll come for free, and stay over time for a few $1 photos. Considering that not everyone that clicks buys, let's assume that every 3rd click opts for a free photo. That's roughly $10 paid to Google to get one customer come to you so you can give them a free photo. Then, you earn $0.80 per $1 photo sold, should that customer come back to make a purchase. So, if they come back, or buy others, they need to buy 12 photos, just to break even on that $10. But, how many of those, after they get their free photo, don't come back? Even 1 of 3? If so, you have to sell 36 photos to break even on all those click-throughs. Now it's just getting silly.
Next up is iStockphoto, (for now, a subsidiary of Getty Images - NYSE: GYI) giving free photos to the Microsoft Office community (press release) , and of course there's PicApp, critisized by some as illegal. A search for the word "dog" on their site turned up a pink-dressed dog closeup, with a sourcing/credit of "Getty Images". The idea - the photo carries an ad at the bottom.
Lastly, is the silly wabbit that is Free-Stock-Photos.co.uk, who is out Livingstoning Bruce Livingstone. A designer with a snazzy new camera, looking to share his work. Come now, that idea is so played out! Only this time, it's just free - but you have to give us a link!
Just how hard is it to out-stupid oneself these days? I am beginning to wonder. We already have a ton of "shoot for our magazine, we'll give you photo credit" (woo hoo!) offerings. I guess this is just the online version. Next up? Paying for placement of photos in certain uses, provided there's a credit line/link.
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