Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Rough times in the trade

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  • nzlemming, in reply to Lilith __,

    So they’re talking about working to commission rather than licensing stock images? Or something else?

    Working to commission, establishing partnerships, creating specific types of images as art - all of these things play to creating a valued authorial "eye" (as opposed to "voice" for writers) which means getting paid for who you are and what you bring to your photography, rather than for the photo itself.

    The elephant in the room that no-one's talking about there or here is copyright. The current business model is based on copyright, and Mayes is saying that's not going to cut it in the future so you should base your business model on your reputation and what you can bring to a client.

    He says (if you click through to the blog notes) "we are stuck on licensing/selling intellectual content by the “unit” (a book, an album, a photograph)" and that photographers need to realise that we're now in "a “streaming culture,” that moves away from the unit".

    This is similar to a lot of discussion over at Techdirt (link goes to a specific search on photography, but the arguments around music are also valid).

    And thus we discover again the PAS rule that all threads lead to copyright ;-)

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2051 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to nzlemming,

    “we are stuck on licensing/selling intellectual content by the “unit” (a book, an album, a photograph)” and that photographers need to realise that we’re now in “a “streaming culture,” that moves away from the unit”.

    Musicians can make money touring, even if they're not making anything from selling albums. I don't really see how photographers can do something analogous. It's not a performance art! How can we add value?

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3438 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    I share some of the misgivings about the number of student churning through journalism/Media Studies/journalism courses in NZ but are significant differences between these variations of media teaching: journalism courses tend to emphasise vocationalism, with a stress on print media (only belatedly are they beginning to embrace electronic newsgathering, Web journalism etc); Media Studies draws off NCEA Media Studies and tends to have an academic/theoretical focus--taking the place of where English & Sociology used to be in Humanities/Social Sciences; communication studies tend to have a PR/corporate emphasis. Of course, the growth of such subjects in the tertiary sector is a consequence of the bums-on-seats of the educational regime, but also from student desire. Media Studies, for example, can be at the cutting edge of new technology--not just emphasising the 'how' of digital technology, but also the 'why/when/where' questions.

    For more skillful arguments than mine, check out the Manifesto For Media Education site at www.manifestoformediaeducation.co.uk

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2299 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    Incidentally, good topic for Media 7!

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2299 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Lilith __,

    Musicians can make money touring, even if they’re not making anything from selling albums. I don’t really see how photographers can do something analogous. It’s not a performance art! How can we add value?

    At the risk of starting yet another shitfight about copyright, I’ll try to give you an answer.

    Musicians can make money doing a lot of things aside from touring. Merchandise is one (t-shirts, posters, calendars among other stuff). They can even make money giving their music away (cf Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and others).

    What Mayes is saying (and this I do agree with) is that a) the old advertising business model has been demolished by the Internet, on both the demand and supply side, and b) photographers must reinvent themselves and their business models if they want to stay in business. He also says that that same Internet could be the way to do that.

    Example: If the only way you earn money as a photog is by taking stock shots of, say, Lyttleton Harbour and selling them to Getty et al, your time is over, as there may be hundreds of amateurs whose shots, while not as good as yours, are good enough for the person who wants an image of Lyttleton Harbour for their magazine. And the amateur image is free, whether they’re giving it away or not, as the odds are in favour of the person using it being unlikely to be found out. Stock imagery, as a business line, just lost value considerably. Factor in, also, that many new stock outlets have sprung up online catering to the amateurs taking nice shots enabling them to sell copies of their images for peanuts with the site taking a cut.

    So, what about creating a project from scratch where you go out every weekend and take shots of Lyttleton Harbour in a way that no-one has before, finding the soul of the place, looking at things with fresh eyes. And you publish these on your website in high-def, mention to a few bloggers and on Twitter that you’re doing this, make prints available so that people can buy them online for those who want a special hard copy (say on canvas, or special paper) but don’t down-grade what you put online to force people to buy YOUR prints rather than print their own, use Zazzle to put images on tshirts and mugs, encourage visitors to comment and interact with them etc. There are many ways to turn a dollar by having an authentic skill that people want to reward by buying your stuff.

    Mike Masnick at Techdirt promotes a formula he derived from Trent Reznor’s activities with Nine Inch Nails:
    **CwF+RtB=TBM – Connect with Fans + Reason to Buy = The Business Model**. It meshes with something Kevin Kelly wrote in 2008 called 1000 True Fans and gives you a way to collect those fans, by connecting with them rather than waiting for them to find your genius ;-)

    If you want to charge the sort of licensing fees for your images that we’ve seen in the past, they’re going to have to be really special, or you are.

