Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Marketplace is now Open

I have, for some time, maintained identical collections of images on both PhotoShelter and Digital Railroad. I have not drawn a conclusion that one is better than another, because each has had something different to offer. PhotoShelter, for awhile, has had their own global search capability, and today Digital Railroad has launched their comparable service, which they term Marketplace. Following on the heels of Adobe's Lightroom and Photoshop CS3, Flickr, and many Google services, they have launched in "public beta." In many cases, I think that this is a way of cushioning a product launch in case there are problems, the company can eek by by saying "oh, it's still in beta."

So, let's take a look at a few things. First, take a look at my two "store fronts", both my customized DRR front end, and my PS front end, . Both are very customizable, including graphics, links out, and so on.

How do the PhotoShelter and Marketplace offerings compare? Conducting a search for white house (not in quotes or any other delimiters), on MY own site with the DRR back end yields 195 images. Yes, all mine, no one elses. Executing the same search for white house, (again, not in quotes or any other delimiters) on my my own site with the PS back end yields 139 images. This difference of 56 images is my more my own error in not having completely identical groupings, as I may have been remiss in posting those missing images, something I intend to correct in short order.

On the PhotoShelter site, searching for white house dc harrington yields just four images, while white house harrington yields 140 images. 127 images appear for just White House DC (not in quotes or any other delimiters), and "White House" DC (with quotes) yields 105 images. Mine don't appear until the second to last page, on the bottom.

Comparatively, A search on Digital Railroad's Marketplace for white House ( no quotes), yields 9,796, again, many images that are of houses that are white, or which include the color white in the photo, or are a black and white photo of a house. Searching for "white House" within the quotes yields 11 of my images on page 1 (with 24 images) of a refined result of 8,362. Continuing the search for "white house"+dc with quotes yields 7,002 results. Finally, searching "white house" harrington yields 159 images.

What this does, I think, is illustrate the critical value of the proper use of keywords by the searching client. My purpose for including my name in each set of searches was simply to validate that MY images were within their databases.

So, where does this leave us? There's good customization for both, and both return satisfactory results for search terms. Search terms that we must teach ourselves to refine even for a search that seems to be so simple as "White House."

First, let's go through pricing an image in the DRR Marketplace. Let's assume I am a photo buyer looking to secure an image of the white house at 5:30pm, EDT. I locate my image, and next to the image, under "Actions" I click "Request Photo", and the process begins.

I've chosen Express Pricing, and through a series of drop-down menus, with just a few mouse clicks, I finish my selections. I've chosen "Internal Company" use, "6 months or less", and "local", and then I click "Get Price Estimate", four clicks total, and $325 pops up. If I needed to refine my use, I could, and when done, I just click "ok". Had I wanted to, I could have chosen more complex pricing, under the "Custom Licensing" tab, which allows me to specify file size, duration, and set the start date specifically, as well as the language, and any other relevant use details - "circulation, publication name, placement" and so on. Because of these additional parameters, (and rightly so), there is no "get Price Estimate" button, because this is a custom license. Once I've made all my decisions, under either Express, or Digital, I move on to the next screen.

I am presented with the following, under "Actions":

You will be contacted by a Marketplace representative shortly regarding pricing. Once an image is priced you can add it to your cart.
For immediate service, please contact us.
That link gives you a sales department phone #, and e-mail address. Below that, I can enter in specific information like my PO#, Job#, and so on that is send along with my request, to assist me when I get an e-mail response from their sales department, and then a block of text says "Digital Railroad Marketplace requests will be answered within 3 hours during standard EST business hours, Monday through Friday." And there's a box where I can enter in an additional message. So I entered "I need this photo now."

Over at PhotoShelter, while I was waiting, I went in, and set up my pricing structure, consistent with FotoQuote pricing, including adjustments. The PS setup screens show:
Rights-Managed profiles are powered by fotoQuote®, the industry-standard price guide for stock and assignment photography. You can select usage categories and regions for your images, and if desired specify a percentage adjustment to the fotoQuote-suggested prices.
I can also check the box "Review all offers before allowing purchase" if I did not want the process to complete without my approval. This would, of course, preclude people from gaining immediate access to your image file after payment until you approved it. This would certainly affect transactions significantly outside of your time zone.

