Friday, July 11, 2008

The Curious Case of Getty and Flickr

Just when you thought that Getty was in it's last throws of existence, before its massive library of wholly owned content gets broken up by Hellman & Friedman and sold off for pieces, Getty comes in and lowers the bar that much further. The only upside to the impending Getty breakup will be the mass exodus of the creative content producers (especially the prolific ones) who decide that either PhotoShelter or Digital Railroad are the only two platforms where they can get their images sold.

PDNPulse has written about it (Getty and Flickr: What Just Happened?, 7/8/08), as has Thomas Hawk (Yahoo and Getty Strike Deal to Sell Stock Photography Through Flickr, 7/8/08), and Thomas has some great links on it in his blog entry. Here's my take.

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Getty, in conversations at what I am guessing is the CTO level, decided to do this deal with Flickr, likely after seeing PhotoShelter announce a portal between them and Flickr, and then get shut down by Flickr. For months and months, PhotoShelter made outreach to Flickr in an attempt to get a commercial key (link) for an application plug-in (API) that would
make a direct connection between Flickr and the PhotoShelter system, so that photographers could send their own images back and forth between their Flickr and PhotoShelter personal archives. But did they really need a commercial API? Users were just sending their own images to themselves, and services like Smugmug use the Flickr API in the exact same way. Then
PhotoShelter obtained a non-commercial API - which is freely available to anyone who wishes to use it for their own personal use. Within a short time, Flickr shut them down, without explanation, and they would just not engage them in discussions about either API permission key.

For some reason, however, Flickr has decided that it in their best interests to have Getty trolling around Flickr for the best Flickr producers, and lock them up in exclusive deals to represent their work, but these photographers would get a paltry percentage of their sales, and I have to ask the question - is Flickr going to be a silent recipient of a percentage of all those sales? Why wouldn't Flickr buy the entire PhotoShelter or Digital Railroad platforms, and scale that technology up to serve the 3 million images they get each day? Could it be that this deal is a precursor to Flickr being someone that Hellman & Friedman see as a future suitor of a piece of the Getty pie (either from a content, delivery platform, or both, standpoint)?

When I spoke at the PhotoShelter Town Hall Meeting (Do the Wright Thing: PhotoShelter Town Hall in Atlanta, 9/28/07), Grover during the Q&A, when asked by an audience member about the possibility that PhotoShelter would be established, and then bought (potentially) by Getty, said "no." Then, to make himself perfectly clear, said "let me be more clear - over my dead body." Getty clearly was interested. Allen Murabayashi, the CEO of PhotoShelter, in his reaction (posted here ) to the announcement of the Getty Images/Flickr arrangement, made a bold statement, that literally puts his (and Grover's) money where there mouth is. He said:
"... one of Getty Images' Executive VPs started contacting us as early as July 2006. Initially it was to use PhotoShelter technology to provide a way for non-Getty photographers to submit images. But once the PhotoShelter Collection was announced, they wanted access to our content because we provided ready-to-license, edited content from thousands of contributors around the world.

They contacted us in July 07, September 07, October 07 and November 07, and we turned them down for one simple reason: It was a terrible deal for photographers (then, as it is now), and did very little to alter the fundamental imbalance in the stock industry."
Now, that's conviction.

I know that the people at Getty think they understand this business. Trust me, they don't. You can start at the top with Jonathan Klein - Mr. Investment Banker turned "lover of photography" (JDK's World, 8/29/07), Mark Getty, who, when the stock tanked, essentially got family money (see: Getty Restates . . . , 6/13/07;Getty Investments L/L/C; and SEC info here, for more insights) by way of Hellman & Friedman to take the company private, and Mr. failed commercial photographer Bruce Livingstone (The BBC & The 'Infinite monkey theorem', 11/26/07), and just continue to work your way down. There are a lot of people there who just don't get it. Those that do, are probably polishing their resumes right now looking to make a move, realizing that the company has finally completed their turn in the direction of the land of really really bad ideas, and the iceberg that lay ahead is emblazoned with the name Hellman & Friedman, which is sure to sink the Getty Images ship.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Microsoft Pro Photo Summit 2008 - Recap

What can I say about the Microsoft Pro Photo Summit that just concluded today on the Microsoft Campus in Redmond, Washington? Well, let's start with what other folks have said:

