Continuing on with the Stock-Wizards interview series, today I’m pleased to interview, Dmitry Budnikov, Co-Founder & Lead Developer of Stocksubmitter, an app that completely automates your microstock workflow: filling, translating and storing metadata, uploading and submitting your content to dozens of microstock agencies at the same time.
If you’re unfamiliar with this great tool, here’s a quick tutorial:
A personal thanks to Dmitry from the Brutally Honest guy!
Personally and professionally, I would like to extend my gratitude to Dmitry for saving me literally hundreds of hours over the years from tediously manually uploading photos and videos to each of the agencies, as well as organizing my workflow.
In addition, Stocksubmitter continues to be a Godsend especially during this challenging period within the microstock industry when the return on investment is in steep decline. Continuing to contribute to microstock is increasingly becoming unsustainable for most semi-professional / professional contributors, as reported in my monthly earnings reports.
Also thanks to fellow microstocker and book cover artist, Elijah Lovkoff, for setting up the interview and assisting with the questions. Let’s get started!
- Hi Dimitry, we’re huge fans of the StockSubmitter software and literally use it on a daily basis to streamline the submission process and submit to all agencies at once from a single interface, which is a huge timesaver. Great to have you with us! Firstly, tell us about yourself and the ethos behind StockSubmitter?
Hi Alex and Elijah, I’m happy to hear that! In fact, that’s actually one of the things that motivate us to work on StockSubmitter the most – when it helps contributors to save time and optimize their workflow. What we’re trying to achieve with StockSubmitter and Microstock+ is to let the microstock contributors focus on the creative part of their work instead of worrying about the mechanical/tedious parts of it. It’s our goal and the main idea behind the platform.
- Is Stock Submitter a team effort or are you as a single person managing and developing the software?
Around 11 years ago, Stocksubmitter begun with just my partner (Konstantin) and I. Konstantin was the original author of the idea and covered the financial part of the project while I was the “tech guy” and focused on making the app real.
It took us a few years to grow because we weren’t investing in marketing, so word of mouth was the only channel spreading the information about the product.
As the project grew and we were launching new features and services, including our web platform – Microstock.Plus (or simply M+), we felt an ever-increasing need for more people to keep development at the same pace as before.
So right now we’re working on the project as a small but dedicated team consisting of 10 developers, designers and support engineers. Our team is distributed throughout the world and we communicate and coordinate the development over the Internet.
I can be considered as a Team Lead / Chief Technical Officer (CTO).
- There appears to be a new cloud-based platform that provides content distribution options similar to StockSubmitter – Microstock Plus. Tell us about it.
Microstock+ is the next generation of our app. It can do almost everything StockSubmitter does but with a few advantages:
– Microstock+ doesn’t depend on your computer or internet connection – it runs on our servers and thus will do the job much more reliable and faster than StockSubmitter can;
– Microstock+ saves your bandwidth (in case it’s limited) because you just need to upload your files once, our platform will distribute them to the agencies websites directly from our servers;
– Microstock+ works on any platform with a browser (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux and mobile devices);
– Microstock+ has new features that are possible in a web platform only – tracking approval of your content, a trends prediction service, analytics service and a tool to improve chances of “dead content” with no chances to be sold (coming soon).
- Going back to StockSubmitter, it seems that uploading to iStock is no longer as straightforward as it is with other agencies and requires special API key to be obtained. May you unravel the mystery why iStock makes life so difficult for everybody?
It’s quite a long story. Initially, iStock were interested in the integration with our platform. But later they have decided to stop working with us, because our software offers a number of ways to make the tagging easier that can be abused by lazy contributors to submit content with low quality metadata. Such contributors, of course, can use any of the other keywording solutions around and keep submitting content with poorly prepared metadata without using StockSubmitter / Microstock+, but I guess it’s not a secret to everyone that iStock management decisions are often … weird to say the least, so here we are.
There are also rumors that iStock is interested to have the contributors submit content exclusively to them so they promote only third-party apps that can’t submit to other marketplaces.
