A meta image search site can offer stock providers access to a broader customer base, while offering buyers more image choices. Aggregator search sites index multiple collections and brands through split commission, pay-for-service or technology-licensing arrangements with image owners.
Slated to enter this market are CogniSign’s xcavator.net  and CompassMedia’s CompassPix , both aiming at the professional stock-image buyer. Xcavator and CompassPix join the more established Fotosearch  and StockPhotoFinder .
Currently in beta testing, Xcavator promises image buyers “breakthrough color and image search technology” and “an unbeatable intuitive experience.” Xcavator is testing with 300,000 images owned by Photovault, a stock agency specializing in rights-managed images, and plans to add more shortly. After conducting a search, image buyers are directed to Photovault’s Web site  to purchase images.
Although Xcavator’s technology and interface are distinct, the business model is akin to StockPhotoFinder, which also lacks e-commerce functionality and directs buyers to other sites for information, quotes and purchases. StockPhotoFinder aggregates over 30 million images, but has only achieved a Google PageRank of 4 since its 2004 launch. It also has a low rank with Alexa, a subsidiary of Amazon.com specializing in Web traffic statistics.
In contrast, Fotosearch has offered stock-photo search services since the mid-1990s and has a much smaller inventory: 2 million images from about 50 stock photo agencies. It does, however, offer on-site transactions and boasts a Google PageRank of 7. Alexa places Fotosearch below Getty Images but above Corbis in terms of daily site traffic.
CompassPix appears to be following a similar path. The company promises a multimillion-image inventory combined with e-commerce functionality. CompassPix already represents well-known agencies, such as Magnum Photos. It also stands to benefit from the direction of the new CompassMedia CEO, industry veteran Paul Melcher, formerly of DigitalRailroad and Hachette Filipacchi Photo Group.
Still, both newcomers have a tough road to travel. They will have to compete with the large collections, technological capabilities and brand awareness of Corbis, Getty Images, Jupiterimages, as well as smaller, established providers. Also, they will compete with each other to represent quality agencies and brands and deliver on higher sales and customer-base expansion. Most crucial, they will have to make it measurably easier for the image buyer. Having to visit multiple Web sites to purchase images after a search is cumbersome
(Julia Dudnik Stern contributes to Jim Pickerell’s Selling Stock.)
[tags]xcavator.net, CompassPix, StockPhotoFinder, Fotosearch[/tags]