Reuters weighs into photo licensing with new e-commerce site

Reuters on Monday launched a new photo and video e-commerce site, Reuters Access, in a revenue bid that follows the likes of The Associated Press and Getty Images.

“While our large publishing customers across the globe will continue to enjoy enterprise-level access to our content coupled with unmatched client support and service, now smaller businesses can get Reuters award-winning photography and video via an easy to use, elegant, and self-service e-commerce solution,” said Jason Fox, Reuters global head, product, technology and program management, in a news release.

The site is aimed at small and mid-sized customers, including bloggers and nonprofits. Fox explained by email that the images can be used for “editorial purposes only, such as news reporting, criticism or commentary on the subject of the photograph or video. Reuters Access photos and videos are not for commercial use, such as promotional, endorsement, advertising, merchandising, advertorials — basically in the promotion or sale of products and services.”

Reuters notes that the images on the site are “highly curated” — there are only about 26,000 photos available, although more material will be added later. That number compares to 34 million creative and editorial images downloadable on AP Images.

The launch of Reuters Access “affirms the tremendous value of photojournalism as a commodity,” said Kenneth Irby, Poynter’s senior faculty/visual journalism, by email.

“For sure the latest announcement from Reuters is a new direction … that will attempt to keep them a player in the international photographic reporting world,” Irby said.

“Reuters agreement with USA Today Sports Photographers, the release of veteran sports photographer/picture editor Gary Hershorn and now the launch of Reuters Access are all defensive attempts to better position themselves in the lucrative photographic monetizing world,” he said.

While staff photography positions are fewer, there will be a larger market to license the pictures of those who are still employed, he said. “The question remains, is it enough and is it in time.”

Using Reuters Access

Reuters Access is easy to use: set up an account, select an image and send it to a shopping cart, where you can see the license price. But it’s not cheap. A random selection of photos for a small audience regularly brought up a $60 fee; for a larger audience, the cost jumps to $120. So its utility for the average Joe may be limited.

Competitors, though, are not necessarily cheaper. On Getty Images, editorial use of a 413-pixel photo for three months on the Web or for mobile costs $49 and prices go up from there, depending on how the photo is used. Getty recently announced it is making a limited number of photos available for free use if displayed on non-commercial websites with an embed tool that may eventually serve up ads.

AP Images allows the general public to sign up and offers non-subscriber, a la carte accounts. Cost of the pictures varies according to how they will be used and for how long: editorial use on the Web for two years of a picture from Turkey, for example, carries a price of $95.

What’s abundantly clear when viewing these images against common stock photography sites is the quality of the photos. News photographers produce extraordinary images that can’t be replicated by quickly trained reporters with iPhones or even professionals who are well-trained but lack the experience of veteran photojournalists.

So while these news photo sites are pricey, you do get what you pay for. But you’ll also mourn for the photographers cut from staffs of news organizations whose remarkable images we may never see.

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