Photographer Spam

Chris Anderson, Editor in Chief at Wired posts a list of all the people who spammed him this month (here).

I’ve had it. I get more than 300 emails a day and my problem isn’t spam (Cloudmark Desktop solves that nicely), it’s PR people. Lazy flacks send press releases to the Editor in Chief of Wired because they can’t be bothered to find out who on my staff, if anyone, might actually be interested in what they’re pitching.

A photographer who was caught explains himself in the comments.

So, I’m on this list. dan at onewordphotography.com. I’m a freelance photographer in Canada and I shoot a lot of travel stock. I have your email address and 7000 others by buying a list of what they call “image buyers” from a company called Agency Access. They tell me they get these lists by compiling them from questionnaires etc at trade shows and industry events.

and then there’s this nugget

Now, over the years, I have tried calling many of my intended targets but, when your market is magazine and book publishers all over the world and you have 7 to 10000 potential targets this can get expensive and impossibly time consuming. As well, the vast majority of creative buyers don’t even bother returning your phone call. I’ve tried individual emails which gets an even lower response. So, I started sending out stock list updates via a mass emailing and the response has been nothing short of phenomenal.

Yeah, spam wouldn’t exist if it didn’t work. That sucks.

There Are 53 Comments On This Article.

  1. I’d hardly call four emails a year announcing new work “spam” and this comes as a complete shock to me that anyone would react so negatively. Creative buyers constantly tell me they prefer emails with links to new work over “cold calls” and postcards.

    Many photographers do this and I’m sure you’re the recipient of lots of this stuff yourself. Have you ever found new talent this way?

    If there’s a better way to find work on a regular basis, please let me know what it is.

  2. Its hard to be noticed on a sea of competition… not that spam excuses it.. (now I know what is missing from my marketing strategy) but I can see their point if only for just a bit… On the receiving end though – it must be overwhelming to clear your desk from all the photographers trying to be noticed…

    But then how? how to break into a large market with an even larger community of competition for their attention… ?

  3. The interesting bit about this as the amount of such PR increases, it becomes self-defeating. If you get just a few messages a say you might look at them and someone might actually get a job because of one. If you get too many, you won’t look any longer, since your potential signal gets drowned out in the white noise.

  4. this whole topic seems like one of those things that’s going to explode soon. more and more emails filling the inboxes of clients, every single morning. email will become the “modern postcard” of tomorrow, (except it’s even cheaper than modern postcards, if you can imagine that).

    the odd thing is, the photographers that i’ve spoken with have had shockingly good results with email blasts. actual jobs have come from it. maybe not national campaigns, but at least five figure budgets. and you even hear clients say that they prefer that method, (“think of the trees, think of the trees!”).

    as a photographer, i cannot imagine coming to work every single morning, to a new inbox of 300 emails from photo assistants, makeup artists, and stylists. 300 today, and then 300 more new ones tomorrow. how would you ever find that “cool still life guy” that sent you something six days ago…?

    there’s got to be a better way. with the massive search capabilities of google-like engines, why not some massive master database of photographers somewhere, so that the client is in charge of when he views these, rather than being inundated every morning. something like a workbook.com, or photoserve, or something similar.

    i’d say this email blast approach might be working for now, but one day, we’re going to reach “harmonic convergence” levels, and ADs and PEs are going to revolt, as evidenced by this Wired guy. personally, i don’t blame him one bit.

  5. Funny, I send out 6000 emails 3-4 times a year and 10-15% actually go to my website. I’ve received jobs from them and find them much less annoying than modern postcard. Isn’t it his job to go through photographers promo? What’s ironic is I get that really magazine Wired and I never subscribed.

  6. I think this is difficult to now where to draw the line. I send out an email from time to time to tell current and past clients etc about updates to my website portfolio. These are people I’ve worked with in some way, no one has complained about receiving my update notice.
    Is this still spam?

    Michael

  7. Hey Dan, Chris is just being an ass. I wouldn’t worry about it. In fact, the more I think about it (despite my post on his site), the more I want to get an old issue of Wired magazine and post every email address on my own blog. Two can play that game. Chris needs to grow up. http://www.thomaspickard.com

  8. Unfortunately, some of the people that Chris listed are actual editorial contributors to WIRED and are quite reputable. Chris just burned them.

    StocklandMartel will appreciate being listed on this shit list, I’m certain.

  9. William Johnson

    This is the problem it seems — this “shotgun approach” could very easily encourage laziness. Do you think that every guy that buys one of these Agency Access lists sits down at his desk and reviews every single address, to make sure it’s going to the appropriate party? (Don’t answer that).

