The Future of Stock Photography with Veer’s Aaron Booth

Jon:

Veer is the microstock marketplace from Stock Photography giant Corbis. Their site is sleek, modern, community-focussed and offers a simple submission process with reliable and consistent reviews. Veer content is well managed and clearly a lot of the experience from traditional stock photo marketing and client-management is finding it’s way into the site.

Answering questions on technology in stock photography and the future of the industry is Veer’s Senior Director of Creative Content Aaron Booth:

As Senior Director of Creative Content, Aaron Booth leads Veer’s user-generated content and community strategy. In this role, he directs image and font product management, Veer’s contributor-relations team, content curators and contributor website development. Aaron is based in Calgary, Canada.

Prior to joining Corbis in 2008, Aaron was Director of Products at Veer, overseeing the third-party image strategy and supplier relationships, image editing and Veer’s Hispanic brand, Somos. Aaron was a founding member and content manager of Viewit.ca, a successful e-commerce property advertising platform in Toronto, and is also an independent singer-songwriter and music producer.

Bob:Most of your stock photography sales and customer relations take place online, in contrast to traditional agencies that often have closer ties to individual clients. How does this affect the way Veer finds and relates to image-buyers in comparison to the more traditional market served by Corbis?

Aaron:Veer’s goal is to empower creativity by making it easy for customers to find what they need online – images, fonts, merchandise – while enjoying the interaction with Veer’s inspiring design and creative community. The desire to build close ties with customers is just as important to Veer, and this is expressed through peer-to-peer creative branding, reliable content, simple user experience and interactive creative community. We are constantly listening to customer feedback and streamlining Veer to ensure the last thing on a customer’s mind is “how do I do this” and rather, “Veer makes it easier to be creative.”

Bob:You store and maintain millions of images, often in multiple formats. For many agencies new to the web this would be a massive undertaking, what have you found to be the major technical challenges when dealing with such a large library of always-accessible, multi-language content?

Aaron:One of the most important and often overlooked technical challenges of managing an online content library is the quality and accuracy of metadata and search results. Search results need to be accurate, relevant and consistent. A website can have the best content in the world, but if the user can’t find what they need, they will quickly go elsewhere. Setting up servers and databases is relatively easy compared to cataloguing and managing millions of units of quality metadata, especially in a crowd-sourcing model.

Bob:Most stock imagery is independent of spoken language, but is instead applicable based more on culture. Do you find that trading globally you have to face this issue, and with significantly different cultures coming online (africa, parts of asia and south america) more over the next few years, how (if at all) will geolocation technologies affect the imagery you provide for customers from different cultures?

Aaron:Veer aims to offer relevant content to the specific needs of its localized markets. But as Veer is primarily a commercial content provider, rather than editorial, our unique localized needs are mostly regarding ethnicity of models, which is captured in submitted contributor metadata. Geolocation technology is a powerful tool, especially for editorial use when access to specific locations and events is required in real time, but geolocation does not currently play a large role in Veer’s business process.

Bob:Crowd-sourcing relies on the power of the internet to find, manage, and support content producers and the images they produce, whereas traditional agencies can often create closer links with a smaller number of artists. How do operations for contributors differ between the microstock-format Veer and the traditional Corbis platform?

Aaron:Veer’s approach to contributors is the same as its customers – empower creativity for a broad base of users in an online environment. We do this through peer-to-peer marketing communications to our contributors and an easy-to-use contributor website based on our community platform that makes uploading content and analyzing sales easy. We pay competitive royalty rates and conduct extensive marketing to help increase the reach of the work of our contributors.

Bob:The popularity of cheap digital camera technology, easy global internet access, and photo websites such as flickr (which Getty is already making inroads to capitalise) and facebook, is leading to increased popularity of guerrilla-licensing models (creative commons, mpl/gpl, elective public domain and even WTFPL). There are millions of images (and videos) which could affect the industry, do you think this is a blip, or a long-term trend, and if the latter what do you think the industry can do to mitigate any negative effect.

Aaron:

Non-commercial copyright license organizations such as Creative Commons, who facilitate legal sharing of creative content for non-commercial uses, have a positive effect as it encourages users to abide by rights offered by copyright holders. The risk to monetization is not due to the proliferation of content, rather, it’s due to lack of awareness (or respect) of copyright and usage rights, especially in cases where the license requires payment.

The free non-commercial licenses offered by Creative Commons and similar organizations help to create understanding of the value of copyright and usage terms for non-professionals, which is a long-term benefit to all copyright holders. Veer takes extra care in presenting our content license terms in simple language to ensure our customers know what they can and can’t do with our content.

Bob:There are a lot of people concerned about the effect services like Google image-search is having on the ability to find images. Some hail them as the saviour of image sales, others as the devil incarnate. Do you see Google/Bing/Yahoo image indexing as a risk or an opportunity for your agency (or image licensing in general), and how do you intend to mitigate/capitalise on this?

Aaron:

Veer has always offered mostly non-exclusive content – the same images found on competitor sites or search engines. Yet Veer has been very successful and has made a name for itself as a destination for creatives.

There is as much to be said for the website design and user/search experience, the customer service, product packaging, as well as the brand personality and marketing of an e-commerce destination as there is for the content itself. So while the major search engines may get better at aggregating images and perhaps even selling them at some point, Veer will continue to differentiate itself from the crowd through a better website/search experience, customer service and seeking an emotional connection with its customers.

Bob:Due to the increasing popularity of the iPad and tablets like it, the rich-content magazine format is finally becoming popular, giving a potential boost to a previously bemused traditional print market. It offers a huge opportunity for digital licensing, but may be mostly in favour of traditional agencies where the print organisations already have a contact-base. Do you see it affecting your business, and if so, how?

Aaron:We see the growing popularity and sophistication of mobile devices as a huge opportunity for content and media companies alike. The more screens, apps and channels to deliver and monetize visual content – in our view – the better for our business. I’m not sure what “the print market” means anymore as media companies now publish to multiple platforms (some including print) but certainly, the familiarity of standard magazine layout on tablets will have its appeal in the near term. That said, tablets will drive innovation in web publishing as it evolves into a much more rich, immersive and interactive experience.

Bob:What do you think will be the new big technologies coming into stock photography over the next few years, is there anything on the horizon you see as a game-changer, or has the stock-revolution ended since migrating online to a crowd-sourced model?

Aaron:The journey continues. The tablet is the game changer of the moment. As I said, it will inspire new ways of delivering and consuming media. This increased demand for content is good news for creative content producers in the years ahead, and for Veer. There will continue to be advances in search, in the web, tablet and mobile user experience for customers as well as product packaging for online and mobile use.

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4 Comments

  1. Kat
    Posted February 25, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Guys,
    Veer.com website appears as fishing website in my browser, not a good look

    • bobbigmac
      Posted February 25, 2011 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

      Heya Kat
      What browser are you using? I’ve never heard of that with Veer’s site (they are certainly not phishers, well unless Corbis has decided to take it’s huge business in a very different direction ;)) but I’m sure they’d be interested in finding out why it’s reported as such (do you have any browser addons loading data from ‘user-flagged’ databases or anything like that?)
      Thanks
      Bob

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