Sunday, 25 July 2010 - The Snowball Effect  was officially opened in July 2009 with just short of 5000 texture stock images, no members, absolutely no presence on Google and we were estimated at $200.00 value.
 (A fraction of the price for the development of the website alone)

12 months on and we have over 1200 registered members, around 20 stock contributors and 8000 textures and apparently the site has an estimate worth of just short of £32,000 (We wish! lol)

Worldwide rank: 335,629
UK Rank: 17,439

Not impressed?  No, I wasn't either until I discovered there is a total of 233,848,493 websites as of Dec 2009.  
So bearing that in mind, we're quite pleased with the growth and exposure in just 12 months with next to no marketing budget.

But don't be confused into thinking Traffic = Ranking  = Sales.. If only. 

Just as in, traffic is just that,  sales and profit are a totally separate ball game and ultimately thats what all e-commerce websites are aiming for, even the ones that appear to give everything away.
Even your humble blog can have a financial motive, you just have to poke around to find it.

Our initial drive at the time of development was brought on by the fact there were so few quality texture stock sites that allowed commercial usage. 
And again, don't be confused into thinking "commercial use" means you can create your own textures for commercial distribution, (we thought that too at the time, it's a common assumption people make when they see the words "free"  and "commercial"  displayed on a website)

The creation and distribution of textures created by using photo stock as derivatives is for the most part simply not allowed by 98% of stock sites.

Some "do" allow unlimited use but there are hefty extended license fees of around $99 - $299 per image.
Freelance texture artists don't make a big enough profitable return to justify or afford those fees.
It soon became pretty obvious that most stock sites that offered Extended Licenses were aiming at publication houses with much bigger budgets than your typical freelance texture artist has.

Long story short, out of shear frustration we just started to take our own photos and when we had 5000 we decided to open our own texture stock site but with a difference. 

We don't "do" extended licensing, as long as people pay for the texture downloads, they are licensed to use our stock as a derivatives in their own texture collections, commercial or not.
We hope that gives us an edge but it's still too early to say.

It's taken us a while to suss out what each of the different stock websites goals and objectives are. 
For example, why would a website offer nothing but free textures/tutorials/photoshop brushes and the like, what's the point? (I'll go into this later)

We went into this blind, (and I mean really blind) and things are only just starting to come into focus a little now.
Initially, we set off basically hoping to replicate the success of a very popular free texture site on the internet that comes in at Number 1 with Google under the key word "textures"

That's no easy task believe me. This site beats all of the very old and very professional commercial texture websites under that all important key word "textures" yet offers most of the stock for free to subscribed members.
There is an incentive to pay for a subscription which allows you to download the highest resolution images and removes the "cap" or daily quota applied to non paying members.
The subscription fees for the site has increased (despite the economy) from $20 to 50 Euros a year for a private individual and up to 199 Euros a year for corporate use and we now know the goal has nothing to do with kindness and "giving"
This texture stock site is way ahead of use in terms of age, brand recognition, customer database and choice of stock and they always will be.

Without wanting to seem biased, I think iSourceTextures is certainly one of the top 5 sites within our genre. 
Sure, we're still learning and developing both in photography, texture creation and SEO but we are starting to see the very early hints of "success" but success comes in stages.
Initially success was finding visitors, being nothing but a blip in the void of the www universe, it's really not easy to be seen.
But things seem to be snowballing with more and more people signing up to display and sell their own stock and our ranking on Google continues to move in the right direction.

Today, we have around 1500 downloads a month and an average of 4 new members a day and we continue to move up on Google ranking albeit sometimes two steps forward and one back.
I think Martin said we were on page 5 on Google under the keyword "texture" Two months ago and we simply didn't exist until about 50 pages in.

We have also just been approved by an online advertising agency to accept and charge for advertising space on the site too. We were rejected 6 months ago because we didn't have good enough rankings. 

We are a long way off making back any of the initial set up costs for the website, servers, camera equipment and associated photo editing software used to create textures but from what we have researched, even in a healthy economy a new start up company doesn't achieve profits for the first 2 - 5 years.   

We opened in the midst of a global recession so to get any sales at all in the first 12 months was a bonus.
Long term? We have no idea, we just have to keep tweaking the business model until we find the right combination.

Some e-commerce sites financial goals are to gain a lot of traffic by giving freebies away.
The objective being to be able to sell advertising space from their website and bearing in mind other companies can pay up to $1000.00 a month for a slot on a high traffic website, this stream of income should not be overlooked.

It may also explain why there are so many "freebie" websites on the internet.

The trick to success in any industry is to find a niche or to be better than your rivals within your field.

Are we in a niche? 
Well, I know from experience when people ask me what I do for a living if I say:
 "I make game textures" then they usually ask me to repeat myself.
So I just go into the default explanation by asking them if they have ever seen a video game on Playstation or Wii. When they confirm they have, I try to wind it up by saying I make the "graphics" that are used within games like that, the brick wall, the cobble ground and so on.

Of course then they ask me which games I have created for and it gets really complicated then! 

To your average Jo, the word "texture" means fabrics and the whole concept of selling digital game "graphics" to people and not game companies like EAGames but other "normal" people is totally alien.

They can't understand it and because of that I refuse to go down the road of explaining and how texture artists exchange game textures for game currency which has a real economic value because you can sell it to other people who use it to buy virtual houses, cars and vibrators!  Hell yea, it's a niche market alright.

So, selling raw unedited photo stock to people who aren't already involved with digital art is so beyond the imagination of your everyday person by definition makes it a niche market.

So, yes I think we're in a niche market in terms of the general public and compared to sites that perhaps sell Perfumes,  jewellery and Toiletries we certainly are.

But theres a fine line when it comes to niche markets. 
Maybe it's niche for a good reason, maybe the target market is tiny and so the "potential" isn't big enough to sustain an income from.

I hope our niche market is small enough now to allow us to develop and grow but will boom over the years.
With the popularity of virtual worlds, it seems a positive indication that it may well do.

Lets not forget the ever expanding game industry which is bigger than both the music and movie industry. 
(I couldn't believe that when I was told by one of the Train2Game staff who has worked in the game industry for 15 years)

Game development is massive and one of only a dozen industries that reports profits during  this recession.

The age of "virtual reality" is in its infancy still and regardless of who may come and go there will always be a platform for VR and as such always be a market for game related texture stock, well we hope so. 

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