Newsweeklies, Where To Go From Here

- - Magazines

Here’s a debate on Fox Business via Mr. Magazine where the two pundits brought on to debate Time vs. Newsweek end up taking different positions on what those two newsweeklies should actually be covering to stay relevant.

Dr. Husni, J schooler and clearly a big champion of printed magazines argues that newsweeklies need to change their content to better become a bridge between what happened last week and what’s about to happen and how it will effect readers. John Friedman columnist at Market Watch dismisses printed magazines and the newsstand entirely claiming that the battle is on the web and the newsstand is dead.

Do you carve out your place on a shrinking newsstand to deliver something nobody else does or do you evolve your business model to chase news online? To do both well, will take a serious investment.

A New Way To Read All Those Photo Blogs

- - Blogroll

I gave up a long time ago trying to keep a decent list of links to photo blogs and have always relied on Andrew Hetherington’s list over on WhatsTheJackanory? whenever I wanted to do a little browsing and of course I tried to saddle him with the responsibility of keeping track of the good blogs by posting about it. He also has a pretty good track record for outing blogs before the author is ready, including yours truly and most recently Vincent Laforet (FYI- If you link someone in your blogroll when setting up the blog they can see it in their site admin).

I was helping him move his blog to wordpress and updating the look of it and we stumbled upon a really cool way to browse blogs. He’s calling it Blog Patrol (www.blogpatrol.whatsthejackanory.com) and it might take a little getting used to, but I’ve been testing it out for a couple weeks and I like how it shows posts from all the blogs he’s watching chronologically. The real beauty for me is that you can scan the headlines of all the blogs in a matter of minutes then visit later in the day to see what’s new. I think it will catch on as the place to visit and see what’s happening in the photo blog world.

Single Serve Websites, A Cool Trend

- - Websites

Andrew Zuckerman has a great new book coming out called Wisdom and instead of just announcing it on his portfolio site he created a whole new website for the book (here). In fact he’s done that with his other projects as well: Creatures (here) and High Falls the movie (here).

I also noticed that Phil Toledano does the same with his projects, Phone Sex Operators (here) and Days With My Father (here).

Finally, Anthony Georgis showed me his new project called Blood Makes The Grass Grow and it has its own url (here).

Emerging trend or passing fad?

I’m into it. I don’t think it’s necessary to hang everything off the same url anymore. The better search becomes and the more that people are talking about photography and photographers online the less likely people will find you by simply typing your url into the browser. What I really like about it tho is how easy the work is to pass along now and how it suddenly doesn’t exist as just a portfolio piece but instead becomes a finished product. This is how things spread and turn up in unlikely places and get discovered by people who otherwise would never know your name.

This is the hardest thing for media companies to understand. They think about the brand and about making sure everything is in one place where it can be controlled, but that actually ends up preventing people from running into you in unlikely places and therefore prevents casual readers from discovering a piece that’s relevant to them. The casual readers are who’s leaving magazines because it’s just not worth the effort anymore for the 1 or 2 stories that you found interesting and because it’s more convenient to find them online. You can capture them back again if you are willing to let the content go free and roam around unlikely places to be discovered.

Anyway, it makes me think about the lists I make and the projects I’ve done with photographers. I think it would be cool to do a few things and then set them free and see where they turn up, who runs into them and how popular they might become.

The Making of A Magazine Story

- - The Future

Wired is giving everyone a look behind the magazine making curtain with a new blog called storyboard (here).

Wired is probably the perfect candidate for something like this because they seem to have a decent grasp of their mission and don’t feel the need to cut corners and/or try to bullshit their audience. I hope we really do get to see the entire process and for example, get a peek at the first draft of the story and see just exactly why it needs a ton of work like I always used hear from editors when one of those first drafts came in. Then we could watch as the CD and PE discuss approaches for the photography and hopefully see the raw unedited film from the shoot, unless of course they hire Dan Winters in which case you will only see the final images (ever). And, finally maybe we can listen in as editors stand around the designers computer trying to come up with a clever headlines and pull quotes while the managing editor is standing nearby checking their watch because everyone is waiting for a round to start.

Yes, this could be very entertaining for all of us.

Via, Boing Boing.