    If Stockland/Martell is on that list, they clearly should have known not to email to the Editor in Chief. If anyone should know, it’s them. They are pros.

    I think it’s just easy to say, “Hey, I’m getting 7000 names, you lay down your credit card, you hit SEND”, then you forget about it, and just assume that these are appropriate people.

  10. I have asked a lot of art directors and photo editors how they find new photographers and if they prefer postcards or e.mail. The answer is different for each one. Some prefer to get cards, some like the e.mail. I’m sure the same goes for those who hate to get postcards and those who hate to get e.mails. It doesn’t hurt to send em, some cards might actually be kept, while most will may there way to the landfill. Some e.mails won’t get opened, while others will. It’s all a crap shoot, but you can’t win if you don’t play.

  11. I think that Chris Andersen and our Photo Editor are not objecting to the act of sending emails, but are rather objecting to the fact that emails are being sent to the wrong person…….

    ….I think ?

  12. I use Agency Access as well, and their email blasts contain a “remove from database” link. Click it, and your email is out of their system. No more emails from anyone using their service ever again. I’m sure AdBase has something similar. What’s the big deal?

    My click-through stats say that editors-in-chief and other high-ups do actually look at my site, so…

    • @Christopher Bush, I am with you, I just started with Adbase, their customer service is up to par. And yes they comply with the law in the :opt out:…
      So I don’t see the problem, perhaps he leaves working at Wired and doesn’t get so much email and email “blasts” then he will be bored!

  13. I’m saying it works and that sucks because it’s only going to get worse on my end. The personal emails work the spam I mostly ignore.

    @ Dan: Spam is not defined by the frequency of the emails it’s defined by the impersonal nature of it.

  14. I can sympathize with someone who feels overwhelmed by unwanted e-mail. but what are we supposed to do? poor Chris.

    by the way, Wired isn’t as cool as it used to be.

  15. Knicked by Knife

    In the future, blogs will become old-school and tired, and each commercial photographer will become his own TV Station, and will broadcast his photo sessions live, streaming over the web. Nick Knight started it all, with Show Studio. Nothing’s live right now, but sometimes you can tune in, (instead of getting off your ass and shooting a job on your own), and watch him shoot a job, over the web.

    http://showstudio.com/live/

    The ultimate in photo voyeurism. Isn’t that Kate or Naomi, with a C-stand over her head…?

  16. “I think it’s just easy to say, “Hey, I’m getting 7000 names, you lay down your credit card, you hit SEND”, then you forget about it, and just assume that these are appropriate people.”

    Isn’t that what we pay good money to these lists for? To buy lists of targetted contacts who have indicated they want to receive solicitations from creatives.

    It would seem that perhaps these lists aren’t as vetted and “constantly kept up to date” as we’d like to think…

  17. at least with adbase you can select by job title. what agency access….just a big list of names/emails?
    btw…i also just got an email from AA this afternoon.

  18. Yet Another Photographer – Personal blogs may not be the way to find talent but blogs like JM’s and Alec Soth(still rip?), personism etc etc are fantastic resources for talent across the board.

    They are like photo Mavens (Can such a thing exist? sure why not)..so much knowledge and information on them. In a way it (a blog ) is the new format of an old school medium – word of mouth.

    BTW I agree with Chris’ frustration. As a photo editor I would be livid for one if I got 100 fashion releases a day. I also see the frustration in the photographers reasoning.

    As APE says, spam is spam regardless. The latest VI@gaR@ spam has an opt-out link at them bottom of it as well.

    PS – Dan, regardless of what agency access says I highly doubt Chris Anderson filled in a questionaire or told some bloke over the phone he was an ‘image buyer’…please do not take what these agencies are telling you as truths. But don’t get frustrated with lack of replies to calls and emails…and certainly do not take it personally.

    PSPS – Wired is looking and reading better than it has in years.

  19. Wired’s credibility went out the window in 2000 (along with the value of “the wired index”), about 2 years after it’s photographic style did too (remeber cross-processing?)…

    Anyone who buys lists from Agency Access is stupid. Anyone who thinks there are 7000 **really influential** image buyers out there is stupid. Anyone who pays $10,000 for lists ain’t exactly the brightest bulb in the marquee.

    APE may be unhappy about the number of unsolicited emails he gets from photographers, agents & PRs but would you rather receive unsolicited faxes, books and calls?

