TechCrunch has the goods on Time Inc’s solution to the demise of print media:
Since last summer, Time Inc has been working on a “Manhattan Project” to create a digital magazine for the new breed of color tablet computers soon to come to market. (Condé Nast is also working on a similar concept). Today, I got a sneak peak at a demo of the tablet magazine designed for Sports Illustrated.
…But please, satisfy my curiosity before I get on my knees and bow down before your genius: How is this different from a web page? Other than costing ten times as much to produce, that is.
Never mind, I will tell you how: It’s a lot worse. It’s just pasting an old medium into a new one, painting the resulting clusterfuck with two layers of thick varnish.
I feel like anything that mimics a magazine experience on a computer or tablet is simply a stop gap for people who need that familiar look and feel (and annoying page turning sounds). I see no point in passing the limitations of a magazine into a limitless medium like a tablet computer. But, there’s no reason it can’t evolve. You have to start somewhere.
CEO Tim Armstrong tells The Wall Street Journal about plans he has previously hinted about–“a new digital-newsroom system that uses a series of algorithms to predict the types of stories, videos and photos that will be most popular with consumers and marketers.”
The idea is that even a brain-dead editor knows that people want to read about Tiger Woods–and AOL’s coverage includes a 500-slide (!) slide show. But there are plenty of other stories that will go unassigned without a computer’s help. For example:
I have to laugh at AOL and how far off the back they’ve fallen with this notion that what we need now is more unoriginal content to consume.
I believe the more clogged the web becomes the higher the value of arresting pictures and original/exclusive content. I get a tinge of joy when I hear about someone creating an algorithm that will churn out content. The more the better.
Online video represents only a small piece of the total advertising pie, but the growth in streaming ad revenue is becoming more of a threat to the broadcast medium that supplies most of the high CPM content. Hulu is a case in point, as Mediaweek and paidContent sources point out the ways the site’s ad sales team often undercuts the network media buys for both streaming and broadcast. Sources tell paidContent that some of Hulu’s broadcaster backers, which include NBC Universal, ABC and Fox, are experiencing growing frustration after hearing from media buyers that the video site’s ad sales often offer discounts on ad sales. At this point at least, paidContent is told, the situation is more of an annoyance for networks, than serious damage, since the dollar amounts remain comparatively minuscule.
I’m not surprised that the king of promotions (Monte Isom) was the first to come out with an iPhone app as a marketing piece (here). It usually pays to be the first so I’m sure it worked for him in the way that a well made mailer might and as a method for cutting through the email clutter it must have been solid gold.
According to this story on the WSJ Blogs (here), companies like Net Solutions in Chandigarh, Inda build apps for clients at $3,000 to $15,000 a pop.
It will be interesting to see where this ends up. I can certainly see an app from someone like Howard Bernstein being quite valuable but how many individual photographer apps can you download before your phone is clogged.
Maggwire.com, a company I’ve written about before, has a plan to charge users for a subscription to a channel that sounds really good to me. There should be a way for magazines to sell content in pieces, so people can assemble their own based on their interests. Also, it’s a good way to recapture the readers they will lose when they finally raise the subscription and newsstand prices. The New York Observer has a brief story (here) on the three former Wall Street investment analysts—Ryan Klenovich, 24, Jian Chai, 26, and Steve DeWald, 24—who started Maggwire.com and who want to “do for magazines what iTunes did for music.”
Here’s the pitch: Offer users a year’s subscription to a “channel” where they can get premium magazine content from a series of relevant magazines, for, say, $1.99 a month, with an additional 99 cents per magazine that they want to add to the package. The publishers would keep 75 percent of the profit, and Maggwire would get the rest.
McSweeney’s, which began in 1998 as a literary journal, edited by Dave Eggers, that published only works rejected by other magazines, has grown to be one of the country’s best-read and widely-circulated literary journals. They’ve just announced that No. 33 (available for preorder here) is to be in the form of a daily broadsheet. Yeah, a newspaper that will be 112 pages all in color along with a 112 page magazine, a 116 page books section, a pocket sized weekend guide and 3 pull out posters. The NYTimes reports:
The pages will measure 22 by 15 inches. (Pages of The New York Times, by comparison, are 22 by 11 1/2 inches.) Called San Francisco Panorama, the editors say it is, in large part, homage to an institution that they feel, contrary to conventional wisdom, still has a lot of life in it. Their experience in publishing literary fiction is something of a model.
