Category "The Future"

The Next Generation Of Photo Editors

- - The Future

I think the way clients and photographers communicate and reach each other and the job of Photo Editor will profoundly change in the next decade. There’s exciting technology to take advantage of and the potential of the internet has barely been tapped by publishers. I wanted to start talking with .com and junior Photo Editors to look at the way they’re using technology and get a feel for what the future might bring.

I met Ryan Schick at the Photoshelter panel in NY a few weeks back and found him to be very well spoken and thoughtful about the industry. Ryan works for Condé Nast’s Portfolio.com as the News Photo Editor where he sources all the daily news pictures and develops larger photo essay projects. He’s young and a .com Photo Editor so I thought he might have a different take on how he finds photographers and how the future might play out.

You seem like a fairly technologically savvy Photo Editor. Is that a generational thing or have you made an effort to incorporate emerging technology into your workflow?

I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily a generational thing. I’ve worked with editors who are significantly older that are interested in technology as a device to develop more efficient ways to receive the imagery they need from the photographers in a timely matter. New means of image transportation and tools that enable more efficient communication have always interested me. Email has always been a central tool in my life. Heck, my first email address was 73514,1650@compuserve.com. This was back in 1992 before AOL, Prodigy, and others introduced alphanumeric email addresses.

I’m curious about how you communicate with photographers and your thoughts on how it might evolve.

Instant messenger is a remarkable tool, if properly used. Given it’s intimacy and the opportunity for it to be invasive to the recipient, it requires a certain amount of sensitivity on the users part There are multiple photographers I talk with on a daily basis via IM. Example; I communicate on a daily basis with photographers who are currently working on projects. It’s remarkable to witness a project develop, in real-time, with a photographer who is half-way around the world. Observations and suggestions are easily communicated; picture ordering, toning, and other variables can be done on the fly.

Apple’s iChat video capability is a tool that I still have yet to take to completely. I’m not sure how this will progress in the future, but for the time being I find instant messaging to be an sufficient replacement for email and phone conversations.

What about the ways photographers market themselves to Photo Editors. Books, mailers, email campaigns. Certainly there’s room for change there. The books are so expensive to make and ship certainly we eventually don’t need those anymore do we?

I still believe that photographers might not necessarily need the big-tent image distribution agencies to be successful in today’s market. I’m more impressed by the photographer who has taken the long-term investment strategy of developing personal relationships with his or her editors. There are magnificent tools out there that photographers can utilize to represent themselves and ultimately distribute their material.

I’ve always admired the photographer who updates his or her online portfolio on a regular basis. In a way, I think the digital reformation has made many of the dead-tree portfolio books we’ve grown accustomed to obsolete. I know it’s a tough market for most photographers out there and portfolios are not inexpensive to produce. I’d rather see photographers develop an online portfolio that demonstrates their personal eye toward presentation and detail and put their money back into a personal project that will help them along with an underdeveloped skill-set.

Email distribution and mailers are also objects I’ve taken greater attention towards in recent months. There are several photographers out there, including a young Philadelphia-based photographer named Steve Boyle, who take enormous strides to constantly bring editors attention to their every-growing body of work. Steve’s persistence in developing a visual style of his own is equaled only by his determination to constantly develop open channels to editors. I’m not certain whether or not this is an off-shoot of his efforts in self-promotion, but he seems remarkably well informed in visual trends and even runs several of his tests by me on a regular basis.

This however is not something that he and I fell into overnight. I cite this because I think many photographers take the ‘battering ram’ approach toward self-representation. I cite an example of a photographer who was referred to me by a former colleague and for whom I have an enormous amount of respect for. What started as a recommendation and an appointment to view his body of work turned into a multiple-times-per-day phalanx of phone calls and emails. By the time the actual appointment to meet came around I had frankly grown exasperated by his persistence and for better or worse was uninterested in the actual meeting.

What about a photographers website, do you ever do more than just go and look at the pictures?

I don’t just use a photographers website to look at the work they want to present (ie. putting their best face forward); there is another facet of their site that I’ve grown remarkably fond of. Being a user of Safari, I have a quick-tab on my address bar that currently loads the following personal blogs:

aphotoaday.org
Kirk Mastin
Michael Rubenstein
Jensen Walker
Robert Caplin
Justin Fowler
Mike Terry
Matthew Williams
Tara Todras-Whitehill
Mark Rebilas
Dustin Snipes
Thomas Boyd
Chris Detrick
Rachel Hulin’s ‘Shoot The Blog’
& Redux’s RSS Feed

At current count, I check these blogs and 21 others on a daily basis. Not all of these blogs are updated regularly but several of them, including Matthew Williams’, are well developed because they give you a better idea into the scene the photographer was given and how he executed his coverage. I like being able to see a larger take whenever possible. I think a personal blog can be a remarkably effective tool for a photographer to communicate to an attentive audience. I’m certain I’m not the only editor to regularly check photographers’ blogs, but I think as photographers continue to recognize this as an effective tool of free self-promotion, its popularity will continue to grow.

