The only people that made money in the California Gold Rush were the shopkeepers that sold the picks, shovels and pans. 99.99% of the ones seeking “fame and fortune” died broke, cold and hungry.
The proliferation today of cameras has created a modern day version of the goldrush and again, the only people getting wealthy are the merchants. The individuals actually doing the heavy lifting of moving mountains of stone for one ounce of gold are going home broke.
Two of the newest suppliers of picks and shovels in the latest goldrush are ImageBrief and Demotix.
ImageBrief is an online marketplace that connects image buyers with “professional” photographers. Buyers post an image requirement — called a brief — and photographers submit images that are tailored to the request. With an average of one brief filed per day, the competition to be the first in with the photos is fierce and will leave 99.9% of the hopefuls submitting photos that will not be used, or bought.
ImageBrief’s target market is advertising agencies, marketing departments, PR firms and graphic designers; everyone but the people who supply the images that drive the money machine. ImageBrief claims to “…provide an alternative solution for image buyers who no longer wish to spend hours trawling through image stock libraries,” according to their website.
ImageBrief also claims that they are not a stock photo library.
ImageBrief, which recently scored an investment of $700K, has raised a total of $2.2 million since it’s startup in Australia in 2011.
Moving it’s headquarters to New York at the end of 2012, the company announced the most recent investment as coming from Square Peg’s Paul Bassat and Justin Liberman.
ImageBrief makes it’s money by providing web presence for photographers and allowing potential image buyers to search it’s catalog for “the” image needed. ImageBrief then takes a healthy cut of the sale price as their “commission” for facilitating the sale.
According to latest industry figures, there are over 350,000 semi-pro photographers and 12.5 million amateur photographers globally. Every two minutes in 2013 there are as many new images made as there were in the entire 1800s.
With the numbers like they are it doesn’t take much thought to realize that while the odds are tremendous that on any given day somebody will sell something, the odds are just as stacked against a specific individual selling anything through ImageBrief.
ImageBrief requires the photographer to provide all keywording, metadata and post processing on the images prior to uploading. The time investment involved means that the photographer will only get pennies on the dollar for an image and with the requirement that all images uploaded to ImageBrief be exclusive, it becomes readily apparent that the only people making money are the owners of ImageBrief. In other words, picks and shovels wins again.
While ImageBrief and Demotix are not competitiors, their business model is almost identical. Where ImageBrief talks naive photographers into basically donating their time and their images, Demotix does the same thing to naive “citizen journalists”.
.Promising freelance photojournalists a place to market their stories, Demotix requires a completed story AND images to be uploaded to their website where potential buyers are then allowed to roam and search through the archives for possible purchases.
Again, as with ImageBrief, Demotix is a buyer’s market where buyers can get varying grades of quality work for comparatively pennies and the only ones that truly profit are the Demotix owners.
While the images on Demotix are typically of a higher quality than those found on ImageBrief, the payout is still the same — and less — if you factor in the requirement to provide a well-written, finished story to go with the images.
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Demotix calls itself a “citizen journalism” website and photo agency. The site claims to “…enable freelance photojournalists and amateurs to share their … content and photojournalism and license them to clients including mainstream media organizations…”
Launched in 2009 by Turi Munthe and Jonathan Tepper, Demotix, based in London boastfully claims as their objective to “…rescue jounalism…” by connecting independent journalists with traditional media.
Registration with Demotix, as ImageBrief, is free and anyone can upload images. With no standard of quality required, provided images range from the terribly bad to the occasional great one. Creating a dumping bin of mediocre images creates a waste land of photographs and greatly reduces the odds of a standout photo being found.
Demotix’s editors wades through the morass of images submitted by over 25,000 members in 190 countries and pushes out selected images to over 100 news media companies globally. You can see the odds of your photo being selected.
Once a potential buyer is identified, Demotix acts as broker and claims 50% — a terribly inflated amount — as their fee. Non-exclusive rights are sold for anything between $50 and $3,000 USD with the scale heavily weighted towards the lower end. Exclusive rights can be sold also for whatever price can be negotiated and this creates another hurdle for the photographer submitting the story and images. You can’t post, sell or distribute your images anywhere else because they “might” end up in an exclusive sale by Demotix and as no buyer will want images and stories that have shown up, the exiting market for a specific image just dropped through the floor.
So again, for a few pennies, the image producer and “citizen journalist” gets shafted for selling their work for pennies while Demotix takes in half of the sale price.
Probably providing the best all around solution is Assignmint. The software offers writers, editors and publishers a “one-stop-shop” for the entire writing cycle from submisison to payment.
Journalists can add their contacts, pitch editors, get pitches approved, manage editorial calendars and track writing expenses all without leaving the program.
While the software is free for writers to use, publishers will pay a small fee for each payment processed.
Planned upgrades will include options like shared editorial calendars and deadline reminders.
Unlike ImageBrief and Demotix, Assignmint has found a place as a middleman that doesn’t monetize the large numbers of hopeful citizen journalists.
Jeff Koyen, the founder and CEO said in an interview that he wanted to enter the untapped market of freelance and contracted writers who earn billions of dollars in assignments each year but struggle with the business side of things.
“While I was working at Travel and Leisure, I went in there expecting to find systems in place for freelancers, but were none, no systems in place at all,” said Mr. Koyen, who is a former editor with both Forbes Traveler and Travel and Leisure, and a freelance travel writer for The New York Times. “So I decided to build a system I’d been looking for for 10 years.”