“People have been saying the short story is dying for a lot longer than they’ve been saying newspapers are dying,” Jordan Bass, managing editor of the quarterly, said in an interview on Tuesday. “But you can still put out a great short-story magazine that people want to grab. The same is true for newspapers.”
As the crusty old corporate magazines continue to die there are people out there forging a new path.
Andrew Zuckerman seems to have figured out how he wants to use new media to spread the word about these books and films he’s pumping out. He creates a simple custom site: http://www.birdbook.org/; then a vimo channel for the 9 excerpt and behind the scenes videos: http://vimeo.com/channels/bird#5701425; then the publisher (chronicle) has a site with an embeddable preview of the book (here), plus they have facebook and twitter channels. He’s certainly at the forefront of testing all these cool new ways to get the word out. Certainly worth keeping your eye on, plus the pictures are fantastic.
Photographers are doing some amazing things shooting video with the Canon 5D Mark II. Here are a couple that I saw that made me go “wow” when I heard they were shot on a stills camera. I have no idea how they will hold up on a 50″plasma TV, but who’s got time to watch TV anymore. It’s worth noting that both involve some serious hardships to shoot.
First This Documentary on Afghanistan shot by Danfung Dennis. He says “The footage was shot on a custom built rig, using a Canon 5D Mark II, 24-70 f/2.8 L lens, Sennheiser ME-66 and G2 wireless system, Singh-Ray variable ND filter, and Beachtek 2XAs mounted on a Glidecam 2000 HD with custom made aluminum ‘wings.’”
The next one comes from Surf photographer Yassine (Yazzy) Ouhilal:
Since I know Yazzy I asked him a couple questions:
Did you edit, shoot and record all the sound yourself?
I shot most of the raw footage and time lapses over 44 days in the Arctic. A couple of other members of the expedition shot additional footage as well. Since this was also an editorial photo trip, a lot of the surfing footage had to be shot by someone else as I was usually too busy shooting stills. The rest of the time, it was pretty easy to go from shooting stills to video with the 5DMKII.
The audio was pulled from video interviews and audio recordings I got from some of the expedition members. I loaned an H2 digital audio recorder to the surfers on the expedition and asked them to record their thoughts when they were alone or by themselves in order to get authentic impressions from their experience in the Arctic- which wasn’t without challenges.
A lot of the sound effects were pulled from video clips. The 5DMKII has an audio input jack which allows for hi quality mics to be used.
I edited the film myself in imovie and mixed all the audio/sound/music tracks in Garage Band, two simple yet very effective pieces of software that if properly used can yield pretty incredible results.
The time lapses were animated using Quicktime Pro (by importing image sequences of stills and exporting uncompressed movie files)
What kind of experience do you have doing this kind of stuff?
I actually have a film production background- I spent 6 years at Concordia University in Montreal doing the Film Production program there. That was just before the digital/video era so the majority of the film work I did was in 16 and 35mm using editing tables and optical printers that are a much slower process than today’s digital workflow.
After film school, I found it hard to integrate the industry as a film maker. My two options were to try and get funding for my own films or to start working as a technician on film sets and work my way up the food chain. I opted to pursue my dreams and passions as a surf photographer instead and for the last 10 years, I’ve been roaming the globe shooting off the beaten path locations for magazines and companies. This type of work has given me the freedom to work in a field that I really enjoy and has been a good balance of personal and creative freedom as I have been self funding a lot of my trips on a freelance basis and then (hopefully) recouping my investments by providing the content out to various editorial clients.
Returning to filmmaking has been a natural progression and one that I have been looking forward to for a long time now.The way technology is going now, the line between photography and filmmaking is getting thinner and thinner everyday. It has been really exciting to get to shoot with a camera like the 5DMKII. As a photographer, I really know how to compose my shots and how my glass works. To be able to translate that into a cinematic medium has been really incredible.
The experience I had in film school using a much more traditional and slower workflow, it has definitely helped me to restrain myself and not get carried away with all the possibilities of the digital workflow.
How much time did it take you to make this shot doc?
While I probably could have put something together for this project in just a few days, I really wanted to make an authentic film about the experience of surfing in the Arctic- with all the drama and the hostility of the environment. The editing process was done over 3 months. Much like with my photography, I like to distance myself from the content so that I can approach it again with a fresher perspective. It allows me to look at the photos/footage objectively rather than to remain attached to certain shots or clips because of the experience involved with obtaining the imagery. I find that in both photography and filmmaking, being able to “let go” is an important part of the process. Maybe an image means a lot to me because I endured many hardships to obtain it, but I have to keep in mind that the audience doesn’t necessarily know that- therefore will often see less value than I do in a particular shot. Distancing myself from the content for a certain period is definitely part of my approach and it really helps to “forget” about it in order to rediscover it.
