Saturday, November 24, 2007

Washington Post Company Now Skooling U

The economy is cyclical, so say many economists. So, where in the cycle is the Washington Post? Coming out of bankruptcy at auction in 1933, after years of un-profitability, it took several decades to become profitable and of consequence, arriving as such in the early 70's with the golden boys of reporting - Woodward & Bernstein.

Yet, now, over half of The Washington Post Company (NYSE: WPO) income comes from something other than the news.

(Continued after the Jump)

Why, The Wasington Post (affectionately referred to with the colloquial acronym 'TWP') is getting a majority of it's income from Kaplan - you know, the folks who skooled you in how to ace the SAT's? They do other testing, of course, but so many people have them to thank for doing better than they otherwise would have on the SAT's. (Photo illustration, at left.)

In my mailbox today arrived my December 2007 issue of Washingtonian, and on page 26, (online here, "Practice Tests, Not News, Bring in the Big Bucks for the Post") I learned this neat little fact - As of their latest financial statement, Kaplan's 50.3% of their revenues, and the newspaper is only 21%. The remaining 28.7% comes from Newsweek and Cable TV and television stations. The piece also revealed that Newsweek's got problems too, with a 16% drop in advertising.

Here's their 3rd Quarter Financial Statement, which states (in part):
Revenue for the third quarter...up 8%...The increase is due mostly to significant revenue growth at the education and cable television divisions. Revenues were down at the Company's newspaper publishing, magazine publishing and television broadcasting divisions.

Several months ago, Washingtonian queried their own readership (online here, "Saving the Washington Post—the Latest from Washingtonian Readers") about how the Post could save itself:
"... Literate readers 'love the content,' but they don’t love it enough to buy the newspaper...the notion of making the Post a charity case—as if it were a nonprofit media outlet—is a hoot, but it won’t pay the bills."
What about the illiterate readers? Do they at-least love the pictures?

Yet, the Post acts as if it's a charity case, paying freelancers under $200 a day, with an all-rights to TWP-branded uses transfer. Why's that? Oh, because if they want to re-use your photograph without paying you, or quite possibly to also be able to sell it as stock and keep 100% that income (if they start a TWP stock source, quite possibly). Or, perhaps, they're looking for free content for Newsweek and their testing material, and, perhaps, their website.

So, if you're freelancing for the Post, expect fewer assignments. If you're staff at the Post, that buyout they were offering some may well have been a good idea, if you could have taken it. The same financial report reveals a bit more:
"The increase in operating income for the first nine months of 2007 is due primarily to $47.1 million in pre-tax charges associated with early retirement plan buyouts at The Washington Post during 2006. Excluding this charge, operating income was down for the first nine months of 2007 due to a decline in division revenues..."
Thus, those of you who took the buyout (aka "early retirement package") made them look better because of the tax benefits that enured from your doing so. I hope you didn't think it was because they cared, but I am guessing you already knew that from working there, and made the smart choice for yourself.

Believe it when many suggest that the layoffs are coming next, both on the text-side and the photo/illustration-side, and they'll replace "expensive staffers" with the freelancers who've been working with the same rights transfers as the staffers, for over 50% less than it costs to maintain one staffer.

So, it looks like that cyclical "un-profitability-cycle" is coming back around.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Black Friday? Try, "You Get What You Pay For" Friday!

I know I'm not seeing double. I am seeing stupidity and cheapskates in action.

An interesting set of ads arrived here at Photo Business News & Forum headquarters.

Syms, a place for discounted suits and so forth, and Guideposts, a Christian publication, both used this same image at the same time in their outreach. One to sell clothes, the other to sell salvation.

This isn't the first time one person has been used for different organizations at the same time. Both Dell and Gateway were using a young college-aged girl to sell back-to-school computers, as ASMP showed here.

(Continued, with Sym's and Guidepost use samples, after the Jump)

Syms, who's tagline is "where an educated consumer is our best customer", must be in need of some education about the risks of Royalty Free imagery. Specifically, from places like Jupiter Images, and Both are selling this photo (at right), either as an individual RF sale, or, as one image on a CD of 104 images with a "Christmas" theme, for just under $500. The image, originally available through Comstock, is sold through Jupiter Images here, and Inmagine here.

