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9 Nov 2009

An Interview With YAY Micro

In 2008, a new microstock agency popped up that caught a lot of our attention.  The site’s design was so simple, yet visually pleasing and easy to navigate.  Even the back end for contributors was designed for speed and ease of use.  I’ve been personally selling my images from them from the start, and recently I had an opportunity to interview the team.  I’m sure many will be interested in getting some insight from Yay Micro coming directly from it’s founders and employees.

To give some background information about Yay Micro, they are located in Oslo, Norway.  The company was founded by Jan Ole Kjellesvig, Linda Johannessen and Roger Bystrøm, all former employees at Scandinavia’s largest image agency Scanpix. In January 2009 Oddbjørn Sjøgren replaced Bystrøm as CTO. YAY Micro aims to be the best creative and editorial microstock agency in terms of low price, high quality, a good reputation and a high customer and contributor satisfaction rate. Yay Micro’s vision is to be a leading digital content provider.

Todd: Hey guys!  To start things off, besides Jan, Linda and Bjorn, how many others make up the Yay Micro team?

Yay Micro: The core team in Norway is Jan, Bjørn and myself, Linda. In addition, we have a Chinese office run by Martin and Tormod. People from the China Office are responsible for most of our routine tasks, while the Norwegian office mainly focuses on strategy, sales & marketing as well as system development. When needed we have additional people working for us in Norway, as well as China.

Todd: I’d like to say that Yay is definitely one of the easiest sites to navigate as both a buyer, and a seller.  Was this your original plan, and what did you learn from your experiences in the business prior to opening Yay?

Yay Micro: We get a lot of positive feedback on our design/usability! When we began we knew we had to make the upload process easy for photographers to give us a chance. We got great feedback from the first photographers, and based on this we adjusted the upload process to best suit photographer needs.  The same is true for customers – when we get customer feedback on difficulties we try to adjust our site. In addition, we have a strong interest in usability and clean design. The goal for YAY is that our website is easy to use –for newbees to online shopping, but also for the hyperactive web-user with low, or no, patience. By tracking all movement on the site we’re able to identify problems, and we have several major improvements planned for the next couple of months. (Both for customers and photographers).

Todd: Where do you think you see the stock photography business heading in general, in the next 5-10 years?

Yay Micro: We’re still in the middle of the industry settling into the paradigm shift of the digital era – with the Internet, more affordable, high quality digital cameras and user generated content, growth of RF-licensing and the lack of national boundaries for image agencies.

We can all agree that the largest change for the stock photography industry lately has been the growth of Microstock agencies. And, in the financial climate we have today, with focus on cutting cost in almost all industries, we believe Microstock will continue to grow and dominate the stock photo industry. We also see a future were news and celebrity images, together with microstock, will be the core business for the large stock companies, such as Getty.

For microstock companies I think we’ll see more of footage and audio, as well as other digital content. Some agencies will try to take the place of the traditional stock – as we already see – by making parts of their images more exclusive and sell for a higher price, or they’ll aim for a “midstock” price level. Others will keep true to the original microstock business model with extremely low prices for high quality images.  Nonetheless, there will always be a market for original, quality photos – and these will still manage to get a high price.

Todd: Do you think this low-price model will last, or will the general increase in photo quality and artistry lead to an uprising of the value of the images?

Yay Micro: As mentioned in the previous question, we think some of the microstock agencies will find their place in the low-price range, and others will try to raise their prices, with exclusive or “editors choice”-collections, and also by changing the size/price equation. We don’t expect the increase in technical quality to raise the prices; mostly the customers value the images in numbers (1 image) and the object/content of the photo.  Wasn’t it Yuri who experienced that an upgrade of his photo equipment did not increase his revenue proportionally?

At YAY we don’t have any plans for increased prices.

Todd: With so many microstocks in the industry, a lot of us are pulling for Yay Micro to succeed.  How do you think that Yay will be able to hang with the big boys, so to speak?

Yay Micro: Thank you, we really appreciate all the support we get from both contributors and customers!

