Inside the place where the images you see on the Internet come from | Innovation

Inside the place where the images you see on the Internet come from | Innovation

It is possible that you have ever wondered where that huge amount of images comes from that daily illustrate our news, social networks, web pages ... The secret lies in the companies of microstock, the sector guilty to reduce the costs of photographs and illustrations to obey a greater demand, in some cases, less professionalized.

Until a few years ago, to carry out a small advertising campaign, the usual thing was to hire a professional photographer to provide you with exclusive images. Prices could range from 500 to 2000 euros. Or more, according to the photographer and the characteristics requested. With the boom From the digital era, web pages and social networks, new needs arose for which images were essential, but whose exclusivity was no longer necessary. It doesn't matter so much that the same photo is used in multiple contexts. Often, they are used only as fillers or to illustrate something very generic.

The first company that made the leap was Shutterstock, created by the American programmer and photographer Jon Oringer in 2003. He then uploaded his own photographic archives through a monthly subscription, He is currently one of the companies of microstock biggest in the world.

Inside the place where the images you see on the Internet come from | Innovation

From left to right: Pablo Blanes (Founder & CEO), Luisa Mateos (Production Manager), Alejandro Blanes (Founder & COO), Alejandro Gómez (IT Manager) and Joaquín Cuenca (Founder & CTO) Freepik

The innovation of Malaga Freepik was to extend to the scope of the illustration That newborn model. They started offering a small search engine for illustrations and eventually created their own content. Currently, Freepik Company is the matrix that encompasses Freepik (illustrations and photos), Flaticon (icons) and Slidesgo (presentation templates). Among the three they offer graphic resources to 18 million unique users.

Within the universe of startups which began to emerge in recent decades, Freepik has several characteristics that make it a rare species. For starters, they are primarily dedicated to illustration (and can even live on it); They are also outside the classic Madrid-Barcelona corporate circuit. Finally, they have never needed external financing to undertake their project.

“Somehow, the fact that we are in Malaga, outside the traditional circuits, together with the fact that we did not have financing or have sought it, has allowed us to grow a little underground. ”Joaquín Cuenca, one of its founders, explains with the brothers Pablo and Alejandro Blanes.

Nothing to start the house on the roof

As Cuenca reports, the three founders had the necessary knowledge to start the project without the need to hire a larger team at the beginning: they themselves were able to program, design and layout, that is, everything they needed for their platform. As the company was generating income, they also expanded staff. Gradually, but at a good pace, since Freepik with only ten years, has 150 employees and a turnover that last year exceeded 17 million euros.

  • But this ... How do you monetize?

Given that all the content offered by Freepik in the beginning was free, it is not uncommon to ask how money is earned in this business.

“Practically from the first weeks, we began to have a lot of traffic interested, of course, in free illustrations. The first idea of ​​monetization came to us: Shutterstock itself usually searches for pages of the sector with a lot of traffic and asks them to include advertising that leads to its page. And they asked us to include theirs in ours. "

Inside the place where the images you see on the Internet come from | Innovation

Women workers in the offices of Freepik Company OLB

Although at first all their income came from advertising, a few years later they decided that it was not very healthy for everyone to come from the same source. Then they also created their own subscription, with which they allowed users to use the illustrations without having to quote them (the appointment is mandatory in free downloads and, of course, that for commercial use does not usually look good). Benefits were added to that subscription and, currently, this channel accounts for more than 50% of the turnover.

This diversification has allowed them to continue independently, even after the interest raised when they appeared in the Financial times as the 1st company in the middle sector with the highest growth in Europe. They will also lead the Startup Ranking in Spain. Then they started contacting them with investors who offered to help them or become partners strategic to acquire part of the company.

  • And what about content creators?

If before photographers and illustrators worked exclusively and charged in proportion to it, has the sector become precarious then by lowering the price of the content so much? We have searched some partners of the firm on LinkedIn.

"The illustration and design sector still is quite devalued in some projects, but with perseverance and dedication you can achieve the recognition that this work deserves ”. Mari Carmen speaks (Málaga, 1985). She works about a year ago exclusively as an illustrator freelance, but began by alternating this work as a collaborator with that of the company's art director.

“I currently have an exclusive contract with Freepik, that's why the designs published in my portfolio are exclusive for this platform. The price per download is not very high, but you have to take into account that the traffic of users and downloads is very large, so that the files can generate a considerable amount of downloads and, consequently, of income ”.

Alejandra (Valencia, 1987) considers that the sector is precarious and that many things should improve: "There are sometimes that it costs a little to maintain, especially at the beginning, but I have been working on this for many years and I want to continue progressing you can get it. It’sa job sacrificed but quite satisfying. " However, the sector of microstock it is not the one that harms him more, rather the opposite: "In my case I combine other works with Freepik (work for publishers and magazines, commissions, etc.). freelances We do not charge a fixed salary every month because it depends on the volume of orders and projects you have. With Freepik I manage to maintain a fixed income and that gives you security. "

We also speak with a collaborator from Alicante who prefers to remain anonymous. Manuel - false name - (1987), is a photographer and in his beginnings also made illustrations. "There are other platforms that pay a little more per image, but in Freepik you charge well for quantity, for volume of image sold, which is easy to reach."

Mari Carmen and Manuel agree that it is currently possible to live on illustration or photography on platforms of microstock: “With a constant rhythm of work and publication, you can live working exclusively in this way, although at least you would have to maintain a rhythm of about 100 monthly illustrations to stabilize income,” explains Mari Carmen. "Of course, competition is high and you have to maintain a high level of quality."

A startup within a startup

In a similar way in which a large, slow-moving company tests new products through startups, -more agile and fast-, Freepik performs his own experiments through his Freepik Labs: “It is a subsection where certain shortcuts are taken to launch small projects that can reach the market in a month and not in a year and a half.” In this more experimental way, if they perceive that they gain popularity and begin to grow, they they are putting more resources, as it happened with Slidesgo, which offers free templates for Google Slides and PowerPoint. On the contrary, Tutpad - platform offering tutorials on design and creativity to users - did not obtain the expected results and it was decided to integrate its content into the Blog and the channel of Youtube.

ANDn regarding the hiring of profiles, Cuenca recalls the beginnings: “We had luck and misfortune Born in a time of crisis. Somehow it also allowed us to get talent in a more economical way that we probably wouldn't have been able to afford in another situation. ”

However, he is also glad that this period is over and that the professionals have the assessment they deserve again. He explains that he does not share the traditional vision that has always existed in Malaga that he preached that “it was attractive because it has low salaries.” When his experience and reference -Google- showed him the opposite: “I am not interested in hiring someone of 30,000 euros , but someone of 80,000 euros, because, supposedly, if we all do it right, the one who asks me 80,000 will generate 300,000 or 400,000. We have to abandon that slightly provincial vision of the cheaper the better, because that probably means that nobody takes more value from that person. And there is a fundamental problem there. "

As for the projection in the coming years, there are countries and markets such as Asia that would still like to exploit, but as a clear objective in the medium term they propose to reach one million users and then open new verticals (3D models, audios, short videos ). "There is a whole range of digital resources that we can create in parallel and increase the variety and attractiveness of our offer."

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