Certainly in the not too distant future all publications will have .com Photo Editors or the PE will spend much of their time working on the .com side of the photography. With a healthy budget and unlimited pages to publish work how can this not be a great thing for photographers? Why do I keep seeing tiny little photographs on publishers websites?

At Portfolio.com, one of the things we quickly realized was that we could publish additional material that would not have otherwise made the magazine, not due to quality issues but from the finite amount of pages in the magazine delegated to individual features.

Case in point: Photographer Michael Christopher Brown developed a magnificent photo essay for our July 2008 edition on the efforts of Chinese authorities to divert precious water resources from farms and villages in the surrounding provinces to fill the expansive fountains that line the Olympic promenade in Beijing. Portfolio editor Sarah Weissman had an initial edit of 30 images from the more than 250 image submitted by Michael. Through their mutual cooperation, Michael and Sarah consolidated his take into 5 images that were eventually published in our print edition. Recognizing the opportunity to develop a more robust online presentation we added an additional 7 images to our slideshow to expand the depth of the visual coverage associated with the online article. (See it here)

This can be a lesson to editors who are currently wary of their own dot-com’s ability to recognize the expansive opportunity they have to present the work that they and the photographers have labored so hard let see the light of day. Given the limited amount of financial resources (read: free) required to publish a slideshow online I would only envision further publications using their dot-com’s in such a fashion for more robust photographic essays online. Many of them already have.

As for the tiny pictures on our site, I wish there was a more effective way to maximize the exposure of multiple stories with large imagery, but from a basic design aesthetic I find that to be quite difficult on a news site.

However, I do salivate over the photographic presentation of Garden & Gun magazine online. Beautiful!

A Cluetrain Manifesto For Newspapers

- - The Future

A blog post  written by William Lobdell, an 18 year veteran of the Los Angeles Times entitled “42 Things I Know” should serve as a clue train manifesto for newspaper (cluetrain is here and here).

As a former media insider I know the feeling of “this shit is broke and you clowns have no clue how to fix it” that he’s expressing in his post. I’ll highlight a few of the points I strongly agree with here:

3. … the business model for newspapers is broken.

5. … it can’t be fixed.

7. Technology has run laps around the print media — giving readers instant news, open-source journalism, no barriers to become publishers, and an infinite news hole.

8. The idea that your daily news is collected, written, edited, paginated, printed on dead trees, put in a series of trucks and cars and delivered on your driveway — at least 12 hours stale — is anachronistic in 2008.

11. Newspapers were unbelievably slow in embracing the Internet, even though younger reporters have been pleading with their bosses for years to embrace the Web.

15. Business side of the paper was worse in recognizing the Internet’s potential and its threat to the newspaper business. I once suggested that, since Craig’s List had arrived on the scene, The Times should match that business model and give away most of its classified ads (since we were already losing it already) in exchange for Internet readership and premium ad prices for corporate advertisers (such as employers). The business people laughed.

17. You can’t just transfer a news gathering operation from print to the web. Revenue on the web is fractured (like cable TV) and a news web operation can support far fewer journalists and layers of editors. It requires a different mindset.

24 … We operated as though we had a monopoly on truth and great journalism for far too long. We didn’t listen to our critics and sometimes our readers. That cost us.

33. If I were publisher, I’d have a clear mission statement for The Times’ editorial department (if you ask 100 journalists at The Times about their mission, you’d likely get 100 different answers).

35. I’d get realistic estimation on the size of The Times’ future work force and then make one large cut to get it there (good sources say another 150-200 layoffs are on the horizon). An internet operation can’t support a huge newsgathering operation, and morale would improve if everyone knew no more major layoffs loomed. People can deal with reality; it’s just this surrealistic no-man’s-land that make it impossible to move forward and has good people bailing out.

36. I’d take the very talented journalists I had and develop a SERIES of websites that provided the best information for that beat/subject matter. The Web is all about niches. The Times, for instance, could have the premiere sites for every professional and college sports team in Southern California. It could be THE place to turn to for news on City Hall, Los Angeles Unified School District, and Los Angeles Police Department. Not to mention Southern California environmental issues, LAX and the coast.

42. And this is ultimately why I left The Times. Though the paper has been in business for 125 years, it had become riskier to stay than to go.

Visit the entire list (here).

The people who can take media into the future are sitting right there, on staff at all the major publishing organizations, but they’re slowly leaving, so somebody needs to get off their ass and empower them to help make changes. I asked for a blog at the last two publications where I worked and finally had to just start one on my own.

Oh, and don’t miss Simon Dumenco shredding the LA Times Magazine to pieces in Advertising Age (here).