Finding A Rep or Starting A Collective

- - Photography Agent

Good piece by Nick Onken on his quest to find a new rep (here). This part rings true for me:

“The roster of talent is a huge factor as well as I’m realizing. Being repped by an agency that only reps a certain level of talent, automatically takes you to that level(at least it appears that way from the outside). Brand association is huge, and by associating with other brands that are maybe bigger than you, creates a credibility.”

One of the big reasons for Photo Editors to work with a rep is not the photographers we already know but the people we’ve never heard of, who they basically endorse and lend considerable expertise.

This new photographers collective Luceo Images (here), got me thinking about how photographers can just band together and form an agency and certainly there’s a few high profile photojournalist collectives that exist and seem to make it work.

David Banks, one of the founders with Luceo told me this, when I questioned him about the value a collective creates on the client side without the rep to “vouch” for the photographers:

“The other reason for all this is our belief in helping each other out and being open in the photo industry rather than the one-for-all mentality that is so engrained. We can all work together to edit new projects, work up budgets, make pitches and generally have power in numbers.”

Makes sense and it’s not something I’d considered since this probably doesn’t occur with the reps where the photographers are brought together by the rep and not each other.

(Onken via, A Visual Society)

MARSHALL MCKINNEY, Art Director at GARDEN & GUN

- - Art Director

I met Marshall in 2001, when he landed his very first job with the Outside Magazine Art Department and I’ve enjoyed watching him climb the ladder moving from magazine to magazine over the last few years. I was especially pleased when I heard he was going to run the Art Department at Garden and Gun because it seems like the kind of magazine where someone can really leave their mark. Not only do they have an awesome name, they appear to have the backing and foresight to produce a magazine that’s more of a luxury item. This is something that will serve them well as the media landscape evolves in the coming years, because I believe magazines that are printed well on nice paper stock, with big glossy photos, will be rewarded with a loyal audience and advertisers.

So, tell me about Garden and Gun, what does it stand for?

Garden & Gun, our no-nonsense name, represents the soul of the Southern lifestyle ––the land and the conservation of it, the sporting life, arts, culture, travel and food. It also says dual audience, a magazine that appeals to both men and women. The name Garden & Gun captures the spirit of the discerning Southerner’s sense of heritage and pride while conjuring thoughts of high craftsmanship, elegance and subtle detail. In fact, G&G has come to be part of the Southern lexicon. In blogs, I sometimes see people refer to something as being “G&G.” It seems the name was just born out of a strong sense of tradition. I personally like the name very much because whether it is received favorably or not it forces one to contemplate.

Obviously the magazine is very well funded but I’m wondering if you think there’s a future (beyond generous investors) for regional magazines that want to have a national reputation?

Garden & Gun does have a national reputation, no doubt about it. I attribute that as much to the novelty of our name / brand and tasty editorial content as our financial wherewithal. However, it is important to remember that G & G is a national magazine about a regional lifestyle—not a regional magazine. So, do I think there’s a future for regional magazines with a national reputation beyond generous investors? The answer is YES! I think there is a future for regional magazines and I think that future is (sorry for the forthcoming exclamation point) bright! I mean, look at Denver’s 5280, Virginia Living or the Texas Monthly franchise, which all appear to be fat and happy. Then there are new launches like Forbes Mountain Time, which hopes to bottle the lifestyle of an affluent regional audience.

I believe in the power of print. It’s here to stay. No other medium in the world translates the awesome authority, emotion and intensity of images better than paper. The reader is not staring into a light source but rather enjoying reflective light bouncing off (in our case) quality stock and tantalizing photography. Add that to editorial fare that conjures a healthy, connected—albeit “unique”–– lifestyle with a strong sense of place and voila! another successful magazine is born. (Ahem, if only it were that easy.)

Tell me about the photography. Are you hiring a lot of regional photographers? Are you paying national rates?

We hire a blend of national and regional photographers depending on the assignment and its location. However, we are very fortunate at Garden & Gun to have access to several brilliant shooters right here in our backyard of Charleston, SC. Those shooters being Squire Fox and Peter Frank Edwards. As to whether or not we pay national rates I’ll just say we are competitive and ALWAYS pay on time.

Your website (here) is amazing. 99.9% of magazine publishers are afraid of giving the content away online or they’re afraid of making the online content as enjoyable to read and look at as the printed content. Why do you think you can prove them all wrong?