    Imagine, if you will, that you were planning to put out a calendar for 2012 and you had the chance to hire Ansell Adams to do the landscape photography for a share of the profits, or just score a few pictures of Flickr for next to nothing. Which would you choose?

    My take on Mayes’ use of integrity is that he means reputation and brand, but figures “integrity” is better marketing. He’s saying the photographer has to bring more to the table than just a camera, that you have to be able to offer your creative expertise to fulfil the client’s need instead of just taking a picture to meet a brief, and that you have to develop a unique authorial “eye” that people want to make use of in their projects.

    Essentially (and this is the point that really seems to get the goat of the copyright-based professions), digital anything means that there is no longer an inherent value in a unit or copy. If your business is based on that proposition, you will fail. It’s not a matter of whether this is a good thing or bad – it just is and there’s no avoiding it. If one wants to survive as a professional photographer, one has to look for the scarcity in what one does, for the value that one brings to the project and, if it’s just lighting, focus and clicking the button, that may not be enough.

    Check out that Techdirt link, especially the CwF+RtB section, where Masnick is exploring new business models of his own.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2051 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to nzlemming,

    **CwF+RtB=TBM – Connect with Fans + Reason to Buy = The Business Model**. It meshes with something Kevin Kelly wrote in 2008 called 1000 True Fans and gives you a way to collect those fans, by connecting with them rather than waiting for them to find your genius ;-)

    Whatever the limitations of copyright and the old publishing models, at least there was a pretence that what was rewarded was craft, skill and innovation, not naked self-promotion. The idea that the most successful writers, musicians, journalists and photographers are going to be the ones with the best online reputation is chilling, to put it mildly. (As is indeed most of what Kevin Kelly writes.)

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7352 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    there was a pretence

    You got that bit right ;-)

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2051 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to nzlemming,

    You got that bit right ;-)

    Yes, nobody is saying that the system was perfect. No reason in itself to replace it with something exponentially worse.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7352 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    But is it worse? Danielle Steel, Tom Clancy, Dan Brown FFS! This is quality? Besides, I'm not replacing anything, Gio. It's happening and I'm just reporting on it. I think it's called evolution...

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2051 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to nzlemming,

    But is it worse? Danielle Steel, Tom Clancy, Dan Brown FFS!

    Is that your argument? Really? Because you know... Nadine Gordimer, Italo Calvino, Toni Morrison.

    (Also, Tom Clancy has had his moments, but we'll let that go.)

    I'm not replacing anything, Gio. It's happening and I'm just reporting on it. I think it's called evolution...

    No, it's called bullshit. It may work on Kevin Kelly and his libertarian friends, but any society that at this juncture in history refuses to engage in a wide-ranging debate on what is to be valued in its cultural artefacts, and how to reward its intellectuals, its journalists and its artists has no business calling itself civilised. There are no excuses.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7352 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg, in reply to nzlemming,

    But is it worse? Danielle Steel, Tom Clancy, Dan Brown FFS! This is quality?

    Those seem like perfect examples of writers that would only benefit from this evolution.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 796 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Martin Lindberg,

    Exactly.

    ETA Since Giovanni doesn't seem to get my point, the evolution would be if those writers had to market themselves, instead of being oversold by publishers whose motive is to move product rather than add to meaningful discourse, we might hear less from them and more from other diverse and,dare one say, more deserving voices, though that is completely subjective.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2051 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to nzlemming,

    Exactly.

    Er... what?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7352 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    but any society that at this juncture in history refuses to engage in a wide-ranging debate on what is to be valued in its cultural artefacts, and how to reward its intellectuals, its journalists and its artists has no business calling itself civilised.

    I'm not disputing that position nor am I arguing in its favour. It falls into the strawman position that so often typifies these discussions. Not playing, sorry.

    Lilith ask how a photographer might find value and create new business models. I gave her an answer. If you have a better and more achievable one, by all means present it.

    The world has changed, you don't like it, I get that. But don't blame me for it. Put something concrete on the table for how to adapt to it or deal with it.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2051 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    any society that at this juncture in history refuses to engage in a wide-ranging debate on what is to be valued in its cultural artefacts, and how to reward its intellectuals, its journalists and its artists has no business calling itself civilised.

    That would be nice. Are any doing it?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16594 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Sacha,

    That would be nice. Are any doing it?

    Not really. There are some lone voices here and there, but the general attitude is that laissez faire capitalism is going to take care of this one. Of course there is intense private interest in the discussion being polarised between the untenable defence of the old model and the intellectually bankrupt approach of the evolutionists - it's what ensures that "public interest" never become part of the conversation.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7352 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg, in reply to nzlemming,

    ...if those writers had to market themselves...

