Few business models have come under as profound an assault as the stock-photo industry. Just a couple of years ago, things were peachy: Getty Images was busy rolling up the industry’s smaller players, creating a massive stock-photo agency and beating out others that hadn’t already sold out. Now, though, the company is whipsawed by competition–the stock images it once sold for a tidy profit aren’t worth much, when a photo editor can go to any number of amateur stock agencies or even Flickr and get a similar picture cheaply–or even for free.
A similar threat from crowdsourcing has many graphic designers complaining loudly. But Getty has resolved to join the competition, rather than fight it. Today, it launched its collaboration with Flickr. Getty’s photo editors, based on their market savvy, sift through the myriad images on Flickr, and add the best (that is, most saleable) images to a searchable catalog. (Would-be stock photographers can see a FAQ here.) The results aren’t cheap: One early tester found that a half-page image of Mount Hood, licensed for five years, would cost $2,070. But compare that to the tens of thousands that a traditional stock agency would have charged. Getty may yet be destined for a complete overhaul, but you’ve got to admire how quickly it’s adapted. Now if publishing and music companies would only be half as sapient.