We arrived at our website philosophy like this: We asked ourselves, what is everybody else in magazine publishing doing? Once we deduced that, we then made a decision to do the exact opposite. In our case, lead with the bold use of photography and use as much as possible or as much as the content will allow. In my mind the thinking is this. We serve an affluent audience. One that expects quality content at a high presented tastefully or at a high taste-level—particularly when it comes to the packaging. Again, the stock we print on speaks to the fact that G&G recognizes the magazine as a luxury item. Therefore, we aren’t afraid of giving content away on the Internet because we feel like our audience wants G&G prominently displayed on their coffee tables.

All that said, though, look for a tweak to the website in the coming months as we are morphing the site to better take advantage of e-newsletter technologies. However, I don’t anticipate our newly developed web strategy conflicting with our philosophy to give all our images the star treatment online.

How do you like to be reached and what types of photography and photographers are you looking for?

I’m looking for down-to-earth, easy-to-work-with photographers who are committed as much to their craft as developing personal, lasting relationships with their clients. I look for shooters who own their style and know exactly how to get the goods in the can. I also look for shooters who specialize in a certain kind of photography whether it be portraiture, travel reportage, product, etc. I also liked to be reached in creative ways via the internet and snail mail. I like seeing photography printed on paper but I like the convenience of the Internet.

I like to find young hungry talent as much as the next AD but the realities of the business are such that many of the editors at this level want the peace of mind that comes with hiring a known quantity. Editors at national magazines are quite savvy and familiar with the photography talent that revolves around the publishing world. As much as I’d like to bring along eager, talented young shooters, sometimes it can be very difficult. With looming deadlines hovering over everyone’s head, it can be tough to fight battles where bringing on an unknown is concerned. There’s just not enough time in the day—not to mention the fiscal concerns and scheduling nightmares that would ensue if, they didn’t come back with the right images.

All that said, editors and art directors alike know it when they see it. They know talent and original thinking. So for any young shooters out there, my best advice to you it is to hone your craft, dedicate yourself to it and don’t fear these sorts of obstacles but rather recognize that they exist for your enlightenment. It’s cliched but true that nothing worthwhile in life ever comes easy. You have to want it, you have to earn it and you have to be resilient and open at the same time. But enough with the preaching already. BACK TO WORK!

Popular Newspaper Columnist Quits Citing Slow Transition To The Web

- - The Future

Jay Mariotti, star sports columnist and 17 year veteran of the Chicago Sun-Times abruptly quits after signing a new 3 year contract.

Mariotti told CBS 2’s Dorothy Tucker that he decided to quit after covering the Olympics in Beijing because newspapers are in serious trouble, and he did not want to go down with the ship.

“It’s been a tremendous experience, but I’m going to be honest with you, the profession is dying,” Mariotti said, “I don’t think either paper [Sun-Times or Chicago Tribune] is going to survive.

“To showcase your work … you need a stellar Web site and if a newspaper doesn’t have that, you can’t be stuck in the 20th century with your old newspaper.”

Read more (here). Thanks Loren.

Here’s What I Think Of Your Pictures

- - Photography Style

I was looking at a photographers pictures recently trying to figure out what kind of advice I should give and having a difficult time of it, because I felt like they had perfectly decent pictures and they were a perfectly decent photographer, but I felt nothing for the images.

I recently re-watched the Johnny Cash movie, Walk The Line and even though it’s such a cliché for artists, it still sent tingles up my spine when the scene occurs where Johnny goes in to make his first record and runs into what must have been the most prescient record producer in the world, who delivers the mother of all lines to Johnny. Here’s how it  goes in the movie:

Hold on. Hold on. I hate to interrupt… but do you guys got something else?

I ‘m sorry.

I can’t market gospel.No more.

So that’s it?

I don’t record material that doesn’t sell, Mr. Cash… and gospel like that doesn’t sell.

Was it the gospel or the way I sing it?

Both.

Well, what’s wrong with the way I sing it?

I don’t believe you.

You saying I don’t believe in God?

J.R., come on, let’s go.

No. I want to understand. I mean, we come down here, we play for a minute… and he tells me I don’t believe in God.

You know exactly what I’m telling you. We’ve already heard that song a hundred times… just like that, just like how you sang it.

Well, you didn’t let us bring it home.

