Workbookstock.com

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Alexis Scott is one of the few who are still bullish about the stock market. But she's based 3,000 miles away from Wall Street in Los Angeles, and the stock she markets is photographs, illustrations, and graphics licensed through her one-year-old Workbookstock.com, rather than those volatile shares of corporate America issued by more than a few shady suits.

Scott is founder, president and CEO of Scott & Daughters Publishing - the website's parent company, which began 25 years ago as The LA Workbook, a local directory of photographers, illustrators and agency and design studio art directors. At the time, in the pre-Palm era, Scott was a photographers' rep who started the Workbook after temporarily losing her virtually irreplaceable address book. "I swore if I found it I would have it printed up so that could never happen again."

The LA Workbook eventually went national, growing into separate registers for photography (700 lens crafters) and illustration (1,000 wrists), distributed free to nearly 20,000 art directors and art buyers in ad agencies, design studios and corporate art departments. The Workbook still goes to press every year, but the same data, plus the portfolios from more than 400 photographers, illustrators and designers, is also available online at Workbook.com. After spending years connecting art suppliers with buyers, a foray into stock imagery was almost inevitable, beginning in 1989 with a print catalog, the Stock Workbook. Three years later, she began distributing digitized images on a CD-ROM equipped with a rudimentary search engine. (Scott didn't have to go outside for mailing lists. Over the years, she's compiled a database of more than 65,000 photography and art buyers and suppliers. If you're reading this, you're almost certainly in there.) Six years ago, Scott launched a small stock agency, Co/Op Stock, for Workbook advertisers, and added the library to the website the following year. "Workbookstock.com has been a natural evolution," she explains. "The idea was to create a competitive e-commerce site for the photographers and illustrators who have supported the other Workbook products."

As Scott gradually explored the stock market, she saw that the few remaining boutique stock houses that hadn't been gobbled up by industry giants Getty and Bill Gates' Corbis needed an efficient way to offer their libraries online. Workbookstock.com now serves as a portal for about 50 independently owned stock agencies, as well as the 600 photographers and illustrators represented directly by Co/Op Stock, which signed photographers Jeff Sedlik, David Johnston and Karen Knauer, among others, to represent them in the stock market for the first time. "Whether the images come from Co/Op or another agency, Workbookstock.com's niche is advertising," says Scott. "More advertising photographers are shooting for stock because stock has cut into the assignment business."

Although the rights holders get a larger slice of the license fee for images offered through Co/Op Stock, the integration among the libraries is seamless for buyers, in terms of search criteria and price. Access to the website is free, but searchers must register before they can download images, which carry an electronic watermark. Like all the other online stock agencies, Scott invested a lot of energy and money into developing a search engine so art directors could sift through more than 50,000 images by keywords; emotional attributes; categories like places, sports and agriculture; model demographics; and specific photographers or artists. But also like her competitors, she's discovered that buyers generally still prefer some personal assistance to find the image they need. Only about 20 percent of the searches are conducted entirely online, often during the weekend, deep into the night, or from halfway around the world.

Scott declines to disclose hard sales numbers, but she says licenses have tripled every year since she first started marketing stock and she's gearing up for more of the same for the site's second year. That kind of optimism is nowhere to be seen in the other stock market.

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