What is laughable, of course, is that Inmagine's tagline for their site is "Imagine the Difference". Guess not only is there no difference between them and Jupiter, but also, no difference between the key image for both these marketing pieces.

Guidepost, who used the same image on their cover, sports the tagline "True Stories of Hope & Inspiration". For whom? Clearly not the creator of this image, who's only hoping you paid for this as a one-off license (not likely). This issue's headline is "Let Guideposts Lighten Your Load This Holiday Season!", or, perhaps try "Let Guideposts lighten this photographer's wallet with this issue!".

So, here's the Sym's postcard mailer:

And here's the Guidepost mailing:

In Jupiter Images' License Information, it says " JUPITERIMAGES requests the copyright notice “© [insert current year] JupiterImages Corporation” appear adjacent to the Image(s) or on a credit page."

A few clicks of the mouse found this image on both sites, with no problem, yet, neither use lists the requested photo credit. Oh well. However, Comstock (or the photographer) probably owns the copyright to this image, and thus, denoting as above would be a mis-statement.

No doubt the creator of these pieces had the Christmas RF disk sitting around, and they probably laid the design out, and billed the client for a stock photo, pocketing the profit, and nothing goes to the photographer. Once again, photographers get a lump of coal, and the ad agency or publication pockets the dough.

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Food Photographer

Here's your ten minute break from the family and turkey-day guests. If they're hollering at you at your computer, just tell them you're getting some tips on how to make images of your soon-to-hit-the-table plate of food for your new portfolio, or picking up tips about taking better photos of them!

A few more hilarious videos after the jump!

(Complete post, after the Jump)

Sheffield Quigley: Professional Myspace Photographer

Bruce Testones, Fashion Photographer (NSFW)

Rob Schneider, Supermodel Photographer and Walter Iooss Jr

Andrew Norton: Fashion Photographer | The Edge 102.1

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Values & Character

Far to often I hear photographers pay lip service to ethics, or standards, yet, they fold under pressure, from themselves usually, and cave.

We see all too often, ethical breaches, the latest from Getty, where an image they represent editorially, of a football player was manipulated. (PDNOnline reports on this here.)

Values are not what you say, they are what you do, and how you act, and comport yourself. Here's a great link about "the power of personal values."

(Continued after the Jump)

Getty can suggest all they want that they're editorial department is in fact, editorial, but try a search for "NBA brawl" and you get only 16 images, of the press conference afterwards, and a few nice player images once they've returned after their suspensions. No images of the actual fight. A search on Google yields thousands of results. No doubt, many of them duplicates, but they're there. Where's the editorial independence? Oh, it's absent when you're selling images and the league doesn't want you to make them look bad.

Character, it's said, is who you are when no one's looking. So too are your values, which form your character, as do ethics.

P.F. Bentley, for example, has a lot of character. As I wrote here - At least the Hypocrite Knows Right from Wrong, P.F. did the right thing, and no one would have even thought about it if he'd just given in.

If your success is at the expense of your good values or ethics, then, what success is there, really?

As I've said before, the best approach to what we do is - "do well by doing good." Amen.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Welcome Michael Bass Designs!

Ever ask yourself why the genius technicians didn't make the PC jack functional in all modes on your Canon 580 EX II, or did you want to, while holding your camera to your face, also be able to trigger a Pocket Wizard-controlled camera without much more than a flinch of your fingers on the lens barrel?

These mods, and more, can be yours, thanks to the genius of Michael Bass, and I want to thank him for choosing to advertise here on Photo Business News & Forum. The last time I felt I had access to this level of access to the inner-workings of my camera's flashes was when I would visit Jorge Mora, former National Geographic equipment guru, at his small repair shop on Wisconsin Ave, here in DC. Jorge was able to give my Nikon 8008 a PC jack, among many other wonderful tweaks, to make my work better. So too, can Michael crack open a piece of gear, or create a mod that will make your work easier.

Don't see some functionality or mod on his site? Just ask - he does CUSTOM work too.

So, show him some love, and check out what he's got over on his site!

(Comments, if any, after the Jump)

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Welcome Adorama!