The End Of Book Publishing

- - The Future

I think I’ve read enough glowing reviews of the kindle in the last month to know that combined with a flailing economy, skyrocketing fuel prices and a fundamental shift in the way we interact with text, that it signals the eventual death of book publishing.

Anymore, it’s going to start to seem ridiculous to print all those books to throw in the trash (I don’t know the sell-through numbers for books but if it’s anywhere near magazines where 70% go unsold on the newsstand then there’s a ton of waste) or store in warehouses or sit on your shelf collecting dust. And, then you have the fuel cost to drive something around the country that essentially started electronically and was printed on paper for distribution. With a device like this you’ve eliminated the single biggest cost in book publishing and the main reason book publishers exist in the first place. Now, authors can distribute their books for free and take most of the profits if they want.

I stopped short of buying one myself because I don’t need to spend any time on stuff without pictures and because what I’d really like to buy is a magazine reader. There’s about 40 magazine’s I’d like to check out on a regular basis, something I used to do at the newsstand in Grand Central, but now out here in the sticks (there are newsstands but the selection is somewhat limited) I’m faced with the prospect of signing up to receive close to 500 issues in a year to stay on top of who is shooting what in this industry.

Not to mention the fact that I was emailing the photo editor of City Magazine and reading about Seed Magazine over on Shoot Blog and wanted desperately to check out their latest issues and would have instantly bought a copy if there were some electronic way to do it. If I sign up for a subscription today the first issue should arrive in 12-16 weeks. That’s hilarious.

The interesting thing here is to look at iTunes and now Kindle and think about the recording executives and the book publishing executives who completely missed the boat and an opportunity to maintain a monopoly on distribution by bringing a revolutionary device to market. And now how we’ve got a handful of magazine publishers who run this industry, essentially to foot the enormous costs of taking something created electronically, print it on paper and drive it around the country.

I suppose there’s still time if any of the publishers are working on a device right now which somehow I highly doubt because many are still wrapping their heads around the internet (and telling me it takes 12-16 weeks for a magazine to arrive). But, when the device finally arrives we can talk about the eventual death of magazine publishing and the revolutionary device that put the power back in the hands of the content creators.

Everyone Can Now Become A Magazine Publisher

- - The Future

“Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”
– A.J. Liebling

And with that lofty quote begins the dawn of a new age in magazine publishing (or maybe just a cool new promo tool) because HP Labs just launched a new print on demand magazine publishing service called MagCloud (here) which looks to be the bee’s knees from where I’m standing. They use HP Indigo technology to custom-print each issue when it’s ordered on 80lb paper with saddle-stitched covers.

Now I can finally launch that magazine I’ve always dreamt of called “killed,” where I round up all the shoots and photographs those bastard wouldn’t let me run and publish ‘em myself. That’ll show ‘em.

Anyway, I’ll need to do some investigation to see if this actually is viable and economically feasible for short run printing of magazines but it looks very promising indeed. Not to mention the fact that printing on demand saves a whole lot of wasted paper by not guessing how many people will read an issue.

Photographers Leading The Way

- - The Future

I’ve been thinking that National Geographic photographers are uniquely poised to discover all the ways photography can reach consumers next. They already have one of the largest built-in audiences and that yellow border is instantly recognizable by the masses as a source for great photography. Plus, Geographic has always been good about moving the photography and photographers they work with into as many mediums as possible (books, calendars, note cards, videos, lectures, workshops) so consumers are ready to receive whatever they’re offering next. The biggest asset these talented people have going for them is the individual picture stories in their archive can have 100’s of great images no one has ever seen.

Stephen Alvarez is turning his massive 15 year collection of images into a picture-a-day along with a short story blog. He’s got other plans as well so this is just the beginning of attracting a huge following, one picture at a time. Check it out here: PictureStoryBlog.com

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And then on Stephen’s site I discovered that David Alen Harvey is planning a New York to California road trip as a personal project to make a “portrait” of America and he’s invited everyone to help him make it happen. As in, help pay for lunch, gas and finding interesting people to photograph. Genius. You can hang out with David, watch/help him make pictures, learn a thing or two and buy him a turkey sandwich. Then, when it’s all over the people he’s met along the way and all their friends will be standing in line at Amazon to buy the book. Hell, I’d sell the magazine story to the highest bidder, it comes with a built in audience and a blog that gets 100 comments on a slow day.

Here’s what David has to say on his blog (here):
“here is the deal….offer me lunch and i give you a portfolio review!!….travel along with us and fill up my car with gas (getting expensive) and you might just get an almost free workshop, or find a great family for me to photograph and get a signed print (see how entrepreneural i have become???)….seriously, all of your ideas are welcomed..”

Look out crabby old media barons, photographers are leading the way.

Where are all the goddam photos?

