Long slow year, mostly…

Stock Footage DataIt’s mostly been a long slow year for my MicroStock portfolio.  My Pond5 sales are down by 30% from same month sales last year. I know there’s a lot of infighting on the Pond5 forums about pricing, but when I slugged through the numbers I found a direct correlation between my poor sales performance on Pond5 and my having raised my prices there a year ago.  I’ve lowered my prices back to where they were and we’ll see how things go for the rest of the year.  Of course, we’re headed into the summer slump, so I’m not expecting anything radical until September.

RevoStock fell off the edge of the earth.  And Craig can complain all he wants, but I’m hearing it from every single one of my friends who sell there.  Footage sales are WAY DOWN.  It’s like they totally gave up or all their footage customers left for greener pastures.  They’re doing a big anniversary sale there right now, but it doesn’t appear to be doing any good.  It’s too bad because, as I mentioned in a previous article, RevoStock is one of the “good guys” in MicroStock and they really do deserve to be successful.

Shutterstock is my anomaly.  Sales continue to grow there even though my portfolio is small at the moment and growing slowly.  Tom Spota, who took over the footage area of Shutterstock, has been extremely aggressive in growing their share of market sales.  He’s personally contacted the big players (even a little player like me) and has overseen an overhaul of the submission process as well as aggressively marketing Shutterstock Footage to buyers.  With the near complete lack of anything new on Pond5 in over a year, I fully expect Shutterstock to overtake Pond5 as #1 in footage sales by the end of 2013… unless Pond5 gets off their butts and gets back to communicating with artists and updating features on their site.

Time to upgrade my gear

While I have been out shooting a lot more footage for Microstock this year after a dismal performance last year, I am still spending a lot of time shooting commercials for local businesses and working on short films. The great thing about that is it pushes you to the limits of your gear and in some cases forces you to upgrade. Which, of course, is very beneficial to shooting for stock as well.

My gear at the end of 2011 consisted of:

  • Canon T2i DSLR
  • Tamron 28-300mm zoom lens with vibration compensation (image stabilization)
  • Pentax 50mm F/1.4 lens with EOS adapter
  • Weifeng 717AH Tripod (fluid head video tripod)
  • Zoom H1 Portable Recorder
  • Rode VideoMIC
  • HTDZ HT-81 Shotgun Microphone
  • indiSystem indiSLIDERmini (2-foot camera slider)
  • Tripod Dolly
  • Glidecam Steadicam

Slowly but surely, I’ve been selling off my old equipment and upgrading.  So far I’ve sold the Zoom H1 and upgraded to a Tascam DR-40 audio recorder. I sold the Tamron 28-300mm lens and bought a Tamrom 17-50mm F/2.8 zoom with VC. And I’ve sold the camera slider since I rarely ever used it. My plan is to also sell the Glidecam (a gift from a friend) which is an older model that is overkill for my small Canon T2i DSLR and get a newer model.  I also sold my HTDZ shotfun MIC and am selling my Rode VideoMIC to upgrade to a better shotgun MIC.  I haven’t been using either of my shotgun mics lately… using my Audio-Technica AT3550 LAV mics instead.

I am also planning to sell my T2i and upgrade to the T3i in the next month.  Why such a minor upgrade? Because the T3i will let me use my 8 existing camera batteries, my existing battery grip and other accessories. And I could really use the flip out screen from the T3i.

I plan on posting reviews of the new equipment as I get it.

A look back at 2011

With the sad death of iSyndica, it’s just too difficult to pull together the small details in numbers for 2011.  But the overall numbers show a growth in sales for me, which is a good thing.

But there’s a bit of bad news mixed in with the good.  Sales on Catooh have dropped dramatically in 2011… by over 50% in fact. I mostly attribute that to a jump in the number of submitters to the site and my slow growing portfolio there.  Most of my best selling clips are 3 years old or so and I uploaded very few new clips last year.

Pond5 was up over 2010 sales, but sales started to drop near the end of 2011 and so far in 2012 they’ve been dismal. I added less than 500 new clips in 2011, but Pond5 nearly doubled it’s overall portfolio size last year. So my clips are a tiny droplet in the “Ocean” that is Pond5. Of course, it also probably didn’t help that Pond5 went on auto-pilot in 2011 with almost no new features and they slashed their advertising budget.

RevoStock sales overall were down from 2010.  There was a minor surge in November and December, but it dropped back to a trickle after the new year started. A very pleasant surprise was ClipCanvas which really took off in 2010. It was a nice replacement for lost sales at RevoStock and in fact last year ClipCanvas tripled the amount I’ve earned from Revo lifetime. I have a couple friends who aren’t doing as well on ClipCanvas, but I think it’s only a matter of time for them. Things have slowed down a bit since the start of February, but I’m hopeful for another great year there.

Sales at iStock were dismal in 2011 and after 6 consecutive months of zero sales plus all the “stuff” that happened there, I decided to close my account and pull my tiny portfolio there.  The submit process was extremely difficult and it took 3 to 5 months to get anything accepted.  A couple of my friends are still selling there, but they report sales are way down from last year and the year before.

ShutterStock was the big surprise last year.  Sales trickled the first half of the year, but late in the year SS decided they were tired of having their ass kicked in sales by Pond5. They hired a new person to take over the footage side of ShutterStock who immediately got aggressive.  As a result sales on my relatively small portfolio there jumped dramatically. We’re talking several hundred percent. It was a very welcome source of revenue at the end of the year and in January of this year.  Sales have dropped off since mid February, but I’m hopeful it’s just a tax season thing (which appears to be affecting every microstock agency this time of year every year).

