James Nachtwey’s TED Prize and You

- - The Future

James Nachtwey and TED need your help breaking a major story that Jim has been documenting over the last two years as part of winning the TED prize in 2007. On October 3, his work will be simultaneously revealed online, disseminated through numerous media channels, and projected on monuments and public buildings throughout the world.

How to get involved:
The following link contains embeddable badges, Nachtwey’s TEDTalk, and other information related to Nachtwey’s wish.
http://www.tedprize.org/nachtwey/bloggers.html
The site will redirect on October 3 to unveil the story.

Nachtwey wished for help in breaking a news story in a way that demonstrates the power of news photography in the digital age. Let’s do whatever we can to make it happen.

Top 100 Media Companies

- - The Future

AdAge has their annual list of the top 100 media companies (here) and I was surprise by a couple things. The growth in 2007 was the slowest since the last recession in 2001 at 4.6% and almost 300 billion in revenue. I thought it would have been flatter then that and I was shocked to see that when they started the list in 1981 the top 100 had revenue of 30 billion. That’s some serious growth in the last 26 years.

The only significant movment came from who else but “Google — whose leap to 12th from 19th last year was the only big gain in the top 20…” “‘This is a changing of the guard,’ said Rishad Tobaccowala, CEO of Denuo Group and chief innovation officer for Publicis Groupe Media. ‘If you look back 20, 30 years ago, the major companies would probably be print-based. Then they move to basically be broadcast based. Now we’re looking at companies that have basically digital or technology underpinnings.'”

Jeff Jarvis, author of “What Would Google Do?” and director of the interactive journalism program at the City University of New York levels a little criticism at the list by saying that “There are new paths to big-ness. And those paths are not necessarily through ownership and corporate control.” He goes on to say, “The mass market is dead, replaced by the mass of niches,” Mr. Jarvis said. “Advertising people roll their eyes at me and say, ‘No, no, no.'” They cite big draws such as “American Idol,” he said. “But we all know how inefficient that’s been. And what’s artificially propping it up has been the advertising industry, because they like one-stop shopping. They’re not built to find these highly targeted networks.”

Shooting Editorial- Art Center Lecture Next Tuesday

- - Events

I’ve been invited by Everard Williams of Art Center College of Design to join Heidi Volpe, former Art Director at the LA Times Magazine for a lecture in LA next Tuesday evening called Shooting Editorial.

We’re going to talk about shooting for magazines and spend the first part discussing what goes on inside a magazine, how stories are assigned, the dynamics between the different departments and in particular how Art Directors and Photo Editors work together… including the ways in which I try and trick AD’s into picking my photographer or my opener choice.

For the second part of the lecture we’re going to talk about a photographers style and how we use it to make assignments and really try and show as many examples of portfolio images that convinced us to hire a photographer and then the published results from the assignment.

The event is free and open to the public and should be informative but also entertaining since Heidi and I aren’t afraid to give each other a little shit. We will also try and tackle a few topics that have been in the news lately.

Shooting Editorial- Tuesday, September 30, 7:30pm-9:00pm in the Ahmanson Theater on Art Centers North campus. The address is 1700 Lida St. Pasadena, CA 91103.

Look Out For That Cliff

- - Working

The timing of a nuclear meltdown on wall street and uncertainty as advertisers try to find a strategy online could not be worse for magazines:

Ad spending across the major U.S. media fell at its steepest rate since the industry’s last recession in 2001, according to new data released this morning by ad tracking service TNS Media Intelligence.– Report Here.

Maybe instead of a slow painful decline we can quickly hit the bottom and start implementing strategies for a recovery and rethink the priorities of printed magazines.

Here’s a strategy:
Time magazine has more than 3 million readers in print and currently does 82 million page views online, and president and worldwide publisher Ed McCarrick thinks the brand can “easily do 200 million page views” online in the near future. “We must be constantly innovative to earn audience back each day,” said McCarrick, who delivered the opening keynote at the FOLIO: Show here today.

Online advertising revenue currently accounts for about 10 percent of overall revenue at Time and is projected to grow by 57 percent in 2008 and another 35 percent to 40 percent in 2009, according McCarrick.

While McCarrick thinks online will eventually account for 30 percent to 35 percent of overall revenue, “offline revenue is still the big engine.” Still, one medium is leveraged with another. “We’re putting together a multifaceted approach and it’s no longer clean in terms of one media being separate from another.”– Story Here.