There was a degree to which I would echo the question PDN asked - is amateur the new professional? I can't say that you are, by definition, a professional photographer if you've been paid for your photography. There's an interesting thread over on SportsShooter about this, where someone wants to become an NPS member along these lines. Jeff Greene posited the question to Miss Anieila about her future, and ended his question "...when you turn pro." This set forth Jeff's assumption that she wasn't already, and her response was that she considered herself a professional because she'd been paid for her work.
(Continued after the Jump)

Yet, Jeff's question was an informed one - as Jeff perceives that a professional is one who's profession is photography, and one's profession is defined by, I'd think, what you do to earn a living. Let's take the question first to Merrian-Webster:
Professional - "participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs (a professional golfer) b: having a particular profession as a permanent career (a professional soldier) c: engaged in by persons receiving financial return (professional football)"
By that definition, and let's consider that an old-school definition, possibly in need of updating, she might not have yet achieved "professional" status. However, she's among the "new school/new paradigm" photographers that are emerging, so, looking to a possible new-school definition, turning to Wikipedia for a slightly more verbose definition, Wikipedia details Professional, in part:
A professional is a person in a profession which requires certain types of skilled work requiring formal training or education...A professional(Kamal Shanmugam) is a worker required to possess a large body of knowledge derived from extensive academic study (usually tertiary), with the training almost always formalized. Professionals are at least to a degree self-regulating, in that they control the training and evaluation processes that admit new persons to the field, and in judging whether the work done by their members is up to standard. This differs from other kinds of work where regulation (if considered necessary) is imposed by the state, or where official quality standards are often lacking. Professions have some historical links to guilds in these regards...Typically a professional provides a service (in exchange for payment or salary), in accordance with established protocols for licensing, ethics, procedures, standards of service and training / certification.
Now, that presents problems too, because of the notion that the field of photography could certify those allowed to call themselves professionals like doctors of lawyers. That has always been a complaint of my fellow photographers - that they wished there was some certification process, a union, or some other way to "police" the profession, and to that end, PPA has instituted certifications, but few photojournalists or commercial photographers I know have them, or even know of them. They are used by the many wedding and family/school portrait photographers, but it's a start. Interestingly, New York State is trying to require a certification of Wedding photographers - likely after a legislator or legislator's staff member had a bad experience with one (Lightchasers blog entry here, entire proposed law here). ASMP has a review process for admitting members, and other organizations, like the WHNPA and APA have as a requirement the recommendation of current members.

Surely, other notions put forth question the "PRO" level of the summit - with presentions suggesting that you should give away your work for bloggers to use on the internet for the purposes of getting your name out. I questioned Lou Lesko on this, as he was the one who proposed that idea saying that this model in the analog/old-school days was called "will work for photo credit", and over the years has not turned out to be a viable business model.

This event was surely a "PRO" photography summit, and where there might be questions about the benefits to "professionals" about presenting istockphoto photographers, self-portrait artists like Ms. Aniela (Flickr site, her site) fame coming from Flickr, the notion that you should work for today's version of a digital photo credit, there should be no question that these perspectives and paradigms will continue to have an impact on those that earn their livelihood behind the lens and meet both the Merriam Webster ("participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs") and Wikipedia (a professional provides a service (in exchange for payment or salary), in accordance with established protocols for licensing, ethics, procedures, standards of service and training / certification) definitions of "Professional".) definition.

Jim Pickerell spoke on the subject of Microstock, as noted in the PDN piece, and did his best against Lise Gagne, who talked about how great it was to be among the most prolific istockphoto producers, after she herself was used to paying several hundred dollars per use for images during her time as a designer - a job she got fired from because she was spending so much time making $1 images for microstock. As she kept talking, I kept thinking "I know that that image that you sold for $1 left so much money on the table you'd be retired in Fiji with what you could have earned licensing even a tenth of those images for traditional rates".

