Getty Images invests in Daylife, takes snapshot of business

September 16, 2009

As someone who only stopped using his 35 year-old Topcon camera when its shutter broke (irreparably), it was nice to have a phone interview with Getty Images Chief Executive Jonathan Klein on Monday.

Klein briefed us on an investment the stock photo and news photography company made in Daylife, a “news aggregator” that has been around a few years. The companies announced the investment on Wednesday. As Media Memo’s Peter Kafka described it:

Daylife formally launched in January 2007 with a good deal of buzz, due primarily to its high-profile investors, which included the New York Times (NYT), Craigslist founder Craig Newmark and Techcrunch’s Michael Arrington. The initial plan was to create both content-aggregation tools for publishers as well as a destination site, but the latter never took off and is now just a demo site for customers.

Klein didn’t disclose the investment amount, but a regulatory filing earlier this year lists the investment amount: $4 million. Here is what Daylife can do, he said:

The guy at USA Today who covered the cruise ship industry used to have a blog. He now has an entire website created entirely by Daylife, which has all the editorial content drawn from all sorts of places, for the cruise industry. At USA Today, instead of the journalist’s blog, you see very, very rich content from all over the place, including relevant advertising.

As he also said, “This is not good for journalism long-term. They’re able to create tons and tons of content with very few human editors.” Getty will help Daylife sell its service, and will supply pictures for it.

On that cheery note, how is Getty doing? The company went private in a $2.4 billion deal that puts it under the control of private equity company Hellman & Friedman. Now, as the Internet asserts itself ever more in the media world, what effect does it have on Getty?

The secular impact on print (newspapers are among Getty’s customers) has accelerated in the last 18 months as the recession has overlaid that impact. As a result of that, our customers have just as many pages, if not more pages to fill… A product which we create and supply is seeing increasing demand. Unfortunately, with those high volumes, because it’s largely on electronic devices, we’re not able to achieve the same price per image we previously had.

What’s the business mix look like? Is it changing?

Getty’s business is 50 percent “creative stills,” the pictures in Getty’s library that it licenses. That business is shrinking, Klein said. Another 25 percent is sports and entertainment photography as well as footage. That business is up, down or flat, depending on which part you’re dealing with. Finally, Microstock photography — pictures taken by the world at large and submitted to Getty — sell cheaply and move quickly, and the business could make $200 million in revenue this year, Klein said. It is the company’s fastest-growing business.

Let’s add a sliver of good news to the coda as well: Getty employs 135 full-time photographers and has about 10,000 contributors worldwide. The number of full-timers is “inching up” slightly, Klein said. Sounds like it’s time to get that portfolio ready.

(Photo: Getty Images CEO Jonathan Klein, photographed inside the Reuters building in 2006, with the picture taken by rival photographer at Reuters!)

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