Platform Profile of Shutterstock: Giant picture agency which offers value and flexibility

Shutterstock is the global picture agency which is well known to creative types and making in-roads into the news and publishing industries .

Launched 17 years ago by current executive chairman Jon Oringer,it was intended to be a website platform which created a frictionless market between photographers and creative agencies.

Today that e-commerce market of people searching for pictures and then buying them from the site remains Shutterstock’s bread and butter. But it also has plenty of enterprise customers who are signed up on subscriptions and use it more like a conventional agency.

And since 2015 (with the acquisiton of Rex Features) it has been growing in the editorial side of the market. Across news, sport, royals and fashion it has some 50m images and adds thousands per day.

Press Gazette spoke to Shutterstock vice president for editorial Candice Murray as the agency launched into video with the addition of 250,000 editorial video clips.

Talk of a ‘pivot to video’ feels a bit mid-2010s – so why is Shutterstock launching a video service now?

Murray says: “We launched editorial video as a result of crazy client demand for moving images associated with our editorial imagery collection.

“It’s not really the publishers driving it. It’s more brands that are using video to tell their story. Editorial video is seen by brands as more authentic, including user-generated video.”

The video collection includes content from agency Viralhog which scans social media for videos and then tracks down the rights holder so that it can be syndicated. Looking after rights and usage is a big part of the Shutterstock offering, Murray explains.

“Coming into 2020 as the pandemic became a thing more and more brands and agencies wanted to use editorial content to help tell their story and we launched a product called Asset Assurance which allows our customers to pay a fee on top of their licensing fee for us to take on that role.”

Overall Shutterstock appears to have had a good pandemic. Revenue in Q3 2020 was $165m, up from $159m in Q3 2019.

Asked about the impact of Covid-19 on the business and on relationships with publishers, Murray says: “It’s similar to how we’ve worked with our photographers. There’s a shift. There’s a hunger for news content which is being used wildly across the platforms that are still in the game.

“Just as we have said to our entertainment red carpet photographers, go and shoot news because there is so much happening in the world, our customers are doing the same thing.

“There is such a hunger for news content. We are doing quite well this year on the editorial side of the business because of that.”

There are lots of pictures agencies out there (though a reducing number as smaller players are bought out) – what distinguishes Shutterstock from the competition?

Murray says: “There’s the freshness of our content across our portfolio. We add hundreds of thousands of images every month. We structure our deals in a way that provides the most amount of flexibility that we can to our enterprise customers. They can sign up for a plan with us and have the flexibility to work across the portfolio. We are trying to be as flexible as possible.”

Press Gazette verdict on Shutterstock

There are a few social media accounts which make fun of the stock picture industry and it is these creatively-posed pictures which form much of Shutterstock’s collection. While some are pretty naff, there is also a huge amount of high-quality photos and illustrations – enough to come up with a novel image for pretty much any feature you can think of.

For current affairs, the coverage is far more limited and there is little in the way of on-the-day news.

Overall Shutterstock offers good quality, range and an extremely competitive price and the usage policy is straight-forward. For editorial use picture editors can download images and use across a range of sites under the same team licence.

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