I was asked to speak again this year and update attendees on the subject of Orphan Works, and I was asked to present opposite Vic Perlman, General Counsel and Managing Director of ASMP. I thought twice, and then three or four more times, about that idea, but since my proposed presentation topic on the state of search engine optimization in our field, and how things are evolving (I had a great plan to talk about some of MSN's value to photographers) got nixed, I accepted, after trying to talk to two other people about being there instead. Given my serious criticisms of the ASMP position, and my otherwise appreciation for the work they do in so many other areas, I preferred to talk about SEO, but it was not to be. I felt that much of the audience, albiet experts in the field of photography's many facets, likely knew little about the legislative process, so I opted to spend 3-4 minutes of my time giving people a primer on it, and then get into all the problems of the current version of Orphan Works. Both Vic and I agreed that the chance of the final bill getting all the way through and headed to the President's desk for enactment was highly unlikely, we did disagree on the extent to which the bill will look different in it's final form from what it looked like now. Backstage Vic and I discussed other issues on copyright unrelated to this, yet there were a few folks (and I'm guessing from ASMP) that expressed a concern that I might attack ASMP onstage, as if, somehow, I am an unreasonable person. Hmmm, not sure why those that had those concerns felt that way, but that had never been my approach. In fact, with the vast number of problems with the current version of the House bill that I believe are fixable, and my interest in conveying the legisltive process primer, I had my hands full with talking about that. So, if you were among the two or three people reading this that had that concern - I'm sorry that I didn't live down to your expectations. Of note was almost the complete absence of panel discussions this year - the differing perspectives Vic and I presented on the status of Orphan Works could have been augmented with the perspective from the other side - someone from the libraries or museums. Yet, in the end, I felt that people's attention was drawn to this serious issue of Orphan Works, and that has a net positive benefit in the end. If you're interested in the changes that I discussed, and how they would take the form of amendments to the 5/8 version of the bill, send an e-mail to and an autoresponder will give you a link to download the PDF. It's a fairly extensive and exhaustive 30 page document.

One of the things that was presented here were visual stimulation and insights from Frans Lanting, reknowned nature photographer and Melina Mara, from the Washington Post. Against a heavy backdrop of mind-overfowing information on the state of the industry, and peeks into the future, both presentations provided a left brain break to allow the right brain to get in some exercise, and both were appreciated by me.

The audience seemed to be made up of about 20% full-time photographers who rely on getting and keeping paying clients to pay their bills (as differentiated from people who produce products or services to be used by photographers but also are photographers themselves) and a presentation by Skip Cohen, of WPPI on marketing to photographers was engaging and entertaining. I am guessing that the CTO's, company Presidents, and CEO's on hand were not as engaged as I was. I certainly enjoyed what Skip had to say. He said he was condensing into 10 minutes or so a four hour presentation he normally would do on the topic, so that tells me to tell you that if you're somewhere where Skip is doing that four hour presentation, make sure you don't miss it.

Other things that were amazing was the demonstration of the PhotoSynth application, which it was said, could be released as early as this Fall. I will be among the first to get my hands on it - it's an amazing application that would cause me to upgrade my aging PC and just so I can install and use it - for that reason alone. I also concluded that adding a Windows Home Server (currently only available in the US through HP) is on my to-order list when I get back to the office. A $599 or so cost for the ability to access my data back in the office - even in parallel with Apple's Back to My Mac capabilities - is a small price to pay, in my opinion.

Also something that I really enjoyed was the impromtu breakout session (that actually happened during lunch on Thursday) with half of the Expression Media team. They talked about the current version, and listened (and took copious notes) from the feedback that was provided. If you're a Lightroom or Aperture evangelist, don't count Expression out - they have some amazing plans as they move forward.

Also of interest was the presentation by David Reicks, on behalf of the Stock Artists Alliance, on metadata, and how it is being handled by several of the big agencies. I'll write more on this later, but suffice it to say that it was an eye opener on a Thursday afternoon that kept my attention.

Josh Weisberg did an excellent job of shepherding the speakers along (including me, when I ran 3 minutes over), posing good start-off questions of each of the presenters after each presentation, and minimized the "we're running behind" issue that so often arises at conferences like this - that was no small feat.

I was able to have about 80% of the offline conversations during the breaks and reception that I wanted to have. As I was leaving for the airport, Neil Latham, who was the ever-so-patient speaker liason, thanked me and said he looked forward to seeing me at next year's summit, if not before. Me too, Neil. I look forward to the next Summit - it provided an abundance of insights into the future, and learned perspectives on the state of our industry.

