Shutterstock (NYSE:SSTK) has put together an impressive library of digital images, videos, and other content that its customers rely on in order to make a better impression on their end-users. The company has followed its digital strategic playbook for years, adding new content and finding better ways to monetize it.

Coming into Tuesday's third-quarter financial report, Shutterstock investors had high expectations that the company would be able to deliver solid growth. Revenue gains weren't quite as big as many had hoped to see, but efforts to keep expenses under control allowed the company to deliver even better bottom-line performance than anticipated.

Laptop running image software, with logos for Shutterstock and another tech company at right.

Image source: Shutterstock.

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Shutterstock's third-quarter financials were mixed. Revenue climbed just 7% to $151.6 million, which was quite a bit less than the 12% growth rate that most of those following the stock had wanted to see. However, net income jumped 49% to $7.45 million, and after accounting for some one-time items, adjusted earnings of $0.38 per share topped the consensus forecast among investors by $0.01 per share.

From a fundamental standpoint, Shutterstock's key metrics looked quite good. Paid downloads were up 5% to 43.9 million, and revenue per download climbed by $0.17 to $3.40. Growth in the size of Shutterstock's content library remained healthy, with more than 221 million images and 12 million videos in its collection.

Once again, Shutterstock's enterprise segment had the best performance. Revenue for the business was higher by 14% year over year, outpacing Shutterstock's companywide growth rate. Yet the e-commerce business still managed to post segment revenue gains of 8%, and that was enough to keep its position as the most important contributor to Shutterstock's sales.

The most essential part of Shutterstock's success came on the cost front. Even though costs of developing content and the expenses of sales and marketing climbed at faster rates than overall revenue, Shutterstock was able to cut its overhead expenses by nearly 15%. That limited operating expense gains to just 7%, and a favorable income tax provision also helped to bolster the digital content provider's bottom line.

Can Shutterstock deliver blockbuster results?

Founder and CEO Jon Oringer saw the quarter as just one more favorable period for the overall business. "We achieved another solid quarter, delivering continued organic revenue growth year over year," Oringer said, "as customers continue to use Shutterstock's creative platform for their content and design needs." The CEO also pointed to operational efficiency gains throughout the business as being instrumental to improve margin levels and boost cash flow.

Shutterstock also stayed upbeat in its assessment of its future prospects. In Oringer's words, "We remain confident in a strong finish to 2018 and will continue to make smart, critical investments that aim to maximize the efficiency of our operations, improve customer experience, and drive profitable revenue growth."

However, Shutterstock's guidance got narrowed to the lower end of some of its previous ranges. Revenue growth is expected to be between 15% and 16% for the full 2018 year, with a new range of $625 million to $630 million marking a $5 million reduction at the top end. Similarly, operating income projections for $30 million to $32 million were narrower than the $30 million to $35 million predicted previously.

Shutterstock investors weren't entirely pleased with the revenue shortfall, although the stock didn't immediately react to the news in pre-market trading following the announcement. In any event, what Shutterstock needs to do is to keep working to minimize costs in order to keep as much of its revenue as possible. If it can keep squeezing more profit from its sales, then Shutterstock could see more pronounced growth trends in the future.

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