We have been a slow, but steady growing company. Too slow some might think, but I like to think of it as the fable “The Tortoise and the Hare”.  We are building a quality company from scratch, and by working long and hard we’ll catch up, and pass, most of our competition.

We try to be an easy to use-site, with a high level of customer support and friendliness. We aim to reach customers looking for an “easy to use”-site, as we see our competitors making it more and more “crowded” at their sites. In addition, we plan to locally adapt the YAY-site to different under-served markets around the world. First of is China, and more will follow in 2010.

It’s important to remember that the stock image market is growing, both from new image users, with converted users from traditional stock agencies and new image markets.  Therefore we don’t have to solely rely on competing for the same customers.

Todd: Why should someone buy from Yay, over another major microstock site that they might already be comfortable with?  What makes Yay Micro stand out from the rest?

Yay Micro: We’re easier to use – and you’ll quickly get comfortable using the site. We have a low price, both for small images €1( = $1.5) and high-res files €10 (= $15.). With our subscription deals you can get a high-res images for as low as €1 (=$1.5).

You’ll also experience a high level of customer support and feedback on your inquiries. And – we pay a fair commission to our photographers and illustrators, with 50% on single image sales and €1 for each image subscription download.

Todd: Are there any current buying trends that perhaps have surprised you?

Yay Micro: Not any in particular. We don’t sell as many vector graphics as we’d thought we would. Given the great quality and variety we’re a bit surprised by this.

Todd: Is the YAY Micro team working on targeting selective world markets at the moment, for example just North America or Europe and Asia?  Or are you trying to expand sales worldwide?

Yay Micro: We began with mainly targeting Norway to gain some experience in a familiar market and with familiar customers. Then we began targeting “the world” in general. In the future we plan to target China, followed by other Asian countries such as India.

Todd: Microstock contributors whether hobbyists or even full-timers are extremely busy people.  The average microstocker probably submits to at least 5-10 different agencies, so their workload is already pretty full.  What would you say to convince a microstock contributor to market their work through Yay?

Yay Micro: The main reasons to join YAY would be the easy of upload, the high commission – and being with a growing company from the start. We also have a forum with some nice photographers, and we try to be an overall good, friendly company. When your business model is based on user generated content it’s important to want, and to have a good relationship with your users. We might not be the biggest or the highest earner, but we’ll do our very best to be a great company to do business with!

Todd: Who is currently the top selling contributor at Yay Micro?

Yay Micro: I don’t have the numbers here with me, but I would guess it would be one of the professional contributors with many files and who has been with us from the start.

Todd: I’d like to thank you for agreeing to do an interview.  I wish Yay Micro all the best and lots of future growth for years to come.

Yay Micro: Thank you for showing an interest in YAY.  If anyone reading this has  a comment or a question, feel free to contact us at, or e-mail one of us directly on:, and If there are any questions in the comments we’ll try our best to answer!

Follow YAY Micro on twitter @Yaymicro or become a fan on facebook

is a graphic designer that morphed into a full time stock photographer. Founding member of Stock Images.

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  • Living Life

    Great blog! Looking forward to a very prosperous year coming up with YAY!

  • Microstock blogger Matt Antonino

    Yay for YAY – I wish we’d start to see an increase in sales as I do love their site design and usability. However, as you say a lot of us contribute to 10+ sites and having a non-starter on the list is always difficult to keep up with as far as upload time and bandwidth and general usability.

    I’m going to assume the Yay folks read this and help me out – the model release attachment system is flawed. Once you have over 100 models the process of finding the photo in that big long multi-screen page becomes incredibly tough. If you can make a way to either a) paginate or even better b) use a tagging system like Facebook’s, that would be better.

  • Vitezslav Valka

    Nice talk guys. Thank you for that. I see Yay and Pixmac as two young microstock companies that are building a serious brand. Yay is experienced and strong in the core. Pixmac is fast and world-wide with 12 localised versions.

    Yay does a great job towards photographers. Pixmac is trying to reach the right customers. Well, good luck to us both! ;-)