Here’s a rethinking of priorities:
From an interview with John P. Loughlin, executive VP and general manager for Hearst Magazines (here); listen to his mantra people:

“Clearly, the challenge given the current economy is convincing consumers that magazines as an impulse purchase are worth every penny. For publishers, it’s a double whammy. Publishers are under enormous cost pressures at the same time that unit sales are down, but it’s critical that we not react by diminishing the quality of the physical product or magazines’ content value proposition for the consumer.”

and

“The challenge for our magazine editors, and for all of us involved in maximizing our magazine sales, is to provide and convey that compelling value proposition to the consumer.”

and

“Which comes back once again to my point that magazines must provide even higher perceived value to the consumer, maybe even more so during this economic turbulence.”

Here’s web marketing guru Seth Godin on selling products to consumers:
Godin’s overarching theme is simple: Companies can no longer rely on mass-media advertising to sell average products to average consumers. Instead, they must create remarkable products and services and let consumers do the marketing themselves to generate a buzz. In the “new marketing” landscape that Godin chronicles, the balance of power has shifted from companies to consumers, thanks to TiVo, spam filters, blogs, and YouTube (GOOG). — Interview here.

New Site Looks to Help Distribute Multimedia Projects

- - The Future

Multimedia Muse (here) is a site that hopes to bring more attention to multimedia projects online. This is an excellent new trend where websites are being created not only to drive traffic but also help people find many instances of a certain type of photography or project online.

From the about page:

“We’re three photographers who believe in creating a greater corporate news demand for online photojournalism. Currently, news sites often give lousy play to multimedia projects. Lousy play means fewer web clicks. And fewer clicks means that these projects aren’t earning their web hosts the kind of revenue that they could. We created MultimediaMuse to try and turn things around: to help give our industry’s Final Cut creations the display, and their web hosts the clicks, they deserve.”

Alamy To Open Sales Office in NYC

- - Stock

Alamy is setting up a dedicated sales office in NYC and charging all it’s contributors an extra 5% on sales to do so. The US market makes up 30% of their revenue at the moment but they think the dedicated sales team can ramp that up and increase gross payments to their contributors.

I’m not sure how a dedicated sales office increases the amount of stock you sell. Wouldn’t marketing and adding more US targeted imagery do the trick?

Here’s the announcement from Alamy (here). Thanks Steve.

ASME Best Magazine Covers of the Year Award

- - Awards

American Society of Magazine Ediors has an award for magazine covers (here) and surprisingly the finalists barely have any coverlines. Maybe they should publish the newsstand numbers so we can see how these fare, compared to the normal slathering of bombastic coverlines.

That Texas Monthly cover Platon shot of Willie should go in the hall of fame it’s so effing good.

Via, PDN Pulse.

PhotoLucida Critical Mass, Call For Entries

- - Getting Noticed

The big photo contests in the editorial world are the American Photography annual (here), SPD (here) and the PDN photography annual (here). I’ve mentioned in the past that the Critical Mass review/contest (here) put on by Photolucida is a good resource for finding talent and this year I’m happy to be reviewing work again. The last time I was a reviewer I discovered many, many photographers I’d never head of and it seems like the other reviewers do as well. Amy Stein, a former winner and current reviewer says “I can’t begin to tell you the number of gallerists, curators and editors I’ve met who’ve told me they first saw my work through Critical Mass.”

The call for entries is now but you should keep in mind like anything, these contests favor a certain style of photography and you should look through the past winners and finalists and if you think you’ve got something that might pique the judges interest, give it a shot. I’m going to try and find a few overlooked gems, that PE’s might be interested in and after all the reviewing is done, highlight them on the blog.

What If Your Still Camera Also Shot Great Video?

- - Working

Vincent Laforet emailed me about this new Canon camera that supposedly shoots high quality video (his blog post here) because he thinks “It has the potential to change our industry.” My only thought was that other than the convenience of no longer having to carry a video and still camera, it seems rather insignificant to me.

Sure, I think in certain applications where you are gathering news the addition of video will be valuable, if not a requirement and certainly video will be nice to fill out an online magazine story. But, if you want to reach your audience using video then there’s nothing revolutionary here, you’re producing TV or a movie (and might need the equivalent budget with sound, editing and graphics).

And, the more I think about it the less dominant I feel video will be online because it’s just too slow when it comes to communication. If you’re offering the reader a headline with a lead photo and a story along with a video clip, audio clip maybe and picture slide show. The most hits will go to the headline and lead image and everything else follows depending on the time and interest of the viewer (headline writing is an underrated skill in the media world).

