I’m very pleased to interview Mikayel Khachatryan, Co-Founder and CEO at Wirestock.
Wirestock is a new agency that will make your stock photography workflow easier by keywording and uploading to multiple content marketplaces, including Shutterstock, Adobe Stock and Alamy, etc. This professional service helps free up contributors’ valuable free time / energy so they can stick to what is the most fun: shooting! Click here to check out my comprehensive brutally honest review of Wirestock.
Let’s get started!
1. Thanks Mikayel, for taking part in this interview. Please tell us about when and how the idea behind Wirestock emerged. Also, how large is the team and where are they based?
Before starting Wirestock, I and my co-founders had founded or were involved with several companies where we were using a lot of stock content. We were big fans of stock photography sites, especially how it saves so much time for businesses and individuals who buy and use stock photos. In 2018, I started talking to creators who were contributing images to stock sites and found out there were some major problems in the process of uploading and submitting stock content. As my friends and I were super enthusiastic about building products for creators, we decided to build a service that makes the process of selling images online much faster and more effortless.
Our team has grown quite fast. We are now a global team of 60+ people based in Armenia, the US, Europe and Asia.
2. You have a mathematics / statistics / finance background, how did you make the transition to the business side of the stock photography industry?
It took me a year of working in finance to realize it wasn’t for me. I was always in love with technology and creating content. One of my friends inspired me to get into technology to build things that solve real problems. Very soon after that, I decided to quit my career in finance.
3. Wirestock has grown considerably in the past few years, I’m sure it’s not all been so smooth sailing as any start-up is aware. Which were the most difficult technical and commercial challenges and how did you overcome them?
Yes, it wasn’t smooth. The most difficult thing was building internal capabilities to caption, keyword and then upload images in large volumes to stock agencies. We also faced challenges with making the model release creation process easier for creators. It was very stressful and technically challenging for our team. Luckily, we have the best engineers in the world who were able to build internal systems that enable handling large volumes of content every day. We also have an amazing team of content champions that process images and videos uploaded to Wirestock every day. Overcoming these challenges would not be possible without having such a great team and a creator community that always helps with feedback and suggestions.
4. Which challenges do you foresee for Wirestock and the wider industry in the medium term (2-5 years)?
I really believe in the future of on-demand (stock) commercial and editorial content. I see technical challenges related to making the licensing and discovery processes faster and easier. It involves both building tools for creators to create, edit and list faster as well as businesses easily finding the exact image/video they are looking for. We need to build technologies that enable this which is quite challenging but not impossible.
5. Contributors, including myself, certainly appreciate the “Easy Submission” option with Wirestock taking away much of the boring / mundane administration and can focus on the most fun part of the workflow, which is shooting. What is the vision for Wirestock in the near future to enhance the customer experience and hopefully earn more money?
Wirestock is all about making life easier for creators. We want to continue building solutions that facilitate real life content generation for commercial use, as well as enabling the discovery of such content as easily and intuitively as possible. We want to help creators make more money with their content while helping businesses save time through faster discovery. With that being said, we want to make the upload/admin work related to licensing content even faster and keep adding more channels for sales, including marketplaces, platforms as well as direct deals with brands and ad agencies.
6. I see you’ve recently introduced the option to upload Stock footage, please tell us more about this new feature. How do you feel you differentiate your services from Blackbox?
I don’t know that much about Blackbox but our vision with stock videos is very similar to other content formats along the items described earlier with easier uploading/submitting as well as tips for what type of content to shoot.
7. Any plans to introduce In-house keywording for editorials? Accepting smartphone content? AI integration with the interface?
All of the above! We are going to launch keywording for editorials, mobile content submissions, as well as ability to use and edit automatically generated keywords for creators.
8. Do you have any tips for contributors who are looking to earn from their content, both technically and what to shoot?
It is very difficult to name one thing but it is clear that businesses prefer more authentic content with real people doing real things. The more natural the better including UGC images shot on smart devices.
9. Wirestock keywords the commercial images in-house, which is a great added-value to busy contributors. However, do these present any particular challenges to your team? Please tell us about the process.
This was one of our main challenges since the beginning. Setting up processes, building tools and training people to keyword content and doing it for large volumes of content was quite a challenge. We are able to solve it and are happy to provide a huge time-saver service for creators globally.
10. Please tell us about the “Instant Pay” and “Extra Channel” options to license images.
Instant Pay is a good option to earn cash faster. We think it is a great addition to the traditional Pay Per Download option. We understand it is not for all creators and all of our content. We think it is Wirestock’s responsibility to determine which content better suits Instant Pay and find the right marketplace for it to maximize creator’s earnings.
As for Extra Channels, since we launched Wirestock, we have received several dozen requests from other marketplaces, platforms, brands and agencies asking us to make our content available for them or their users. To not have too many options and over complicate things, we decided to combine all these in one program and find suitable platforms/marketplaces or brands for every image, instead of uploading everything everywhere.
11. I see you’ve added the option of Adobe Exclusive. Do you have plans to introduce new agencies, such as iStock / Getty?
We may, we are always looking for more marketplaces to help our creators make more money with their content.
12. Many contributors are complaining that their earnings are going down year-on-year. How do you feel about the state of the microstock industry, particularly with some agencies such as Alamy and more recently Shutterstock slashing contributor royalties*? Also, how do you feel about the free-download sites such as Unsplash and Pexels…do you think they are a threat to microstock earnings?
I think the stock photography or rather the broader content licensing industry is going through a major transformation but it is not going anywhere. I think business needs are shifting away from traditional stock/template photos towards more authentic and fresh images and videos. Template staged content with pro models is not what many businesses are looking for. There is, however, huge demand for authentic, fresh and diverse content. The highest-earning Wirestock creators actually create and sell this type of content. I think once such images/videos become easily available for businesses at scale, creator earnings will increase.
Free-download sites are an alternative service to paid channels for some use cases. I don’t see them as a threat at all.
Thank you, Mikayel!
Thanks to you and Brutally Honest. Our team at Wirestock are huge fans of your blog.
*On a side note outside the interview, by contributing to Wirestock you may be in a much better position to rise Shutterstock’s Levels (see below) very quickly as they pool in all the contributors to be sold under the Wirestock banner. The jump in levels would quickly offset the reasonable 15% commission charged by Wirestock if you will/would otherwise have sold on your own.
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