In addition to the much-publicized launch of SnapVillage  by Corbis, two more microstock agencies entered the market in the last two months: Albumo , based in Fair Oaks, Calif., and the U.K.-based Gecko Stock . Both community sites are attempting to woo potential contributors with 50 percent commissions.
Now there’s a third. While Corbis and Getty Images separate microstock from their premium brands, London-based moodboard  has just launched with a collection that includes both microstock and traditional royalty-free images.
Founded by Mike Watson, the creator of Digital Vision, moodboard is not seeking to lead the market with a multimillion-image inventory. Instead, it is banking on offering a wide range of images at different price points. “[We] are leveraging all our experience to take advantage of new product and pricing opportunities,” said Watson. Prices of moodboard images start at about $15 for extra-small, Web-quality images.
Microstock is often vilified as the cause for the stock-image industry’s stagnating net revenues. Other industry analysts, such as stock veteran Chris Ferrone in a recent editorial for About The Image , point to oversupply as the real cause of problems. Now, the increase in overall quantity of images is being accompanied by an equally rapid growth in the number of stock retailers, particularly in the micro segment.
According to Lee Torrens of the Microstock Diaries , there are now a total of 29 microstock sites. As evidenced by the new launches, this segment continues expanding and is likely entering a new phase of competition. Today, $1 images are no longer new, and the majority of microstock contributors are not exclusive to one provider. The sites that are likely to emerge — or remain — in leadership positions are those that provide the best incentives to contributors and, more importantly, have the best repeat business.
Currently, iStockphoto leads the microstock segment in site traffic and sales volume. However, its contributor commission of 20 percent is the lowest in the industry.
(Julia Dudnik Stern contributes to Jim Pickerell’s Selling Stock.)
[tags]SnapVillage, Albumo, Gecko Stock, moodboard, iStockPhoto[/tags]