Over the first month or two, I basically narrowed down the raw footage from around 40hours to about 4hours. Then I separated all the clips into different categories, much like I do with my approach to editing my photos: scenics, action, lifestyles and interviews. I then narrowed down the footage in each category to end up with about 1 hour of footage that in my opinion consisted of the most beautiful imagery that was also the most pertinent to the story I was trying to push through.
The backbone of the story was constructed using audio voice overs and interviews. This was a very long process as well as I had to listen to hours of audio and basically pull the most important and pertinent points that told the story.
I did this by transcribing every single phrase of audio I had (which turned into around 100 pages or so). From there I edited the audio in the text file by cutting and pasting sentences and later applied that to the actual audio tracks.
Once I had the audio backbone and the best clips, it was about 4 days and nights of intense editing. I actually happened to be back in the Arctic for the editing process which I found very conducive to an inspired approach to the post production. I was really impressed with the workflow in iMovie. It was efficient and simple and compared to editing on a steenbeck (16mm editing table) and splicing film with tape, it was a much simpler process. I definitely made sure to stay away from using too many effects and transitions in order to keep this close to what could have been achieved using more traditional methods. I find in the digital workflow, it’s really easy to say “I’ll fix this in Post” or to get carried away with all the options- which can end up ruining the result. I think with today’s incredible advances in technology, a mix of using the technology along with some self constraint can produce some really interesting and authentic results.
PicScout just announced a new product that will allow photographer to attach some sort of one click licensing to their images (here). This is the same as what LicenseStream has been offering for almost a year now and so there’s nothing revolutionary about it, but it will be very interesting to watch as more companies adopt this business model. There are many people who believe image licensing has a similar problem to what music had, in that people want to license images but there’s not an easy way to do that, so they steal them instead. It’s hard for me to believe this type of licensing amounts to much more than beer money, unless of course you’re handling the transactions and then those pennies add up to millions of dollars as Getty and Corbis discovered in the micro stock business. I do think that it’s good to teach people that images cost money and provide them with an easy way to license them, I don’t think this does much for professional photographers. For pros the more exclusive the image the better.
And Greg Williams has Esquire’s sexiest woman alive cover (here):
So, what did these two magazines do with all the awesome technology they employed in these forward thinking cover shoots. Nothing. That’s right as far as I can tell Outside made their normal cover (the photographer made all these cool futuristic looking living covers and inside spreads in his BTS video) and Esquire made a video to go with their normal cover. It’s sort of like buying a Ferrari and hitching a team of horses to it. Beyond idiotic.
Some of the major points he makes if any of you want to discuss:
The marriage of advertising and accountability journalism was an accident – “There was a set of forces that made that possible. And they weren’t deep truths — the commercial success of newspapers and their linking of that to accountability journalism wasn’t a deep truth about reality. Best Buy was not willing to support the Baghdad bureau because Best Buy cared about news from Baghdad. They just didn’t have any other good choices.”
Advertisers were overcharged and undeserved- “Not only did they have to deliver more money to the newspapers than they would have wanted, they didn’t even get to say: ‘And don’t report on my industry, please.’”
Consumers want to aggregate their own daily media lineup – “he New York Times is being torn apart right now by its own readers. The number of people who go to the Times’ homepage as a percentage of total readership falls every year — because you don’t go to the Times, you go to the story, because someone Twittered it or put it on Facebook or sent it to you in email. So the audience is now being assembled not by the paper, but by other members of the audience.”
The immediate future is not good -”Every town in this country of 500,000 or less just sinks into casual, endemic, civic corruption — that without somebody going down to the city council again today, just in case, that those places will simply revert to self-dealing. Not of epic, catastrophic sorts, but the sort that just takes five percent off the top.”
Newspapers will not survive – “So I think we are headed into a long trough of decline in accountability journalism, because the old models are breaking faster than the new models can be put into place.”
The solution or at least his thoughts on what the future holds for journalism is that the bulk of what newspapers do in regards to the public good will be taken up by a multitude of smaller entities that are crowdsourced, commercially funded or non-profits. Basically all media will be broken up into many vertical channels with all kinds of different business models. The idea that an advertiser has no influence over a media company that reports on their industry is total BS so much of the accountability journalism will shift to crowdsourced and non-profit business models. Commercial works as long as the advertiser is in a different industry than the media company is reporting on and so it works really well in the smaller vertical channels. Overall–I’ve said this many times before–content providers are not in trouble it’s the content packagers who are going down.