- - The Future

It costs millions of dollars to distribute photography in the form of a magazine page. Now, it can all be done for free, so will somebody please tell me where all the goddam photos are? Honestly you’ve got the internet at your disposal and every last one of you is lined up trying to get in the door at 1271 6th Avenue to see the Photography Director and show them your book so they can send you out on assignment and 3 months later it will arrive in my mailbox.

You can send it to me today, for FREE.

One issue of a magazine with 200 pages in it that prints 1,000,000 copies (40% draw on newsstand so some go in the trash) and reaches around 2,500,000 people costs $1,000,000 to print and distribute with $800,000 in circulation expenses (subscription and newsstand) and $350,000 in contributer fees and expenses (photos and words) and a staff salary and general business expenses (rent and utilities) of $1,250,000. This will bring in $4,000,000 in advertiser revenue (minus advertising marketing) and $1,000,000 in sales through newsstand and subscription.

(The numbers are a fairly accurate estimate of a magazine I enjoy and are NOT based on a magazine I’ve worked at.)

The cost to deliver a magazine to one viewer is $1.36 and the revenue generated is $2.00. If a 200 page magazine is 110 pages of edit (half of which are photos) then the expense to deliver a single page picture to one viewer is $0.012 and the revenue generated is $0.018. So imagine for a second that photographers generate and distribute their own content (or in a partnership with an aggregator) so now the revenue generated is $0.015 (newsstand sales are gone) and 4 pages of photographs reaching the same audience that you always reached (if you shoot for top national magazines) with the same advertisers willing to tag along should give you $150,000. You’ll have to subtract your expenses for producing those photos but you can clearly see there’s going to be some serious money to be made once this thing starts working properly.

I blame the photographers and publishers equally for clinging to the old way of doing business and not innovating something new, but it’s the photographers that stand to gain the most from creating a new way of reaching consumers and bringing advertisers along for the ride. If we all just sit around with our thumbs up our ass because we can’t do anything with photography without getting paid I’ll guarantee you one thing. The publishers will figure it out for everyone and they’ll happily keep the 1.6 million dollar (from the example above) cut they already get every single month for every single magazine they produce.

Oh, you may have noticed the smallest part of creating a magazine every month is the fees and expenses paid to all the contributors. Are you ready to do something about it yet?

One thing that will never change in this equation is the amount of time in a day. The more time people spend consuming different types of media the less time the spend with other types. The amount of money spent to reach these people doesn’t change either so if it disappears from magazines and newspapers it will reappear online but the key to the whole equation here is that more efficient means of delivering content equals more money to be spent creating it and less to spend on effing red tape (shuffling photos around the layout, contracts, estimates and on and on).

I think we can look at all these other professions changing their game (journalists, musicians, software companies, filmmakers… ) and glean some ideas how photography will evolve but the reality is, some people really need to get off their asses and make a move to figure it out. I like looking to musicians when thinking about photography because like the public’s taste in music, taste in photography is subjective and attracting people to it is way more complicated than just creating the best image. Perception, marketing, recommendations and other environmental factors play a huge part and I’ll also agree with several of my contributors that there’s a long history of business practices that will effect what can happen next so modeling this business off any others has its limitations. It just seems like everyone is doing something with this new distribution system except for photographers.

Distribution of photography is now free. It’s time to decide if that means you get paid more or less.

Newspapers and Bloggers

- - The Future

Newspaper ad revenues take their worst drop in almost 60 years (data here), which leads to a nice off the cliff graphic by Gawker (here) and a “Newspapers are f’ed” post by Jeff Jarvis of BuzzMachine (here) but hold on there, the Long Tailed, Wired Editor, Christopher Anderson responds with “Surprisingly, the industry is just ten percent off its historic highs (much like the stock market) and is still twice as big as it was twenty years ago,” dramatically pointing out how much money is still left in the system (here).

Meanwhile a story on PBS.org by Mark Glass looks at how Journalists have become bloggers and bloggers are becoming jounalists (here) the story includes former journalist turned full time blogger Erick Schonfeld who writes a post this weekend reflecting on his half year anniversary as a TechCrunch blogger (here) and Brian Stelter a blogger hired fresh out of college by the NY Times who wrote a great piece on (here) poltical news and the youth that included a very futuristic statement by a college student “If the news is that important, it will find me” which was highlighted by The Globe and Mail technology writer *slash* blogger Mathew Ingram (here) which prompts a Mark Cubin blog post (here) that claims we have finally reached the digital equivalent of Timothy OLeary’s “Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out.”

A Thought on the Future of Photo Editing

- - The Future

Original, exclusive or previously unpublished photography printed as big as possible is the only thing that makes a magazine relevant in the dot com age. Hoo-ah.

Unless we’re talking about a massive media buy advertisers generally hate replication and will look to reach their potential audience through all the available avenues without having to repeat themselves. It’s complicated figuring out how to spend your advertising dollars wisely to have maximum impact for minimum CPM (cost per thousand). For most magazines that means proving to advertisers (with MRI data and your own in-house surveys) that your audience doesn’t replicate your competition or offering them a better deal in terms of price, added value or anything really that shows you smoke the competition.

