In April, SS announced a rise in subscription rates to image buyers, and on May 14th they announced a small raise for contributors, but only those contributors who were established and already making cash.
About the same time, it was noticed by several contributors a significant decline in downloads. Mine stayed steady with a sudden, and inexplicable downturn at the end of the month, with a slight rebound first week of May. Last two days have seen odd low numbers. Then today, it's back to "normal". All this goes against established patterns of new uploads equaling increased downloads.
I figured it was people leaving their design offices to go on long Holiday weekends. Guess not. Maybe trying to figure all this out is like trying to figure out the Universe itself at a quantum level.
These guys announced subscription plans beginning at the end of May. Given iStock's market share, I expect my sales with this company to begin rising.
123RF already has a subscription model in place. I'm still not seeing a lot of sales at this site yet.
Overall, I contribute to 8 microstock agencies, but I have fallen behind in my goal of shooting every other day and uploading at least 20 images a week. Bad weather has curtailed a lot of my proposed shoots, but hopefully I'll get on track this weekend. That plus less time to edit the shots I do have lined up on my hard drive.
Some have voiced their concerns on various forums over the slump in individual sales - a reply by an administrator at SS said they're having records numbers of downloads. So the cause is increased competition from new photographers who join the microstock agencies.
Meanwhile, an agency I was planning on joined has closed, Lucky Oliver. More of the smaller agencies may begin having trouble.
My goal is to continue, but also to implement the other half of my business plan which is to begin working with Rights Managed agencies more. I am earmarking about 25% of my images for RM now, but I have yet to join any except PhotoShelter. It's a cludge to upload images to PhotoShelter at this time, making the process of loading my gallery there a long and tedious one.
The bar is set a lot higher at the RM agencies - unlike the Royalty Free sites. Although consumer cameras are acceptable at places like ShutterStock, 123RF, and others, places like iStock, Getty, Gemini and others want very high quality images, with Getty going so far as to tell applicants they only accept images made with the higher end, pro-level cameras. Okay by me! I have plans to get a Nikon d300 this summer anyway!
The payoff at RM agencies is far, far greater. Which is why they demand higher quality. Seriously, how many photographers on, say, ShutterStock could get images past a real magazine editor? I have, it's not easy and you can't have a huge ego.