Ahhh, by now you already know what to expect when you receive an email from an agency with the title / body announcing some sort of “Exciting News”. Proceed with caution…and once you open the email you can hopefully see through all the bullshit.
In this blog post I’ll list my Top-5 most “Exciting News” announcements and provide you with three tips on identifying corporate-bullshit red flags. Let’s get started!
Agency Copywriters are lacking tact!
If only these amateur copywriters could just be a little bit more tactful…
Top-5: Covid Laughter Relief courtesy of 123RF
Here I am recovering from my second battle with Covid in as many years and I’ve been made aware of an email from 123RF received today (I ditched them long ago with no regrets). This has made me laugh and you know laughter is good for the mind and body, although now my throat hurts again.
This entry will do nicely in the Top-5:
Why is this bullshit?
If 123RF were in any way serious about helping out the contributor they would encourage contributors to give away their images for free for up to a year ala Adobe Stock (in return for $5/image).
As for #feelsgood / “giving back to the community”, they desperately need to fire this intern!
Top-4: Shutterstock Purchases Pond5 (May 2022)
Here’s the statement from SS:
I am excited to announce Shutterstock’s acquisition of Pond5, a leading video-centric content marketplace with a mission to create world-class storytellers. Pond5 is a trusted partner for many filmmakers, media organizations and marketers worldwide due to its award-winning tools, including patented Visual Search for video, and it’s easy-to-use platform. Through this acquisition, Shutterstock will not only gain a world class platform and tools, but will also expand its marketplace to include more customers and contributors than ever before.
For now, Shutterstock and Pond5 will continue to operate as separate distribution platforms. This means there will be no operational changes for our valued contributor networks on either Shutterstock or Pond5.
Together, Shutterstock and Pond5 will continue to find new ways to bring value to our creative communities, whether it be through education, submission support or data and insights.
Thank you for being a valued part of Shutterstock’s growth and evolution! We look forward to continuing on this journey with you.
Interim CEO, Shutterstock
To be honest, as usual, this was quite a well-written and deliberately vague statement. So, as savvy contributors with a low-threshold for bullshit, we need to read the between lines.
One week later…
Wasn’t long until the vagueness became clearer as it’s obvious that Pond5 will be “forced” to introduce low-priced subscriptions. They’re starting with 15% of the collection consisting of 4.2million clips and probably won’t be long until it’s their entire collection.
Still all quite recent so let’s see how this will develop in the next few months….
Top-3: Getty Images Acquires Unsplash
In March 2021, Getty acquired Unsplash, the largest free-download agency out there. In its press release:
Mikael Cho, Co-Founder and CEO of Unsplash said, “I’m so proud of what the Unsplash community and team has created. And it’s only the beginning. This partnership is an important milestone for Unsplash, but our mission of Photos for Everyone remains unchanged. We are very excited to partner with Getty Images to move the industry forward together.”
By “moving the industry forward together” is surely in the completely opposite direction of what benefits contributors….
For more information on this acquisition and in-depth analysis, see “Rising popularity of free downloads at microstock agencies” over at the Xpiks blog.
Top-2: Alamy reducing commission from 50% to 40%
This announcement, in late-2018, came out of nowhere in the form of an email:
In February 2019 the Alamy contract will be changing to reflect a new commission structure. The commission contributors receive for direct sales will change from 50% to 40%.
This email is to give you advanced warning of this upcoming contract change. You will receive another email in January 2019 signaling the beginning of the standard 45 day notice period before the new contract comes into effect in February 2019.
James West, Alamy CEO went on YouTube to explain
Alamy CEO, James West, proceeded to go on YouTube on a 13-minute video explaining the reasons for the changes in detail (now taken down) but here’s an interesting follow-up Q&A:
‘We’re investing for our future. When we last made a change to the commission rates it was to fund our expansion into the US and today that area of the business accounts for over 40% of our sales. We are going to invest the extra revenue from this change in R&D, new products and services and new marketing initiatives. In fact, we have made some significant investments already.James West – CEO of Alamy
2020: PA Group Purchases Alamy
One year after the drop in contributor royalties, PA Group purchased Alamy. Coincidence or not, who knows?! Perhaps the numbers looked better in the balance sheet. I’m curious to know after three years how the drop has benefited contributors.
Perhaps I’m being slightly harsh on Alamy as they tried to present the bad news in a tactful way unlike the following….
Top-1: Shutterstock Reduces Royalties in the Middle of a Pandemic
By far the biggest bullshit-meter busting “Exciting News” announcement was Shutterstock’s in mid 2020:
In the coming weeks, Shutterstock will be updating the earnings structure that determines how much you get paid when customers license your work. We are making this adjustment in order to reflect changes in the market for creative content, help to create fair opportunities for all our contributors, and reward performance with greater earnings potential.”
Naturally, this led to massive boycotts by contributors and some activations, both within the MicrostockGroupForum and Stock Coalition.
Top 3 Red Flags when receiving corporate announcements
Hope you enjoyed the above list and feel free to add any other “exciting” announcements that I may have missed by commenting below (Getty’s acquisition of iStock??!)
So with this in mind, I have the following three tips to prepare yourself next time you receive any sort of corporate mail with news:
1- Overly positive tone
Anything that is overly positive that is saying will give some tangible benefits to contributors should be regarded as highly suspicious. Worse of all if it includes emojis as in the case of 123RF.
2 – Vague language
As in the case of the Pond5 acquisition, overly vague language of “business as usual” is worrying since tons of stuff is being decided behind the scenes. It’s frustrating for contributors to be gaslighted on important matters without a chance to influence any outcomes.
3 – Any Free-download mention is just the devil talking
Any announcement that includes a call to action for contributors to select content to include as “free-download” is certainly a red flag. This also includes any announcements by agencies to partner-up with a large free-download site, such as Unsplash.
One notable exception has been the Adobe Stock upfront payment scheme for free-downloads.
Hope you’ve found the above advice useful and you’ll be more prepared next time you receive any sort of “Exciting News” annoucements!
Hire me for real-professional copywriting!
I’ll use this opportunity as a shameless plugin, in case agencies are reading, that I’d be happy to freelance as a copywriter for your announcements – get in touch! Fire your interns and hire a professional!
I’m an eccentric guy, currently based in Lisbon, Portugal, on a quest to visit all corners of the world and capture stock images & footage. I’ve devoted eight years to making it as a travel photographer / videographer and freelance writer. I hope to inspire others by showing an unique insight into a fascinating business model.
Most recently I’ve gone all in on submitting book cover images to Arcangel Images. Oh and also recently purchased a DJI Mavic 2s drone and taking full advantage.
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
In the old days when companies wanted to expand they sold shares NOT pay their workers (ie us contributors) even less. What ever Alkamy has done since (after cutting commisions) has not led to increased sales for me at all. And because I earn very little on there they’re cutting my share even further from 40% to 20% They are just greedy pigs.
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To paraphrase the WEF. “You will be paid nothing for your images and be happy for the exposure!”
I totally agree with every word you’ve written here.
To paraphrase the WEF “You will be paid nothing and be happy with the exposure!”
I agree with every word you’ve written here, when I get these emails I wait for the other shoe to drop, usually in the fine print!
Thanks for this! I always love your posts.
I dread those emails – I’ve been at this a long time and at this point realize they never contain good news for the contributor. Seriously though, that one with “feeling good” and “giving back to the community” UGHHH.