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Stocksy stock-image site expects profit in November

A new entrant in the stock-image market seems likely to find a niche with a business model that returns more license revenue to photographers.

A Halloween photo for sale on Stocksy.
screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Stocksy, a cooperative for photographers in the crowded market of selling stock art, expects to become profitable in November.

Revenue growth of 35 percent each month helped the company achieve the milestone, which Stocksy plans to announce Thursday.

Two factors no doubt helped it to reach the goal: First, it was founded by Bruce Livingstone, who accumulated lots of stock-art cred more than a decade ago when he started one of the powerhouses of online stock-art sales, iStockphoto. Second, the Canadian company has only 10 employees, which means low expenses.

Stock-art companies license out photos for use in ads and brochures -- healthy seniors on bikes, earnest doctors with stethoscopes, businesspeople shaking hands, and green lawns with blue skies. Though you will find shots of children blowing dandelions on Stocksy, the company tries to keep the cliches at bay with a relatively small set of photographers and exclusive imagery.

Stocksy United founder Bruce Livingstone
Stocksy United founder Bruce Livingstone Stocksy

Stocksy's photographer pool has grown from 10 to 400 since its launch in March, with 42,000 images in its library. The company gives half of the royalty payments for each licensed photo to the photographer -- which is considerably higher than conventional microstock firms -- and distributes 90 percent of its profits at the end of the year to members of its cooperative.

Stocksy still is something of a boutique site, though. Bigger powers in the stock-art business, such as Dreamstime, Shutterstock, and iStockphoto, have libraries much larger and prices that can go well under Stocksy's $10 minimum. And they have other products besides photos, including animations, vector illustrations, video, and audio clips.