2+ months ago, I made this post - "They've Been Ordered" - referring to my order being placed for my Nikon D3 and my Canon 1Ds Mark III camera through Adorama. Now, I have the pleasure of inviting you to click on over to them as well to do your own (holiday) shopping. Hit that link above, and get an extra battery for friends and colleagues. Buy that young, up and coming photographer a wonderful D3 or 1Ds Mark III. All this, because they've opted to run an ad on the blog.

Please take a moment to click over and peruse what they've got to offer.

Why, you might ask, have I begun using them? It's not because they're an advertiser (but that'll sure help in the future), it's something else.

(Continued after the Jump)

One name: Jeff Snyder.

As I said in a previous post, Jeff is their Pro Sales guru, and he's my longtime friend and fellow professional photographer , who used to be at Penn Camera (when he wasn't out covering assignments), but now he's moved up to the big leagues, yet still based in DC.

The other day, despite having no car available, he made his way to an informal lunch amongst several DC photographers, because he had a pair of D3's to show off. He wasn't selling them, nor taking orders on the spot, he was showing them off like a proud parent would to people who count him as a friend first, and a supplier second. I appreciated that he made the special trip, and hung out with us for awhile, but then again, that's just Jeff.

To e-mail Jeff and get to know him better, click this link:

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Stepping Down, or Stepping Up? DRR's Nisselson Makes A Change

Last week, I read on the Digital Railroad Member's blog that Charles Mauzy, currently the President, now get's promoted to Chief Executive Officer. Nisselson? He gets promoted to Chairman of the Board. Atleast that's how I saw it. All I thought was "Good for Evan, and Good for Charles. Next..."

How's it getting reported elsewhere?
EPUK reports "Digital Railroad (DRR) founder Evan Nisselson has stepped down as the company’s CEO. The post will be taken over by current DRR president Charles Mauzy, with Nisselson continuing as company chairman."

Stepping Down?

(Continued after the Jump)

That piece was then picked up by PDNPulse, here.

I see Even all over the place. That picture on the right is one I made with my iPhone while at a White House News Photographer's Association conference, where Evan was on a panel about the future of still/video. He's out championing DRR, and what they're trying to do for photographers. The role of the CEO is to manage the day-to-day operations, the role of the Chairman is to be much more strategic about the company. With Evan on the road, it actually makes much more sense that he step up into a role that's better suited to him, and leave the day-to-day operations to Charles. My guess is that, as founder of DRR, it's taken some time for Evan to get comfortable with anyone other than himself sheparding his "baby" along from day to day, just like a first-time parent who is unsure about leaving their child with someone else. It takes time and trust to build before you're comfortable with that. It seems Evan is now comfortable enough with Charles to do just that.

So, I called Evan, to get his take on all this. Evan said "I got several calls, among them from Reza (a NGS photographer, ) and others, all of them are supportive of the evolution, and look forward to this helping the Digital Railroad community." That seems pretty much in line with what I thought.

So, to be doubly sure I was thinking things through, I next talked to Charles. Charles said "Evan will continue to, and in fact, expand his role as spokesperson for Digital Railroad and will continue to provide inspiration and vision as the Chairman of the Board, something he's done from the company's inception."

Yup, that pretty much is what I thought, and why I didn't write about this in the first place. It's essentially a non-news event, suitable, as they did, for a mention on their blog.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Call for Contracts!

Recently, I was giving a presentation, and we were discussing contracts, and someone in the audience mentioned Conde Nast's (heinous) one. They didn't suggest it was heinous, I did. 

I did, because I've read it. When you demand "All rights throughout the universe..." in your contract, the author who penned that is a pompous ass, period. Add onto it the pay of $350 for the day, and now you're just a huge pompous ass.

Then, someone else in the audience piped up, validating something I've known for many many years.

What's that you say?

(Continued after the Jump)

They said "I've done a fair amount of work for them, and I can tell you, my contract pays me much more than $350 an assignment."

Bingo! I knew it!