Well, guess what happened? There’s a new media company to compete with called the internet and you will never *ever* beat them on price.

The solution here is *not* I repeat *not* to make your publication resemble a website. When presented with one of those 1/8 page layout holes for an image I would remark (not too loud) that they could print a picture of a rhinos ass in there for all I cared. Designing a magazine to look like a web page with virtually unreadable images does nothing for me, the photographer or the reader. Why bother? I can get that online faster than you can say pica pole 3 times fast and when I click on the stupid unreadable image online it blows up to fill my screen. Can’t beat that.

Any print publication that simply reproduces imagery that’s been previously published and is easily available on the internet or even resembles stuff that’s already out there–most stock photography–will slowly bleed readers and lose relevance with advertisers. Additionally, publications that continue to use valuable print real estate to run content that’s better served online (news, lists, packages, pr photos) will simply get beat by media companies that are doing it cheaper and easier online.

There’s a vicious cycle of destruction on the horizon for magazines where editors who are forced to cut cost will in turn force photo editors to use more stock photography which will in turn drive the readers and advertisers away forcing the editor to demand more cost cutting measures further driving away readers and advertisers.

Not to worry, there’s a great solution available that everyone except the 85 year old media barons will like. Only publish well written, well reported, fact checked, in depth stories with stunning, original, surprising can’t-be-found-anywhere photography (full bleed, natch). Sure you’ll lose some of your audience and some of the advertisers will disappear and you’ll have to produce it will a smaller staff, but think of all the man-hours you’ll save not producing the same package you produced last year only this time it has to be different (ya know, because you did it last year) so you throw some twist in there that makes it less relevant for the readers and harder to actually produce because the twist doesn’t actually exist in reality, but hey it’s different.

Magazines do some things better than websites. They always will. Serve the audience that wants to read stories and look at pictures in a magazine and advertisers will want to reach them too. If you want a website build one *online*. Just don’t make it act like a magazine.

A Thought on the Future of Photography

- - The Future

Photographers need more fans.

Photographers spend waaay too much time and money trying to develop a very small and elite group of fans at the top. What needs to change is instead of thinking about having a couple of fans with deep pockets you need to start adding a large number with shallow pockets. These fans are actually just the same consumers you would potentially reach through traditional media except now they can find you without the help of magazines and newspapers. As these people abandon traditional media they’re looking for places to spend the time and money they used to spend at the top. Why not be there waiting?

If you somehow find marketing and selling yourself to average citizens somehow revolting, not to worry, there will always be a group of 500 successful elite photographers who dominate the top of this industry with a handful of deep pocketed fans (top Photo Directors, Art Buyers and Creatives) and if that’s your goal you can continue the long slow climb to the top, but for many people it’s just not possible to make that climb anymore or maybe the mystique of it all has suddenly evaporated.

If that’s the case you need to prepare to go get your fans back.

Christopher Anderson, Editor of Wired gives the following relevant example in his article, Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business (here)

Traditionalists wring their hands about the “vaporization of value” and “demonetization” of entire industries. The success of craigslist’s free listings, for instance, has hurt the newspaper classified ad business. But that lost newspaper revenue is certainly not ending up in the craigslist coffers. In 2006, the site earned an estimated $40 million from the few things it charges for. That’s about 12 percent of the $326 million by which classified ad revenue declined that year.

But free is not quite as simple — or as stupid — as it sounds. Just because products are free doesn’t mean that someone, somewhere, isn’t making huge gobs of money. Google is the prime example of this. The monetary benefits of craigslist are enormous as well, but they’re distributed among its tens of thousands of users rather than funneled straight to Craig Newmark Inc.

He’s talking about consumers having more time and money to spend elsewhere because services that used to be complicated and costly became efficient. And, I’m saying consumers will spend some of that extra time and money with their favorite photographers if you give them the opportunity.

It’s not so crazy to think that consumers who used to pay for the New York Times and now read it online for *free* will take some of that saved money and even time and spend it on books by their favorite NYT writers and photographers.

It’s not much of a stretch to think that photo essays and stories that magazines used to commission and then distribute to consumers sandwiched between $140,000 worth of ads will be commissioned by advertisers and distributed through new media channels to reach even more consumers.

Are you making yourself available to these people? I assume all of you have websites loaded with pictures and some of you have blogs where your fans can talk to you so that’s a good start. The other avenues for reaching consumers are prints, books, lectures, clinics, original stock, personal commissions and more local clients. National Geographic seems to have a pretty good handle on the idea that their photographers have fans or maybe the demand was there and they just responded to it by offering many of these products. Either way that’s a good example of how it works.

