Wednesday, January 9, 2008

PhotoShelter Begins Advertising Campaigns

PhotoShelter, who committed over $1M in advertising for 2008 when they launched The PhotoShelter Collection has begun placing their ads. With ads on MediaBistro (check here) as seen on the right. In a remarkably ballsy (but certainly appropriate) move, they call out Getty (NYSE: GYI) with what is apparently a quite legal call-out (see here as to how), saying "Stock Photos You Won't Find Through Getty".

But it doesn't end there.

(Continued after the Jump)

Smaller ads run with the tag line "PhotoShelter: 1000s of stock photos you won't find through Getty. Find a new vision daily", like the one at left. These ads are appearing on sites that use the The Deck advertising network, on designer-frequented sites like A List Apart, and Icon buffet, among others.

Similarly, if you hit refresh enough times, you'll cycle through the ads, you'll run across the one at right, for Digital Railroad.

I think that pointing out the obvious - that PS is offering images that aren't available on Getty is a smart move on their part, and with PS having over 8,000 photographers signed on, and adding over 3,000 images a day, in just under a year, they will be over half-way to Getty's library of content (Dan Heller suggests they have 2M images on his blog here), however you can expect that the PS offering will be much more fresh. This is, of course, if PS maintains their current pace, which you can almost be sure will increase, as compared to Getty's 2M, PS is heading full steam ahead at Getty, with creatives' best interests at heart.

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UPDATED: Digital Railroad Makes Major Layoffs

Yesterday, rounds of meetings took place in Digital Railroads' offices with staff who were to be kept having early meetings (and they then departed the office) and staff to be laid off went into meetings where they were told, en masse, that they were being laid off. Charles Mauzy, the CEO, writes in a letter "DRR is in the process of re-structuring our company and the team along with all of our employees want to make sure we keep key partners/associations/press informed of the changes taking place. "

Layoffs are reported to be between 22 people and up to 1/2 of the Digital Railroad staff, even while sales staff recently hired for the LA office are still being trained. Some uncertainty remains about the actual number of employees laid off though, as some who remain are contractors and technically not staff. Digital Railroad would not confirm the percentage of staffers or even the total number of staffers laid off. Mauzy notes in his letter, of those departing "The friends and colleagues that we say farewell to today have laid the foundation for our mutual success now and in the future."

(Full post after the Jump)

Indications in December were such that, internally, it was determined that if significant changes were not made by December 31st, the company, reportedly strapped for cash and with a high burn rate, would be in serious jeopardy. Outreach to their current investors saved them from a third round of funding, which is always a risky maneuver. Their last round, reportedly $10M (PopPhoto - 2/5/07 - Digital Railroad Receives Fresh Funds) almost a year ago, infused them with significant resources to move forward. Much of their initial investments came from Morgenthaler Ventures and Venrock Associates. With an additional infusion from them, coupled with a Series B investment round led by London-based venture firm DN Capital, Digital Railroad was set to move forward.

Mauzy writes in the letter “While change is always difficult we are confident that the change we make today will allow us to have long term success. Our investors have tremendous confidence in our leadership team, our strategy and have renewed their financial support with additional investments in capital this month." He then goes on to say "With the support of our investors, founders, board of directors and most importantly our employees, we are necessarily reducing costs not directly related to growth of Marketplace including a reduction in force." This does make sense. However, there were significant departures in their support department, which, hopefully, is because more and more people are becoming familiar with how to use the service, from both a buyers and sellers end, and a reduced call volume was an indicator that cuts could be made there. It should be hoped that these weren't cut because it was easy to reduce customer service. This is doubtful, but possible.

Debate about their major expansion and push into the Research Network, which has been flooded with requests of late from major corporations, the National Geographic, and many others and seems to be poised to do well (as indicated by recent sales department hires being trained as laid off staffers were packing their things), suggest that perhaps Digital Railroad may have expanded more than it was capable of doing. An email sent 2 days ago noted "...we've got over 130 open requests looking for ship point-of-views, local scenics, people, architecture, and more from every corner of Europe."

Mauzy goes on to say "In 2008 our goal is to build on this success and fulfill our mission to drive significantly greater revenue to our members through image licensing in Marketplace. In order to achieve this objective, we are focusing 100% of our resources to attracting top creative professionals—both buyers and photographers—to Digital Railroad and growing sales in Marketplace...[o]ur key leadership team including our newly appointed CEO, Charles Mauzy, Maris Berzins, Mark Ippolito, Andy Parsons and Tom Tinervin all remain with Digital Railroad and have collaborated closely on setting our strategy for 2008 and beyond."

I believe (with a degree of hope) that this will make Digital Railroad leaner and meaner for their "fight" with Getty, et al. There are formidable forces looking to derail them. In 8 months, they have amassed over 2,000,000 images, and those numbers continue to grow and accelerate. I for one have thousands of images there, and use it to serve client assignment imagery, alongside my use of PhotoShelter's Personal Archive solution.

