For me, one of the big stock photography mysteries has been the size of the market in China and its potential for growth. I recently spent 10 days in China talking to photographers and stock agents in an effort to get a better understanding of where this market is today and how it might develop in the next few years.
Given the country’s population of about 1.3 billion people and its rapid growth as a consumer nation, it seems reasonable to expect that there would be a huge demand for photos for use in advertising. According to Adweek, some experts expect China to become the biggest consumer marketplace in the world by 2020 and others say that could happen as early as 2012.
The general consensus of stock photo sellers in China is that total stock photo sales in China are about $20 million annually. About half the revenue comes from commercial sales and half from editorial. In the U.S., the single biggest category of use is probably direct mail and brochures, but in China the agents tell me that direct mail is not a significant user of stock images. There is significant demand for photos for billboard and calendar uses.
Part of the reason that gross revenue is so low is that usage fees are low. In the major cities a full page advertising use costs about $200 and billboard use goes for about $290. (Various sizes of billboards are widely used in Beijing and Shanghai, and I assume most other major cities.) A full-page editorial use goes for about $63.00 and a quarter-page editorial averages about $12.50. In February Imaginechina licensed rights to 30,000 images (mostly editorial sales), but based on the company’s gross 2006 revenue the average price for each of these usages would have been less than $10 per image. RF does not sell well in China because it is too expensive for local users. On the other hand many sellers sell RF at RM prices in order to make the sale.
Commercial sellers say that the vast majority of their images are used by buyers in the major cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Quangzhou and HongKong. Potential customers from virtually all the others regions outside of these cities argue that stock photos are too expensive and buy little of what the major agencies have to offer.
This brings up the issue of micropayment. Currently, all Chinese customers are using the Internet to search for images and they want to use the Chinese language to do their searches. The agencies tell me that they hardly ever deliver a piece of film anymore — just like the rest of the world.
So far, the only micropayment site searchable in Chinese is Shutterstock, but it won’t be long before all of them do the same thing. When that happens it seems to me that users who think $10 is too much to pay for an image will be enthusiastic about using micropayment images at lower prices.
While in China I talked to a number of photographers, both Western and Chinese. I’ll have more posts based on those discussions and others from my trip.
[tags]Jim Pickerell, China[/tags]