There’s one last difficult piece to this puzzle. You’ve got to make your photos available online for free. Anything that can be distributed digitally must now be distributed for free to remain competitive. Not for commercial use and not without attribution but fans should be able to distribute your photography for free and view it big on your website without watermarks and other barriers. It’s not like you don’t already do this it’s just that there’s a lot of hand wringing going on about the ability of consumers to scrape your photos off your website. It’s not necessary because they’re the fans you want to sell prints, books, lectures, clinics and personal commissions to. You should encourage them to look at and help you distribute your photography so you can bring in more fans. Don’t forget that some of those people will be Art Buyers and Photo Directors.

Several music industry artists are leading the way with this idea and Nine Inch Nails latest release proves that it works. They released 9 songs from a 36-track album for free, the rest of the tracks cost $5. A double CD version will be available in April along with a $79 deluxe edition and then in May a $300 autographed version. So far they’ve made 1.6 million and the most expensive offering is sold out with a limited run of 2,500 copies.

The audience is now in charge. Turn them into fans.

Kevin Kelly wrote a post about this phenomenon entitled: You only need 1000 true fans (here) which basically says if you’ve got 1000 people willing to give you $100 for some type of original performance then minus the expenses you’ve got a solid way to make a living.

I’m not even taking into account the difficulty advertisers are going to have reaching consumers in the future and how reliant they will become on these professional networks with fans to market their products to. All the camera, software and printing companies will pay to use these fan networks for marketing new products.

There’s about $1.3 trillion in our $13 trillion U.S. economy chasing demand [for content]… From John Sviokla at Harvard Business (here).

Will you be ready to capture some of it?

Brilliant New Technology to Licence Images

- - The Future

TechCrunch reports (here)–then I received an email from one of the founders–on the launch of a new company called GumGum (here) that allows people to license images on a cost per impression basis. This is the way images are licensed in the print world so it only makes sense that they should go that way online. This is such a brilliant idea for photographers and very similar to one I was trying to work on after leaving NY, but never got anywhere with, so I’m glad someone beat me to the punch.

If you don’t want to pay the cpm the photographer is offering they give you the option to serve advertising either on the image or as a pre-roll to the image instead.

Either way the photographer gets paid. How’s that sound to you?

Watch the video here on how it works:

The cool thing is how easy it is for someone to license an image from you. It reminds me of what Apple did with music.

It’s just the beginning for this technology but I’d like to see widgets photographers can put on their site that will take me to a licensing area with only their images. Also, they’re really going to need powerful search and keywording technology similar to what Corbis and Getty use if they want to make the service worthwhile for publishers but that’s where I think using google to search for images and then gumgum.com to license could be a powerful combination for the future.

I’ll be keeping my eye on this one.

All Music To Be Free

- - The Future

Update: This Qtrax announcement appears to be a hoax (here).

… are photos next? TechCrunch is reporting on a new free and legal P2P downloading service (here) with 25 million songs (itunes has 6 million). It’s called Qtrax and they’ve signed all 4 of the major music labels to somehow allow free music sharing in exchange for advertising (They missed their intended launch time of midnight last night so there may be problems with the labels).

A quick read through the comments and it looks like there will be ads playing before or after the music… not unlike how radio works. Will the same eventually happen to photography where photos download with ads loaded around them just like in newspapers and magazines?

I know Mochila, Jamd (Getty), Britepic, PicApp, and others are experimenting with this idea but I’m almost certain it benefits the advertisers, distributors and not the content creators so that will certainly limit the quality of material available.

I’ve got no problem looking at ads or paying a fee to receive content but I refuse to believe that the future of content distribution will be the same as it is now with middlemen controlling everything and consumers paying them for access. Why wouldn’t the more efficient model where content creators reach the consumers directly become the eventual solution?

I Fixed That Copyright Problem On The Internet

- - The Future

I decided to take it upon myself to address the raging debate about copyright on the internet. I created an alternate internet for people who want to give their content away without attribution or payment.

I’m calling it the shitternet. Just direct your browser to shit://www.yourblog.com and start grabbing stories and photos and video to make a page everyone will want to visit. This is going to be so AWESOME. It will be a place where people can mash-up and repurpose everything thats posted and consumers can go and look at the same photographs and stories and videos over and over and over again only reposted on millions of blogs. And, everyone can link everyone else until the internet resembles a giant donut. Sweet. It’s for people who use the internet as a side job. It’s no good for people who want to make a living off original content creation because everything is free.

There was another round of debate on the tech blogs just before the holidays about photographers copyright and the idea of fair use on the internet. I won’t bore you with links because it’s old news now but I wanted to point out that a few people commented with links to Larry Lessig’s speach at TED (here) where he talks about mashing-up copyrighted content to make cool new content and they all seemed to miss the point he makes at the end that the content originators should decide how their stuff is used.