Here's how the image looks when I click from the thumbnail to the preview page:

The important text on the right reads:

Until my pricing setup was done, each image indicated:
"This image has not been licensed for online sales. Contact the photographer if you are interested in this image."
So, here's how it looks to set it up. The "100%" (and variations thereof) in the FotoQuote section is where I choose, how much I want images that are priced in this profile to be priced at, relative to FotoQuote's pricing structure.

Once I have set up my account, that text then changes to "Buy/License" and clicking on that link takes you to the following pages.

Once you click the "Buy It Now" button, you click "Yes" to a button asking you to confirm your purchase, then a window where you enter in your contact information, and then this window comes up (opens in new window), which includes the language of the license - "TERMS: United States, Corporate, Newsletter Corporate.Internal, 1/2 Page, Up to 10,000 ** Licensed to John Harrington - Single Use License **" (in this instance) and then you end up at Paypal, (also note, on the pop-up window the text "NOTE: You may pay the photographer using a credit card on PayPal's site. A PayPal account is not required to make payment", which is nice that it doesn't require a paypal account.

Upon completion of the paypal process, you are returned to the PhotoShelter site, where they (on the back end) prep the image to the size specs, and embeds the license that was granted and rights agreed to into the USAGE TERMS metadata field, and is also saved to a sidecar XMP file, as well as a plain text (TXT) file titled "rights.txt", and combined with the file (TIF, or JPEG, Raw, PSD, etc) into a folder specific to your purchase, and then that folder is saved as a ZIP, and you then access that ZIPed file from your "My Downloads" section of the Photoshelter account, all within about 5 minutes.

Ok, so, back to Digital Railroad. What about Purchase Orders? Photo Shelter is not set up now (but I'd guess they might, for an additional fee do so in the future) to deal with billing, and that is certainly something that corporate photo buyers will want. Organizations like McGraw Hill, and Thomson Learning, both of whom DRR cites in their press release, will want to be able to bill to accounts rather than racking up credit card charges. PS also does have a way for you to make your images available to "trusted clients". You are able to set them up with pemission to download, and PS generates an invoice that gets sent to the client (cc'd to you) and you can bill them sperate from PS.

What about metadata? I can't factually tie the search results above to metadata issues, but Digital Railroad is using what's termed "Legacy" metadata formats, and not the new IPTC Core (if you want to see this in action, go to Bridge, and see both fields side by side, there is more robustness in the newer schema than the old one). Photoshelter has transitioned over to the new IPTC metadata schema. Tom Tinervin, Director of ASP Sales for DRR says that "DRR understands the significance behind XMP and the implementation is already in development."

What about redundancy and archives security? Each does have redundancy. But they are different types. As you upload a file to PhotoShelter, each bit of data you upload - at the time of upload - is mirrored to two seperate locations on opposite sides of the country. The redundancy system of Digital Railroad is one where images are uploaded to a North American location, then mirrored, then replicated to DRR's European datacenter within minutes. The workflow that PS uses is the same that I use when I ingest a CF card. In PhotoMechanic, and other ingestion applications like Image Ingester Pro, the CF card gets ingested to my working/production drive, and to a physically seperate drive simultaneously. I am not ingesting the images to the working drive and then copying those files to the backup drive.

What about the photo buyers? DRR is talking about a large private beta pool of photo buyers that will grow as the public beta launches today. DRR's press release talks about a library of over a million images, and certainly, with just under 10,000 being returned as I noted in my search above for "white house" variations, there will be lots for photo buyers to choose from. I don't know how many are on the PhotoShelter system, but it's proably less, but less in quantity, or less in quantity and quality? I don't have the answer to that, only the photo buyers will. They will certainly vote with their feet, (or mouse clicks).

