500px completely sells out

Getty Images has acquired the exclusive global distribution rights for millions of images, formerly sold through photography social network and marketplace, 500px.

Getty claims ‘the new partnership cements its position as a world leader in visual media, while providing boosted access to high-quality and authentic content, in addition to presenting a wealth of opportunities for future collaboration with a world-leading community sourcing platform’.

While 500px continues to operate the social branch of the network, the image licensing Marketplace will shut, with the archive shifting to Getty. The photos will be available through Getty under the ‘500px Collection’ banner.

‘500px has recognised that Marketplace hasn’t performed as well in the stock photography space as hoped,’ 500px wrote in a FAQ. ‘As a result, we had to choose between investing resources in building on and further promoting 500px Marketplace, or considering a distribution-only model for 500px, a revenue model that has been growing in recent years.

‘With significant brand loyalty, great customer bases, and very positive momentum as they continue to expand their reach within the stock photography industry, both Getty Images and VCG [Visual China Group] are the obvious choice to represent 500px exclusively, worldwide.’

Those following 500px may have seen this one coming, as signs emerged some time ago that selling out has been on the agenda.

The photography social network, founded in 2009, has somewhere between seven and 13 million users who are primarily enthusiast and professional photographers.

(The press release claims 13 million users, but in early 2016 500px founder, Evgeny Tchebotarev, said it just reached seven million users. Perhaps the huge growth rate is due to expansion in China, but we’re taking it with a grain of salt.)

The goal of 500px is/was to be the ‘Flickr for pros’ – photographers can show off portfolios, participate in the online popularity contest with likes and shares, and connect with like-minded creatives.

In 2014, 500px offered users – primarily enthusiast and professional photographers – a stock agency-style licensing platform to sell images.

Its entrance into the crowded stock imagery marketplace was met with criticism, as 500px attempted to convince users that a 30 percent commission rate was fair, by claiming it brought ‘dignity to the photographer’.

The backlash led to 500px reversing the rate, providing photographers with a more equitable 70 percent. The move was a bold effort which separated 500px from the stock photo industry’s race-to-the-bottom pricing structure that’s practically destroyed its value.

It seemed too good to be true. And it was.

By April 2016, 500px brought the commission rate for non-exclusive images back down to 30 percent and 60 percent for exclusive images. It’s the ‘reality of running a stock marketplace’, 500px said.

The lowered rate was potentially related to Visual China Group (VCG), the Corbis Collection-owning People’s Republic version of Getty, acquiring local distribution rights for 500px images in October, 2015. Prior to that, it was revealed that VCG invested US$8 million in 500px to develop its image licensing platform.

Earlier this year, VCG acquired 100 percent of 500px for an undisclosed amount.

The 500px Marketplace will close at the end of June. After that, all images licensed outside China will move to Getty. The network will also remove its Creative Commons licensing option.


One thought on “500px completely sells out

  1. I am curious how the move to Getty will affect those with images on 500px. Personally, I do not have many in the marketplace, and never put more in because I could not figure out how they get things sold. Will Getty simply take over and we don’t hear from them until/unless something of ours sells?

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