    Um, my point was that those are exactly the writers that would benefit from this evolution. I certainly don't share your belief that

    we might hear less from them and more from other diverse and,dare one say, more deserving voices

    Quite the opposite.

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 796 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to nzlemming,

    Put something concrete on the table for how to adapt to it or deal with it.

    I'd hate to use the word bullshit again, but... it's not up to me. Were it up to me, I would aggressively tax the corporations that are benefitting from the traffic of bits and the new economic models for selling content - the Verizons, the Apples, the Googles of this world - and use the money to fund a system of micropayments and reward media organisations that operate in the public interest. I would also urge governments to make the delivery of information outside of the commercial arena a top priority, whichever form that might take (ie not just state-owned radio and television). But it takes the political will of governments and international organisations to even make this conversation possible.

    Needless to say, it's not looking good, which naturally is fulfilling the prophecies both of the evolutionists and the old media Cassandras.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7352 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to nzlemming,

    Since Giovanni doesn't seem to get my point, the evolution would be if those writers had to market themselves, instead of being oversold by publishers whose motive is to move product rather than add to meaningful discourse, we might hear less from them and more from other diverse and,dare one say, more deserving voices, though that is completely subjective.

    This is a statement in search not so much of an argument as of basic logic.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7352 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    thus we discover again the PAS rule that all threads lead to copyright ;-)

    Yeah.

    Lilith ask how a photographer might find value and create new business models. I gave her an answer.

    Coffee cups. Please.
    There's nothing here that sez people will stop needing professional photographers in all the usual places:weddings, ads, magazines and newspapers. People hire professionals cos they get a job done at least competently- and usually, done well, and with a bit of flair.
    The CEO and the copy-writer's niece may both have cameras that will take a terrific image. But you probably won't find the marketing dept organise a photo-shoot and just ask them to turn up and take snaps.

    At the risk of starting yet another shitfight about copyright

    Nah, ya love it :)

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 1529 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    fund a system of micropayments

    +1

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16594 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Martin Lindberg,

    Ah, sorry, misunderstood.

    Can't say I agree, as I think the main point about those writers is that their work IS product, and so suited to a mass market (and mass producer) rather than a cultural inheritance. I don't see them personally progressing their brand/reputation online. Steel has a twitter account but does not engage with anyone.

    At this transitional point in publishing, they are the inheritors of the old system, the legacy users, if you will. To be honest, I don't see them going away, or changing their MO, but the opportunity is there for other voices to be heard. The engagement model I touched on above is more suited to new voices trying to make their way, I think.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2051 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    People hire professionals cos they get a job done at least competently- and usually, done well, and with a bit of flair.

    In the case of photographers, the value is not just in core shooting ability but the relationship and contextual skills, say for portrait or news settings.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16594 posts Report Reply

  • bmk, in reply to nzlemming,

    Agree with this. The engagement model in music has as you mention worked for NIN and Radiohead neither of whom are the Dan Brown's et al of literature. The big pop acts don't use that model because they rely on their record label pushing their product heavily in the same way that Danielle Steele, Dan Brown, Jodi Picoult etc books are promoted heavily by their respective publishers.

    Since Jun 2010 • 295 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Rob Stowell,

    Coffee cups. Please.

    Some people are making money out of this stuff. The point of the original article was that it's not going to be enough to just take photos anymore.

    There’s nothing here that sez people will stop needing professional photographers in all the usual places:weddings, ads, magazines and newspapers. People hire professionals cos they get a job done at least competently- and usually, done well, and with a bit of flair.

    Sure, but the money for professional photographers has been in copyright and reprints. You do a wedding, the client orders multiple copies, maybe comes back a few years later when there's been a disaster and they've lost their prints, orders another set. These days they get a CD with print quality images, and that's your lot. And, when the job is classed as work for hire, you don't get the copyright anyway.

    There's always going to be room for topline professionals - the question is what is a viable career path to become one of those and the article is saying the old paths are disappearing.

    The CEO and the copy-writer’s niece may both have cameras that will take a terrific image. But you probably won’t find the marketing dept organise a photo-shoot and just ask them to turn up and take snaps.

    Well, I wouldn't but I'd take my own anyway ;-) And an increasing number of people and companies will do that too. Or will use images that they can get for free which are close enough to what they want, are good quality (or good enough) and which people are giving away for free. That's reality.

    Nah, ya love it :)

    I love to discuss it but I don't enjoy the abuse I've had here for raising these issues, no. It gets tiring and pointless.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2051 posts Report Reply

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