    Actually, maybe all those PRs should just send press releases to Chris Anderson via fax and **then** see how much he complains about emails.

  20. Um, this whole thread pretty much illustrates why.

    You send out 10,000 emails to reach 10 people who can really make a career (who don’t respond to spam promotions anyway) and alientate the other 9,990 in the process.

  21. that’s one use, yes, but definitely not the best. I wouldn’t condemn photographers from subscribing to databases like theirs for targeted promotions and research.

  22. But I should add, if your targeted list is 7000+ people, then perhaps more research is needed. My first email blast was 3000, and that was really quite overly broad. My postcard list is in the low hundreds, and the next email blast will probably be under 1000.

  23. an art director

    I get spam. Lot’s of it. My hubby is a photographer. I understand you all are just trying to get work. But pleeease don’t make it suck. I got an email from a rep promoing a photographer, NO PICTURES. I want to see the eye candy for crying out loud! What a waste. I got a good one from a rep: a list and a thumbnail of all the photographers they rep. Cool, one stop shopping.

    Content is key, there is no ‘new images’ that I realize are new unless I am following you. But I get 20 emails a day that say ‘new’ images. Try a spin on some content. It will make you stand out.

    • sabrina huang

      Thanks for the suggestions from an art director’s point of view. I am new to photography business and am looking to learn about the other side of business. If I have better understanding on what you do and what you are looking for then I can create my marketing piece that cater your tastes and needs.

  24. So am I on a list somewhere that is sold to people who email me offering new logo design every day?

    Photographers get it too. Everyone gets it.

  25. and you're surprised?

    Chris wrote – “at least with adbase you can select by job title. what agency access….just a big list of names/emails?”

    No, you can select job titles with agency access also. It’s not that much different than adbase just a better interface, in my view. And it’s a good list source. (Don’t work for them, but have used both.)

    It all depends how you use it. I like Art Director’s post where he says, “Content is key.” If useful content and information than what is the issue.

    And not everyone on Agency Access has an email address because not everyone agrees to have their email address published.

    Additionally, when I review Chris Anderson’s list from over the 30 days, it’s hardly 100 spam emails a day, please. And afterall, in some form or fashion Adbase OR Agency Access asks permission to collect this information. At some point he gave them the OK to list his email address. There are plenty of Art Directors on the Agency Access list who have not chose to have their email address listed.

    I consider his listing these sources email addresses as completely irresponsible and childish. Interesting that some who write in support of him are really just redirecting folks to THEIR blogs, one of which says that WIRED is a dying magazine.

    I also don’t buy that most of these sources don’t have easy unsubscribe policies. Most of them are going through constant contact, Emma, or Vertical Response. ALL are a snap to unsubscribe and do not mine you for further emails as he has stated. We aren’t talking about Viagra ads here.

    I call bullshit on this. Most of these are reputable firms. While I’m certain that some of them don’t need to be contacting him, I can see how it can happen when he has opted into a legitimate industry list service. He choses to blame the likes of sub-par or temp hires at the list service, and I hope he has something to back that up and that he didn’t actually give out his address, or the list service could easily give legal at WIRED a run for their money.

    In the end this guy comes off as being a jerk.

  26. Job tltle isn’t a good gauge of relevance for photographers… some magazines don’t even have a “photo editor” or a “director of photography” and at some, decisions are frequently made by the editor in chief. At some magazines, the “photo editor” is just an overglorified producer and the “creative director” makes the calls about who is in or out. Same goes for ad agencies – some “art buyers” are producers and “creative directors” make all the creative decisions. Just depends on the agency.

    That said, yep, he’s a jerk.

  27. Don’t call us and fill our voice mail boxes with messages we’ll never return, don’t bother to send postcards we don’t look at them, you’re just wasting paper, and no spam either. Is there a way we can promote ourselves with out making people upset, last year I started taking people to lunch and not even bringing my book along, but it’s a pretty pricey way to go about things. I dump 50 or so spam messages a day doesn’t seem terribly trouble some to me.

  28. Next thing you know they’ll start complaining about all these people posting comments on their blogs, wasting space, just so they can include a link to their website in an act of shameless self promotion.

    (hire me hire me hire me hire me)

    Ha ha.

  29. I am still of the opinion that the entire publishing industry is still trying to figure out what the hell is going on. Newspapers are using more and more stringers, more and more organizations are using random employees with cameras, and nobody has really figured out what the right use of technology is for growing client bases, or for that matter finding photographers. God bless the internet.