Bring… bring it home? All right, let’s bring it home. If you was hit by a truck and you were lying out in that gutter dying… and you had time to sing one song, huh, one song… people would remember before you’re dirt… one song that would let God know what you felt about your time here on earth… one song that would sum you up…

you telling me that’s the song you’d sing?

That same Jimmie Davis tune we hear on the radio all day? About your peace within and how it’s real and how you’re gonna shout it?
Or would you sing something different? Something real, something you felt?
Because I’m telling you right now… that’s the kind of song people want to hear.
That’s the kind of song that truly saves people. It ain’t got nothing to do with believing in God, Mr. Cash.

It has to do with believing in yourself.

I hear the train a coming, it’s rolling around the bend and I ain’t seen the sunshine since, I don’t know when…

—-

That’s how I feel about photography right now. I want to see something real. I want to see something I haven’t seen a hundred times before. I want to look at pictures that make me feel something.

Casting, Styling and Props

- - On Set

Those three little gems are usually left out of editorial shoots to save money and time but I can tell from the few instances I’ve had all three on set, the change in the resulting pictures is profound.

Of course, great photographers are good at doing all of that (obsessing over the details in pre pro and on set) while taking pictures too but having those people in the process can make the images stonger… and keep the photographers sane.

In fact, if you’re not already paying close attention to those 3 facets of picture making you can improve your photography dramatically by doing so now.

DJ Stout at design collective Pentagram and of Texas Monthly fame tackles the venerable brand of L.L. Bean and uses casting, styling and props to effect a major face lift.

Before:

After:

Before:

After:

Read how he did it (here).

Joerg Investigates Self Published Books

- - Book Publishing

Joerg Colberg has an good post on his experience and comments from readers on their experience with, on demand printing of photography books (here).

“…the images inside the book look like crap. They look like something printed on an extremely cheap printer…”

“What I do want to point out is that while printing books on demand might sound like a great idea, it is ultimately up to the photographer to perform quality control. And getting books printed on demand might in fact lower the threshold of the quality of photography books to a noticeable extent…”

“…I find it slightly surprising that while many photographers – especially those who grew up before the so-called digital revolution – know the names of expert analog printers, there does not appear to be a corresponding pool of expert digital printers.”

If anyone knows of any high quality on demand photography book publishers it would be good to hear about it (or email Joerg so he can add to his post). The very first books I started seeing with portfolios came from .mac and I remember the photographer telling me she tried them all and .mac was the only one where the color was consistent. Not sure what happened to them but now I only hear about blurb, although I’ve only actually seen a couple and they seemed fine but then again, I’m used to magazine printing; )

SEO Is Not Just For Wedding Photographers Anymore

- - Websites

I know that for a wedding photographer or a local portrait photographer, SEO (Search engine optimization) may be one of the most important things for their business after the images. What could be more simple for a potential client than typing city and state plus the word photographer in google? I’d never given it much thought for editorial and commercial photographers because there are better ways to find those people and the results google used to spit out were never that great. Well, I think times are changing and when I see Dan Winters buying keywords (here) I know they’ve changed quite a bit (several years ago he didn’t even have a website).

I think about SEO a great deal now, because I build websites for a living, but the thing that struck me the other day was how many times in the past I’ve typed into google the name of an advertising campaign or a story in a magazine that I saw somewhere but forgot who shot it and never, ever, found what I was looking for. This will and probably has already changed as a new generation of photographers blog about their shoots and those of us blogging about the industry in general report who shot what for whom. There are other reasons photographers want good search results of course but the amount of times I’ve tried and failed to find someone this way seems like a good reason for everyone to think about it.

Anyway, now I’m business partners with Erik Dungan, someone who’s spent many years helping wedding photographers improve their search results and building websites that are SEO friendly, so I thought I’d ask him some questions about it.

Can you tell me the biggest SEO myths and how they came about?

The biggest myths tend to be outdated information from the web 1.0 (or earlier) days. For some reason, this bad information keeps circulating into the hands of new photographers every year–like a bad email forward.

The biggest myth is definitely that meta tags provide any meaningful impact on your search engine rankings. People learned long ago that it was easy to game the system with meta keywords. Search engines haven’t given the keywords any significant weight for a few years now. The meta description affects how your result is displayed–but it too has little (or no) weight on your position.

