- Creato Venerdì, 28 Dicembre 2012 12:09
- Scritto da Luca Pirani
Come è nata iStockphoto, la banca immagini che ha sconvolto il mercato dei fotografi professionisti e messo a disposizione dei grafici e di chi si occupa di comunicazione un nuovo formidable strumento? Lo possiamo apprendere rileggendo quest'articolo di Jeff Howe pubblicato nel giugno del 2006 su Wired, articolo famoso per aver introdotto e definito per la prima volta il termine "crowdsourcing".
The National Health Museum has grand plans to occupy a spot on the National Mall in Washington by 2012, but for now it’s a fledgling institution with little money. “They were on a tight budget, so I charged them my nonprofit rate,” says Harmel, who works out of a cozy but crowded office in the back of the house he shares with his wife and stepson. He offered the museum a generous discount: $100 to $150 per photograph. “That’s about half of what a corporate client would pay,” he says. Menashe was interested in about four shots, so for Harmel, this could be a sale worth $600.
After several weeks of back-and-forth, Menashe emailed Harmel to say that, regretfully, the deal was off. “I discovered a stock photo site called iStockphoto,” she wrote, “which has images at very affordable prices.” That was an understatement. The same day, Menashe licensed 56 pictures through iStockphoto – for about $1 each.
iStockphoto, which grew out of a free image-sharing exchange used by a group of graphic designers, had undercut Harmel by more than 99 percent. How? By creating a marketplace for the work of amateur photographers – homemakers, students, engineers, dancers. There are now about 22,000 contributors to the site, which charges between $1 and $5 per basic image. (Very large, high-resolution pictures can cost up to $40.) Unlike professionals, iStockers don’t need to clear $130,000 a year from their photos just to break even; an extra $130 does just fine. “I negotiate my rate all the time,” Harmel says. “But how can I compete with a dollar?”
He can’t, of course. For Harmel, the harsh economics lesson was clear: The product Harmel offers is no longer scarce. Professional-grade cameras now cost less than $1,000. With a computer and a copy of Photoshop, even entry-level enthusiasts can create photographs rivaling those by professionals like Harmel. Add the Internet and powerful search technology, and sharing these images with the world becomes simple.
At first, the stock industry aligned itself against iStockphoto and other so-called microstock agencies like ShutterStock and Dreamstime. Then, in February, Getty Images, the largest agency by far with more than 30 percent of the global market, purchased iStockphoto for $50 million. “If someone’s going to cannibalize your business, better it be one of your other businesses,” says Getty CEO Jonathan Klein. iStockphoto’s revenue is growing by about 14 percent a month and the service is on track to license about 10 million images in 2006 – several times what Getty’s more expensive stock agencies will sell. iStockphoto’s clients now include bulk photo purchasers like IBM and United Way, as well as the small design firms once forced to go to big stock houses. “I was using Corbis and Getty, and the image fees came out of my design fees, which kept my margin low,” notes one UK designer in an email to the company. “iStockphoto’s micro-payment system has allowed me to increase my profit margin.” Welcome to the age of the crowd. Just as distributed computing projects like UC Berkeley’s SETI@home have tapped the unused processing power of millions of individual computers, so distributed labor networks are using the Internet to exploit the spare processing power of millions of human brains. The open source software movement proved that a network of passionate, geeky volunteers could write code just as well as the highly paid developers at Microsoft or Sun Microsystems. Wikipedia showed that the model could be used to create a sprawling and surprisingly comprehensive online encyclopedia. And companies like eBay and MySpace have built profitable businesses that couldn’t exist without the contributions of users.