So, when I think about sending photographers out in the field armed with cameras equipped with video I can think of very few instances in the past (lets pretend magazines could even handle video for a second) where I would want the best shot they took to be on video. Now, I suppose if you can just pull a frame out of the video and deliver it that way you’d be okay, but the still frame moments seem to be rarely the same as the video moments on a shoot, so I’m not so sure about that.

I’m reminded of people who are writer/photographer and how at a certain level in this industry you do one or the other better and the result is always better when you put your efforts into one or the other not both. I think the same will ring true for photographer/videographer.

Bill Black, Director of Photography at Readers Digest

I had a serendipitous encounter with Bill Black, DOP at Readers Digest and on a whim asked him a few questions about the magazine. I hadn’t seen it in awhile (mom’s house maybe) and was unsure what they were doing with photography, but boy am I glad I did and you might be as well.

I haven’t been following Readers Digest lately. Is it still the 2nd largest magazine in the country?

Yes. Reader’s Digest actually has the highest paid circulation of 8 million subscribers in the US.

Can you tell me how you got started as a Photo Editor and how you ended up as DOP at Readers Digest?

Bill Black and kids

Bill Black with his kids

I studied photography in school and had every intention of trying to shoot magazine editorial work. I had an incredibly lucky start when I was interviewing with Adrian Taylor, then Art Director of Travel & Leisure magazine. He was hectic and answering his phone during the entire 20 minute interview. On one call he was distracted and yelling while flipping rapidly through my portfolio, dropping cigarette ashes on my pictures telling the person “there was no way in hell his messenger had lost the slides.” Convinced he had only looked at one picture in my book I got a perfunctory “nice work kid ” and then he asked if I’d ever consider taking a photo staff position at a magazine like T&L. He laughed when I replied with an emphatic yes before he finished asking the question. I told him I would make sure they didn’t loose any more slides.

Taylor was a great mentor and with his introductions I was in some of the world’s best photographers’ studios talking shop and editing their work for a Tenth anniversary issue. I could not believe I was bringing Ernst Haas over a six pack of his favorite beer to discuss and edit his best color work of Venice …then over to Arnold Newman’s place to look at portraits. Burt Glinn, Jay Maisel, Pete Turner, Inge Morath, Elliot Erwitt, Mary Ellen Mark, Tom Hollyman–the list went on and on. Eventually I was promoted to Picture Editor of T&L and had the most amazing eight years that anyone could have had in magazine publishing.

The editor in chief, Pamela Fiore, was a firm believer in offering her staff opportunities to grow professionally. As a result I got to travel and photograph stories we published on exotic places like Papua New Guinea, Africa, Asia and regions north of the arctic circle. Even though I had such a rich and unique learning experience and had been given so much, I was still naive enough to think that I should pursue a freelance life of shooting for other magazines so I impulsively resigned my post. Big mistake. I really missed the comradery and the social interactions within a magazine staff and its contributors.

It was then I met Travel Holiday’s editor in chief, Maggie Simmons. The magazine was owned by Reader’s Digest and in the midst of being relaunched and redesigned. She was looking for a photo editor that had solid connections in Travel. I was so fortunate to have another incredible 7 year run with her at Travel Holiday. We racked up over a 100 prestigious awards for the photography alone and many others for writing and desig . She promoted me to DOP and gave me unprecedented creative license on hiring and directing photographers. Unfortunately, Reader’s Digest decided they couldn’t figure out what to do with an award winning travel magazine and sold it to Hachette. Hachette brought in their own staff and it subsequently folded. Reader’s Digest then asked me to become DOP of their flagship magazine. They wanted to overhaul the magazine and introduce more original photography. Voila.

I can imagine that one of your biggest challenges is assigning photography that’s compelling yet not challenging for your readers to comprehend, because isn’t the whole idea behind Readers Digest to take stories and compress them down so they’re easier to read?

Photograph by Kevin Horan

Photograph by Kevin Horan

You might be surprised to know we frequently run 10 to 12 page features that are photo driven. Our newly hired editor in chief, Peggy Northrop is a passionate supporter of great photography. She has made it a priority to articulate a mission and aesthetic we’re all proud of. I think she is less concerned with compressing previously published material and more focused on commissioning great writers to write powerful, inspiring stories and give the magazine a louder more authoritative and original voice.

The photography needs to mirror that quest. Its size certainly presents challenges for photography but our readers love it for it’s portability and convenience.

Photograph by Kevin Horan

Photograph by Kevin Horan

When producing photography we generally subscribe to the less is more concept as we want the images to have the most impact within our framework. This places a bigger burden on the images to engage the reader immediately with opener photos that reach out and grab you, that are uncluttered, appealing, well composed, graphically fresh, emotionally relevant and ultimately memorable. I don’t think it’s a matter of risking that our readers won’t comprehend the photography as much as will it hold their attention and pull them into a story. The magazine reader of this day is very demanding and highly sophisticated visually. They want to get into their story, absorb the information that’s important to them and move on. The photography needs to be the catalyst to that experience.

