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Shutterstock-Facebook deal illustrates new era of stock art

Facebook will pay to let advertisers use Shutterstock's photos and illustrations in a deal emblematic of the stock-photo business' spread across the online publishing world.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
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Stephen Shankland
Under a deal with Shutterstock, Facebook advertisers will be able to pick stock photos an illustrations from the stock-art company.
Under a deal with Shutterstock, Facebook advertisers will be able to pick stock photos and illustrations from the stock-art company. Shutterstock

There once was a day when stock photos were useful for brochures, magazine ads, and other printed material. A deal between Shutterstock and Facebook announced Thursday shows the new online direction for the industry, though.

Under the partnership, businesses will be able to search for Shutterstock graphics through Facebook's online ad creation tool. Use of an ad means Facebook will pay Shutterstock a royalty, part of which goes to the creator of the photo or illustration, Shutterstock said. Advertisers themselves don't have to pay anything.

Advertisers will be able to choose up to six images then see which one is most effective. The technology will arrive gradually in coming weeks, Shutterstock said in a blog post.

The stock-art business has transformed dramatically in the last decade with the arrival of digital cameras and the Internet as a vehicle to sell photos worldwide. That's made for a vast supply of images from stock-photo agencies such as iStockphoto, Dreamstime, and Shutterstock -- along with even more images on the Net that online publishers often use without their creators' permission.

Expansion from print media to the Internet is an obvious direction, but it's not always an easy transition. iStockphoto and its parent company, Getty Images, angered some of its content contributors with a Google deal that let people use imagery on the Google Apps online productivity suite.