Photographer Jim M. Goldstein is looking to compile data on how photographers are currently using and receiving benefit from social media web sites such as Twitter, Facebook and others. Won’t you help him out by filling out his survey: 2009 Photographer Social Media Survey
Data from this survey will be shared by Jim M. Goldstein (www.JMG-Galleries.com) October 22 at PDN PhotoPlus Expo in NYC as part of the “Twitter Revolution: Changing the Photographic World, 140 Characters at a Time” (http://bit.ly/3FHUl) discussion panel with Seshu Badrinath, Jack Hollingsworth, and Rosh Sillars. The data from this survey will also be made available later to all who are interested.
I discovered this guide book for journalists–compiled from a series of blog posts by Mindy McAdams, Professor of Journalism at the University of Florida–that teaches reporters how to become more multimedia proficient (download here or visit the download page). I’m sure the section on “How to Shoot Decent Photos” will draw plenty of snickering but there’s good stuff for photographers on audio, video and blogging. Certainly this is a look into the future of journalism as many reporters in small to medium markets will find themselves writing, shooting stills, shooting video, recording audio and then putting it all together on the computer back home and this is what’s being taught in journalism school apparently.
A must read series of posts on Revolutions in the media economy by David Campbell (here) tackles photojournalism today:
We can’t approach this issue via some misplaced nostalgia for a golden age that if it did actually exist certainly no longer survives. Photographic stories or documentary have always been difficult to fund directly. If there was a time when the majority of photojournalists simply waited for well-paid commissions to produce important work, that time is no more. We have to doubt though whether the past was like that, because in reality few if any photographers have been able to sustain a career entirely through editorial projects they chose to do. Even Sebastião Salgado had to do corporate and advertising work to cross-subsidise work on the social issues he wanted to explore, and Simon Norfolk sells his prints to a wealthy clientèle through a fine art gallery in order to support his visual critique of the US military.
[..] If some of the great photojournalists had adhered to [journalism dies the moment one enters into a partnership with the subject] we would have been deprived of great pictures – think, for example of how a Larry Burrows needed the US military to get around Vietnam, or a Tom Stoddart required assistance from MSF to travel in Sudan. Of course partnerships vary and anyone concerned about integrity will have to work hard to maintain independence, but that applies in all situations. Aside from the fact the old editorial paymaster model is all but gone, the idea that taking money from corporate media funded by advertising, so that one can create content which will attract more viewers for that advertising, is free from all moral issues is…well, rather daft.
I have long felt that the second people start making serious money online the competition will get fierce and we’re back to where we were before. My only fear is that some of these codgers who run the media companies will not get punished enough to either rethink their relationship with content providers or lose their shorts to someone who understands the value of high quality content.
Most Internet companies are alive only because they are propped up by cheap venture capital financing that is in the process of drying up. On a straight up basis, a traditional media company with a strong brand and digital product should be able to out-compete all but the best Internet-only companies. In the past, traditional media companies were weak online out of fear of cannibalizing the offline revenue and cash flow that sustained their valuations and debt loads. They will soon have a great deal less to lose, likely under fresh ownership and management. It’s time for traditional media to rise up and exact its revenge.
One important thing to point out as well and this is where I disagree with the author on “re-booting” of media, is that owning media companies may not be as profitable as it once was. That doesn’t have to mean the contributors and employees get paid less either. It’s just that the owners need to love the product more than the greenbacks it delivers. That’s more of a re-booting of corporations which it feels like we may be in the midst of.
Grayson and Mike at Outside Magazine asked me to write an essay for their photography issue and we settled on the topic of photo manipulation. It’s certainly a hot button issue these days not only because of how easy it’s gotten to make realistic fakes but also because it’s gotten easier to publicly debate it and uncover forgeries that are passed off as real. I personally think we’ve reached the point where media organizations need to air out and in most cases simply create guidelines for what they believe is acceptable. Additionally they need to start informing their readers on the where’s, why’s and how’s of these policies. As many astute observers of media have pointed out, transparency in journalism will be a critical part of how media works in the future and the credibility of brands will hang on our belief that their intention is delivering some version of the truth.