Your next biggest challenge must be attracting a younger audience to the title. Like most magazines out there I assume your demographic keeps getting older each year and we all know that the key advertisers want to reach the younger demographic so what can you do photographically to make this happen?

Photograph by Tamara Reynolds

Photograph by Tamara Reynolds

Hire young minded photographers who want to help us. These are photographers who have studied us and tend to be highly creative, collaborative professionals who are constantly reinventing the norm, staying away from formula and coming to the table with fresh ideas for new approaches and solutions to breaking out of familiar patterns. This is a two way street and if we can team up with photographers on every project with this kind of joint energy and passion then I think you have the ingredients to produce quality in pictures that will transcend any generational differences or sensibilities.

You mentioned that you were assigning more photography than ever. Why is that?

It’s a requirement of the new direction and design of the magazine. Fewer pick up articles less stock photography and more original content that needs to be illustrated.

How much emphasis is on the website now? I see you have rd.com as a website, so somebody must have thought way back when, that the web was going to be useful to have the foresight to register rd.com. Any thoughts on how photography on-line will change in the coming years?

Yes our web forefathers were smart to do that and the current web team is also evolving the url to www.readersdigest.com. Right now both addresses will get you there. Currently we are producing a minimum of one slide show or multi media presentation from one of our features every issue. I strongly believe the web will become more and more of an outlet for quality photography. I love that photographers and magazine publishers/editors are thinking together in those terms. I think it can really enhance what is accomplished in print. There are those who forecast that the web will ultimately replace print. Not having a crystal ball, I think the mediums will both remain valid and offer different experiences for quite some time.

Tell me how you like to be reached by photographers and what types of photography you’re actively looking for?

We really aren’t staffed up to handle hard copy portfolios via mail or make appointments to review individual books at this time. I would highly recommend email and web links. We can’t always reply as our emails are overflowing but we do bookmark work we want to consider for future projects and are always adding to our talent pools. We’re a general interest magazine with a mass audience. Our visual DNA at its core is people. People in every spectrum of the human experience. The photographer’s work that can show us he/she can navigate easily through difficult emotional landscapes gaining trust and access with their subjects quickly is usually someone we will watch closely.

Email linda_carter(at)rd.com or bill_black(at)rd.com

Interesting Staff Photographer Position

- - Jobs

I was sent this interesting Job opening with Titan Media and Technology Corp. They’re looking for 10-15 staff photographers to pay $45k a year plus benefits to travel for 10 to 15 days at a time, 15 times or more a year, away from NYC taking pictures.

Didn’t see anything about owning a flak jacket, so that’s a good sign.

I thought some of you might find this interesting.

Download the PDF Job Description here.

A Couple Things Today

- - Photography News

Looks like Life Magazine will be publishing their collection for consumers to browse (here).
Thanks, Matt Wright-Steel.

Here’s an interesting idea. Someone from within a stock photo agency is anonymously posting gems from the collection as they run across them (here). The splash page at a stock agency website is always incredibly valuable real estate, so maybe there are other ways to get images from the collection in front of potential buyers.
Via, Swiss Miss.

Jill Greenberg Is Not Afraid To Dump All Her Clients At Once

- - Photographers

Jill Greenberg officially took herself off everyone’s list with that little stunt she pulled with outtakes from her McCain cover shoot for The Atlantic (I’m talking about all the photoshopping not the “lit from below” picture which felt like a nice try but not quite there) and made it a little more difficult for Photo Editors to get someone new and untested past the editor and more importantly the publicist.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about Mark Tucker has links to all the coverage and several questions of his own (here).

It’s the publicists who usually vet the photographers and if you’ve ever looked at a celebrity or political picture and thought “the most interesting thing about that picture is the person in it” that’s because safety is more important than creating something visually exciting. The challenge for Photo Editors has always been getting interesting photographers past the publicists because they always google them or come with a pre-approved list just to make certain the photographer will not do something unflattering or controversial. So, I’m shocked that the McCain camp approved her given the “candy and crying children” controversy that’s not much more than a google click away (well, it used to be a google click away…) but I’m guessing that The Atlantic didn’t seem to pose much of a threat so there was no background check on the photographer.