I think it’s cool that people want to create material and give it away because that’s exactly the value of the material they’re creating. The creative commons license which Larry is a big supporter of was created so people can broadly release copyright restrictions on material they would never profit from. I’ve always had a problem paying for horrible photography and now I know I can get it for free.

High quality photography is still very expensive.

Rob Haggart is A Photo Editor

- - The Future

Phew. I feel much better now.

On December 14th, after 2 long years, I quit my job as the Director of Photography at Men’s Journal. Before that I was the Photography Editor at Outside Magazine for 5 1/2 years and before that I lived in Jackson Hole, Wyoming freelancing as a photo editor for two national startup magazines (outdoor related and now defunct), managed/assisted several local ski photographers and worked with a couple national ski film companies.

I left Men’s Journal because I wanted a change of lifestyle. I like to ski, climb, bike and run as much as I enjoy working with photographers and NYC is not really the place for both so I did my time and… I’m out.

At Outside Magazine I worked with an incredibly talented Creative Director, Hannah McCaughey, who pushed me to hire brilliant photographers and challenged me to refine my taste to the point where I felt it necessary to go to New York City and join the community of photo professionals if I wanted my career to continue to grow. So, when Men’s Journal came calling the offer was too good to turn down and I was excited to meet all the photographers and agents I’d worked with over the years, visit galleries and go to events.

Well, it didn’t work out the way I expected, mostly because the work hours were long and the commute to Connecticut where I moved with my family a pain in the ass, plus I wanted to spend the weekends with my kids playing and I was trying to find outdoor activities to do as well. And, so, I never really got to be a part of that NYC photo community. My job started to get a bit stale and I spent lots of time online reading blogs and enjoying the community that I never engaged with in New York. J.M. Colberg, Andrew Hetherington, John Loomis, Alec Soth and others (Andrew is the only one who lives in New York so maybe they all have the same problem I did). I decided to start a blog. I had no objective other than to engage with everyone and contribute something back and… heeeeyah, holy fucking shit, it’s been nothing short of amazing. All those gallery shows and events and drinks with photographers that I blew off have all been made up by the interactions I’ve had with all of you. Thanks.

I left New York and I’m now temporarily in Tucson, AZ and then next summer I will move permanently to Durango, CO where I plan to pursue whatever comes my way. I’m still a photo editor and I love to work with photographers but I want to spend time outdoors and with my family so you know, whatever I work on has to come after that.

I’m tired of trying to change the media industry from the inside (I have great stories from my efforts that I will share with you in the coming months) and I really want to do something to lead this industry in the right direction. I think the blog is a good start but I have ideas for software and websites that I believe will greatly benefit professional photographers in the future so for the time being I’m going to devote all my energy to that.

Maybe now that you know who I am some of you out in the wings watching will feel like you can comment and we can continue this community and see where it goes next. Last month I had 40,000 unique visitors, so I know there’s a bunch of people just reading and watching. Also, just because I’m no longer anonymous doesn’t mean you can’t continue to be. I needed it to protect me just as some of you will when you have something to say that you don’t want to bite you in the ass later.

Anyway, thanks everyone, it’s been a trip and I hope we can keep on truckin.

Rob Haggart AKA A Photo Editor

Happy Holidays Photographers

- - The Future

The holidays are nearly upon us and unlike the Thanksgiving break where you had to explain to your drunk uncle George that you really do take photos for a living and that “No, I’ve never met Britney Spears,” this holiday is all about your immediate family and friends and their deep appreciation for your unique ability to take fantastic photographs of everyone and everything. There’s no photo editor or art director breathing down your neck and no deadlines to meet nothing really except the pure joy of taking pictures with people you love.

It’s amazing to me that people would deny the presence of talent in the making of a professional photographer. With my knowledge of this industry and exposure to great photography and knowing what goes into making a great photograph and how to identify great photography the holidays are the time of year when I break out the camera and realize that my photos suck. With all that I know I still have a really hard time making much more than above average images. Whatever, eat it.

In the holiday spirit I have a prediction to make about photography in the future. Magazines and Newspapers can squeeze the life out of their contributors all they want, but mark my words from the soon to be smoldering crater of the publishing industry will rise all the original content creators (not the content packagers? doh!) and photographers will prove once and for all, that they are superior, to all other means of communication. Is there any doubt that photography has always trumped words for immediacy and video for introspection? Because, as much as I want to blather on about this and that and the other thing, drowning in the gray space or leaning inches from my screen to stare at a tiny video box with a crappy jumpy picture of some shit-bag getting hit in the nutz with a skateboard what really gets me cranked is amazing photographs that sing off the screen. I think computers were made for photography (editors always bemoan photos printed in the magazine never look as good as they did on the screen) and blogs without photographs suck and those sucky blogs that are currently making money will be trumped by blogs with photographs and those blogs will be trumped by blogs with killer photographs and so forth. And, soon it’s not about undercutting each other it’s about overbidding because there are too many jobs and the only way to fend off the clients is to make insane demands but that never seems to do the trick so you have to just stop showing up for shoots and instead go for a joy ride in your Ferrari smashing empty magnums of champagne against the road signs and prank calling your agent pretending to be the photo editor at some crappy magazine that pays for shit and uses photos like a website from 2007. In the future photographers will rule the world.