Second (especially for photographers) is that Flash-based websites can’t be optimized well. If you embed your Flash correctly, provide alternate content, and use links appropriately, Flash sites can be optimized just fine. I’ve done it for several sites. Adobe’s recent announcement could make things even better–but even now, getting a Flash photography site on page 1 is possible.

I’ll throw in another myth regarding searching behavior. For some reason, photographers often worry about how their site ranks when searching for their name. Trust me, if a potential client knows of you by name, they won’t have a problem finding your website. Worry about your market and areas of expertise. Optimize for those searches, provide appropriate content, and the long tail of search terms will fall into place.

I’ve always thought of SEO as stuff you do to the code of your site, programmer stuff. Are there really things photographers can do on their own without mucking about in the code?

Definitely. One of the biggest is blogging. Good blogs naturally use layouts, page elements, links, and URLs that search engines love. Setup a blog and make sure you have links between it and your site’s home page. Then, blog at least once a week about the jobs and projects you’re working on. Search engines love content, so make sure you’re blogging about photography. People love tutorials and behind-the-scenes stuff. Regularly blogging about photography builds appropriate content and improves the chances of getting quality inbound links. Who cares if no humans read your blog. The search engine benefits alone are worth it.

Also, many websites include a CMS of some sort, allowing you to adjust elements of the site without getting your hands in the code. For example, your browser title is an important ranking factor and many control panels let you adjust that.

On the other hand, I always encourage photographers to be brave and get into the HTML code for simple things. It’s not for everyone, but c’mon–if you can calculate exposure values in your head, I hope you can edit a TITLE tag without doing any major damage.

And what about in the code. What should photographers make sure their website designers have done?

Related to my above point, the more you can control aspects of your site (via a CMS or control panel), the better. That goes for SEO changes or simply keeping your site fresh with new images. The days of having a developer build a site from scratch and having to call/email him for every minuscule update are over.

If you’re building a Flash site, there are some additional questions to ask. You want to make sure your Flash is embedded properly–using OBJECT/EMBED tags is not ideal for SEO. You want to make sure your Flash content is embedded with JavaScript and that it’s mirrored as HTML content in one way or another. If this paragraph doesn’t make sense to your web designer, it’s time to find a new one :)

I’ve heard a few pitches from SEO companies where they’re basically saying they can game google or that they work closely with google. Is this a scam?

I’m hesitant to call anyone a “scam” without hearing the pitch, but I’m leery of most SEO pitches–especially if they’re cold-calling you. Be skeptical of any monthly subscription offer. Any of the following pitches should also throw up red flags:
“we will guarantee you #1 ranking or Y amount of traffic” (no one can make guarantees like that)
“we have a partnership with Google/Yahoo! and we can put you at position X” (I’ve heard this one myself … organic searches don’t work this way and its easy enough to do your own ad campaigns)
“we will submit your site to all the major search engines for $x per month” (since that’s not necessary anymore, it’s not something I’d want to pay for … especially monthly)

There are more, but in the end … real SEO pros don’t seek you out–you seek them out.

Ok, give me you best tips for getting higher and better search results.

Ok, here’s what I’ll do: I’ll toss out 10 tips that will help photographers here rank higher. I wont go into too much detail, but I’ll keep an eye on the comments and try answer any questions people may have. You can also find more info just by searching around.

Establish a baseline

1. Make sure you have web stats installed on your site and your blog (Google Analytics or Mint)
2. Install the Rank Checker plugin for firefox. Plug in any keywords or phrases that are important to you and see where you rank now. Check it every 1-3 weeks and add new phrases as you see them in your stats.

Blogging

3. Set up a blog (WordPress if you want it on your own site; SquareSpace, TypePad, or WordPress.com if you want a hosted version) and start blogging once a week.
4. Make sure your blog links to your site’s home page and vice versa.
5. Collaborate with 3 industry peers. Link to their site and/or blog (on your blog’s sidebar) and ask them to do the same. NOTE: I don’t advocate huge, convoluted link-trading schemes. I’m talking about peers that you actually know and work with.
6. Submit your blog to Google Blog Search and Technorati. You only have to do this once and some blog systems will do it automatically.

Site updates

7. Edit your browser title, making sure that it contains at least 2 keywords/phrases that are important to you. This is easily the biggest “bang for your buck” update that you can make.
8. Update your About/Bio page. Don’t just write about how you fell in love with photography after your dad gave you his old Rollei. Write about what you do, where you do it, your specialties, and past clients.

