Recently Getty Images announced the availability of over 3 Million images for free to anyone who wants them.  I had to stop and pause. Generally speaking I have no issue to voice my opinion, but in this case I had a feeling that there was more to it. Something didn’t add up. I wondered WHY would an image business give away images for free? It just didn’t make sense.

As a blogger I admit that access to what I thought were “free” images is very exciting. The images aren’t really on my website, they are embedded and link right back to Getty. Secondly I must say that even if I upset a content creator now, the images in the free database are not the best of Getty. Take a look for yourself.

No matter how much our industry dislikes Getty Images and can blame them rightfully so for their part in the rapid decline of image valuation – they are anything but stupid. There had to be something about this move. And it wasn’t until I read Rohn Engh’s piece that he sent to me that I had my big AHA moment.

Below is the article that is reprinted with permission from Rohn. After you read his piece I’d like to hear your opinion on it. Obviously Getty would never give away their most valuable images – there had to be an ulterior motive. Do you think this is it? (BC)’s Next Competitor? by Rohn Engh

The Great Getty Give-Away

How GettyImages’ Give-Away Program Will Overtake The Direct Marketing World

Definition: Marketing is the art of supplying products to people when you know their buying preferences. It’s an easy sell. On the other hand, it’s very hard to sell someone (cold call) if you don’t know their buying preferences. has solved the problem. The company has ownership of millions of photos. They have figured out how to turn their massive old-school type of photo agency into a giant internet advertising network.

GettyImages (soon to be called by a different name), has devised a method of learning the preferences of a social site, blog/website or an individual. A lot of revenue can result from their simple formula.

This is how the formula works:

What’s the most popular entity on the social sites? Text. But what’s the next most important? Images. Are there many social sites? Blogs and websites? You bet. Millions, soon to be trillions.


Getty has figured out that if they give away an embedded image for any editorial use, in return for information about your personal preferences, or your website’s preferences, and your visitors’ preferences, they have the makings of the most monumental advertising, public relations, list brokerage, catalog direct marketing Goliath in the world. (Amazon: Watch out!)
When it gets into high gear, the initial rollout plan will be to insert ads in the embedded photo and to collect user information. This is a legitimate scam/phishing idea and you are part of it if you cooperate. And what blogger or minor website owner or social media site wouldn’t want to join in if you wanted to attract visitors with the best professional photos around?

A little history.

In August 2012, The Carlyle Group, the world’s second-largest private-equity firm, bought GettyImages from Hellman & Friedman LLC in a deal valued at $3.3 billion. But things have not been going well. Too many competitors like Fotalia and Shutterstock have been eating away at the potential profits. In September, 2013, Moody’s Investors Service placed GettyImages on review for a possible reduction in their ranking because of weaker-than-expected revenue. Uh-oh.


But the clever out-of-the-box marketers at Carlyle looked beyond the obvious horizon. At least 35 million images were sitting in the vault, going nowhere but out-of-date. The boys and girls at Carlyle knew what they were doing when they saw the internet marketing potential. “If YouTube can do it, so can we.” They figured if they handled this right, these images could become “little vehicles” to capture the preferences of any person or company who would ask to use one of their free images on their social site. Getty would contribute images, free, and in return the recipients would contribute their preferences. And to top off the prize, Getty would partner with third-parties that would eventually embed advertisements in the image frame to become the leading internet direct marketing network in the world. ( No I wasn’t listening in at the local bar in Manhattan after-hours. It all just sounds like someone, sooner or later, was going to come up with this quasi-democratic-free-enterprise idea.)
There’s more. Stock photographers are not generally aware of the Big Dollars that can come in from Big Data on the internet. A tenet of professional internet marketing gurus is that you can gauge your annual gross profit by how many names you have on your ‘hot’ mailing list – it’s generally considered that each name represents from 50 cents to $1 annually, even though you may sell products or services to only 20 to 30% of your list.

The big payoff for Getty: Getty Images will soon enter the Mailing List brokerage business. Millions of dollars are in the mix. No, they don’t exactly sell your name and information. I explain how big business can capitalize on brokering a mailing list in a couple of recent reports I published earlier this month. You’ll find them on my PhotoStockNOTES blog: ( March 7th 2014 issue), and,12851

Well, we must congratulate the Carlyle Group in moving the Getty Images stock agency into the new millennium to a strategy for new profits. Perhaps it’s time to take stock here – literally — with Getty Images, or whatever their new internet marketing service is going to be called. Looks like they’ll be a winner.

While long-time Getty Images photographers may at first rail against their photos being freely distributed (for editorial use), photographers when all is said and done will benefit from increased exposure for their images and credit lines. Their name and images will attract wider attention with the increased opportunities for use, also drawing no doubt on many of their images that may have been sleeping in the Getty Images basement files. Such exposure is priceless.
Let’s all watch as this nascent story unfolds. –RE


What do you think about Rohn’s take. Is Getty finding a new monetization scheme?

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