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Stock Media Library Survival And The Future Value Of IP Assets In A Deflationary Market

by Naresh Sarwan on November 4, 2010

In this blog article, the subject of the declining price of stock photography is discussed and the impact upon the survival of smaller stock libraries in particular.  The causes discussed include publishers acting in a more aggressive manner over pricing and terms as well as amateurs (mainly from the microstock sector) undercutting more traditional stock libraries:

Whether the changes to the photography industry are good or bad for photographers though, and whether they’re caused by small-time enthusiasts, giant photo agencies, or the combined pressure of both, change is happening. Photographers need to learn how to swim in the new waters, making the most of opportunities as they arise. Instead of setting prices, demanding tight usage restrictions and negotiating from a relatively strong position, they have to get used to asking how much the buyer can afford to pay and deciding whether that’s an amount that they can afford to accept, even if that means saying no to a figure that doesn’t take the cost of image production into account.” [Read More]

The decline of the independent stock library sector is not a new phenomena and has been in play for well over a decade. However, the article also highlights an interesting trend for photographers to compete with video producers, a process made simpler by cheaper commodity video technology and increasing convergence across devices:

The latest edition of fotoQuote contains 86 new pricing categories, bringing the total to 304. Of those new categories, 35 are for video stock footage, an area that Cradoc predicts will be a big part in photographers’ future income opportunities. Photographers can use the same equipment that they use for stills, delivering usable video at competitive prices. That’s good news for photographers, not so great for traditional video producers who may find themselves feeling like stock photographers.” [Read More]

The macro trends emerging are that IP assets are stratifying in value from on the one hand a small crop of very high value assets which have some intangible factor which maintains demand for them (e.g. brand or personality association) and on the other, an increasing volume of relatively easily reproducible stock assets.  The skill and costs required present few barriers to entry and it is not impossible to foresee the price being chased all the way down to nothing in the near to medium term.

The increased demand for digital asset management skills and technologies clearly implies an increase in supply of intellectual property assets.  Perhaps it will soon not be possible for most prospective entrants to the supply side of the market to make a decent living from visual media like photography and video.  It is interesting (or perhaps concerning) to speculate what the implications will be in the longer term for the quality of assets available.

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