Local search

9. Submit your business to Google’s Local. It takes a few weeks to get in there, but it’s worth it.

Inbound links

10. This tip is a bit general (and related to #5), but inbound links (links to your site from other sites) are crucial for SEO. Contact peers, mentors, agencies, editors, clients, or local publications that you have worked with and have a good reputation. The goal is to get a link to your site. It could be from a “recommended photographers” page, a blog post, or just a simple credit/byline. When it comes to local publications, be creative–offer to write a how-to article or take some headshots.

Another DOP Blog, David Griffin at National Geographic

I was checking out the TED video of David Griffin, Director of Photography at National Geographic (here), that I discovered on Shoot The Blog and wanted to send him an email but instead discovered a few blog postings that I think you might be interested in reading (here).

The last one from May tackles Film vs. Digital (here) and ends with this wonderful quote:

“At National Geographic we do not require photographers to shoot one way or another—we support both approaches. Ultimately, we care more about what is being photographed, and less about how.”

Maybe, we will start seeing more blogging from working DOP’s in the future, National Geographic is certainly ahead of the curve when it comes to websites.

Media Needs A Makeover

- - The Future

The pace of doom and gloom stories for printed media continues unabated but I’ve noticed more and more that are offering brilliant insight into the problem and even a few solutions.

A story in Business Week about a thriving newspaper industry in Germany (here) surmises that the problems with US newspapers is not the internet it’s the content:

“I suspect the real reason German papers still thrive is their embrace of competition. Unlike so many U.S. papers, Bild was never part of a quasi-monopoly that allowed complacency. It’s telling that Bild doesn’t deliver —it depends on newsstand sales. ‘Bild has to prove itself at the kiosk every day,’ says Deputy Editor-in-Chief Michael Paustian.

That pressure helped Bild maintain its focus on original content. It uses almost no wire copy and brags that every story is an exclusive. Even during the crisis years, Bild kept its 800-strong editorial staff intact. What advice does Diekmann have for American newspapers? ‘It’s too late.’ ”

Along a similar note Dr. Samir Husni (AKA Mr. Magazine) scolds all the top magazine titles for causing the failing newsstand themselves by selling subscriptions at cut rate prices. The practice, to offer dirt cheap subs as a way to control circulation and meet rate base not only undermines newsstand sales but in my mind it destroys the content by bringing in consumers who are barely interested in reading the magazine in the first place and forcing the editorial staff to cater to a more general audience of readers. Dr. Husini’s unlikely cure for the newsstand woes:

“Stop chasing the numbers of customers and concentrate on customers who count. The first step in doing such is stop the rate base gimmick. You can’t anymore chase a rate base number and try to meet that number. Today’s customers are different and reaching those who count is much more important than counting them.”

Mygazines continues to make headlines for allowing consumers to freely scan and distribute their favorite magazines in a clear violation of US copyright laws but it doesn’t look like they will go away anytime soon because they’re owned by the same company that runs Pirate Bay (CNet story here). They’ve been on Hollywood’s most wanted list for several years now and appear to be indestructible.

There are many, many reasons why this will never become the napster of the publishing industry; it takes a lot of effort to scan an entire magazine and converting magazine pages into jpgs hardly seems like a brilliant solution to portability online, to name a few, but it’s certainly caused quite a few people to sit up and take notice and spark discussion. I agree with this motley fool story entitled “It’s the end of publishing as we know it” (here) when they say:

“Magazines like Cosmo, Wired, and Playboy always looked like prime online properties, dishing out their advice, entertainment, and other well-written and popular articles through this huge series of tubes. But here we are, well into the digital age, and most of them simply haven’t made the transition yet.

If Mygazines teaches Time anything, it would be how to present the print magazine in a tasty online form, easy to navigate and easy to use. Copy that model and then improve on it, inject a bit of revenue-generating advertising, and see if your readers prefer the official version with corporate backing or some fly-by-night rip-off where everything is free but nothing is guaranteed. Now let’s see which publisher might be the first to get a clue so we can invest in it.”

Of course publishing companies are like lumbering giants and as risk adverse as you get (a few serve as retirement accounts for their owners), but it would only take one textbook case of a magazine doing it right online and proving that the revenue and audience exists to turn the entire industry around.

