Careers at Shutterstock
Shutterstock’s mission is to connect creative professionals with the best photos, vectors, illustrations, and videos from thousands of contributors around the world.
Jon Oringer had launched a dozen startups, including a venture called SurfSecret Software, touted as one of the first pop-up blockers on the Web. Unfortunately, all of them failed. Undaunted, in 2003 he came up with another idea – a service that offered stock photography for the general public. He did not have the money to hire a photographer, and refused to seek venture capital funds (as with his previous efforts) due to a desire for control. So he began taking as many pictures as he could himself, of all types of subjects. By the end of six months, he had over 100,000 images.
Oringer narrowed his selection down to 30,000 photos and uploaded them to a website that he called Shutterstock. He then offered visitors the ability to download them for a monthly subscription fee ($249/month for 25 images a day). The site soon saw numerous users. Still avoiding outside investment, Oringer kept his expenses low by taking on all duties himself, including programming the website in Perl and answering customer service inquiries. He even managed to save costs by relying on the 10 servers in his apartment for heat. However, demand grew, requiring an expansion in scale.
He began inviting photographers to contribute to the site by uploading their content. Every time a customer downloaded one of their images, they would receive between $0.25 and a dollar, depending on the type of account they had. Their work eventually accounted for the majority of product on the site. The next few years saw a number of milestones. In 2008 Shutterstock added an a la carte pricing option. In 2012, it announced it had received over 200 million downloads, the first stock agency to do so. Later that year, it went public. It now offers music and videos as well.
Business model of Shutterstock
Shutterstock has a multi-sided business model, with two interdependent customer segments that are both needed in order to operate:
Contributors – Photographers who upload their images and seek buyers.
Photo-Seekers – Entities that require photographs for business or personal purposes. This group can include anyone, but largely falls into the following categories:
- Businesses – Use content for a broad range of external and internal communications such as digital and print ads, websites, annual reports, newsletters, brochures, presentations, and e-mail marketing campaigns. They range from sole proprietors to Fortune 500 firms.
- Marketing Agencies – Require content to integrate into work they create for clients’ business communications. Users range from independent freelancers to major global agencies.
- Media Organizations – Require content to integrate into work, which includes books, newspapers, magazines, film, television, and digital publications. Users range from independent bloggers to international broadcast and publishing organizations.
Shutterstock offers five primary value propositions: accessibility, price, customization, risk reduction, and brand/status.
The company creates accessibility by providing a large database of stock photographs (over 88 million) that anyone can license. It also makes a wide selection of music and video clips available.
The company makes its images available at an affordable cost. Once visitors register on the site, the content can be searched and previewed for free. Afterwards, customers can purchase images; the average cost per download was $2.84 in 2015. The content is offered under a royalty-free non-exclusive license. Registered users are also treated to a free photo once a week. Lastly, Shutterstock offers a one-time coupon code to visitors offering 10% off their next order.
The company offers customization by making its website available in 20 languages, including French, Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. Visitors can browse images by category or by keyword, and payments can be made in 12 currencies.
The company reduces risk by maintaining a high standard of quality for submissions. Aspiring contributors must first complete an application that features a sampling of their photos or videos. Once their work is vetted and the application is accepted, they can upload as much content as they like. That said, every piece is still evaluated to ensure that it meets technical quality and aesthetic standards. In 2015, the application approval rate was 10%, and the image approval rate was 60%.
The company has established a strong brand as a result of its success. It features work from over 95,000 contributors, who have uploaded over 80 million images at an average rate of 50,000 per day, and over 3.5 million video clips at an average rate of 3,000 per day. These individuals have been paid more than $350 million for their work. The company serves over 1.4 million active customers in 150+ countries, who completed over 140 million paid downloads in 2015.
Shutterstock’s main channel is its website, through which it acquires most of its customers. It also utilizes its Business Development team for potential enterprise clients. The company promotes its offering through print advertising, online (paid search and display) advertising, social media, direct mail, e-mail marketing, affiliate marketing, and trade shows.
Shutterstock’s customer relationship is primarily of a self-service, automated nature. Customers utilize the website while having limited interaction with employees. The site has a number of self-help resources, including design tips, tutorials, a newsletter, and answers to frequently asked questions. That said, there is a personal assistance component in the form of phone, e-mail, live chat, and social media support.
Shutterstock’s business model entails maintaining a robust common platform between two parties: contributors and photo-seekers.
Shutterstock maintains the following partnership programs:
Reseller Program – The company partners with organizations who sell its content to their customers. It provides them with promotions and incentives to include in their efforts and offers a commission.
Affiliate Program – The company works with organizations that promote it and refer customers. It provides real-time analytics and reporting tools, promotional offers, and dedicated account managers to assist with these processes. The partners receive a commission of 20% when the new users make a purchase, for up to $300 per user. More earnings are a possibility based on website performance and partnership duration. Shutterstock has 2,500+ affiliate partners in more than 100 countries. Specific partners include Pixabay, FreeRangeStock, and Vecteezy.
Shutterstock’s main resource is its proprietary technology platform that enables customers to search millions of images, video clips, and music tracks. It also depends on human resources in the form of the engineering employees who maintain the site, the marketing employees who promote it, the editorial staff who vet submissions, and the customer service employees who provide support.
Shutterstock has a cost-driven structure, aiming to minimize expenses through significant automation and low-price value propositions. Its biggest cost driver is cost of revenue, a variable expense. Other major drivers are in the areas of sales/marketing, administration, and product development, all fixed costs.
Shutterstock has three revenue streams:
On-Demand Revenues – Revenues generated through the purchase of fixed price packages whose quantities range from one to 60 downloads. This option accounts for 38% of all revenues.
Subscription Revenues – Revenues generated through subscription plans ranging from monthly to annual. This option accounts for 33% of all revenues.
Other Revenues – Revenues generated through enterprise and custom accounts offering multi-seat access, content licensed for editorial use only, and content bought through third-party application interfaces.
info: Jon earned a B.S. BS in Computer Science and Mathematics from The State University of New York at Stony Brook and an M.S. in Computer Science from Columbia University. A serial entrepreneur, he previously founded 12 companies.
info: Steven earned a B.S. from Lehigh University and an MBA from New York University. He previously served as CFO of the Tribune Media Company and Revlon. He has almost 30 years of experience in financial management, business operations, and acquisitions.
info: Catherine earned a B.A. in Engineering Sciences at Harvard University. She previously served as the Chief Product Officer of Weight Watchers. She leads Shutterstock’s product strategy and innovation roadmap.
info: Anshu earned a B.S. in Computer Engineering and an M.S. in Electrical/Electronics Engineering from Boston University, and an M.S. and Ph.D. in Computer Science from the University of Colorado. He previously served as VP of Engineering at Tumblr.
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