In just over a decade, iStockphoto has gone from a small photo-sharing site to the premier destination for royalty-free images, illustrations and video and audio files where a file is downloaded every second. The company revolutionized the stock photography business, turning the market upside down, inspiring a string of imitators and establishing a whole new business model: microstock. iStock's simple idea – empowering amateur, hobbyist along with part-time or full-time professional artists by giving them a global platform to share their work, has completely transformed the graphic design landscape and made digital content affordable and accessible to a host of new customers and industries.
The iStockphoto business model remains one of the few social networks to monetize user-generated content for both the business and the contributor in a meaningful way. It continues to lead the way in the industry it created and has enjoyed continuous growth since its inception. Today, iStockphoto has a catalog fast approaching 10 million files, over 7 million members and pays out approximately 1.9 million USD per week in artist royalties.
iStockphoto was originally created in 2000 as a free image sharing site for photographers and designers. Anyone could download an image provided they also uploaded an image for someone else to use. The concept took off and everything worked beautifully until the first $10,000 hosting bill arrived.
Shortly thereafter (and we mean very shortly thereafter), the concept of selling credits and paying contributors royalties for their images was adopted and the “microstock” industry was born. Eleven years later the basic idea remains the same: anyone, anywhere can join for free, find the digital media they need and sell original content of their own.
iStock's pricing model has done more than just lower the cost of stock photos for graphic designers - the site has put imagery in the hands of hundreds of millions who would not have considered nor afford traditional stock prices. Entrepreneurs, small businesses, bloggers, community and non-profit groups, churches, schools are all part of iStock’s diverse customer base.
In its second decade, iStock offers a wide variety of collections to its buyers. The Vetta collection highlights highly art-directed exclusive imagery, video and illustrations for the most important projects. In 2011 iStock added a brand new editorial collection for journalistic use. The collection already has more than one hundred and fifty thousand files.
This community of more than 7 million members finds inspiration from a content collection approaching 10 million photographs, vector illustrations, Flash, audio and video files that can easily be found on the site. The site’s rapidly-growing group of more than 125,000 contributing artists have more than 50,000 files approved each week by a global team of inspectors who adhere to some of the strictest quality standards of any stock agency in the business — microstock or otherwise.
Many iStock artists earn a full-time living from iStock, with some topping out in the high six-figure range. iStock’s business model was recognized and legitimized by Getty Images, the world’s leading creator and distributor of still imagery, footage and multimedia products, which purchased the iStockphoto in 2006 and significantly aided its international growth. Today, many formerly traditional stock
artists see micropayment stock imagery as an additional revenue channel.
iStock continues to expand rapidly internationally and is already localized in eleven languages. Staying fresh and innovative is key in this business. iStock will continue to introduce features and functions that keep both buyers and artists happy.
We anticipate many changes in the next few years and feel inspired daily by the community. We have found that our best ideas come from our members, and we will continue to let them help guide us.