Readers of The Economist’s website might be surprised to see, among the wire and agency photos that illustrate its articles, images taken from Flickr. The pictures, which are published under Creative Commons licenses, appear on the newspaper’s blogs and in particular in its Correspondent’s Diary, a week of posts written daily by one of The Economist’s journalists.
“For a year or so, Flickr has been a useful fallback when we need images not typically served by the photo services we subscribe to,” Graham Douglas, Economist.com’s Head of Graphics told us. “We mainly use them for Correspondent’s Diary due to the nature of the writing and the fact that our journalists cannot, or do not, typically take images at the time.”
Graham conceded that cost was “a factor” in the decision to use Flickr but “equally the photo requirement was different with the subjects normally covered and Flickr gave us more options, which have worked well so far.”
That suggests that for The Economist, at least, Flickr is better at providing the sort of very specific images needed to illustrate a particular type of content — such as a blog post about the food at Red Hook or Afghan expatriates in Tehran — than stock agencies which need images general enough to sell several times.
Microstock sites though disagree. “If you’re looking for an image of a particular location, landmark, or other object, chances are that one of our photographers has contributed an image of it,” says Oleg Tscheltzoff, co-founder and president of Fotolia.
Nandini Ranjitkumar, Director, Product Strategy, at SnapVillage, a recently-launched microstock site owned by Corbis, went further, claiming that microstock in general is certainly capable of supplying niche photos. “While we wouldn’t want to speak for all microstock sites, they would absolutely be able, in theory, to supply these ‘long tail’ images that might sell… very infrequently,” she said.
Nandini also noted that her own site’s broad approach to accepting images makes SnapVillage’s content particularly versatile. “[W]e expect to receive content that is diverse, fresh, real and unexpected, much like the content that can be found on the consumer stock-sharing sites. We feel we will offer content that meets both traditional and one-off needs of our buyers.”
That would be good news for the photographers currently supplying images to Economist.com for free. Although the photographers were generally happy to discover, when we told them, that their images were being used by The Economist’s website, they did complain that the newspaper hadn’t informed them and that the links back to their photos were on the right of the page instead of on the attribution. More importantly, Alexandra Clark, a photography hobbyist who manages her own food publications and goes by the name LexnGer on Flickr, questioned whether a CC license would apply to a site that earns revenue through advertising even if it’s open to non-subscribers.
“Most journalists consider their work, online or off, to be ‘non commercial’ no matter how much advertising their publication sells or how much profit their organization sees,” she says. “It’s kind of frustrating since this has meant a competitive publication (albeit not a primary competitor) has used my photos indiscriminately.”
Nonetheless, Alexandra was still pleased to hear that Economist.com had used her picture, and wished they had placed a comment at the bottom of the image on Flickr to let people know. “I mean, who wouldn’t want to broadcast that The Economist
is using their photo? That’s word-of-mouth marketing at its finest!” she said.
Photo of Paan by LexnGer
[tags] economist.com, alexandra clark, stock photos from flickr [/tags]