I’m participating in a 2 day phone seminar with photography consultant Selina Maitreya starting tomorrow (professionalphotographytelesummit.com). I think one of the questions she asked me is really interesting so I thought I’d write about it a bit here first. She wants to know if editorial photography is dead, alive or just on life-support?
Editorial photography is alive and kicking, growing even, what’s dead is the idea that editorial anything only lives under the aegis of benevolent newspaper and magazine owners. We’re all familiar with the idea that the cost of printing and distributing content is nearly zero and with the aid of email, facebook, twitter and blogging the reach far exceeds what can be done with delivery trucks and newsstands. When true editorial ceased to exist because the financial crisis gave advertisers the upper hand in making sure the content didn’t come at odds with the advertising message, desperate magazines decided the best way to to keep advertisers happy was to make their content more commercial. The readers current apathy with editorial offerings is evidence that this was counter productive.
So, what happened to editorial content then? Consumers took it upon themselves to produce it. Blogs, forums, product reviews and social networking is filled with editorial content. The rise of social media in general is simply editorial content making a comeback. With true editorial product reviews long gone from most magazines, because of pressure from advertisers the social content cloud is bursting with opinions about products and services.
So, what about professionally produced editorial content, the kind we care about, the kind that gives photographers jobs and livelihoods. Here’s where it gets interesting. A few visionaries have taken it upon themselves to create their own profitable editorial niches. People like Scott Schuman, AKA The Satorialist, who defied the glossy fashion industry by shooting simplistic street fashion pictures. And, The Selby, a blog founded by photographer Todd Selby where he documents the interiors of creative persons homes. Both have not only seen the traffic to their blogs soar but their careers have as well because of it. The photography on both is very editorial in voice.
Here’s what’s about to happen next. Savvy companies are realizing they can attract consumers solely with editorial content. As documented this week in an article by David Walker on PDNOnline, cycling clothing manufacturer Rapha “runs almost no print advertising, and has few retail dealers. Instead, it mostly sells direct through the Web, and has built its brand by sponsoring events and by producing documentary stories and other editorial-style content for its Web site to stir the longings of desk-bound he-man riders of means.” The story talks about hiring Oregon photographer Benji Wagner who spent the last year producing editorial content for them. And for larger companies it’s going to be about producing two streams of content, advertising and editorial. Those companies will be looking for savvy photographers who have the voice and the ethics to produce content that will attract consumers.
So, yes, editorial as defined as something that appears in Magazines and Newspapers is dead, but editorial as a style of photography is on the rise.