The scene from the movie Titanic where the musicians continue to play (info here) as the ship is sinking, is, to me, evidence of the musicians' head-in-the-sand (pardon the soon-to-be-pun) mentality they exhibited.
Just as the water breached the hull, filling decks, trapping passengers unaware, so too, is the sinking hulk of Getty Images doomed to sink into the history books as the largest photo agency in the world, sunk by the iceberg microstock.
The ship that is Getty Images has essentially broken in two. There's the bow of the ship, represented by their Rights Managed Stock, a consolidation of countless other agencies' rights-managed collections. This was the most prominent of the business, yet when the microstock iceberg slashed its' hull, the stern, made up of iStockphoto and JupiterImages, became the dividing point within the company. Now, this ship has ceased forward motion, and life preservers are being handed out to the hundreds of employees who, over the last year or so, have departed.
Just as this article notes about Captain Smith, "His legendary skills of leadership seem to have left him, he was curiously indecisive and unusually cautious", so too "Captain Klein" seems to have taken a 'everything will be a-okay' approach, when he wrote yesterday "We must take decisive steps to ensure we emerge from this recession strong and able to best preserve the success of Getty Images" in his missive to the "engine-room" and "crew" of the R.M.S. Getty (in this case, R.M.S. stands for "Rights Managed Stock").
The paying customers are fleeing, or headed to the stern, for a better opportunity to survive. But how will they? Getty's customers have suckled at the teet of free and cheap for so long, that a budget for a piece that used to be $5,000, and would bring in a handsome profit to Getty and the contributing photographer, has, over the past few years, been slashed to costs of $100 or less. It's like the smack dealer who offers free or cheap samples, gets the addict hooked, then raises rates. Whomever is the Robert Ballard of Getty Images will have to salvage the visual riches of Getty's rights managed collections, and let the steerage visuals sell for fractions of a cent, and then Gettys' Ballard will have to figure out how to raise the rates on clients who have built their budgets based upon deflated budgets. Yet, raising rates on a free-and-cheap clientele will likely proove harder than the actual raising of the Titanic.
Just as the radio callsign of the Titanic was MGY, the stock ticker for Getty was GYI. Just as the route for the Titanic, built in the Harland and Wolff shipyard, was the U.K. to New York City, "Captain Klein's" business dealings took him from Hambros Bank Limited in the U.K., to now being in New York. Almost 100 years ago to the day, The Flickr Collection debuts on GettyImages.com on March 11, 2009, construction of the Titanic began on March 31, 1909 (info here). Funded by J.P. Morgan, the founder of the same company that reported "JPMorgan Chase on Wednesday ratcheted up its expectations for losses", back in November (here) as "Captain Klein" tried to suggest they were doing the right thing "We have tried very hard to avoid lay offs during the continued turmoil in the world’s economy. However, it is now clear that we have no alternative." While these comparisons take a humorous tact, they do point to the notion that sometimes when you build it too big, and get a notion in your head of "unsinkable", that troubling mindset could well apply to Captains Smith and Klein with relatively little humor and a great deal of criticism of the course both have charted.
If you are still employed at Getty Images, you are those musicians. You know your ship is sinking. Telling your clients that everything is just swell and not to worry, is like band leader Wallace Hartley striking up the next upbeat ragtime tune as the deck listed 40 degrees to port, and as the IT people continue to stoke the steam-powered engine of the Titanic turned Getty. With the job market bleak, and 8% unemployment figures, I don't blame you for going down with the ship, and collecting every last paycheck before you're deemed redundant, but I do hope you have found your place amongst the last life boat passengers, have your rolodex in place to depart under escort by a rent-a-cop guard. Don't leave any ramen in your desk drawer, you may need it as you wait out the downturn.
If you know your company is going down, don't lie. Lying is what gets people in trouble, as in, false representations to clients. If you learn that your company is closing down in a specific period of time, it is likely unlawful to collect fees for a license that you know extends beyond that date, so be sure to check with your own attorney for the best legal advice on this, but know that lying is what gets people in trouble as people are looking at people to point fingers at, and lay the blame on.
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