I don’t think printed magazines will ever go away completely and why should they, people still like to read them and they’re awfully convenient for the airport, bus, train or limo rides, but the audience is limited and will continue to shrink so publishers need to follow the young audience and the casual, used to buy it for 1 article readers where they’ve gone, online.

Also, if you’re simply going to reprint the entire contents of the magazine online with all the advertising intact it should be free. Simple math will tell you that the newsstand and subscriptions prices don’t even cover the printing and distribution cost for a single issue, so if I’m saving you that expense the least you can do is not charge me for it online. If you’re going to transform the content online and run epic photo essays, allow reader interaction and leverage the technology available then the possibilities for audience and revenue are endless. If you treat the internet like a piece of paper you may find equilibrium between audience size, expense to produce and profit but the the multi-million dollar profit glory days are now coming to an end.

Overall, the theme here seems to be content, quality content. Can it really be that simple? I think so.

UPDATE: Pirate Bay refutes ownership of Mygazines (here). Thanks Sean.

PDN Online Redesign and A New Feature

- - Getting Noticed

PDN Online has a new look and a new feature called PDN Compass (here) where you can mark on a map where you live and what you shoot then presumably Photo Eds and Art Buyers and other potential clients will search by location and specialty and easily find you. Sort of like PhotoServe.com which is something I’ve always used to search for photographers in a particular location but this one is free. Hey, getting with the new economy are we PDN, except I still see those shiny gold locks on all the big articles, so maybe not so much.

Anyway, I haven’t totally checked it out, but it will need critical mass to be worthwhile for buyers. I wonder if that’s still possible in 2008, where leveraging the community to do all the work (free labor, free service) is becoming a dated concept. We shall see.

A Light At The End Of The Tunnel

- - The Future

Two recent developments have me excited about the future for photographers:

1. Magnum photographer Thomas Dworzak is in Georgia for The Wall Street Journal and they’ve got a nice online slideshow to go with it (here) but then they take it a step further and have a BIG picture page with a comment area (here). Spread the word. It can only get better.

2. Andrew Hetherington sells out of a series of 220 prints in 9 minutes. All because he’s a brilliant photographer and…he has an audience (read about it here).

It can only get better as more an more newspapers and eventually magazines adopt the big picture strategy and need professionals to go out and deliver powerful content. And, photographers with an audience can count on publishers seeking them out to tap into that audience and their additional channel of distribution.

Also, check out the 10 Misconceptions about photography. I’m feeling pretty good about what lies ahead.

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!

Plagiarism in 2008

- - copyright

Jody Rosen, a writer at Slate Magazine, was alerted by a reader to a story in a small Texas alternative weekly called the Bulletin where “10 and a half paragraphs copied nearly verbatim from ‘A Pirate Looks at 60,'” were plagiarized from an essay he wrote on Jimmy Buffett.

So, Jody writes a story for slate (here) about the plagiarism and uncovers a writer and possibly publisher who nab stories online and re-appropriate them for their tiny (20,000) unsuspecting audience.

After the story comes out the publisher is inundated with emails and the stories about the plagiarism spread around the blogosphere (here, here, here and here).

The Bulletin ceases publication and the writer issues a statement (here).

Does anyone think they can get away with this shit anymore? Do you really think you can steal someone’s words (pictures and designs too) and not get caught in 2008?

Can Editorial Photographers Make A Living Anymore?

I’ve often wondered? I certainly know plenty of photographers who do make a living in editorial photography and have always assumed there’s a large cliff between them and those who want to make it their profession but I have no clue what kind of money is being made and how many people are making it.

PDN is going help solve that problem with a survey (to find out what editorial photographers earn, how they’re surviving, and what kind of rates they’re getting) editorial photographers can take (here).

The survey comes at an difficult time for editorial photographers because by all indications we’re headed for a pretty bad winter of dropping circ and advertiser belt tightening (here and here) that can only result in fewer assignments and money available for photography. Hopefully we’re not far from the bottom and the industry can rebound like it did after 2000. With more and more photography headed online where the distribution and printing is virtually free it seems like publishers could still manage to pay for original photography so their publication doesn’t start to resemble google.

I think we’ve reached a critical juncture for the editorial photography industry and it’s time to take stock of where we are so we can make changes that will ensure the long term health going forward. The industry used to just take care of itself but I’m not so sure that will be the case in the future.