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You Suck at PhotoShock - Iranian Edition?

No doubt, Donnie would have done a better job than the Iranians, who tried to hide their test failure (hey, tests fail all the time - that's why they call them tests!). PDN reported on the false photo (Breaking News: AFP Retracts Iranian Missile Photo, 7/10/08), and I immediately thought of the good folks at You Suck at Photoshop (here for all their hillarious tutorials!) and we wrote about them ("You Suck at Photoshop" - So Damn Funny, 2/16/08). Maybe Donnie will return and do this right, but for now, we can only hope, so we have this visual to tide us over until then.

(Comments, if any, after the Jump)

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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Copyright Form VA - Being Phased Out

So I went looking for a link to the Copyright Office's Form VA today, and when visiting this link:

This was the resulting page:

So, what gives?
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The Copyright Office is now phasing out paper registrations in favor of their eCO (i.e. electronic Copyright Office) system. They want you go to their eCO Online System to learn more, and begin your registrations that way.

The site directs you to use the Form CO, as noted here:
1 - Registration with Fill-In Form CO • The next best option for  registering basic claims is the new fill-in Form CO. Using 2-D  barcode scanning technology, the Office can process these forms  much faster and more efficiently than paper forms completed  manually. Simply complete Form CO on your personal computer,  print it out, and mail it along with a check or money order and your  deposit. The fee for a basic registration on Form CO is $45.
They go on to say on the site:
2 - Registration with Paper Forms • Paper versions of Form TX (literary works); Form VA (visual arts works); Form PA (performing arts works, including motion pictures); Form SR (sound recordings); and Form SE (single serials) are still available. The fee for a basic registration using one of these forms is $45 payable by check or money order. Form CON (continuation sheet for applications) is also still available in paper. These paper forms are not accessible on the Copyright Office website; however, staff will send them to you by postal mail upon request. Remember that online registration through eCO and fill-in Form CO (see above) can be used for the categories of works applicable to Forms TX, VA, PA, SR, and SE. See below for Group Registrations.

Also according to the site:
"Certain applications must be completed on paper and mailed to the Copyright Office with the appropriate fee and deposit. Those application forms appear " [here].
Of very interesting note is the following warning/disclaimer that I'd not seen before:
Notice: Please be aware that when you register your claim to a copyright in a work with the U.S. Copyright Office, you are making a public record. All the information you provide on your copyright registration is available to the public and will be available on the Internet.
This is of note because your registrations are accessible by the public now, albeit in a limited manner, and will likely be available in a much broader sense once OrphanWorks legislation, in whatever final form it is, passes.

It is important to note - sending in a Form VA for your registration is still perfectly acceptable. Using the eCO system may get you your completed registration certificate and registration number back much faster, but not with any more protections than the Form VA certificate will.

Alternatively, you can use the sample Form VA that I've completed, with explanations for what goes in each section, and why we've chosen to do that, by visiting this link. If you'd like to know more about the hows and whys of our registration process, it's in my Best Business Practices for Photographers book, Chapter 14, beginning at page 203. If you'd like to see every step of the registration process from inside the Copyright Office before all the modernization, we wrote about it and have photos for your viewing pleasure here.

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Monday, July 7, 2008

Getting Clients - A Few Options

Probably the number one comment I get about people who are looking to find reasons to avoid all the business issues of photography - that is - improving their bad practices for good ones - is that their current clients have come to accept things like buyouts/all-rights/work-for-hire; no shipping charges; no post-production charges, and so forth.

"How do I start charging my clients for these things now?" I get asked.

You don't.

"Then how do I get clients that will pay for these things?"

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Get new clients.

But it's supposedly not that simple.

But it is easier.

First though, let me backup. If you've been in business for awhile, and not been doing things right, you have clients that expect too much for free, or too much for way too cheap. It would be problematic for you to simply alter your business practices overnight for these clients. You'd likely loose them - before you're ready.

Instead, make the decision that as of today every client you take on will be handled differently. Appropriate fees, licenses, contracts, and so forth. Eventually, you will be so busy working for these clients that you won't have time to work for your previous clients, and you will transition away from them. Or, you may be able to sustain your business with your new clients, and grow your business by migrating your old clients to your new way of doing business.

