Tuesday, June 19, 2007

nOnRequest - This is Not Your Father's "Agency"

The dialog and criticism of OnRequest Images continues, and I have yet to find a suitable reason why they should continue to exist. There are so so many reasons against their long term viability, and it is the dot-com-piece-of-the-pie mentality that has caused the unknowning venture capitalists to continue to invest in this business model.

ASMP, who spends a great deal of time looking out for photographer's best interests did an analysis of OnRequest, and other articles in PDN having to do with The Art Director's Club, Daryl Lang also did a nice job in PDN back in early May with this article titled Revolutions That Never Happened,Once in a while, a smashing new idea forever transforms photography. These ideas didn't. Here are six would-be breakthroughs that missed a turn on their way to setting the photo industry on fire, noted that one of the "breakthroughs" was OnRequest, saying:

Sometimes bad ideas take care of themselves. OnRequest Images never backed down from custom stock, but the idea was hard to explain and held little appeal to art buyers. OnRequest adjusted its heading and began to focus on a more lucrative business, creating branded stock libraries for big companies. Another custom stock service, iStockPhoto.com's BuyRequest, also failed to capture much interest and was quietly discontinued last year.
Yet, as early as last year, some silly group of VC's had dumped $8 million into this idea, as StockPhotoTalk reports, along with many others about the folly. Photographers they approach, or whom hear about them, continue to inquire about what their deal is, so here are a few items for your consideration:
What isn’t typical of the industry is how quickly you get paid. When you work with OnRequest Images, a check will be in the mail to you no later than forty-five days after completion of a shoot.
FORTY-FIVE DAYS? Doesn't your credit card company require you pay them in 30? Your phone bill?

Feel free to read the articles in their Media Room where you'll see that it's all about cost cutting...on who's back? Oh, that's right, yours - the creative that is supposed to deliver. Some other silly VC's back in April of this year continue to pump their lifebood into this dead horse, according to American Venture Magazine, "the world's leading provider of OnBrand custom imagery" is what the red lipstick they are smearing on this sow. That's like saying "John Harrington is the world's leading provider of SixSevenDCPress custom imagery, where I've trademarked the phrase SixSevenDCPress, because I happen to be 6'7", live in DC, and am a member of the press corps! (I have not trademarked that, by the way!). That's pure folly to say your the world's leading provider of a trademarked name, when you own the trademark, and thus, no one else can actually be a provider of that, else risk violating their trademark!

One of their earlier suckers is quoted in the article as saying
"We continue to be a strong supporter of OnRequest Images' groundbreaking business model,” said Debra Somberg, managing partner at Maveron, an early investor in OnRequest Images.
Debra -- say something that isn't so self serving. As an early investor, you are fiduciarily compelled to say whatever you (legally) can to ensure a 10x return on your early investment. Hint - Getty got BuyRequest, a comparable version during the aquisition if iStockPhoto, so they're probably not going to buy your bacon maker. That investment is getting a little long in the tooth now, isn't it?

Do yourself a favor, and stay away from contributing to this bad business model. I am aware of few who care about photographers interests who would or have said anything nice about them, most (if not all) have, instead, advised you to steer clear!
Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.

3 comments:

Jonathan Levin said...

There are so many things that are wrong with the photo business it is overwhelming and frustrating if one sits and thinks about it for a while.

I can hardly contain myself when it comes to scum bag shit sucking assholes like OnRequest. Work for them and you might as call your studio OutaBiz.

Most of my time for the past 27 years used to be set aside for shooting assignments, thinking about personal projects, making a few calls, and picking up work.

That all changed after 1995 when the move toward digital began, at least for me.

Photographer’s retooling their studios time and time again, updates, upgrades, etc. at a time when the economy was getting worse and budgets were starting to creep south. It’s no longer just buying a new piece of equipment every few pay checks. It’s buying all new systems and so on to keep state of the art.

Add September 11 to the mix.

Assignment photography diminishes because agencies find it cheaper to get almost what they want from stock. Also I hear the argument that it is simply a hassle to set up a photo shoot: casting, location scouting, etc., all means that the creatives at the agency have to deal with all that, in additional to their regular work load. That work load doubled as agencies let go of creatives who they should keep, but retain the worthless middle management bloat.

The above I can deal with as long as we get what we deserve for payment for our experience, customer service, and the quality of work.

I’d like to add to this the trickle down theory of agencies downloading images that I’m seeing more of: Eventually their clients will no longer have any need for their services once they decide to hire an internal art director and a few CW’s to do the same downloading, part of a cost realignment. Besides, one has to ask: Does advertising even work anyway?

It is sad but true that there will always be someone to under cut my prices. I’m losing more business this way because the mantra seems to be price for many clients. Not all, but many. I can not and will not lower myself to this, because as John H. has stressed time and again is knowing what you don’t know. You have to know what it costs to run ANY business. Insurance, equipment, upgrades, rent, healthcare, and so on. Add these things up sometime and you soon realize that you can take on that 500.00 a few times, but it really cost far more than that to actually complete the task professionally and competently.

You will garner more respect from your clients and peers if you do your homework and never stop learning.

Sorry for the rant and probably bad grammar. Especially since this is my first post.

Best to all. Don’t let the bastards get you down!

Jonathan Levin

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