How Getty’s Free Images Will Overtake The Direct Marketing World

Marketing is the art of supplying products to people when you know their buying preferences. It’s an easy sell, unless you don’t know what they want. has solved the problem. The company owns millions of photos. They have figured out how to turn their massive old-school photo agency into a giant Internet advertising network.

Getty Images (soon to be called by a different name), has devised a method of learning the preferences of a social site, blog, website or an individual. A lot of revenue can result from their simple formula.

What’s the most popular entity on the social sites? Text. But what’s the next most important? Images. Are there many social sites? Blogs and websites? You bet. Millions, soon to be trillions.

Getty has figured out that if they give away embedded images for any editorial use, in return for information about your personal preferences, your website’s preferences and your visitors’ preferences, they have the makings of the most monumental advertising, public relations, list brokerage, catalog direct marketing goliath in the world. (Amazon: Watch out!)

When it gets into high gear, the initial rollout plan will be to insert ads in the embedded photo and to collect user information. This is a legitimate scam/phishing idea and you are part of it if you cooperate. What blogger or minor website owner or social media site wouldn’t want to join in if you wanted to attract visitors with the best professional photos around?

A Little History

In August 2012, The Carlyle Group, the world’s second-largest private-equity firm, bought Getty Images from Hellman & Friedman LLC in a deal valued at $3.3 billion. But things have not been going well. Too many competitors, including Fotalia and Shutterstock, have been eating away at the potential profits. In September, 2013, Moody’s Investors Service placed Getty Images on review for a possible reduction in their ranking because of weaker-than-expected revenue. Uh-oh.

But the clever out-of-the-box marketers at Carlyle looked beyond the obvious horizon. At least 35 million images were sitting in the vault, going nowhere but out-of-date. The boys and girls at Carlyle saw the Internet marketing potential.

“If YouTube can do it, so can we.”

They figured if they handled this right, these images could become vehicles to capture the preferences of any person or company who would ask to use one of their free images on their social site. Getty would contribute free images and, in return, the recipients would contribute their preferences. And to top off the prize, Getty would partner with third-parties that would eventually embed advertisements in the image frame to become the leading internet direct marketing network in the world. (No, I wasn’t listening in at the local bar in Manhattan after-hours. It all just sounds like someone, sooner or later, was going to come up with this quasi-democratic-free-enterprise idea.)

There’s more. Stock photographers are not generally aware of the big dollars that can come in from Big Data on the internet. A tenet of professional internet marketing gurus is that you can gauge your annual gross profit by how many names you have on your email list – it’s generally considered that each name represents from 50 cents to $1 annually, even though you may sell products or services to only 20 to 30 percent of your list.

The big payoff for Getty

Getty Images will soon enter the Mailing List brokerage business. Millions of dollars are in the mix. No, they don’t exactly sell your name and information. I explain how big business can capitalize on brokering a mailing list in a couple of recent reports I published earlier this month.

Well, we must congratulate the Carlyle Group in moving the Getty Images stock agency into the new millennium to a strategy for new profits. Perhaps it’s time to take stock here – literally – with Getty Images. Looks like they’ll be a winner.

While long-time Getty Images photographers may at first rail against their photos being freely distributed for editorial use, photographers, when all is said and done, will benefit from increased exposure for their images and credit lines. Their name and images will attract wider attention with the increased opportunities for use, also drawing no doubt on many of their images that may have been sleeping in the Getty Images basement files. Such exposure is priceless.

Let’s all watch as this nascent story unfolds.


One Response to “How Getty’s Free Images Will Overtake The Direct Marketing World”

  1. Getty is the devil. I can't believe you wrote this Rohn, you know better. I'm astounded that you think an agency like this giving away photographs and putting photographers out of business is a good thing. I urge you to rethink your position. jw

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