How to find new clients?

Tuscon photographer Will Seberger forwarded me a post from his blog - WHEN THE GOING GETS WEIRD, THE WEIRD TURN PRO, which has a number of great insights, and is well worth a read. Will brought to my attention, so I thought I'd take a look:
And it looks interesting. For $24 a year, you get to see the mastheads of just over 600 publications. Yet, that's less than 25% of the magazines that are available in ADBASE's North American database alone.

Is this the "craiglist" version of ADBASE and AgencyAccess? Quite possibly. It also appears that as other members submit mastheads, their list grows, so it is, to one degree or another, reliant upon other members to submit the masthead information.

To get alternative perspectives on this, I turned to the folks at ADBASE and AgencyAccess for their take. Nelson Nunes, President & Co-Founder of ADBASE, which has been around for over a decade, wrote " is good if you are only interested in getting a few names off of a select number of mastheads. If you need to create or update a mailing list for direct marketing purposes, you would still have a considerable amount of work to do."

Ok, so what do the folks at AgencyAccess think?

Keith Gentile, CEO and Co-Founder of AgencyAccess commented " is a great secondary source for photographers for research. AgencyAccess takes their data a step further by allowing photographers to customized these lists by specialties, titles, locations, hire frequency and much more...With AgencyAccess you are also paying for these added features which you will not get at I do however recommend getting the service as an extra as it can be helpful."

Ok, on the surface, it seems like spending the $24 isn't a bad idea, but as a complement to either of the above services. but there are risks to just relying on

Nelson Nunes at ADBASE wrote "you would still have to analyze the masthead to determine which contacts are of interest to you (i.e. involved in selecting a photographer), enter all the information into a database and double check every piece of information to make sure you didn't make any entry mistakes. The first time you do this, you would also have to check that the address provided in the masthead is the correct address for the contacts of interest to you as generally the contact information provided is for the advertising sales department." And that's a good point. Doing so takes a great deal of time, and the amount of time involved adds up fast.

Nunes continued and he noted what I had already concluded, but his math and explaination is succinct, I'll note it here:"say you can scan through a masthead every 5 minutes (which is aggressive if you include double checking and breaks -- it's pretty tedious work), that's 12 per hour on average. If you have a list of 600 magazines, that will take about 50 hours. Even if you have an assistant working for only $10 per hour, that's more than the cost of subscribing to a full-year Editorial Edition from ADBASE that also includes book publishers. Now that's for only one update. If you plan to send out additional mailings throughout the year, you will have to update the list again costing your more time and money."

And I can't stress enough the value of accuracy. When I get correspondence with my name spelled "Jon", or "Herrington", it's a dead ringer that the sender isn't starting off on the right foot. In fact, I have been known to purposefully misspell my name on some forms I have to fill out just to see how they use/re-use/sell my name. When the person's name on the masthead says "Kathryn Taylor", and you start your e-mail off to them "Dear Kathryn", and anyone who knows her knows she goes by "Kate", to her, that's a dead ringer that you're someone to ignore. So too with "Dear Patricia" for Pat, "Dear Clifford" for Cliff, and so forth.

Keith Gentile over at AgencyAccess noted "Agency Access also allows the client to download the list as labels, telemarketing reports and text files making it easy for the client to send out emails and mailings. The advanced tools of AgencyAccess allows the photographer to efficiently promote their services in a timely fashion." Time. I can't stress it enough. So many people just don't start (or maintain) a marketing program because the way they are doing it takes time and effort. The tools that both of these provide makes it so fast and easy to maintain, it's of value just for those tools, not to mention the list of e-mail addresses at your fingertips. The ability to go into a service, track who got what, when, and to be able to further refine your search is critical. I wrote about this (Kenny Rogers Had A Point, 4/21/08), and how it works.

What is missing, however, is that is all about MASTHEADS. EDITORIAL MASTHEADS. The resources of ADBASE and AgencyAccess includes Art Directors, Design Firms, Creative Directors, Art Buyers, and so forth, and so on.

Nelson summed it up well when he wrote " is not a replacement for a fully researched comprehensive database like ADBASE that guarantees accuracy. Furthermore, if you need to create or maintain a mailing list for direct marketing purposes, so much work is involved in extracting a proper mailing list from that the cost of an ADBASE subscription more than pays for itself."