They have forbidden us to provide the API keys so now the users have to obtain them on their own.
- What are your plans on expanding the list of supported agencies, especially EyeEM? It seems to be quite popular with image contributors lately.
Adding full support for an agency/marketplace and keeping it up to date takes significant time and effort, even with the bigger team we have now. So we can’t just add every website our users would like to see in the list.
Last year we came up with an idea to let the users decide which agency or marketplace will be added next. We added a poll where every user who purchases a subscription package or tops up their account balance can vote for the microstock website they want us to support. Whenever we have time and resources to add a new one – we just pick the current leader of the poll.
EyeEm was currently leading the list so after two weeks of development we’re happy to announce that it has been added to our platform!
Next one appears to be Twenty20 and we have already started our research to implement support for it.
- How does Stocksubmitter remain competitive when there are new entrants emerging in the market?
There were quite a few competitors in the past years but none of them could offer a matching level of support and keeping the agencies integration working correctly. As you may guess, microstock agencies/marketplaces often update something on their platform. There are some bugs on their websites and many small details and nuances that have to be worked around or considered. We have more than ten years of experience in solving these issues and offer fast (often real-time) support to our users which is important to them.
Right now those of competitors who are still in the market are working in other niches (some are uploading only, no automatic submission, others submit your content to THEIR accounts and own all copyright on it which is unacceptable for many contributors).
- Do you plan on dropping some agencies from the supported list or restricting use of FTPs? Pixta, Lori, Zoonar, and some other don’t seem to be a popular choice.
We don’t plan to drop support for any agencies, as there are users who contribute there even though they could feel less popular or restricted.
The least popular ones are in general not fully supported on our platform – we only upload there with no automatic submission and they don’t take any resources from our team to support.
Pixta has full support but it’s in fact quite popular – it’s in top 15 by popularity in our list.
- It’s not a secret that content contributor community is hurting due to the latest changes made by Shuttestock to their payout structure. Famous 10 cent subs, with many reporting declines on Shuttestock by about 40-50% year-on-year. Does this affect stock StockSubmitter subscriptions? Do you notice that people started submitting less or using your services less?
To be honest, for me personally it was really shocking to see what Shutterstock has done and I was fully supporting the contributors movement to boycott Shutterstock. However, apparently most of the contributors still prefer to submit there rather than ignore the changes and it keeps being one of the most popular agencies on our platform. So we have to keep supporting submitting to Shutterstock as our main goal is to help our users.
9. Another popular question that we hear quite often from contributors. Shutterstock rejections became so prevalent and ridiculous that common advice most contributors give each other is “…just keep uploading the same clip/image with no changes, eventually it will get through”. It is a public knowledge that it takes at least three resubmission attempts for a single clip to be accepted (perhaps due to AI reviews). Which depletes Stocksubmitter subscription count quite drastically. Is this something that can be addressed?
We have been discussing this internally for quite some time already. We didn’t come to a conclusion on our final plan in regards to this issue yet but most likely we will just find a way to not count re-submissions of the same file. That would resolve the issue while still not invalidating the need for a paid subscription plan.
It’s not a final decision and we can’t provide any ETAs on the solution of this problem at this point though. We will make an announcement once we have more information to share so stay tuned!
- The keywording tool offered by Stocksubmitter is very useful. Nevertheless, do you have any plans to try to improve on the current tool, perhaps by developing a keywording service or use of a more advanced AI tool?
We have developed a new keywording tool as a part of Microstock+. It can do the same as StockSubmitter one and more: search for similars in Shutterstock database based on the image itself (no need to type in any search phrase), find the most trendy images by your query and so on. We plan to bring the new features into the StockSubmitter keywording tool as well!
- You have new and interesting offering – Microstock+ Trends. How can it help contributors and content creators in their business?
The platform is really great to increase your earnings from microstock but it takes some time to get used to and start using efficiently.
