There seems to be a lot of whining at the moment in the 'blogesphere' about how crap microstock is and how it's killing the industry, notably from stock professionals. As a pro graphic designer, I can feel their pain to a point as with the advances in computing and software everyone now thinks they are a designer and logos are obtained on the cheap. But as any professional knows, there is a massive difference between quality and quantity and a simple logo doesn't make a brand.
Anyway moving back to the point....Photographers (the good ones) have been milking the stock cow for many years and now technology has caught them up. The industry has changed - get over it and deal with it. Some are, by embracing microstock and expanding their market. Others just seem to slag it off.
Well from the other side of the fence i.e. a buyer, microstock is a good thing. I've bought bespoke and stock photography for 20 years and the necessity to pay hundreds for a shot just isn't required anymore. Yea, sure you need a photoshoot when it's specific and the client has the budget, but these days they are less willing when they can get close to the same for a lot less.
The other interesting theme seems to be how much cash people 'make' from microstock. The holy grail seems to be a good strong portfolio in a few libraries which generate a good income to live off. This seems totally unrealistic. The microstock industry model is clearly weighted towards the libraries and if you are pinning your earnings on microstock then that's a tough living!
So at this point there will be a select few who are shouting "I live of my microstock!"....but for every one of these, there are 1000 who don't. It should be treated for what it is - a supplement to your core business, just look at the microstock business model - you do the work, give to us for free, and we'll give you a minute return of the profit. Can you really live off a model like that? Didn't think so.
And so, the moral of the story is, Microstock is good, it has it's place and is very useful, but it is no substitute for bespoke quality. As for earnings, it should be seen as additional income and not core.
Oh, and if you do live off microstock...well done you!