I couldn't agree more.

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Cooperating with the Uncomfortable

I get that dealing with the business end of photography isn't always comfortable. Whether it's determing the specific fees and applicable production charges for an assignment, providing an explanation to a client about a particular item (i.e. "what is post-production? Can't you just copy the photos off the card and burn me a CD - that's all I really need...") so that they not only understand, but they can explain it to their superiors/client, and be on board with it, or calling up a delinquent client about an overdue invoice, all of these, and countless more situations frequently make photographers queasy, even week in the knees.

Frankly, you don't actually have to worry about these things.

(Continued after the Jump)

That is, if you don't want to be in business very long, or if you want to slowly sink your business into the ground.

I was reading my Sunday Washington Post, and the 7/6/08 article Art's Real Thing Was Never Sold On Success, struck me, but not for the reason that was intended. At the end of the article, the artist Chuck Connelly said "I'm not like a 9-to-5-er, get up and paint. I can lounge around all day, get up and put a couple of strokes on something. It's not how much you do. It's that you do the right thing."

When you are just starting out, don't worry about having an assignment every day, or even every week. Worry that each assignment you do is done right. From a qualitiative standpoint, as well as a business standpoint.

This past weekend, I covered the AT&T National Golf Tournament. When my assistant asked what the dress code was, I told her I would be in Khakis and a polo, and she should dress accordingly. When I got there, there were many spectators who were in shorts, t-shirts, and jeans. Though, everyone that was working for the tournament was wearing some variation of khakis and a polo. Immediately, we stood out as being there as a professional doing a job, and we received the respect we were due. I wrote a piece back on June 1 (Proper Attire Whilst Making Pictures, 6/1/08) and it's worth revisiting.

Ensuring that your paperwork is in order, with signatures from clients on contracts/estimates, alleviates other issues down the line, from bad language on purchase orders that come along, to misunderstandings over who owns what.

Moreover, practice explaining things like what post-production is, and why the client should be paying for it; why there's markup on certain items, and what the difference is between a creative fee and usage fee. Oh, and why the client doesn't own the images to do with them whatever they want.

discussing these things - especially at first - is uncomfortable. Add to that uncomfortable situation the fact that you want this client to like you, and to hire you, and yes, to pay you a fair fee for these things, and it gets worse, because things like money are on the line that pays the rent and electricity, and so forth.

But heck, if you'd rather not, then don't bother. You won't be around very long. Your choice. The problem though, is that you'll just make it that much harder for your friends and colleagues who are making the effort to cooperate with the uncomfortable.

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Sunday, July 6, 2008

Digital Railroad's Market Breakdown

I was pleased last week when I stumbled across a BusinessWeek piece on John McCain, which ran an image that was probably 1/2 page, black and white, which had at the end of the photo credit"/". Contemplating DRR's inroads into the market, I found a piece well worth reading - SAA ombudsman David Sanger's Q&A (Charles Mauzy responds to questions from SAA ombudsman David Sanger, 7/3/08) that appeared on the DRR blog, with Charles Mauzy about the shift out of beta for their Marketplace services, their market breakdown, and their justification for the price change paid to photographers from 80% to 70%. We were very critical of DRR's move on this (70 Is The New 80 - Digital Railroad's Mis-Step, 7/3/08), but Mauzy provides thoughtful responses on this, and many other points.

One I'd like to echo, and which StockPhotoTalk did as well, is Mauzy's breakdown of their market:

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"Up to today our sales by industry segment have been definitely weighted to the editorial buyers. Over the first 6 months of MP 25% of our sales were to Magazine Publishers, 24% to Book Publishers, and 5 % to Newspapers. Corporate buyers comprised 23% and the Advertising plus Graphic Design firms combined for 19%."
As for moving forward, Mauzy went on:
We are very focused on shifting this mix to increase the percentage of sales going into the Advertising and Graphic Design segments where there is still a proven need for higher value rights-managed imagery and licensing fees are higher in general. To add some color to this, over the same 6 month period our average license fee per transaction into the Advertising segment was $609 and into the Magazine Pub segment $243.
Now those are some insightful numbers. It makes perfect sense to be moving in that direction - towards the more profitable per-image sales.

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