I’ll meet you there.

See you Next Year.

The Online Magazine

- - The Future

I haven’t really paid much attention to online magazines because I think websites should be websites and magazines should be magazines and when they try to mix those roles it turns to shit. I especially hate that online reader that allows lazy publishers to turn their newsstand version in an unreadable online/downloadable version. A computer screen is not a piece of paper and people who are sitting in front of their computer screens are in work mode or information gathering mode not hang out and enjoy a good page turner mode.

A contributor on Photo Rank submitted a link (here) to Gutter Magazine (here) and I have to say it’s the first time I’ve thought “that’s how a magazine should look online.” My favorite feature is that I can read it backwards, which is how I read all magazines and the navigation bar on the bottom just feels like the perfect tool for reading an online magazine. Well done Gutter.

guttermagazine.jpg

State of the Stock Photography Market

- - The Future

Dan Heller delivers this treatise about the state of the stock photography market on his blog based on an interview PDN did with him (here). It’s quite long for a blog read so I pulled a few highlights out here:

PDN: What do you think the license revenue number [for stock] is, if not $2 billion?

DH: That depends upon how you make the calculation, but I would estimate it closer to 20 billion range.

… We can get a sense of this untapped potential in the huge supply of photos being used for free in one form or another, whether it’s intentional give-aways by consumers, or equal indifference to copyright infringements by working photographers.

… Yet, the real opportunity is precisely because of all those free exchanges of images. They could be converted into real dollars if there were a more mature, sustainable and reliable infrastructure that people actually knew about and participated in.

… That microstocks exist is just a byproduct of this mismanagement. But those small companies themselves don’t present major growth opportunities in their current form, and they’ll largely be reabsorbed back into the system, once it eventually materializes again in another form.

… The only thing that affects broad-scale market pricing (up or down) is the fundamental industry-wide infrastructure. Prices are low because of the lack of efficiencies to the pricing/licensing/distribution models.

… It is true that a market-based system causes unit prices to go down with increased supply, but it would only be for those kinds of images where there’s an oversupply anyway (and whose prices were unfairly and artificially supported by the aforementioned mechanisms).

PDN: Let’s assume there is $20 billion worth of photo licensing business worldwide. A lot of sales are so piddling and diffuse, how can individual photographers benefit?

DH: There are two answers: the short term (they can’t benefit) and the long term (lay a foundation for the emerging industry transformation).

Thanks for the Comments

- - The Future

I found this recently and while I know it applies directly to the Photo Rank website I want to make sure this doesn’t happen to the valuable post comments.

I appreciate the time and effort that goes into creating worthwhile comments to my posts.

Distributed karma

an idea for fixing recommendation systems

This sketch refers to systems where a group of users votes on material created/submitted by other members of the group (comments, links), such as reddit or digg. Therefore it doesn’t apply to movie/book recommendation systems, etc.

Vote-based commenting systems, forums, news aggregators have become widely popular, and are considered prominent examples of the web 2.0 phenomenon. The main assumption is that by collecting the opinions of a large number of people, one can somehow distill information that is meaningful for the individual. (“crowd wisdom”)

The system works surprisingly well for a small community of people, who share similar interests. It is efficient in removing spam and obnoxious comments/submissions, and promoting valuable material.

When one tries to scale such a recommendation system, several problems arise:

  • As the community grows, the quality of the average opinion declines. This doesn’t necessarily imply that most people are stupid. As users see their opinions having smaller and smaller effect, they spend less effort in making educated decisions and taking part in quality discussion.
  • As there are more and more users, the average user cannot remember a significant portion of the community, and the chance of finding material created by someone familiar becomes very small. There’s a much smaller chance for influential people to emerge. Newcomers don’t respect the established hierarchies, there aren’t any expert voices. (“Eternal September“)
  • As the community becomes more diverse, the standard deviation from the average opinion becomes larger, and one can hardly identify with it anymore.
  • It is a small minority of the whole community who votes, and this minority is not necessarily the most knowledgeable, etc. Even if everyone votes, expert opinions aren’t given any weight, opposing opinions cancel each other out. We end up having the average review of anything on the internet ‘3 stars out of 5′.[1]
  • Users can easily game the system, by creating multiple identities (sockpuppets), voting and commenting their own submissions, etc.

Towards a solution:

1. Karma.

A first idea would be to have a score of how reputable a user is (karma), then let the karma influence the weight each vote of the person carries. If the votes themselves generate karma for others, this…

More at Sunspot Software (here).