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One company simplifies the search for stock photography

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May 2003 — It is the paradox of the Internet that everything you could possibly want is out there, but unless you know where to look you will never find it. That is especially true for stock photography – there are a handful of large companies that everyone knows about, but the smaller, more specialized sites can be so narrow that finding them is either a stroke of luck or a random fluke.

One British company is changing all that. Stock Index started out as one of several monthly inserts in the magazine Graphics International 13 years ago, created by then-owner Robert Prior. At that time, it went out to about 5,000 subscribers and featured 30 companies. When he sold the publication six years ago he kept the rights to Stock Index and spun it off into a stand-alone book.

Stock Index is based in London and has been published as a stand-alone product there for the last six years. In 2003, he introduced Stock Index USA – a listing for and of United States companies.

“We are sending America nearly 2,500 copies of Stock Index UK,” said Prior. “We thought, well, if there are 2,500 people who are interested in a book coming out of the UK, maybe they might be interested in one from their home territory. We pitched a lot of stock libraries in America to go into the UK book, and there were clearly some that did but there were equally a lot who turned around and were only really interested in their home territory. So we suddenly thought, well why don’t we just do a book for them and separate the entities?”

The Business of Taking Pictures
The original Stock Index has a total distribution of 16,600 worldwide, with an estimated 42,330 readers (2.5 readers per copy). The numbers are further broken down into categories, with the majority of the copies going to book and magazine publishers and corporations, including in-house graphic departments. The companion website boasts an average of 2,300 unique visitors per month, with an annual total of 27,600 visitors.

The US version only has a total distribution of 8,400 so far, but those numbers are growing every year. The numbers are split fairly evenly between book and magazine publishers, advertising agencies and design groups, with corporate distribution contributing only a token presence for now. However, the website for Stock Index USA receives 3,700 unique visitors every month and 44,400 every year.

“I could put 60,000 copies of Stock Index USA into America and still not meet what is needed,” Prior commented. “So what I decided to do was be highly selective and choose very carefully whom I sent to. And I would look at the tip of the iceberg rather than the bottom and just send out 6,000. Well in the end that 6,000 by requirement – because we kept getting requests for it – crept up to 8,000 and we just did that. Next year we will probably go to 10,000 or 11,000. We will go in steps because you can pump out thousands of copies that just go into a big black hole.

Right now there are 270 libraries listed in Stock Index and 120 in Stock Index USA. Of those, around 40 are duplicated between versions. According to Prior, there were more companies from the original version that wanted to be listed in the USA version, but he decided to restrict it more to American companies for now. In 2004, he is anticipating a surge in the number of libraries that want to be listed in both versions, due to the response he has already gotten this year – the American version was first mailed in January of this year. According to Prior, there is a good mix of companies that have approached him to be listed and those that he has actively sought out.

“We could have taken more [British stock companies], but I made the decision to restrict the British input because if we didn’t do that it looked like we were producing a book that was really called Stock Index: The British are Coming,” Prior quipped. “We obviously went after American stock libraries. We distributed the book from here because that was the easiest way that we saw to do it and so we didn’t know exactly when the book hit the desks of the American buyer. I was on the phone on what I thought was only days after the distribution and two stock libraries told me they had already made their money back. It seems to work in its format, both in terms of the book and the website.”

The Lowdown on Listings
Getting listed in Stock Index is a good alternative for smaller companies, according to Prior. He deliberately prices his listings to be competitive, but not eat up the entire marketing budget of his clients. He charges $940 (595 pounds) for a listing in the original version and $785 for a listing in the USA version. There is a slight discount for those companies that buy a listing early in the process. For that price, companies receive a single page layout with images, copy of up to 250 words and can choose to be classified under as many as 60 categories out of 2,500 possible on the website. The companies are listed in alphabetical order, with an index of all the categories in the hard copy, and searchable categories on the websites. Prior will design the page and provide a PDF proof, and look after and forward all leads.

Companies can submit up to 60 images – one for each category they choose to fall under. Prior does not have any guidelines for the images submitted – it is up to each client to decide which images to run. Most are submitted digitally, with a handful still sending transparencies for Prior to scan.

“The way it’s done is very, very simple – the way it’s done is them using the word ‘yes’,” commented Prior. “Stock libraries –primarily specialist, unique collection stock libraries – we try to find those kind of people and then having found them we ask one simple question: ‘we have 17,000 people who get the book by name and we have 5,000-6,000 unique visitors to our website each month. Do you want to do business with that group of people?’ If the answer to that is yes, then we say ‘this is how you do it.’ If they say ‘yes, ok I want to do this,’ then I send them a very simple step-by-step guide.”

If you go online and do a search for stock photography companies, you will be inundated with options. Often, the more narrow your needs, the harder it is to find that perfect image. Stock Index is changing that. They are doing all of the work, and presenting the graphic design world with a single resource that covers companies from the large stock agencies such as Corbis and Getty, to those that only feature images of bugs in a field in North Carolina.

As a matter of fact, further proving the lure and appeal of Stock Index, D.O.’s art director, Dana Bussiere, has already claimed both of our office copies…

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