Let's wait and see. More updates as we get them.

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Copyright And The Citizenry

Check out The Washington Post's article - "Hey, Isn't That . . . People Are Doing Double-Takes, And Taking Action, As Web Snapshots Are Nabbed for Commercial Uses" article , where, apparently, some unlucky citizen had their web snapshot stolen from her blog and used in a NFL playoffs game broadcast. Examples continue regarding the Virgin Mobile ad in Australia, and so on.

Seems that when it comes to the citizenry, TWP cares. When it comes to ensuring the longevity of the craft of photography by paying a fair rate (read sustaining) to their freelancers, well then, who cares?

(Comments, if any, after the Jump)

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Tuesday, January 8, 2008

UPDATED: Karma's a (rhymes with witch)

UPDATE: As of noon today, it was down another 4% or so, to a new low midday of $24.17. Hopefully those referenced below as getting out without losing their shirts got out whist still in their pajamas this morning.

What a difference a day makes! When I'd written just yesterday (Getty Images (GYI) Hits 52-Week Low (again)) "When will the next 52 week low hit? Could be tomorrow..." that was hyperbole more than anything else - not that it doesn't actually belong below 20 (because it does) - but I didn't actually think it would be the next day!

That said, I did write in a responsive comment "What goes around comes around, and it's coming around at a high speed", and so, here it is, comin' around.

Thusly, Getty Images (NYSE: GYI) tanks almost 4% in a single day. Heck, that's about double the DOW and the S&P 500 losses for the day, so not all the blame goes to the market, Getty would have still lost enough, even if GYI doesn't/hadn't trended with the market, to have hit another 52-week low all by it's lonesome.

(Continued after the Jump)

Why is this? Well, Getty has been surprisingly quiet since their earnings call back in November. Oh, except where, as Daryl Lang over at PDN reports, in "Getty Offers 15% Off Everything All Year" Getty still hasn't found the bottom price point for their images yet. Further, Lang did some stellar research to determine that, in fact, while Getty was proposing that that discount was just for political campaigns, Daryl actually demonstrates that it works for all imagery from Getty, probably that $49 web price too! As was reported here (The 'Virus' is Spreading, Aug 30, 2007) "...Bruce Livingstone... has succeeded in bumping Getty's web guru as SVP of Technology Linda Ranz just weeks before the new site launch so that he is now SVP of Technology...", which followed that same day with "Oh, wait, this is our fault...." about the crash of the iStockphoto site, the preceeding six days on August 24th with : "Getty Site - Site Down as Stock Is Down?" I guess that's what you get when you have a self-described "true example of success born from failure", as we cited him quoted in Design Mentor Training, where they report that Bruce Livingstone, SVP of Technology started iStockphoto "...After deciding he was not going to make it in the traditional stock photography business." Wait, in order for you, as a self-described "failure" as a photographer, to evidence the resulting "success born from" in iStockphoto, you have to actually demonstrate that success over time, and the bankers just aren't seeing it that way. Is this what you get when a "failure" is the SVP of Technology, overseeing the proper programming of the site? Is this just one more in a string of his failures?

Could it be that Getty's stock price drops the day that istockphoto's prices were to increase, as Paul Melcher reported (back in December - It's Rising, December 7, 2007) they would?

How about, then, the heavy-handed tactics of Getty vis-a-vis their iStockphoto contributors with their do-as-we-say-not-as-we-do approach to stock photography? PDNPulse also reported last week "No More NASA At iStockphoto", which begs the question - why? I didn't check the flight manifest, but I don't think that NASA had a Getty Images photographer on the October 28th flight, as shown here, where the image is being licensed by Getty, but is listed "Copyright: 2007 NASA", and the credit reads "Photo by NASA via Getty Images".

What gives Getty the right to license this image to the general public, when it's owned by the general public? They'll tell you they keyworded it, and otherwise enhanced the images, and that they've registered the images. What they've most likely done, as Corbis has done, is register the image as part of "compilation", a category that the Copyright Office allows you to do, and that the registration is an update to their collection of images that has previously been registered. The title of the work they're registering that will include that image will likely be something like "Getty Digital Online October 2007 & Automated Database", and will then be listed on the Copyright Form VA as something like "Updates from October 1-October 31, 2007 (Updated Monthly)" or something whereby they are able to skirt the Copyright Office's assertions that a registration of this sort is "deminimus", and thus not elligible for Copyright protection. This is a common ploy that is not unique to Getty, but places a "fragile" sticker on registrations done in this manner. A query for "NASA" in the "photographer" field at Getty lists over 1,700 images under the "Getty Images News" brand alone.