I got really side-tracked on trying to start a full-time photography studio business and didn’t shoot much for microstock last year.  I did manage to shoot about 600 to 800 new clips, but I only got around to editing and submitting about half of them. My photo studio isn’t working out and I closed it a few weeks ago.  So, I’m working hard on getting back into the swing of microstock and my goal is to double my online portfolio this year with at least 1500 new clips submitted.

Let’s talk about RevoStock

Back in mid November I was sent an email from the owner of another microstock related web site.  In this email was the results of a survey taken from 44 RevoStock producers with 1000 stock footage clips or more in their portfolios.  I knew from my own experience that RevoStock sales were WAY down, but the results of this survey shocked me.  And I tweeted it.  A few weeks later, RevoStock decided to respond to the tweet on their web site.  They didn’t bother to notify me of their post, I just discovered it today.

After reading Craig’s response, I immediately emailed a link to the author of the survey.  I’d just post the email I got along with the author’s name, but Craig decided to get all legal in his response, so I’ll leave it up to the author to decide if she/he wants to reveal her/him self.  However, if the data in the survey is false, it’s the first time this person has sent me false information, so I’d be totally shocked. Of course, Craig has also never lied to me and has been very candid with me upon occasion, so it’s one of those rock/hard place situations.

Let me toss out my opinion on this whole thing based on my own experience…

RevoStock is one of those sites that authors REALLY want to (and should) support. They are one of the few sites that actually maintains an open dialog with their artists and have continued to update their site based on feedback from both buyers and artists. They are “the good guys” in Microstock. They’re not out to take advantage of anyone (buyers or artists).

RevoStock has been around a very long time, and despite my own personal experience with dismal sales there, they’re not in danger of closing down or going out of business.  They are really known as THE place to buy After Effects templates and from what I have seen on their “recently sold” as well as email chats with several AE template authors, they sell a crap ton of AE templates. And they offer buyers a lot of unique advantages over other Stock Footage sites…  The ability to down-rez stock clips (and some times for a lower price) and the ability to buy bundles with significant savings. So the “recent sold” ticker does “move” every day, but typically quite a bit slower than the AE ticker.

I have a very small portfolio on RevoStock (340-ish clips) compared to my portfolio on Pond5, ShutterStock and ClipCanvas.  So my little bit of clips in RevoStock’s huge offering is a drop in the bucket. I would expect my sales to be smaller than those other sites.  But even on Videohive where I have like 4 video clips, I sell at least 2 or 3 a month.  I’ve gone month’s on Revo with zero sales.

Also, I recently did some research on Stock Footage marketing and RevoStock doesn’t do much that I can find.  They’re on the front page of Google when you search for “stock footage”, but as of a few minutes ago they were 6th on the right side ads. And not on the first page in the regular web search. On the 30 or so film making related web sites I visit on a regular basis they are no where to be found. And when I recently spend a day at Barnes and Noble reading through film making related magazines, they were also absent.  Craig has assured me that RevoStock is spending money on advertising Stock Footage, but when I search for it, I can’t find it.

Contrast that with Shutterstock… They hired a new person to head up the stock footage division and they’ve declared all out war on Pond5, the leader of the Microstock Footage industry. The only place they’re being outspent on advertising right now is Google adwords.  Every site I visit having to do with film making or stock footage that has Google ads is covered with ads from Pond5. But Shutterstock has been spending a lot of money on traditional paid advertising…  Magazines, web banners, co-promotions with partners, etc…  And it’s paid off.  My portfolio on Shutterstock is currently just over 100 clips, but they have outsold RevoStock by about 20 to 1 so far this year.  Ever since the new SS guy took over, my footage sales have increased over 500% there.  By far the best performance of any site this year, so far.

While I haven’t done any kind of survey myself, I do keep in touch with a small group of dedicated Stock Footage artists with portfolios ranging from a few hundred like myself to several thousand clips.  And in direct private conversations, they have told me their sales on RevoStock are down.  Not ridiculous like 81%, but typically in the 5% to 15% range.  With sales steadily declining over the course of the year.  Given the lack of marketplace presence that I can see plus declining sales (my own and those whom I know directly) lead me to believe that RevoStock is doing poorly with Stock Footage sales.

That said, it’s entirely possible that overall RevoStock stock footage sales could still be up over last year. More and more people are getting into the microstock game with the false assumption that there’s riches which means RevoStock has MANY MANY MANY more clips this year than they did last year which has resulted in more sales this year than last year.  However, as more clips are added by more new artists, the percentage of clips artists have in the overall RevoStock portfolio has dropped which means individuals are making less money while RevoStock is making more. Good news for Revo, bad news for most stock contributors because the smaller our portfolios are in compared to the overall availability, the less we’ll make.  They only way to combat it is to submit more clips and grow our portfolios.

Still, the fact that a site like Shutterstock, which has more stock footage clips than RevoStock, is selling more of my own clips than Revo is and my portfolio there is smaller leads me to believe that Shutterstock is doing more to sell footage than Revo is. They are doing more to grow their customer base. And that’s a problem for Revo (and other sites).

Still, as I said earlier.  If you are a stock footage producer, RevoStock is a site you definitely want to be on.  And once you’re there and have a chance to interact with Craig and his staff,  you’ll be rooting for them to succeed.  Especially if you’re used to dealing with iStock, Getty, the old Shutterstock, or even the current mess going on at Pond5 right now.

ps. The end of November and so far in December my sales on RevoStock have jumped. I don’t know why, but I like it.

Trying out Fotolia

I got an email message from Fotolia offering me a free 30-day subscription and asking me to try it out.  I’ve been a bit busy lately, but my shooting schedule is a bit lax this month so I plan on spending a bit of time working on my web sites.  So now is as good a time as any to give the subscription a try.

I’ve downloaded one image so far and it was incredibly easy.  So far, so good.  I’ll post a review in a month when the trial ends.