I've personally experienced the one off horrible contract proffer from more than one editorial (and corporate) client, only to raise my thoughtful objections to the terms, and get the more reasonable ones with better pay, and fewer rights demands. This was a few years ago, and at this point, 90+% of the time, I'm working with clients based upon my contract, negotiating to meet their needs. However, I've yet to see the elusive "other" Conde Nast contracts. You know, the ones who pay fair, only want "world", or "US", or "one time" rights?  It's a given that Annie's contract's not the same as the new guy's. But, where are those in-between Annie and the Newbie?

This holds true too for places like Time, Men's Journal(wink), Wired, Sports Illustrated, and so forth. So, this is my call for contracts.

Here's what I'll do. Send me your contracts. I will not reveal my sources. You can send it in anonymously from your gmail accounts set up just for that purpose, or you can send it with your contact information, so we can discuss it (privately). 

What I want to do is highlight the differences between the newbie-photographer, the work-horse photographer, the showcase-photographer, and so forth. Some of the language is standard, but the assignments rates and rights packages are no doubt different. That's the meat on the bone. 

If you have a sweet deal (higher percentages, etc) with Getty/Corbis/Alamy/Jupiter/et al, send it in, and others, please send in the standard/first-offer contracts, so I have a baseline of the latest contract.

If no one sends them in, then I'm off to other valuable postings. However, if I get the various ones in, I'll post the differences, which will help everyone out. Send them to me by clicking the "E-mail a topic Request" link over on the right, and let's see what you've got.

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Ahh, Something To Be Thankful For!

Far be it for me to celebrate another's (ongoing) downward slide....ahh shucks, in this case, why not?

Back in July I wrote (OnRequest - Realizing the Obvious, 7/12/07) about how David Norris, founder of OnRequest, had finally admitted what everyone (except he, and his deluded investors) knew, that it was a bad business model, convincing up to five photographers to all shoot a job on spec, with one of them - if any - with the chance of being paid. It was like the traveling elixir hawkers of old, promising the world to those in need of a cure (or an assignment) with the promise of potential "riches". 

Norris, who is touted recently in Seattle Business Monthly's The Top 25 Innovators and Entrepreneurs, was thankful that his payroll would be lighter in the coming weeks, laying off eight staff, as reported here by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

So, who's reporting what?

(Continued after the Jump)

Just as the towns-folk would come upon these potion-peddling charlatans on the wagon trails between communities, alone in a ditch with a broken spoke, and pass by, without nary a helping hand, so too are we to proverbially pass by and (thankfully) watch as Norris' empty promises and creditor demands of continued profitability levels engulf him, forcing him to cut expenses - a.k.a. people - as he staves off the wolves of failure. It's as if what goes around comes around, and it's a commin' around.

On one hand, he's celebrated (in the Seattle BM piece):
"...OnRequest has developed unique tools for helping companies brand their products and track their images. It can analyze a company’s artwork and find out if a firm’s unoriginal images are also being used by other businesses, an embarrassing problem that happens more often than companies realize."
Right, that's called the risk of Royalty-free imagery.
"....OnRequest grow by about 400 percent in 2006 and the same rate of growth is expected this year. The company’s success has caught the eye of the venture community, as well, with a number of local firms investing millions in the startup."
Hmmm, maybe not so much. When it's reported in the Seattle PI piece:
The cuts, which occurred Thursday, were not tied to problems in the overall stock photography business, said Norris....He said the company has experienced record revenue over the past several quarters, a trend he expects to continue this quarter.
Then again, maybe not, unless you cut more staff, which is a common tactic for organizations looking to appear more profitable than they are.

Yikes! This is his fourth startup. Perhaps those with the VC purse-strings will recognize that Norris' risk to success ratio is a bit askew towards the risk side, so there's no fifth startup? Perhaps someone will see him in a ditch, with a broken spoke and just let well enough alone.

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Monday, November 19, 2007

A Look Back - Top Ten

Here's a look back over the past 11 months at the top 10 posts, to date.  Thanks!

  • #1 ~ Photo Booth Rig - The 'in detail' demonstration of a really cool photo booth where people can make images of themselves, and get a print, in under a minute!

  • #2 ~ Nikon D3 Spotted in the Wild - The photos of a D3 being used on assignment. This was post skyrocketed to this position because of several link-ins from other sites.

  • #3 ~ The Conundrum of Doing Nothing - This post, in such a short period of time saw a grassroots spike in readers. The bottom line - doing nothing can be very profitable!