Thus, Getty is telling iStockphoto contributors they can't put up images that are in the public domain and earn $0.20 or so off of it, like one iStockphoto contributor has done here of this image:

Because, dear reader, Getty wants to preserve their ability to license to you the same image on the Getty site:

As noted below, they'd lose what could be several thousands of dollars for one ad license, see below:

Why is it that what's good for the goose isn't good for the gander? Why does Getty get to make thousands off of public domain LICENSES to images yet their iStockphoto contributors can't do the same?

But this isn't limited to NASA alone. Searches for U.S. Navy yields over 2,900 results, over 300 for Air Force, and over 400 for Army when the search is done using the "photographer" or "By:" field search. I guess it's just easier to search the acronym NASA in both Getty and iStock archives, as the first tier of clearing iStockphoto of images that are hurting the Getty sales where duplicative, but I would be concerned about the legality of Getty licensing public domain images. What will happen when someone who licenses the images from Getty then refuses to pay?

Don't worry, there's still time to get out with your shirt. There was a nominal spike in after-hours trading, so you could still get out, because I can't see an end in sight to their plummet, can you?

Note: I do not now, nor have I, nor do I plan to have any stock market investments in GYI.

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Monday, January 7, 2008

BREAKING: Getty Images (GYI) Hits 52-Week Low (again)

As expected, Getty Images (Stock: GYI) plummets to (as of this writing: $26.10) for a low, before hopping back up above today's open.

When will the next 52 week low hit? Could be tomorrow, could be next week. (It actually spiked downward again while I was writing this from 26:22 to a intra-day low of $26.10.) One thing to count on, is that it will continue to take a dive - certainly as long as it's current leadership is in place, and they continue to compete on price and not quality.

(Comments, if any, after the Jump)

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Sunday, January 6, 2008

Imaging USA Report, Day 1 & An Interview with Seth Resnick of D-65

Seth Resnick, a longtime friend of mine not only took time out of his hectic schedule to talk about Adobe's Lightroom, and made an amazing offer to PBN readers. See below the video for the offer! For readers of Photo Business News wishing to attend the highly regarded D-65 "Digital Workflow, Not "Workslow " series, January 11-14, 2008 (Friday - Monday)
*class runs from 9:00 am -5:30pm daily, visit this link to register, and note that you read it here, for a 10% discount on the seminar - that's over $100 in savings!

(Alternate version, and comments after the Jump)

Here's the Brightcove Version:

If you can't see either, click here for Brightcove, and here for YouTube.

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Getty Images (GYI) In Decline Again

I looked with pleasant surprise at my iPhone stock tracker, and noted that Getty Images (Details: GYI) is just $0.10 shy of hitting another 52-week low at Friday's close, from when we reported their previous plummet back on September 18, 2007 ("Getty (GYI) Hit New 52 Week low"), and we've certainly not at a loss for writings of a critical nature about Getty. But, they are deserving of criticism, 'else we wouldn't be writing as such.

We wrote back on December 21st ("It's Not Your Copy Right, it's Mine") about the concept of Creative Commons. But there was some digging that I hadn't done that's worth noting.

(Continued after the Jump)

Dan Heller, in his intermittent (yet insightful) postings on his blog, this past Thursday wrote "The Creative Commons and Photography", a seeming treatise on Creative Commons. I strongly encourage you to read through the entire thing. I'll draw out one point (for now), that's may be a reason that the stock market is looking over their horn-rimmed glasses and out from under their green eyeshades at GYI:
"As of December 31, 2007, Flickr's 21 million users uploaded over 2 billions photos. Of those, 56,415,212 (or 2.8%) are tagged as having one of the Creative Commons licenses. For comparison, Getty Images is purported to have about 2 million photos... we can observe longer-term trends and fill in the blanks: year over year revenue at Getty has been declining in close parity with the growth of photo-sharing sites like Flickr."
Yoink! 56 million with CC tags! No doubt a large quantity of those require attribution only, and no compensation!

Heller goes on to make a number of highly insightful statements and suggestions worth pondering, in depth. What remains though, for the sake of reviewing Getty's prospects, is that their future doesn't look so bright. In fact, the future's so dim that the only people wearing shades are the accountants trying to justify the company's diminished valuation. (Note - the dim/shades reference is for your old-timers who remember the Timbuk3 1980's song by a similar name). The only thing Getty can hope for is that their keywording (and thus, search results) are better than the collective mass of images that's free on Fickr.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Competing on price is a losing proposition. When you try to do it for the pathetic figure that is $1, someone will come in and do it for free - and has, en masse. Next up? Creatives paying for placement in publications.

Oh wait, when it costs you more to produce the work than you're selling it for, that's essentially the same thing. Guess that's already (indirectly) happening. Here's to hoping for an opening bell Monday that looks dim for Getty's future. Once they've been relegated to the proverbial 8-track heap of history, those of us who actually value the images we produce, and compete on quality and not price will be in a far better position.
DISCLAIMER: I have not, do not, nor plan to hold GYI, or any stock which would benefit from a GYI decline.

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