    For most of my clients, I do the old fashioned networking through humans. People, who live, breath, shake hands. I’ve avoided some really really crap jobs because I visited their plant/office/company/house before agreeing to work. No substitute. When I was working in London I found most photo editors/directors of photography perfectly happy to spend five minutes meeting me and talking to me. Sometimes I got work, sometimes I didn’t, but I made a few friends, and the network spread.

    I *gasp* write letters and cards by hand to my people. Quality versus quantity. Since I’m going to go through and make images carefully, I might as well form a relationship the same way.

  30. A Photographer

    The Dude is right on the credibility thing. If Wired didn’t often publish rehashed press releases as “stories” in their magazine, maybe they’d get less spam from PR companies. Remember when there were 20 page researched stories? Now it’s one page press releases from corporations.

    As for Agency Access and Adbase – just ask that your name be removed or you be listed as “doesn’t want to receive promos” in the database. OR, if it’s a slow news year for you, post a sensationalist story listing people’s emails. Yeah – that would be cool.

    I’d really have more sympathy if they had more credibility. Maybe it’s not Chris rehashing press releases, but their reporting is pretty lazy compared to their golden years.

  31. A Photographer

    I read his post more carefully and realized he’s more annoyed at people emailing the wrong person, so I retract some of my previous statement. I do wish, however, that Wired researched their stories more and rehashed company press releases less. I used to love reading the magazine; now I barely look at the cover.

  32. I’ve only emailed art buyers I’ve already met. In fact I’ve only twice even mailed any promotional pieces to anyone I didn’t already know, and that mailing was so small and targeted that I had a 30% response rate. That mailing was almost ten years ago.

    All of my work since then has been by word of mouth. But I don’t do much editorial work. It’s almost all commercial.

  33. I'm listening

    I work with 100’s of photographers and I have to say that THEY ARE ALL DOING THE SAME THING. There is a sense of creative lackluster when sending a postcard or email out.

    Email-Livebooks and postcards. It’s really not inspiring. I like the fact that a person will use a photobook, personalize a gift and/or presentation.

    Then send it. The Shot gun approach is wasted. Unless done in a source book like Black Book, At Edge or whatever else is out there.

  34. I feel that the behavior of Chris Anderson @ Wired magazine is very unprofessional for a editor in chief of such a huge publication. If you don’t like receiving emails from photographers why give your email out to companies like Agency Access and Adbase, I’m pretty sure they didn’t just take a guess at what your email is. In my opinion if i was a photographer or anyone for that matter who’s email was up on the blog with 100’s of others just waiting to get picked up by a spam bot, I would personally make sure that Chris’s email was on every one of E-Blast lists.

  35. I agree with I’m Listening. I’d love to send a very personalized portfolio piece out, however they have to be very targeted because the creation of those pieces is expensive. Then you factor in the mailing rate for a heavier piece, it really adds up. I know that if I sent a more compelling, creative piece the response would be more positive. The expense of designing and printing a custom piece is the deterrent. Getting postcards and email links may be boring, but it seems its easier for photographers to do.

  36. It is much easier than it used to be! Sending out portfolios, not getting a response then having to have some messenger pick up your book, if they even got to look at it….or they lose it?!

    Yikes!

    Email unfortunately, until Nostradamus’ prediction of technology getting the best of the whole world in 2012…will be the better more economical way to go especially in our economic world 2009!

  37. I worked at a magazine for 5 years, and every few months i would recieve a courtesy call from agency access asking who was still working there, what their title was, their email address and if they were considered to be art buyers for illustration work and photography. So i know that they kept their lists up to date as much as possible, and even removed names when i mentioned they had things wrong. They seemed to be trying to offer a list of only the names of people who really were in the position to make those decisions and who decided that emails were ok. I never once received a call from the other similar listing sites though, like adbase, so i wonder how they keep their listings up to date. anyway, at least from my point of view, they are not just compiling lists from other sources, but are making the effort.

  38. Interesting comments. Sounds like a lot like an exercise in self gratification.

    An old politician once said ” You can please some of the people some of the time, all the people some of the time, but not all the people all the time.”

    Marketing is like fishing, the more times you cast your bait the better chance of catching a fish.

    Don’t ANAlize, just do it.

    Vern

  39. Agency Access acquired Adbase as of Sept of this year. The two sites will remain separate but will merge databases, as well as things like access to international lists and FoundFolios. I have an Adbase membership, but if I was to sign up now, Id go for Agency Access. More bang for the buck.
    A review of both services here: http://castrophotos.com/blog/?p=267