GettyImages vs. iStockphoto: Old School vs. New School

On the surface, this appears to be a story of an internet old-timer versus a web 2.0 darling, but this story isn’t all that it seems. The new age side of the battle started before the term "˜web 2.0′ was on everyone’s tongues. And when it comes down to it, this is far from traditional competition, seeing as how both properties are owned by the same company.

GettyImages.com, the long-time gold standard in online photo, and iStockphoto.com, the up-and-comer now in the limelight, have emerged as symbols of two methods of running a site. GettyImages provides very high quality photos from an exclusive list of photographers, but they’re hardly giving them away. iStockphoto has much less strict standards and has tens of thousands of photographers contributing hundreds of thousands pictures, all for as little as the just $1 for the customer. So is the "crowdsourcing" working?

iStockphoto now has more than seven and a half times the unique visitors per month that GettyImages does. The site was started with a sense of community for photographers in mind, and that community has taken off over the past year.

A comparison of page views per visit shows a tighter race.

A deeper look into the engagement metrics for the two sites shows that GettyImages still has a leg to stand on, with almost a 4-minute-per-session advantage in average time per session.

This could be a function of price — if you’re going to pay a lot for an image, you better take your time and make sure you get the right one. Regardless, even this advantage for GettyImages has been nearly cut in half over the past year. These numbers certainly indicate that iStockphoto is on the rise while GettyImages is holding relatively constant, but there may be room for both at the top of the stock photo industry. We’ll just have to wait and see.

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