One-stop shopping - Internet stock footage search site Footagenet

One-stop shopping - Internet stock footage search site FootagenetInternet site Footagenet provides access to a number of online stock footage sites. Is this the wave of the future?

The idea for Footagenet, an Internet stock footage search site started by company president John Tariot, has its origins, ironically enough, in promotional disks for other Web offerings.

In '94, Tariot, formerly a Boston-based freelance TV producer, received a disk from America Online that offered free Internet access. The previous week, he had received a promotional CD from a stock footage house that contained a few clips from its library. Inspired, Tariot started up a company he originally thought of as a good way to supplement his income.

"That was the initial genesis of seeing the applications and implications of having online stock footage databases. I started going around and building on the resources I had gathered over the years, adding one by one stock footage companies that were interested. I started late in '94 and I've been growing and building the network of sites ever since," Tariot says.

Footagenet, now based in Hanover, N.H., has four employees, several subcontractors and a London sales rep - and Tariot handles sales in the states. The company has grown fast. The word at press time was that Tariot is in the midst of talks with an unnamed technology company about a merger, though he was not at liberty to identify his suitor. The company's business model is simple: For an annual fee, stock libraries are included on Footagenet's Web site (www.Footagenet.com). Users such as ad agencies, production companies, producers, and directors looking for stock shots access the site for free. To locate a shot, the user types in keywords describing the footage needed and the search engine checks the databases of all participating libraries, generating a hit list. The user then clicks on a link for each shot that looks promising and is instantly sent to the Web site of the library that owns the footage. Depending on the stock house's Web site capability, the user can either view the clip online or order a viewing cassette.

In addition to its site searches, Footagenet also takes e-mail requests for specific footage from Web visitors and forwards them to client stock houses via broadcast e-mails called zap requests. The client libraries read the zap requests and directly contact the querying party if they own footage that fits the bill. Footagenet also designs Web sites for stock house clients, digitizes, compresses and stores clips online, provides Web site hosting, database programming, database hosting, electronic licensing and delivery services. In July, Footagenet announced two new services it calls "File Footage" and "Footagefax." File Footage allows client libraries to sell footage from their own online catalogs in Avid OMF and QuickTime formats. Footagefax is an alternative service that allows client libraries to digitize and deliver online specialty footage that isn't suitable for regular self-service e-commerce.

Footagenet's lineup of participating libraries includes several stock houses and organizations such as The WPA Film Library, Orland Park, Ill.; ABCNEWS VideoSource, New York.; bicoastal Action Sports Adventure (ASA); Associated Press Television News (APTN), Washington, D.C. and London; British Pathe, London, F.I.L.M. Archives/Images, New York; and a host of others, including bicoastal/international Energy Film Library, which recently signed on.


One of the main attractions for the stock houses is the amount of traffic the Footagenet site generates: the company records hits of 100,000 users who perform 200,000 clip and image searches monthly. "Our users are the people who rely on these libraries for production - primarily advertising agencies, video and film producers. A growing new market is the multimedia CD ROM, digital video Web site content creator," says Tariot. As far as agencies go, he counts among his clients Bozell Worldwide, Seattle; Smash Advertising, Boston; Leo Burnett Co., Toronto; Fallon McElligott, Minneapolis; and several offices of the New York-headquartered agencies J. Walter Thompson, Ogilvy & Mather, and Young & Rubicam.

Debbie Ramsingh, broadcast business manager at TBWA/Chiat/Day, Toronto, had her first experience with Footagenet while attempting to find footage of viruses. She needed images for a Shoppers Drug Mart spot she was producing. She eventually purchased stills from a medical stock footage house in Chicago through referrals she found among Toronto's medical community, but says she found the immediacy of searching for footage online useful.

"For our art directors here, where they can see things right away and decide whether or not it's a go, it's beneficial and a time-saver for us - especially when timing is tight on a project," Ramsingh says.

Although there is not yet a consensus on how much Footagenet is contributing to the bottom line, several members who spoke to SHOOT agree that for them it was a helpful sales tool. The Image Bank (TIB), New York, senior VP/managing director Rick Wysocki is sold on Footagenet and the Internet in general as a sales generator for stock footage houses. "How many people go to the Web and check Footagenet first or second, or on a regular basis, I don't know," Wysocki says. "All I know is there is a tremendous amount of traffic on Footagenet and it's increasing. Since our Web site went up late last year, traffic has exceeded our wildest expectations. The amount of actual searching that has been done has exceeded our most optimistic estimates. It's becoming an increasingly important part of our business."

"Off the top of my head, I would have to say yes [the affiliation with Footagenet is increasing sales], but I don't have any hard documentation," says James Wood, directing of marketing at Archive Films, New York, a subsidiary of TIB. "It all reaches critical mass at some point. If we're not driving sales, we're definitely increasing awareness being on Footagenet."

Yet not everyone has seen an increase in awareness. Film Bank, Burbank, Calif., a four-year client of Footagenet, has not had the same level of positive results and is averaging only two to six requests per day for viewing reels through its Web site, according to general manager Barry Dagestino. The reason for the light traffic, Dagestino believes, is at least partly due to his company's aging Web site interface. Where Footagenet clients like TIB and the Washington, D.C.-based National Geographic Film Library offer Web visitors searchable databases and the option to view a small percentage of the clips they own online, Film Bank's Web site has no such search database or clips available for online viewing.

"All we really have on our Web site right now is a [categorical] listing of the footage in our library. We already had a Web presence, and management wanted to get the Web sites up for our other libraries [ASA, Hot Shots Cool Cuts and The Moving Century] before upgrading ours," Dagestino explains. "Our Web site will be upgraded within the next six months, and that should help."

Future Of Stock

One point agreed upon by everyone with whom SHOOT spoke is that while selling stock footage on the Web is still in its infancy, the handwriting is already on the computer screen there is a definite need to go digital.

"It might be five years from now - it might be ten - but people will preview images on the Internet and then download broadcast-quality images straight into the Avid for inclusion in their projects," Dagestino predicts. Tariot also believes that agencies, producers and directors will find the immediacy of viewing clips and downloading footage the same day irresistible, but is not quite as sure about the timetable for going completely digital.

"It's hard to make a case to go to the expense of digitizing your material unless you can make a safe assumption [that] you'll get some type of return off it," Tariot says. "We are actively encouraging our customers to make an investment in digitizing material to a very high-quality resolution that is of licensable quality. By that, I mean broadcast television quality."

A surprise is the almost collegial approach Footagenet's clients take to being on the same search engine with rival film libraries in a comer of the industry known for cutthroat competition. The consensus is that being on Footagenet generates traffic, and everyone will end up reaping their fair share.

"Ideally, all my customers would like to have all of Footagenet's users to themselves, but they also realize the enormous benefits available to them as part of a federated site. Just like the tailors of Saville Row in London or the garment district in New York, there is tremendous benefit in creating a market that has many vendors," Tariot says.