The National Geographic Society is taking its venerable photo collection online. With the launch of its digital archive on Tuesday, the publisher is making available a portion of its library of images--shots ranging from polar bears to dangling mountain climbers to exotic travel destinations--to about 10,000 clients in the advertising, marketing, and publishing worlds via a digital asset-management system built on IBM technology.
The site, ngsimages.com, which is being promoted to another 10,000 prospective clients, says image sales manager Bill Perry, went live in the past few weeks. Some 10,000 images will be available by year's end. The society plans to add 3,000 images a year from its 10 million-image library, but Perry says it's limiting itself to photos that lend themselves to commercial uses. "We will never include anywhere near all of those photos," he says. Even if the society wanted to post all of the images, it's limited by rights releases that prevent it from reusing a portion of the library, says Perry.
The site relies on a combination of IBM technologies--its content-management application, DB2 database software, and WebSphere digital-media commerce application--to let users conduct keyword searches of the image repository and purchase photos for download directly from the site. Individual photos can be had for as little as a few hundred dollars, but prices can run into tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the usage rights the customer needs, with a high premium for exclusive rights.