Friends. Seems that there’s been a fair amount of stir in the photo industry about Getty Images’ recent stock photography paradigm shift. My earlier entry on this topic has been far and away the most popular post on my blog in recent weeks. I’ve received (and read) a lot of correspondence about this, and, based on all of the digital traffic, something has become abundantly clear to me: a lot of folks are unclear about some basic economics and what precipitates (sometimes sadly, other times beautifully) from our capitalistic culture:
That’s right, fashion. And when I say fashion, I don’t mean the threads on your back, or the lack of threads covering your belly button (although I’m quite aware that bare midrifs are already OUT of fashion…). What I mean is that a key component of our culture is the business of constantly changing what’s cool – or FASHIONABLE. Check out the wiki definition of fashion and focus on the element of changing “quickly”. Whipping consumers into a frenzy for the newest and the freshest is a simple device focused on driving sales. Adam Smith 101. And when Getty Images changed their search criteria to prioritize ‘date uploaded’ ahead of all other criteria, and opened up submissions to anyone who meets a very minimum, simple criteria, it thrust itself willingly into the fashion industry – the race to place things in trends and seasons and styles that can change more quickly than the sale rack at The Gap. It’s a simple business decision, really. They’re banking that they can outpace the rest of the pack because they have the deepest resources, the fastest image turn around time, the best infrastructure, etc.
I’ve heard from a couple folks who are excited to play in Getty’s new paradigm.
I’ve also heard from those who are downright pissed off about Getty’s recent moves. Why? If that’s the case, why aren’t these people upset at Adidas for coming out with a new Stella McCartney line of shoes, right after they saved up and bought last season’s “new” item? And why aren’t they upset that their flared-out pants are soon-to-be-traded-in for some tightly pegged counterparts, or that their grown out Beck hairdo is soon to be chopped off when that changes too? Chances are even high they thought is was brilliant how Madonna re-invented herself yet again.
I’d suspect that the reason they’re are not upset at Adidas, or that they’re praising Madonna, is because they have been conditioned to EXPECT those things, they’re conditioned to the evolving “fashions”.
And they are upset at Getty because Getty has traditionally NOT been on the fashion treadmill, AND this new fashion (and the fashion of being fashionable) has made them have to revisit your entire business strategy.
But keep in mind–and I’m hoping not to provoke you, but instead give you some comfort–that Adidas updating their newest line and what Getty has changed the stock game are fundamentally quite the same. Period. Getty’s now in the fashion industry – the fashion of quick change and new cool – and there’s no getting away from it.
I’m not praising or criticizing, I’m just trying to make sense of these recent moves for the photography community. No one can argue about their commercial success on the whole. At what cost? To what benefit? That’s for you to decide.