"Removing the middleman. The term is a popular buzzword used to describe many Internet
-based businesses that use the World Wide Web
to sell products directly to customers rather than going through traditional retail channels. By eliminating the middlemen, companies can sell their products cheaper and faster. Many people believe that the Internet will revolutionize the way products are bought and sold, and disintermediation is the driving force behind this revolution." (Definition from http://isp.webopedia.com/TERM/D/disintermediation.html)
It may be a buzz word but it's not one that the stock photography industry has heard of. Instead it seems that the number of intermediaries is growing and photographers compete to place their image at cheaper prices with more and more of them. At the same time commission percentages go up and the only men making real money it seems are the middlemen.
The ability of a photographer to deal directly with buyers is there right now. But it's messy compared with a nice clean sanitised one click credit card or bean processed download from an agency.
Unfortunately many photographers have great difficulties in dealing with buyers. There's arriving at a price (today there is not such a thing as a correct price anyway!!) and there's preparing invoices (or do I mean receipts) and collecting the cash (before or after delivery?) and the license (what should it say?) and delivery (.jpg, .tiff?) - so much to worry about.
One day soon all the intermediaries are going to get a rocket up their backsides when one of the big search engines enter the fray and construct something that will allow photo buyers direct and easy access (with payment facilities) to photo sellers who set their own prices. The new intermediaries (the search engines) will make their money, as they do now, by carrying advertising.
Prices are sure to rise at the bottom end of the market as photographers with 'micro agencies' learn that they can charge their buyers more. Rather than get 20 cents (after commission) they'll initially go for $5 (because buyers can afford this) and spurred on by stories in their discussion forums become truly courageous and then start charging $50 (because it's only crap photographers who would sell images for $5). Vices like greed and snobbery would drive prices of good images up - and that would be good for all photographers.
A price calculator to be binned is the micro stock calculator whose $1 per photo is as inflexible as the RM price calculator.
I sense that that agencies like Alamy and Getty with their special markets and client service needs would probably not be affected. They will still have their place but happily the micros will go down the can....
Labels: stock photo industry