You can read the full essay I wrote (here) and a response from Ed Freeman (here) but I wanted to discuss the conclusion I arrived at after interviewing dozens of people for the story. Photos that are faked are intrinsically tied to photos that are real. They draw much of their power from the public’s belief that photos never lie. Of course all of us know “the camera always lies” and the second you pick a lens or a place to stand you’re influencing the reality of the picture in some way. But, we can’t escape that the public still wants to believe in a photograph’s ability to tell the truth. So, people who take images that appear to be truthful but are really altered beyond reality are at some level destroying this bond.
What amounts to a forgery in photography is incredibly subjective and grey. And, like I said above I think it’s up to the media organizations to define and their audience to accept or reject. And really anything is possible now, so the “old darkroom techniques” aren’t really good anymore for guidelines. I believe very strongly that the intentions of whatever is done to the image, whether it is to represent what actually happened in front of the camera or to make what happened seem better than it actually was, help define what’s acceptable. One way organizations are starting to do that is to require photographers to submit RAW files to compare the finished images with (or what about just shooting film).
It seems helpful when thinking about this to look at writing because the same techniques that writers use to take research, raw dialogue and observation and then turn that into a story is no different than what photographers need to do when approaching a subject. So, why don’t we have fiction and non-fiction photography (I think photo-illustrations are different)? And why do we mix non-fiction stories with fiction photography. This seems like part of the solution and something other people have been indicating is a problem with the NY Times Magazine, because they appear to want it both ways. But, let’s be honest with ourselves writers stretch the boundary of non-fiction to it’s breaking point all the time. So, again it’s up to the publication to become more transparent about their guidelines and to not start blaming contributors when the readers show up with torches.
I think the place where I found this practice of photo fakery most troubling was in wildlife photography. Photographers in that genre will simply tack a “fine art” sign to their back and claim exemption from any need to replicate reality. The problem with this is that they more than anyone are benefiting from the public’s misguided belief that all pictures are real. My first interview for the piece was with Art Wolfe who way back in 1994 ignited a firestorm when he published a wildlife book entitled Migrations where a third of the images were fakes. Art was careful to point out that he didn’t misrepresent natural history and he called the pictures photo-illustrations. This was similar to a response I kept hearing from Steve Bloom when I tried to pin him down about a charge many people made to me that his wildlife images are mostly composites and extreme digital enhancements. Steve gave me incredibly evasive email answers in the vein of what Edgar Martins had to say about his dust up with the NY Times Magazine. Why can’t we just be honest and say “I did it because I wanted to make my photos look better than anyone elses”
And look, I’m not claiming I’m any sort of knight-riding-a-white-stallion either I’m just saying it’s time to start policing ourselves (starting with magazines) or else we’ll end up like the fashion industry and congress will soon be considering anti-photoshopping laws (I used to wish each month there was such a law when the owner’s of both magazines I worked at insisted we heinously paint the sky blue on the cover).
When people see an amazing photograph for the first time they usually ask, “is it real?” The answer should be yes.
While watching the 4-H youngsters going about their business at MontanaFair in Billings this month, I was struck by a parallel. Here I am in 2009, at a fair ground: a photojournalist, making pictures of cowboys in every direction I look. Don’t any of us know that none of us are supposed to exist?”
[...]Professional photojournalists have only their eye, their experience and their work ethic to create lasting images. It has nothing to do with what kind of lariat they’re carrying.
[...] if you can’t make a great picture in your own backyard, it isn’t going to happen anywhere else.
Here’s an interesting idea. Magazines can now do single issue reprints using MagCloud.
“To commemorate the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, LIFE teamed up with MagCloud to release a Special Edition Woodstock Magazine. Originally released 40 years ago, this special issue has more than 100 photos of the performances and amazing community that attended Woodstock.” (here)
You can also make your own magazine from scratch using their archive:
“Life.com will partner with HP’s MagCloud to offer users a personalised “timeline”. They will get to print their own edition of Life magazine comprising a selection of catalogue images from any given date, as well as their own uploads.” (here)
It’s a cool idea along the lines of getting a picture on a mouse pad or coffee mug but I’ve had a couple conversations with people looking to make money off big magazine archives and I think the public’s ability/patience to put a magazine together from scratch is very limited. We’re on the firehose end of the information superhighway so finding someone you trust to edit everything down to something relevant is more important than having a trillion choices.
If Fred Woodward edited a copy of Life out of the archive I might actually buy that.
A beautiful piece by Ohio U student Maisie Crow done as part of their Soul of Athens series.
She brings stills, video and audio together in such a simple and powerful way and tells a story that is probably all to common but you really never hear it told.
Yeah, the future is bright. So many great stories out there and young, ambitious, talented photographers ready to tackle them.