What about the commission rate for a rights-managed image? Well, for their automated/immediate/get-it-now, no interaction process, PS is taking 10%. For DRR, where they have an account rep who assists the photo buyer (during normal working hours), sets up corporate billing accounts, and pays you:
Net Sales will be remitted to Subscriber within fifteen (15) days after each transaction period has ended, as long as the total Net Sales are greater than $25. Net Sales totaling less than $25 will accumulate and roll over to the next transaction period until Net Sales have surpassed the $25 minimum. Digital Railroad will remit payments via ACH (funds electronically credited to Subscriber’s bank account or by check, based on the preferred method selected by Subscriber. Subscriber selecting the ACH remittance process will have two transaction periods per month, representing the transactions occurring between the 1st – 15th and the 16th – 31st days of the month. Subscriber selecting the live check process will have only one transaction period for the entire 1st – 31st days of the month.
and for that, they take an additional 10% on top of that (so their commission is 20%). Both these options are far and away better than the 50%+ that all the other agencies take.

Both offer RSS feeds, but there aren't that many photo editors who even say they use them. Both offer multiple currencies, and each photo buyer can see their preferred currency when reviewing pricing. Both offer workspace that you as either the photographer or photo buyer can save, and access from any web browser, so you are not tied to your specific desktop or laptop.

DRR is also excited about their "Community Ratings" feature, and currently, this is not something that PS does. For DRR users, "You can rate the images you love and record your quality assessment for each image. Your assessment — combined with search terms, proprietary metrics, and Marketplace activity — will deliver the best images to the top." They've recruited veteran editors to get that ball rolling. This is a little like how Yahoo started their search engine -- with actual eyeballs rating sites. I think that it's a good idea, and whatever algorythm they apply with this, against individual image sales as a ranking feature, as well as ranking of photographers who have lots of sales, and other considerations could proove to be a useful system.

A call from DRR's VP of Sales, Mark Ippolito, fleshed out a concern I had about "working hours." DRR is currently looking to fill sales team positions on the West Coast, Midwest, and the UK, greatly expanding their "working hours" to include many many more than those that fit in the Eastern seaboard time zone.

Yes, DRR is in beta. Yes, it's a work in progress. DRR is being transparent about the process, and open to feedback and criticism. PS got out in front two years early, but what I am most excited about is that they will continue to innovate - both of them - and we, the individual photographers who choose to utilize their services, will be the ultimate winners.

NOTE: To format the content of the DRR and PS sites for this blog, I took the liberty of reformatting the text and layouts to fit a 430 pixel wide layout and to highlight specific features of each page I felt were worth noting. None of these formatting changes affected the content or comparative value of their respective pages.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.


Anonymous said...

Wow John,

By far that's the most comprehensive comparison of the two sites I've ever seen.

Thanks for putting this together. It's flagged, 'cause I know I'll need to re-read it a bunch of times.

I have one question, which system is easier to use from the photographer's standpoint?


Anonymous said...

I used to run a stock site through IPN - it did not work for me with the set-up costs and $195 per month charge plus the higher commission.

I looked at Digital Railroad and PhotoShelter.

I met the owner of Digital Railroad and was impressed with him and his company. I went with PhotoShelter because they host the SportsShooter site, I had spoken with Grover many times and he was very responsive to suggestions for improvements to the site.

Both companies are good. For me, PhotoShelter is very easy to use.

Cameron Davidson

Anonymous said...

Some of the images are on top of the text. Specifically, ps-pricing-preview.jpg and ps-fq-backend.jpg and ps-paypal.jpg overlap text.

Anonymous said...

Dear anonymous,
That's an IE issue. Try using firefox.


Great article. I've been planning to set up a PS site for some time, but don't have the spare time to set one up now. Hopefully in the coming weeks.

Marketplace looks very appealing, and they seem to have more of a marketing strategy than PS.

Interesting point about IPTC Core not being utilized on DRR.

Thanks for posting!

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