Ask any magazine designer or photo editor for top picture library. Did they say Shutterstock? Thought not. Probably too many images of saplings and lightbulbs.
As a picture library Shutterstock is underwhelming, but as a business model it works – the millions of generic images aimed at a mass of (fairly) undiscerning customers spurred growth of earnings (before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) of 24% from 2012 to 2013. It has also moved to new premises in the Empire State Building.
An important part of that business strategy is its content-marketing, the imaginatively titled ‘Blog’. Ignoring the ropy title, Blog breaks up content into four super categories: inspiration, tips & tricks and contributors. This lets Shutterstock talk about itself in several different ways.
Firstly, the inspiration and guides sections can be as specific and generic as they wish. You can imagine a general article on tips for embedding images performing well in Google search; the same goes with an article about creative file management. At other times these strands allow for Shutterstock to talk about specific photo essays and contributors to the site.
Secondly, Blog talks to clients and contributors, i.e. both sides of the market. Where Shutterstock’s clients are more likely to be looking for inspiration and some of those hints and tips, the site’s contributors have a strand dedicated to their interests. This is filled with specific advice, mini blogs and static content such as its Contributor Success Guide (available in five languages).
Crucially, Blog retains a sense of humour and provides its audience with usable information. For instance, its entry ‘4 Better Ways to Find Stock Photos That Don’t Suck’ is a nod to some of the questionable images on the site. It starts by offering advice you could adopt in any image search, and goes on to help customers can find better images on Shutterstock – readers can easily ignore this stuff if they feel they are being given the hard sell. This sense of humour probably helps Blog consistently attract guest writers.
Enough of the strategy… this pick of five entries gives a sense of Blog’s approach:
1. The Magical Archaeological Cliff Dwellings of Mesa Verde – An extended photo essay on the abandoned ruins of Mesa Verde.
2. The Color Spectrum Seen Through Images of the World Cup – Probably click-bait, but acts as a showcase of images recent to the World Cup
3. How Brian Griffin’s Innovative Portraits Upended Photography – A Q&A with portrait artist Brian Griffin (note, Brian Griffin’s photographs don’t appear in the Shutterstock library).
4. 5 Things Reddit Can Teach Us About Creating Viral Images – Links to popular Reddit articles with links to similar Shutterstock images
5. Informed Images: What to Consider When Creating Photos or Video for Commercial Use – An infographic offering simple, easily accessible advice
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