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There was a time when communicating required active, face-to-face participation. Long-distance conversations relied on mail service and short-distance ones, on good will.

It is clear that, thanks to the launch of the phone in the first place, and the internet afterwards, the paradigm changed at a surprising pace. The new communication age created immediate effects on the course of economy and increased the financial possibilities of entrepreneurs and different business models. Not understanding the new canon puts you at risk of falling out of the game. An example of this is a short story which took place in 2004.

Claudia was setting an exhibition for the National Museum of Health in Washington DC. A number of public interactive computers would allow visitors to find information on possible pandemics, such as avian flu; thus, specific images were needed to explain the different processes.

Although the designer for the exhibition had included the visual content of the interactive posts, Claudia wanted vivid images of the illness. Instead of hiring a photographer to take pictures of people having the flu, she chose to use existing imagery and looked up pictures in professional archives.

In October of 2004, she took interest in the collection of a photographer named Mark, who specialized in imagery related to health. “Claudia wanted people sneezing, being immunized and that sort of thing,” Mark recalls.

The National Museum of Health was an institution with a very low budget for this endeavor. Thus, the photographer offered a 50% discount -- an equivalent of $100-150 (US) a picture.

After going back and forth many times, Claudia turned down Mark’s offer. She had discovered iStockphoto and purchased 56 images for about one dollar each. Poor Mark ended up stating, “I’m all for negotiating my price, but how could I compete against this?”

It took some time for the photographer to realize what was going on. “When the museum thing happened, I hadn’t heard of iStockphoto. Now, I see it as the beginning of the end.”

In 2000, Mark was making $20,000 from 100 pictures. Eight years later, he was only making $5,000 for over a thousand pictures. More work, less money.

Mark wasn’t the only photographer to take a hit. Soon afterwards, a cascade of complaints arose in online photography forums. He explains, “People were noticing a significant decrease in their revenue performances. I can’t point at iStockphoto and say it’s his fault, but it has definitely played an important role in the reduction of prices.”

The market had simply changed, so the business model had to mutate, as well. What once had taken a life-span was now occurring at a vertiginous pace.


Crowdsourcing - The Power of Collective Collaboration

After being born as a free image exchange for a group of graphic designers, iStockphoto opened a market that could provide work for amateur photographers, housewives, students and the unemployed. Two years later, the site had already over 22 thousand collaborators and a stock of over 10 million images.

At first, the photo industry and agencies joined forces against iStockphoto and other similar endeavors, such as ShutterStock and Dreamstime.

Later on, in February of 2006, Getty Images, the largest photo agency in the global market, bought iStockphoto for 50 million dollars. Jonathan Klein, manager of Getty, commented, “If anybody’s shutting your business down, it might as well be you,” while calculating how much money he would make.

iStockphoto’s customers include not only massive photo buyers, such as IBM and United Way, but also small design companies and private designers.

This model has been adopted in nearly every work area. The system consists in seizing the unused processing power of millions of personal computers.

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