Whats the biggest problem facing stock photography today? Is it finding pictures or is it licensing pictures? For a certain group of clients and buyers it’s finding pictures that meet a specific criteria, which inevitably includes a level of trust that the image appears nowhere else and that the model release is solid. That market is fixed and declining so I believe the potential for growth lies in easier licensing of images. That way you can license to consumers, to people who have no clue how to do it and to people who steal images. This is where the potential exists (story here) and this is where image span has taken a step in the right direction with their license stream software (here). They allow you to attach licensing to an image and publish it anywhere. You can even publish it straight into google from their dashboard.
In the words of CEO Iain Scholnick, “Image Span hopes to do for digital content what credit card companies do for physical content. Make it easy to buy.” They even take a credit card like five percent of the transaction. Now, buying images with credit cards is not an original idea and two recent high profile failures in the industry, that were geared towards selling the pictures of any photographer around should be enough to tell you it’s a tough market to crack. Ian told me the problem with their licensing was that humans were doing the transactions. The solution is to automate it. I can certainly see how the future of stock photography is about buyers clicking on images and making instant purchases with instant delivery. But, for me it’s about the ability to distribute the content in new ways. On google, blogs and even the NY Times website. When photography travels with it’s own license the potential is endless.
Sounds pretty sweet right. You attach licenses to your images and scatter them around the internet and when people want to use them they click and make a purchase. Well, here’s where it becomes real interesting because they announced a new development today called content tracker (press release here). The images you want to license can now also be tracked and when they appear in unlicensed uses you will be notified. I was told by Ian that they create a digital fingerprint of the image from the ones and zeros and that makes it impossible to crop the tracking out. They even have one click notifications that you can send to the offending party to ask them to license, remove or properly credit the use. This closes the loop on publishing images online because it allows you to track all the uses of your images and can be a powerful deterrent in preventing theft.
I’m sure this is just the very beginning of the potential for something like this and if the investors are any indication (Bertelsmann) there’s a huge need for licensing and tracking on the corporate level but what I like best is they’ve created a solution for everyone.