Getty images: a photo business under pressure

I’m sitting here listening to Jonathan Klein talk with a variety of bloggers. Thomas Hawk, CEO of Zooomr, and Kristopher Tate, Founder of Zooomr, a photosharing site are here too. So is Marshall from TechCrunch.

Anyway, Jonathan just came from meeting with analysts and shareholders where he announced some bad news.

This is a business that’s seeing radical changes due to folks like Thomas. Thomas is an amateur. He gives his high-res images away for free, or for a low price if you want to use them commercially. He uses the same Canon 5D that other professionals are using. And, his images are often as good or better than the ones the pros are getting.

And Thomas is HARDLY the only photographer out there who is putting pressure on the professionals. Nikon and Canon are selling hundreds of thousands of digital SLRs every year, most of which go to amateurs or semi-pros who aren’t able to get their images onto Getty right now.

One thing. Go to Getty Images’ home page. Now go to Zooomr. And Flickr.

What do you notice? I notice a couple of things.

1) There’s a photo on the home page of Zooomr and Flickr, but not on Getty.
2) There’s a search box on Flickr, but not on Getty.

It’s interesting how cold the Getty site feels. Clinical. Which shows the bias of Getty. They don’t care about making the site entertaining, they want to make it easy for a magazine editor to find a photo and buy it.

Getty is the most profitable photo site and has many of the world’s best-known images in its archives.

It’ll be interesting to see how quickly they learn from upstarts like Zooomr and Flickr.

One thing I learned is that most of the most profitable images on Getty are of celebrities.


New audience metric needed: engagement

I was just reading Jeneane Sessum’s post about the latest Ze Frank/Rocketboom dustup and she’s right, we need to measure stuff other than just whether a download got completed or not. She says we need a “likeability” stat. I think it goes further than that.

There’s another stat out there called “engagement.” No one is measuring it that I know of.

What do I mean?

Well, I’ve compared notes with several bloggers and journalists and when the Register links to us we get almost no traffic. But they claim to have millions of readers. So, if millions of people are hanging out there but no one is willing to click a link, that means their audience has low engagement. The Register is among the lowest that I can see.

Compare that to Digg. How many people hang out there every day? Maybe a million, but probably less. Yet if you get linked to from Digg you’ll see 30,000 to 60,000 people show up. And these people don’t just read. They get involved. I can tell when Digg links to me cause the comments for that post go up too.

So, why should engagement matter to an advertiser?

Well, as an advertiser I want to talk to an audience who’ll actually DO something. Yeah, I’m hoping to get a sale.

Yesterday Buzz Bruggeman CEO of Active Words, was driving me around and told the story of when he was in USA Today. He got 32 downloads. When he got linked to by my blog? Got about 400.

My audience was (and is) a lot smaller than USA Today, but the engagement of the blog audience got his attention.

How could we measure audience engagement?

Is this something that Steve Gillmor’s GestureLab could do? If he could, that’d be a valuable company that advertisers would die to buy stuff from.

Nice to see Steve Lacey again, he’s at Google now

One of the nicest developers I ever met at Microsoft, Steve Lacey, surprised me recently when he said he was working at Google. Great to see him today. He, like almost everyone at Google, refuses to tell me what he’s working on.

It’s gotta be cool, though. After all, he was an important developer on Flight Simulator. Why leave a job like that if you aren’t going to be working on something cool?

Oh, while we’re talking about Google, might as well talk about Kevin Laws’ rant over on VentureBeat: The Google Myth goes “pop.”

Kevin misses what Google is doing.

They are building moats around those two businesses that Google has proven successful.

By investing in everything else, Google’s search engine has gotten business defensibility. Microsoft and Yahoo have largely matched Google’s search quality. But they aren’t gonna steal search traffic (or, more importantly, advertising dollars) from Google because of the investment in other things.

Also, what gets rewarded by the stock market? Existing market share or growth?

Quick, who had most market share in 1977? IBM and DEC, right? Did that really matter? No.

What matters is how fast each service is growing.

I guarantee you that Google Talk doesn’t just have 44,000 users anymore. Those numbers are old. Makes for nice stories, but won’t hold up in the end.

He ends up wondering if Google can hold onto its workers. I predict that Google not only is holding onto its workers, but is getting a lot more out of each worker than most other companies.

I’ve never met such enthusiastic employees. Oh, and I did interview the chef today. He says he tells all his chef friends that he has the best job in the world. This company is — by far — the most interest to watch from a business perspective.

Part of the reason for that is they are breaking lots of rules.

And some of these weird experiments will pay off. Just stick around and see.