Picture library thrives online

24 Oct 2002

Few people in the publishing trade would have been surprised to hear that Stockbyte was the third of this year’s finalists to be selected for the DHL Export Awards 2002.

The Tralee-based company specialises in the distribution of digital stock photography in themed collections through its e-commerce website, www.stockbyte.com, and via CD-Rom through an extensive distributor network.

The company’s founder and chief executive, Jerry Kennelly, (pictured) has a background in press photography. In the Eighties, he discovered the Apple Mac and, realising its importance, set up a digital pre-press house in the early Nineties. With the advent of high-quality scanning, Kennelly spotted an opportunity for the sale of high-quality and royalty-free photography. Stockbyte was launched in 1996 with 10 CD-Rom titles, comprising 100 images. Kennelly’s idea was to license photographs like software. Each CD-Rom comes with a 10-user licence.

Since then the company has expanded. Today it employs 35 people and currently exports its product to 70 countries throughout the world. It now has over 30,000 pictures in its library. Its main export markets include the US, Europe and Scandinavia and the company is now moving into the south east Asian region.

Exports currently represent around 97pc of Stockbyte’s business. International clients include The Washington Post and Saatchi &Saatchi. According to Kennelly, the company operates in a competitive market. However, there is much to play for. The worldwide market is worth €1.53bn annually, while the royalty-free sector comprises roughly €255m of this.

Stockbyte’s photographs are taken around the globe and teams have produced pictures in locations such as the US and South Africa. Each title revolves around a certain theme, business meetings being the most recent example. Kennelly compares the process to shooting a movie, with an awful lot of pre-production planning required. Each shoot is carefully scripted, ensuring that a wide range of scenarios is covered.
The photographs are shot on film for best quality. When transferred to film, the file size is a minimum of 75 megabytes. This ensures that the images are truly scalable in order to meet a variety of customer needs. “They can be put on everything from a postage stamp to a billboard,” says Kennelly.

Information technology plays an important role in Stockbyte’s distribution. The company has a two-pronged approach. Images can be bought in CD-Rom format via a network of distributors in 70 countries. In addition, it also has an e-commerce element. According to Kennelly, in 1998 Stockbyte was the first company in Ireland to have an e-commerce-enabled website providing a full service, from purchase to delivery. Customers can view, purchase and download images from the Stockbyte website. CD-Rom titles can also be previewed and ordered from the site. When customers purchase a CD title, they are also entitled to download any image on the CD from the website.

However, digital distribution is only part of the equation and Kennelly places a strong emphasis on the human side of customer service. The company operates a call centre in Tralee. A range of international freephone numbers points back to this centre, allowing customers to deal directly with Stockbyte staff.

Kennelly hopes to grow the business by launching three catalogues a year containing 15,000 images from next year on. “We are also looking at other opportunities to leverage our intellectual property portfolio. The company is unique in that we own the rights to all of our images,” he says.

Commenting on the selection of Stockbyte as a finalist for the DHL Export Awards, Kennelly said that he felt it was in recognition for their achievement in growing the business in recent years. “It also provides proof that you do not have to be located in Dublin in order to provide a value-added service,” he says

The DHL Export Awards are organised in conjunction with the Irish Management Institute, Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Exporters Association, the Small Firms Association and the Chambers of Commerce of Ireland. The overall DHL Exporter of the Year Award 2002 will be announced in January 2003. Over the course of the year, five finalists will be invited to go forward to a gala awards ceremony where the overall winner will be announced. Stockbyte now joins Faulkner Export Packaging and McKeon Stone as finalists already selected earlier this year.

Recognition hasn’t been thin on the ground of late. The company is also one of four shortlisted for the Enterprise Ireland sponsored Exporter of the Year award.