I may be overreacting when I call it the Pond5 Bomb but this for sure is the only thing stock creators are talking right now. Is it a bad thing? It really depends on how you work with them.

In case you missed it, Pond5 did a Live Streaming on YouTube yesterday announcing important changes in their royalty structure. They also sent an email to all contributors right after that.

Here are my 3 objectives with this article:

  • First, to give you a summary of what changes Pond5 is doing.
  • Then insights based on real earnings to help you take your decision, I will even tell you how much Pond5 represents in my total income for 2018.
  • And finally my own opinion on all of this.

Ok, here’s the summary.

Pond5 is changing the way royalty is paid to contributors. Our revenue used to be 50% of every sale. After this change, you will have to decide between being exclusive or non-exclusive with Pond5. If you go exclusive your commission rate will now be 60%. If you choose to be non-exclusive, your royalties will go down to 40%.

  • Exclusive Contributors: Royalty is increasing from 50% to 60%
  • Non-exclusive contributors: Royalty is going down from 50% to 40%

The revenue-share isn’t the only difference. Here are a few more:

  • Although they promise that ranking on searches won’t change, there will be an extra “Exclusive Branding” on those clips. This should be similar to Shutterstock’s “Select” branding
  • The curation time should be smaller
  • The marketing & support should also be a little better, though I don’t see it as a big deal. This means being part of curated collections, the Pond5 blog, social media pages, and emails sent to customers.

The Pond5 Move

To me, it’s pretty clear what they are doing. Even though they are one of the most honest companies, they are still a company and will make all they can to maximize their profit.

You probably noticed there’s a good number of companies exploring a high-end niche of the stock footage market. Stock Footage & Stock Photography did become commodities but that doesn’t mean there aren’t buyers willing to pay more for premium content.

It’s easy to prove that. Shutterstock has Offset and the Select collection. Vimeo launched Vimeo Stock. There’s also Film Supply, Dissolve, etc. They are all made of unique content that is priced way above the standard $79.

And if you watch the entire live streaming and other videos they posted, you’ll notice that they’re focusing on this exact group of experienced stock filmmakers that produce premium content and like to price it higher.

To these guys, it might be a good idea to go exclusive. Vimeo Stock is not that big yet and Shutterstock Select isn’t that easy. So Pond5 is actually a good idea.

Now, should you go exclusive?

Are these benefits enough to make you decide? I will show you how much Pond5 represents in my total income.

Not all of us are owners of studio or cinema cameras like RED or Blackmagic. Most contributors have mirrorless or DSLRs and work on stock footage as a side project. So in these cases, we are rarely producing footage that could be priced at $200. And that’s just fine.

Going exclusive will only be a benefit for those who shoot incredibly unique stuff – not only quality but stuff that is hard to reproduce.

And to be honest, I don’t see myself in that. I do what I can to improve the quality of my footage, but I don’t see myself hiring a whole team or getting a cinema camera to produce stock footage of that level. I just want to have fun and earn.

And that’s the beauty of it all because it’s ok. You don’t have to be the best filmmaker in the world to make money with stock footage.

We have a group on Facebook called Stock Creators. It would be awesome to have you there. I posted what is Pond5 share on my total income there and I’m inspiring other members to do the same to get a general idea.

In numbers, what is Pond5 to me?

To me, Pond5 represented 22% of all my stock income selling stock footage in 2018. The portfolio was pretty much the same in Shutterstock which represented 54%. So you can see why I wouldn’t get off Shutterstock to get 10% more on Pond5.

Here’s more data to help you decide.

  • The Microstock Group forum has a poll on earnings per agency. Pond5 is the 4th, with almost 4 times fewer points than Shutterstock.
  • And there’s more, let’s compare searches on Google for Pond5 along the time. In fact, it did grow since 2008 and then started to decrease after 2016. But let’s compare it to Adobe Stock and Shutterstock. In average, Shutterstock had 27 times more searches than Pond5. Let’s make it clear that this is not connected to stock footage sales, it’s just a comparison of searches on Google. We all know that Shutterstock is also strong on images while Pond5 specialty is video. But even if we compare the search terms with the word “footage” in the end, we will see that Shutterstock has more than the double of searches. Even the triple considering the last 12 months.

All of this makes my personal choice of not becoming exclusive, but I do understand the company move and the contributors who prefer to do so. Until today we only have seen prices going down and is good to see actions going the opposite way.

It’s just bad that we will lose 10% for not being exclusive. What would be nice in this transition is the ability to choose exclusive clips instead of being 100% exclusive. Then we could measure the results before deleting our content on other agencies.

One way to do this, and I still don’t know if it is against the rules, is to create a second account that is exclusive to try this out. This way you won’t have to delete files that are already selling on other agencies.