  • #4 ~ A Must Watch - Do You See Yourself? - I'd like to thank YouTube for this post's success. It's clearly resonated with people when you see a writer talk about the importance of getting paid.

  • #5 ~ Don't Really Make Photos - This is only a test - Apparently the rest of you also thought it absolutely hilarious that a newspaper would require all it's freelancers to bring in every piece of equipment they own, and to be tested on their abilities!

  • #6 ~ US Presswire - Introduction - Many of you apparently 'saw the light' and spread the word about this in-depth piece on how bad shooting spec, especially of sports, is for you. It wasn't without it's detractors, of course..

  • #7 Anatomy of an Assignment: 3 Minutes and Counting - This post will always hold a special place for me, as it was the basis for the AssignmentConstruct site.

  • #8 From The 'Are You Kidding Me' Department - It's remarkable that two posts about the downside of spec sports shooting makes it into the top 10 list. I presume it's a combination of SportsShooter referrals as well as the large number of people shooting sports.

  • #9 The Marketplace is now open - A piece on Digital Railroad's (then) new Marketplace service for stock licensing made headlines, and the top ten.

  • #10 The Art of the Retoucher - This was a very early post, about how amazing retouchers work, and links to some of their samples.
Now go! Check 'em out!  Up next? My top ten favorite posts...
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(Comments, if any, after the Jump)

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.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Non-Profit Challenge

I get these calls all the time - "We're a non-profit..." which is usually proceeded by a request for a lower rate. I'm guessing you do too.

I'm not saying that you should never do pro bono work, or give back. However, don't let it be based upon who rings-you-up, but rather, after a period of reflection to decide for whom you would like to offer your services.

Understand, being a "non-profit", a.k.a. "Not-for-Profit" organization is a tax designation (IRS FAQs about Operating as an Exempt Organization), and, as such, allowing a tax structure designation to dictate the acceptability of a discount would mean that an LLC or a S-Corp, or a Sole Proprietor would all potentially enjoy different pricing.

I don't see the landlord cutting them a break, or the electric company, or the cost for a computer, or the cost of a case of copier paper, get the point. Why are we to discount our services?

(Continued after the Jump)
We're not!

A few words from the IRS' Exemption Requirements:
To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue may not be an action organization, i.e., it may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates....Organizations described in section 501(c)(3) are commonly referred to as charitable organizations. Organizations described in section 501(c)(3), other than testing for public safety organizations, are eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions in accordance with Code section 170....The organization must not be organized or operated for the benefit of private interests...Section 501(c)(3) organizations are restricted in how much political and legislative (lobbying) activities they may conduct.
This delineation would certainly reduce the number of valid claimants who suggest they are charitable/non-profit.

Further, when the organization has nice downtown office space, and their staff are paid competative wages with a 401k, and their event is in a nice hotel or downtown venue and they have quality floral arrangements, or, their executive you're doing a portrait of has a beautiful view of the city and dresses in high quality suits, why should you bear the brunt of cost-savings requests?

You shouldn't.

Don't think though, that you can deduct your services.

The IRS's Publication 526, which is a a publication discussing how to claim a deduction for charitable contributions, lists on Page 2:

Not Deductible As
Charitable Contributions

Value of your time or services

back on February 10th (An Original Picasso for $50? That's what they say) I suggested "don't bother with the get paid then donate route...", but upon further review, if you want to be seen as a donor, and treated as such, it's not a bad idea.

When you're working for a charity, send them an estimate and then invoice for the full amount of your services, get paid, and agree that you will provide that amount back (less expenses, if that's your deal) by check, through their donation mechanism. This sets them up to recognize the true value of the work you do do. Further, you are then listed as a "donor" in their literature, and are extended an invitation to attend other events where a photographer may not be present, as a guest. While your donation may be in-kind, it places you on par with others who may have donated the same amount in cash.

So, while this won't help your tax status, since your donation and your income cancel each other out, it could be a good way to actually make a donation. and certainly affords you the ability to cover your expenses when the deal is a pro bono one.
(With thanks to a helpful SF ASMP member who posited this nugget of information, well worth expanding upon!)

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