Hit pieces in magazines are not unusual, but it’s usually the writers that are the one’s waiting till the shoot is in the can, the fact-checking mostly done and then they can finally ring the subject up and start asking hard questions. What’s unusual here is that Jill went off and did it on her own without letting the magazine know what she was up to. Usually the magazine is involved in these kinds of decisions if not directing them in the first place. So, I can pretty much guarantee she’s not interested in getting hired anymore to do “the monkey light” and really just wants to be known as someone who manipulates. Even if some Photo Editor wanted to hire her now they wouldn’t get her past the editor let alone the publicist.

The Atlantic unfortunately got burned in the whole deal but there’s no way to know when someone is going to go rogue on you and if it ever happened in the past nobody would even know about it. The 2 week embargo seems unusual to me and it’s likely a function of The Atlantic wanting really badly to do something interesting in a very crowded newsstand and allowing Jill Greenberg to lay down the rules on what it would take for her to shoot a cover (at which point I would expect a photographer to tell me they hate the person they’re about to photograph and might not be the best choice for this assignment). If I’d been the Photo Editor in that situation I would be looking for a new job because I would have had to convince the editor to take a chance on a first time cover shooter for the magazine with very little political experience and on top of it get them to reduce the embargo to 2 week for outtakes.

Ultimately I don’t think she’s suddenly screwed it all up for photographers everywhere because shoots of this nature are almost always closely watched by the publicists, the terms with the magazine are exclusive and publishing outtakes from a cover shoot will land you in court

This was a very deliberate act by a photographer who knew she was going to get blackballed by publicists and make herself un-hireable in the editorial world to make a political statement or maybe she just wanted to remove herself from the editorial world in a dramatic way because in the end who but clients visits a photographers portfolio site and if you’re tired of having clients and working with publicists and just want to make art then this is one way to do it.

Most newspaper Web sites just aren’t very good

- - Websites

I’m enjoying this blog Recovering Journalist and found this post on newspaper websites spot on (here).

“…But that’s the problem: They’re usually putting out online versions of printed papers. They’re still pasting newspapers onto a screen–and the state of the online art has moved way past that.”

“Spend some time with an online newspaper–and compare it to leading Web sites–and you know what I mean. Most newspaper Web sites have a gazillion links on the home page; the eye has no idea where to look. They’re ugly, overstuffed and foreboding. They’re trying to do way too much. The most successful Web sites, by comparison, usually are minimalist, and designed for quick scanning and visiting. Believe me, there’s no fast read when the “National News” header on a newspaper Web site sits atop 10 or 20 small-type headlines. Snore.”

“There’s more: Newspaper Web sites still are organized like, well, newspapers. They follow the traditional News/Sports/Local/Features model from print. That’s not a bad organizing principle, but it may not be well-suited for the Web, where readers are used to quicker, even simpler organizational schemes. (Check out Google’s home page, which is still all about pretty much one thing: search.) Focus on what readers want, not on how your print newsroom is organized.”

He’s even got solutions.

Hopefully someone will listen.

3M Finds The Joys Of Social Media and Will Now Discover the Pitfalls

- - Just Plain Dumb

A photographer takes pictures of people covering a coworker’s car in Post-It Notes. He posts the shots on Flickr and they go viral. More than a year later 3M, maker of the Post-It decides to try and capitalize on the image and contacts the photographer about a license. The photographer asks people he knows in the photo industry what a fair price might be and gives them a quote. Michelle, the emarketing supervisor at 3M tells him she will just copy it instead, for much less… and does. Read and see the whole deal (here).

Now, social media is great. Word can spread fast about cool and interesting things but you have to be a complete moron to not know that it can go both ways. Not only can they get sued for this type of behavior I’ve suddenly lost my appetite for Post-It’s.

Photoshelter Stops Selling Stock

- - Stock

Effective 10/10/2008, The PhotoShelter Collection will discontinue stock photo licensing.

We’ve made a strategic decision to focus our efforts on enhancing our original product, The Personal Archive.

Explanation (here).

A Good Resource For Finding Women Photographers

- - Photographers

You probably know how much Photo Editors like their photographer lists and really any edited group of photographers is handy when looking for people to hire or looking for new people to add to your personal list.

I think this Women in Photography website (here) will become a very strong group from which to find talented photographers to hire. I like that it has a very specific point of view as defined by the co-curators amy elkins and cara phillips.

I mentioned to someone the other day that there are many resources that serve as lists of photographers for the creative community that you can buy into. But, if you don’t agree with the list of people you’re buying into, why not just go make your own. If it’s useful and the creative community knows about it, we will use it. The Women In Photography website is a good example of this.

The Women In Photography Website

The Women In Photography Website