In the past few years, the advent, and rapid growth, of low cost royalty-free photo licensing services like iStockphoto (dubbed “microstock” agencies) gave amateur photographers an entrance into the previously exclusive world of image sales and caused a sea change in how some large licensing businesses operate. Undercutting pricing and pinching sales, the upstarts arguably even forced the privatization of image licensing giant, Getty Images.
Bill Gates owned Corbis came late to the game but planned to capitalize with the launch of its own microstock service, Snap Village. A beta opened to the public in June of 2007 and the site launched commercially a year later. The idea at the start was to differentiate by offering image owners the luxury of setting their own pricing schedules (in set stops between $1 to $50). Two years later, Snap Village has found chasing down the market leader with this approach was harder than anticipated.
Rather than revise, Corbis will of start over – sort of. The Snap Village blog has announced the site will shut down by year end.
<>Corbis is expecting microstock will account for more than 25% of the stock photography market in the next few years and they want a more robust offering to serve the need. In Snap Village’s place, Corbis will offer a more sophisticated microstock service built into Veer, a rival image licensing service (photo, illustration and type) Corbis snapped up in November of 2007.
The microstock service will represent one part of the site. It will be branded as “Veer Marketplace.” Veer’s traditional premium image licensing (Rights Managed and Royalty Free) will remain as the other.
Veer, which was founded in Canada in 2002, is extremely well regarded in the design community. In its short life, it’s grown to be among the top five image licensing agencies in the world and one of Canada’s top 100 employers. Over the years, both independently and as part of Corbis, its won awards for its web presence (Webbies) and has been honored by graphic design and advertising publications and trade groups. (Veer’s Fact Sheet Available Here (PDF))
Like other stock agencies, the new service is expected to deviate from Snap Village’s past pricing model and will instead rely on preset pricing based on image size. The range will be between $1 to $20 per image depending on size and usage requirements. The new service will also require image licensors buy credits (or subscriptions) instead of paying cash directly for an image. $20, for example, might buy ten credits which can be used as needed to license and download products.
A limited version of the microstock offering is expected by the end of the month. It will offer “small sampling of affordable images that can be purchased a la carte.” As Corbis migrates its thousands of contributors over, a new more comprehensive, complete site is expected to launch in the spring or summer. Once up, Veer will be Corbis’ only microstock site and Snap Village will be shuttered.
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