In short, it can predict new trends before they can be seen by conventional means (by inspecting the search results on Shutterstock, for example). When content in a specific niche starts to grow quickly (quicker than other content) it cannot be noticed until it reaches the top pages of the search results. It can take months. And normally when it does reach the top pages, it’s already late to get into the niche and start shooting/drawing something in that niche. M+ Trends service offers a way to see a trend early, when it has just emerged.
M+ Trends also integrates into M+ and you can see how trendy is your file based on its metadata – universal “trendiness” indicator. The bigger this number is the more is the sales potential of the file.
- You seem to have a new M+ Sync project in Beta Tell us about it, how does help contributors?
One of the reasons some contributors didn’t want to try using Microstock+ is that they prefer to keep their files locally and not only in some cloud/website. M+ Sync solves this issue: it can keep your local copy of files in exactly the same state as they are in M+, including metadata and status information, 100% compatible with StockSubmitter (metadata and statuses will be fully read and displayed in StockSubmitter as you see them in M+).
- Is there a way to submit files to agencies that are not supported yet by using custom FTP option?
If an agency supports uploading by FTP you can add it as a custom FTP to StockSubmitter and you will be able to upload files there along with the supported agencies. However, automatic submission will not be supported, so you will have to visit the agency website and complete the submission manually.
- Do you see smaller agencies losing their standing and big agencies merging into even bigger ones? I’m curious what are your thoughts on the state of the industry in general?
I wouldn’t say there’s really that big difference between the market state some 5 years ago and now. There are still BIG agencies, mid-tier ones and small ones. Positions of individual agencies in the list may have changed but the greater picture is still the same. Some smaller agencies have perished, unfortunately, but it has been happening 10 years ago as well.
There is definitely a tendency for the average RPD to reduce over time, but that’s probably caused by the ever-increasing ease of access to the hardware that allows to produce quality content. Shots made by smartphones nowadays get accepted to many agencies and it significantly increases the supply of the new content, thus reducing its value. That’s inevitable and we need to adapt to the market changes like in every industry.
- Any plans to develop mobile apps?
We’re planning to develop a mobile app that will allow to submit content directly from smartphones and monitor your sales. It will be integrated with M+. Can’t share more details at this point though.
- Did you always work independently or was there a time when you had to work for companies in the office environment? If yes, what made you jump into quite risky independent world?
My “office” career was really short and I realized quite quickly that I simply cannot stand it. It’s too constraining, it’s an uncomfortable atmosphere for me and I believe that the future of the software industry is working remotely at the time that’s convenient for you rather than sitting in an office for specific hours.
Our team is distributed in 4 time zones and we have both night owls and early birds. I like that every member of the team has its own personal space and nobody is “controlling” anyone. We all have passion for our work and always try to create and improve things in the most efficient and quality way. Sometimes that means taking a day off to reconsider the current work in progress or to find a perfect solution for a problem (yeah, we don’t have specific “weekends” set in stone, it’s all fluid and everyone chooses his working days/hours for himself).
- You provide an incredible fast, efficient and professional 24/7 support. How’s your work-to-life balance? Does the work consume most or of your time or do you have time for hobbies?
I wouldn’t say it’s 24 hours a day, but we aim to be as close to that as possible. Of course, sometimes that means that the work-to-life balance is in work favor but it feels very rewarding when we get the user feedback like the one you gave us in the first question! Work consumes quite a lot of my time, but I still manage to find some time for my hobbies, my family or just to relax watching the sunset and just being outdoors.
And as any other software developer, I often keep thinking on how to implement this or that even when I’m not at my computer. Sometimes the best solutions to problems and challenges come up during that sunset / relax time!
Thanks again, Dmitry, for the interview and those hundreds of saved hours!
I’m an eccentric guy, currently based in Madrid, Spain, on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images & footage, when things go back to normal (mid-2021??). I’ve devoted eight years to making it as a travel photographer / videographer and freelance writer (however, had recently go back into full-time office work to make ends meet). I hope to inspire others by showing an unique insight into a fascinating business model.
I’m proud to have written a book about my adventures which includes tips on making it as a stock travel photographer – Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography