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首页 >> 图人访谈 >> 专访:Stocksy CEO Bruce Livingstone
专访:Stocksy CEO Bruce Livingstone
发表时间:2013-05-06:发布者:水塔山

Interview to Bruce Livingstone

中文译者:田彩霞(视觉中国产品总监)

Please refer to the end of the Chinese translation to see original English version.

(水塔山注:Bruce Livingstone 是 iStockPhoto 的创始人,引领了微利图库在图库界的革命,后将iStockPhoto以5000万美元的价格卖给了Getty Images。他于2012再次创办图库 Stocksy,一种合作模式的图库,并吸引了大量的关注。关于其情况,请参考我之前发布的消息:http://www.tukusheying.com/info/es_t_20130215120757.html

Stocksy网址:http://www.stocksy.com/     iStockPhoto网址:http://www.istockphoto.com/

问: 谢谢您接受我的采访,如果您不介意的话, 我们能否从IstockPhoto开始谈起?IstockPhoto就像图片行业的一个传奇,能说说您为什么会创立IstockPhoto以及您是如何带领这家公司发展壮大的?

答:就这个问题,我首先会谈到“微利图片”和“积分制度”(credit)是如何形成的。iStockPhoto最初只是一个设计师之间的交换平台。比如像我这样的人,既是摄影师,同时又是设计师,我就可以在将我拍摄的图片上传这个平台上同其他摄影师或设计师交换。如果其他人下载了你上传的图片,你就能获得一定的积分,而你的积分也可以用来下载其他人上传的图片。这个平台以这种模式运营了大概一年,而到了2000年,整个平台运营的成本太高。我不得不开始从这些“积分”中收取一定的费用来支付带宽的成本。通过在论坛上同签约摄影师(摄影师/设计师)讨论之后,我们最终决定从每一个积分中抽取25美分。在那个时候,我并没有意识到这种做法的重要性以及后来的影响,但就是这样,微利图片库就诞生了,iStockphoto创立的“积分制度”也被很多其他网站沿用至今。

 

问:如果说是你创造了“免版税”(Royalty Free)这种授权商业模式,准确么?尽管使用图片现在已经不再是免费。
答:我并没有创立“免版税”的授权模式,这个模式不是我发明的。但是通常人们会认为是我创造了“微利图片”这个模式。

 

问:你后来为什么决定卖掉iStockphoto? 如果时光可以倒流,再给你一次选择的机会,你会做出怎样的抉择?卖掉还是保留?

答:我卖掉iStockphoto是有一系列原因的。我的父亲和两个兄弟的离去(这里译者不确定是否是离世)让我心理上非常挣扎。而在istockphoto的内部,我也不想与其中的一些合伙人继续在一起工作,但是我又没有足够的资金购买他们手中的股份让他们离开。为了保持公司在行业的领先地位,我需要让公司快速地成长,而这就意味着需要大量的资本投入。这些原因纠结在一起,给了我很大的压力,也促使我最终出售istockphoto。在将公司出售给Getty Images之后,我在公司继续工作了三年。有了Getty Images的支持,公司成长非常迅速。而在我离开istockphoto之后,整个行业发生的一些变化让我再次决定重出江湖。对于卖掉istockphoto这件事情来说,我没有什么可遗憾的。因为在那个时候,公司的规模已经不是我能够独立来管理和经营的了。

 

问:我从论坛上的信息中获悉,人们还是非常怀念你在istockphoto的岁月。你为什么最后选择了离开?

答:Jonathan Klein(Getty Images的CEO和创始人之一)让我从istockphoto CEO的位置退下来,担任对公司没有实际控制权的董事长一职。但是我个人不想无所事事的呆着,同时看着Getty降低摄影师的分成和提高图片价格,我也无能为力。最后,我不得不选择离开。

 

问:有人说,如果是你管理istockphoto至今,istockphoto就会跟现在大有不同。你认同这种说法吗?你可以说说你对现在的istockphoto的看法吗?

答:如果是我控制和管理istockphoto, 我应该会做一些长期战略性的投资,而不是以季度为周期来编制预算。我会首先花功夫来提高底层技术平台,因为现有的已经很老旧了而且落伍了。因为istockphoto在最初设计的时候,并没有预料到会发展到现今这样的规模。要达到最优的模式需要大量的工作,甚至是彻底地更换掉底层技术平台。另外一件我要做的事情就是增加摄影师的分成,他们应该得到公正地待遇。

 

问:离开了istockphoto之后,你做了些什么? 这些事情进展如何?

答:在我离开istockphoto之后,我还在Getty Images位于西雅图总部的办公室工作。在Getty Images收购了istockphoto之后,我也需要让家人跟我一起搬到西雅图生活。我发现我会感到孤单,我大多数的朋友依旧在Getty Images旗下的istockphoto工作,我们并没有得到太多的支持或者说有太多的事情可做。我决定以半退休的状态在洛杉矶生活,然后我选择再次启程,做自己的项目。我们在洛杉矶生活了三年。在此期间,我主要跟查尔斯?萨奇(Charles Saatchi)一起工作,做萨奇在线(Saatchi online)。我想对于进入艺术领域,我大概还没有准备好,所以这份工作持续的时间也不常。在洛杉矶生活期间,总有摄影师来拜访我们。他们的说法几乎可谓异口同声:他们想得到的更多,他们对图片行业里发生的事情感到失望和沮丧,艺术家们创作的作品没有得到公平的回报。

 

问:你什么时候萌生了创立一种“合作社”模式的图片社的想法? 为什么? 

答:我们在2012年在加州威尼斯海滩(Venice Beach, CA)附近的一个车库中创立了Stocksy。我组建了一个小团队开始做这件事情,这个团队可谓“梦之队”,我们从系统架构到创意调研,一点一滴重新开始做一个图片库,我们团队的每一个人都是公司的成员。我们开始探讨我们如何能创造出一个更好的商业模式,怎样才能让摄影师也拥有所有权,一个体面的分成比,以及如何让摄影师能够发表他们对于图片行业经营的想法。合作社的模式在加拿大的农村很常见,合作社的模式其实已经很成熟了,也很先进,这种模式在很长时间里支撑着一些农场的运作。合作社的模式让实体有足够的现金流来运营,但是集体所有者拥有所有的现金。如果你思考一下大多数公司是如何运作的,我们的模式貌似是完全在向后思考,但是这完全符合我们的理想。我们在去年夏天搬回了加拿大,然后开始了我们的图片合作社。

 

问:你提到“合作社的每个成员都拥有公司的股权”,那么你们对于“成员”有些什么要求和限制吗?你们如何界定“Stocksy的成员”? 你们目前有多少成员,未来预计会有多少? 

答:每个“成员”都是合作社的“所有者”,同时也是一名“摄影师”。成员就是真正意义上的股东,对于公司的运营、预算、发展方向和战略都有表决权。成员也有权在年底参与公司利润分红。我们目前有320名成员(股东和摄影师)。成员、股东和摄影师这些概念在我们公司是可以互换的。我们对于成员没有限制。摄影师可以自由在多个站点和平台交易,但是必须保证提交给Stocksy的图片是独家的,包括类似图片和套图,我们都是不允许的。

 

问:Stocksy网站的声明表示:摄影师可以从常规的图片销售中分成50%,并100%享有延伸授权的费用,并且公司最终的利润全部分给艺术家。。。这样看来的话,貌似你不想以stocksy来赚钱?对于你来说,这难道仅仅是一个爱好或者说一种慈善行为吗? 否则的话,人们该怎么理解你的行为?我们都认为istockphoto对于传统的图片库授权模式是一次革命,那么你现在做的事情是微利图片库领域一个新模式吗?

答:Stocksy的目的在于让财富和利润回顾摄影师和股东,而不是为了在手中攥有大量的现金流。保留50%的分成,Stocksy就足够支付员工的工资和合理地进行营销。每一个摄影师都应该知道,如果拿到的分成低于50%,这就是不公正的。我希望摄影师能够要求从自己的作品中得到更多的收入。我希望大的图片社能够意识到如果没有这些艺术家,他们也会蒙受巨大的损失,同时他们也需要对摄影师更加公正。我希望他们更加关注如何提供更好的产品,而不是仅仅关注如何更好地创造利润。而在黎明真正来临之前,情况只能会越来越糟糕。摄影师将赚得更少,而且将陷入竞争的汪洋,因为大的图片库将会把越来越多质量不高的图片释放到微利。

 

问:除了合作社的模式,Stocksy还给摄影师提供了什么其他与众不同的功能吗?

答:除了所有权之外,Stocksy是首个对于图片上传数量没有限制的图片社。我们在后端会有一个程序来帮助摄影师管理与图片信息有关的元数据(metadata),摄影师可以很轻松便捷地管理和上传大量图片。我们会做大量的分析,会根据分析的结果每周发表拍摄需求。我们关注数据,注重分析研究,并规律地将我们的创意分析同摄影师分享。

 

问:对于图片购买者来说,Stocksy同其它的图片库比起来,有什么更吸引买方的特点?

答:我们不能低估大众对于低价图片的需求。大多数微利图片的问题就在于图片质量并不足够好。诸如Getty或者Shutterstock这样的大型图片社,他们将继续从微利图片库中选取高质量的图片,然后将这些高质量的图片放到传统的高价图片库中,向客户收取更高的费用。这对于他们来说,意味着更高的利润,但是对于购买者来说意味着两头受损。Stocksy非常有选择性地选择和展示图片。如果把我们网站的图片同其它图片社比较,我想任何人都可以感觉到我们在审美方面的多样化。我们的图片有一种让人难以用语言完全表达的独特之处,但同时又让人觉得很有用。

 

问:Stocksy需要怎样的摄影师来提供图片?

答:在Stocksy上销售图片是一种邀请加入的模式。因为我们是一种合作社的性质,我们需要寻求一种平衡的增长模式,既能让我们的业务持续发展,同时也能让摄影师满意。摄影师可以通过这个链接来向我们展示他们的作品:http://www.stocksy.com/calltoartists/

 

问:我们可以将Stocksy归类到微利图片库吗?你对于Stocksy设定了怎样的长期发展目标?它会成为下一个istockphoto,而仅仅是在给摄影师的分成比例上同istockphoto有所不同? 

答:对于我们来说,很重要的一点就是不要同其它图片社在图片数量或者签约摄影师数量上去竞争。那种竞争太老套了,而且已经有了赢家了。过多的图片给摄影师带来了巨大的竞争,稀释了摄影师的收入,同时让图片购买者在面对堆积如山的质量不高的图片时感到失望。其实,图片数量越多,大家的体验越糟糕,无论是摄影师,还是购买方。对于购买方来说,图片数量过多的时候反倒让他们无所适从。过多的竞争反倒会起到反作用。我们希望在Stocksy上找到的每一张图片都很独特且有用。我们对于图片的挑选是非常有选择性的。

 

问:我能再问几个可能是更尖锐一些的问题么? 你认为istockphoto还值得摄影师们继续投稿么?或者说你可以说出3个你认为最有前途的图片代理机构么?

答:我不能给出一个特别可靠的回答,列出任何图片社的名字,但是大的图片机构依旧会继续他们现在所做的事情,同时尽可能多地赚取利润。任何从事图片授权生意的人都知道这一行的竞争是多么激烈,从图片的生产到寻找到客户。图片代理行业如今变得非常复杂,每个图片社都有一定的优势。对于那些高质量的大图片,istockphoto付给摄影师的费用要更多一些。如果你手头有大量符合大多数创意图片库要求的图片,那么ShutterStock和其它几个图片社也可以提供一些,带来一些小量但却稳定的收入。对于2013年来说,如果我给摄影师战略层面的建议,那就是在分成模式没有发生根本的变化之前,我都建议摄影师将自己的作品的渠道尽可能铺得更广更宽。图片市场上的供给太充足了,很多摄影师其实在跟自己同一张图片的下载竞争。

 

问:对于istockphoto不再销售Sean Locke的图片,你有什么看法?

答:打个比方,istockphoto低于我来说,就好像一名疯狂的前女友,她听不进去批评意见。他们找了个借口来甩掉Sean Locke。我们需要知道的就是,Sean Locke 非常聪明,而且他在代表大量的供稿摄影师在说话。如果他们理解了这点,他们应该听听Sean的意见。

 

问:你可以就这个行业发表一下你的看法吗?你是否可以给我们一些建议,如何成为一名成功的图片库签约摄影师?

答:这个行业如今竞争异常激烈,且图片过于饱和。过多平庸的内容只能以很低的价格来销售。成为图片库的签约摄影师意味着你的作品将淹没在图片的汪洋中。那些排名靠前的图片将获得一些销售的机会,那些排在下面或者后面的图片将一直处在阴影处被埋没。就如今的行业情况来说的话,我很不愿意成为一名摄影师。不仅仅是因为最新的图片才能被客户看到,同时也因为这些图片看起来都太无趣了,非常矫揉造作,画面中的人物看起来就跟消过毒一样,人们假装吃饭、假装在办公室工作或者是在一些其它不真实的环境中做着其它的事情。当一张图片被销售之后,摄影师也只能指望从大型微利图片机构拿到一个很低的分成,无论是shutterstock,还是iStockphoto, 还是Fotolia。

要成为一名成功的图片库摄影师,你需要付出和投入。找到你的特点,然后围绕这个特殊之处展开拍摄。专攻,这意味着你不能将它当作一个兼职工作而分心在其它的工作上。要让摄影师专注地来拍照,我们就需要给摄影师公平的分成比例,让摄影师对拍摄方向有一定的控制,同时让他们拥有一定的所有权(股份),这样他们才能够全身心投入。如果我们做到了这一点,并且和摄影师之间配合好了,我们就能形成一个良性的可持续性的行业生态链。作为图片代理机构,我们得到好图片进行销售,摄影师得到应有的报酬。

 

最后感谢您接受我的采访。


 

(Q stands for Question, B stands for Bruce. All photos are provided by Bruce)

Q: Thank you for accepting my interview, if you don't mind, can we start from iStockPhoto?  It is a legend in this industry, can you tell us why you started iStockPhoto and how you managed to grow it?

Bruce: I'll tell you how Microstock was born and how the "credit system" was born too. iStockphoto originally started out as a designer's exchange. People like me who were both photographer and designer could upload their images and exchange them with other photographer/designers. When someone else downloaded your image, you would receive a credit. That credit could be used to download someone else's image. The site operated like this for about a year (in 2000) until it became too expensive to host. I had to start charging something for those "credits" to cover the cost of the bandwidth. After discussing it in the forums with contributors, we settled on .25 cents per credit. I didn't realize at the time just how important that would be, but that was the birth of microstock and the iStockphoto "credit system" that many sites are using today.

Q: Is that true you invented the "Royalty Free" license mode? Although it is not "free" any more.

B: I did not invent Royalty Free licenses, no. I'm often credited with the invention of microstock though.

Q: Why you sell iStockPhoto then?  If we can go back and you have a second chance, what will you do?  Sell it or keep it?

B: I sold iStockphoto for a number of reasons. I had been struggling with the loss of my two brothers and my father. I had some partners in iStockphoto that I didn't want to work with anymore and wasn't able to buy them out or move them away from the company without having a lot of money. I needed to grow the company very quickly in order keep our lead in the industry and to do that I needed quite a bit of capital. The combination of those things weighed very heavily in my decision to sell iStockhoto. I was able to stay with iStockphoto and Getty for three years after I sold it. It grew very rapidly with Getty backing me. It was what happened after I left iStockphoto that eventually made me want to get back into the industry. I don't regret selling it. It was at the size that it had become unmanageable

Q: I read in forum that people missed you.  Why you leave iStock?

B: I was asked by Jonathan Klein to take a back seat, step down as CEO and become a chairman with no real control. I didn't want to sit idly by while Getty cut photographer's pay while raising the prices. As a result, I had to leave.

Q: Someone said if Bruce was controlling iStock now, iStock surely will be different from what it is today.  Do you agree?  Can I have your comments on today’s iStockPhoto?

B: If I were controlling iStockphoto, I would be investing in a long term strategy, not managing the budget by the quarter. I would firstly work on the underlying technology as it's old and outdated. It was never designed to be as big as it has become. The "best match" needs a lot of work, or could be removed entirely. The most important thing I would be doing is giving a larger share of the royalties to photographers. They should be fairly paid.

Q: What did you do after leaving iStock?  How's it going?

B: When I left iStockphoto I was working at Getty head office in Seattle, WA. I had moved my family there after Getty bought iStockphoto. I found myself feeling alone, most of my friends worked for Getty/iStock and we didn't have any kind of support structure or anything to do. We decided to try to semi-retire in Los Angeles, so we picked up and moved. We lived in Los Angeles for about three years. I worked briefly with Charles Saatchi on Saatchi Online. The art world wasn't ready for me I guess because it didn't last long. Throughout our time in Los Angeles, Photographers came to visit us at our house. They all said the same thing. They wanted more. They were disillusioned and frustrated with the state of affairs in the industry-- artists were not fairly paid for the work they were creating.

Q: When did you have the idea to start a co-op stock agency?  And why?

B: We started Stocksy in 2012 in my garage in Venice Beach, CA. I formed a small group to work with, my dream team to make a stock photo business work from Systems Architecture to Creative Research, we have everyone in house. We started talking about what would make a better business model, what would give photographers ownership, a decent royalty and a voice in how the business was run. Cooperatives in rural Canada and co-op structures are well developed and quite advanced as they have been around for a long time supporting groups farms. The co-op keeps enough cash to operate, but the collective owners get all the money. If you think about how most companies are run, it's completely backwards thinking and perfectly in line with our ideals. We moved back to Canada last summer to start the co-op.

Q: You said "each member of the co-op owns real equity in the company", is there a restriction on "member"?  Can I have your definition of "stocksy member"?  How many member do you have now and will have in the future?

B: A "Member" is an "Owner" and a "Photographer". A "Member" is a real shareholder and has a vote in the company operations, budget, direction and strategy. A "Member" is also entitled to profits at the end of the year. We currently have 320 Photographer / Owner / Members. We use these terms interchangeably. There are no restrictions on members. Photographers are free to participate in multiple sites, however all of the images supplied to Stocksy need to be exclusive, including similars and sisters.

Q: From what you stated in stocksy website -- 50% on regular sales and 100% of extended licenses, pays out all profits to artists... It looks like you don’t want to make money on it?  Is it a just a hobby for you, or a charity thing? Otherwise, in what perspective shall people understand this?  We all know iStockPhoto is a revolution to traditional stock photo industry, are you doing a new one to microstock industry now?

B: It is Stocksy's goal to distribute the wealth and profits among its photographer-owners, rather than hoard a reserve of cash. With a 50% cut, there is plenty of money for good salaries and to properly market a product. Every photographer should know this and understand that if they get anything less than 50%, they're not being fairly paid. I hope that photographers will demand more for their work. I hope that big agencies will wake up and realize they're lost without their artists and they need to do treat people better. I hope they focus on making a good product, not a good profit. The reality is that this situation is going to get worse before it gets better. Photographers will earn less and continue to compete in a sea of competition as the big stock houses load more and more bad stock images.

Q: Besides the co-op idea, is there any other features that stocksy will provide to contributors?

B: Besides ownership, Stocksy was the first agency to have no upload limits. There is a program in the back end that allows you to manage metadata and releases across multiple assets with minimal effort. We are obsessed with analytics and release a weekly assignment that has been showing up in searches. We are numbers and search obsessed and regularly communicate creative research to our photographers.

Q: And any difference between stocksy and other agencies to attract buyers?

B: We can not underestimate the public appetite for cheap pictures. The only problem is that a majority of the microstock images are not very good. The large agencies like Getty and Shutterstock will continue to move good pictures from their micro collections into their macro collections and charge more for them. It's great profit for them, but the customer loses in both directions. Stocksy is extremely selective with ingestion and curation. I think anyone can see the overwhelming aesthetic difference in our collection compared to other agencies just by looking at a few pictures. Our images are inexplicably special and inherently useful.

Q: What kind of contributor do you like to join Stocksy?

B: Selling on Stocksy is by invitation only. Because we're a co-op, we need to grow in a way that we can be sustainable and keep our photographers happy. Photographers can show us their work here http://www.stocksy.com/calltoartists/

Q: Can we say stocksy is a microstock?  What's your vision or long term goal of stocksy?  Will it grow to be another iStockPhoto just with different royalty structure to contributors?

B: Something that's really important for us is not to compete with any other agency on numbers of images or numbers of photographers. That game is old and already has a winner. The size of the collection creates too much competition for photographers, dilutes earnings and disappoints buyers when presented with tens of thousands of bad results. The bigger the collection the worse the experience for everyone. It becomes unmanageable and inexplicably overwhelming for the consumer. Too much competition is crippling. Each picture found on Stocksy should be inherently useful and special. We are very selective.

Q: Can I ask a few tough questions?  Or is iStockPhoto still worth contributing?  Like can you give us 3 agency names which you think have the best future?

B: I can't give you any names reliably, but the big players will continue to do what they do, making as much money as they can along the way. Anyone in the licensing business knows how competitive it is from supply generation to finding customers. Licensing agencies have become very sophisticated and each of them have certain strengths. iStockphoto will pay photographers more for good, large special images. If you have a rather large collection of standard stock, then Shutterstock and the others are good at providing small, but regular payments. As a strategy for 2013, until there is a significant shift in royalty payments, then my advice would be to spread your portfolios out as broad as possible. There is too much supply in the market, too many photographers competing for the same downloads.

Q: Or what's your comments on iStockPhoto no longer sell Sean Locke's images?

B: iStockphoto is like a crazy ex-girlfriend that can't take criticism. They were looking for an excuse to get rid of Sean Locke. What they should have realized is that Sean is incredibly smart and spoke on behalf of a large number of contributors. If they understood that, they would have listened.

Q: Can we have your opinion on this industry?  And can you give us some ideas how to become a successful contributor?

B: The industry is incredibly competitive and totally saturated with pictures. There is an oversupply of mediocre content for sale at a very low cost. Being a stock photographer today means you will be drowning in a crowded sea of images. Those images near the top will have some sales, those ones at the bottom will remain in the darkness. I would hate to be a photographer in the industry today. Not only do only the newest images get seen by buyers, but they tend to also be very boring, artificial and sterilized people and situations pretending to eat, work in an office or some other inauthentic scenario. When an image is sold, expect a very low royalty on the big microstock sites, like Shutterstock, iStockphoto or Fotolia.

In order to become a great stock photographer, you have to commit. Pick something that is special to you and shoot that. Specialize. This means a total commitment where you can't take on a part time job that is distracting. In order for a photographer to commit, we must pay photographers fair royalties, give them some control over their direction and ownership so that they really care about their commitment. If we do these things and really work with photographers, then we can expect to see a sustainable ecosystem take form. We get great pictures to sell, the photographer gets fairly rewarded.

Thank you very much for accepting my interview.

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