Friday, January 18, 2008

Message to Magnum - Pass The Dutchie, You've Had Too Much

As I was waiting for video files to render for an upcoming project, I took a few processor cycles to browse my site logs to see where traffic for the blog was coming from yesterday, and there was an uptick coming from Paul Melcher's blog, so I sauntered over to see what he'd written. Paging down aways, I did a double-take as I read what must have been sheer lunacy. A quick search and click to Daryl Lang's story on PDN - Magnum Photos Teams With OnRequest For Commercial Work (1/17/07) validated my concerns, but did not sit well with me.

Now, it is rumored that more than one Magnum photographer has on occasion been known to partake in the weed that dare not speak its name. As most drug counselors will ask you when you come in for rehab, "does your using create problems in your life in regards to work, family or friends?" It seems to me some members of this stately cooperative have been partaking enough to impair their work judgment and should reevaluate their recreational activities for the longevity of their organization. Their common sense seems to now be off the deep end, with the legendary Magnum Photos making a deal with bad business model purveyor (remember CustomStock?) David Norris.

(Continued after the Jump)

Note to Norris - nice coup, but when this falls apart, as it no doubt will, this should send you packing to some other industry, ripe for the brand of business model you propose. I suspect this will stave off the investors awhile longer before the are clamoring for better quarterly reports with "damn the photographers, profit at any price!"

Note to Magnum - really, lay off whatever has deluded you. Melcher sent you in the right direction. Here's a single link so you can read the rest of what I've written about Norris and OnRequest.

Who's responsible for this debacle at Magnum? I know it can't be Sue Brisk, if for no other reason than she's the editorial director (i.e. not responsible for commercial projects), and I found her to be a reasonable person when I had a few interactions with her during her time when she was at Sipa in NYC. Maybe it was Diane Raimondo, Magnum's Advertising/Corporate Director, who (apparently) spent time working at the United Nations Population Fund, and just might have gotten some of the UN's silly mojo about how businesses should be run? Whomever it was, Managing Director Mark Lubell had to sign off on such a sweeping deal, and he was reported in PDN to have said "OnRequest is really a support system for production," and "They have a first-class production team."

Really? Do you really think that? Did you look under the hood? "first class" is not the phrase I would use, not by a longshot.

Lubell then seems to go further down the rabbit hole, when their press release that went out over Businesswire quoted Lubell:
“We are very excited to be working with a partner that has such a deep passion for quality and respect for artists.”
What alternate universe do you live in where OnRequest has had a track record of respect for artists? What "passion for quality?" Did you not read the ASMP's Analysis of OnRequest Images 'Custom Stock' (October 2004), or their Analyzing the OnRequest assignment contract (December 2005)? Reading those would be simple due diligence, and the insights there, and from PDN (setting aside my blog, if you'd like) would preclude you from suggesting semi-superlatives like "deep passion" when referring to OnRequest.

Back in August of 2006, Mark was quoted as saying ""I think it's fair to say that Magnum was still functioning on a dying business model...". Mark, didn't you look at Norris' own statements about his failed model for CustomStock that were reported here? Are you as suceptible to the dot-com mentality now as you were back around 2001? OnRequest is not Web 2.0, they are, at best, Web 2.NO!

IF you want a first class production team, there's plenty in the NYC area that could support your talented photographers. Outsourcing your commercial production to a company headquartered in Seattle can't be sound thinking.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

ASMP Strictly Business 2 - Los Angeles, in 1 Week!

In case you missed the announcement back in September, the Los Angeles Strictly Business 2 traveling seminar weekend is just one week away!

It takes place next weekend (Jan 26th-27th), and is a must-attend event. (The activities on the Friday are private consults, and an opening reception.)

Planes, trains, or automobiles - it doesn't matter how you get there, because this is worth traveling for! It is going to be a remarkable weekend that will either get you started right, or bolster your existing business skills.

Here's what I wrote back in September:

(Continued after the Jump)

After over a decade's hiatus, the Strictly Business seminar program has made its return, titled Strictly Business 2. I can look back 10+ years, to when the original series visited my area, when I didn't really have the $200 or so it cost to attend back then. I also didn't have the $150 for an hour with legendary consultant Elyse Weissberg, but I spent it, because I knew, I just knew, it would make a difference. Yet I see that experience - and it was an experience, all weekend long - as one of the cornerstone's of my success that I enjoy now. It was the foundation for the rest of my career, and it got my off on the right path, without a doubt.

As such, I consider it a privilege to have been asked to be one of the presenters, along with Blake Discher, and Leslie Burns-Dell'Acqua. Discher and I, along with current ASMP President Judy Hermann, and immediate past Presidents Clem Spaulding and Susan Carr, all chart a degree of our success to the original program, and others have testimonials worth reading.

It's got a lot of meat for the seasoned pro, however, the beginner will benefit greatly as well. In a way, it's like the Simpsons is funny - youngsters laugh at one level of humor, while adults laugh raucously at the deeper jokes in the program. So too will the seasoned pro take away a great deal of strictly business insights into the weekend.

So, where are we heading to, and where should you be making your travel plans to, if it's not in one of your hometowns?

  • CHICAGO: APRIL 11–13
So, make those travel plans now. Space is limited, and last time it definately sold out fast.

Here's details from the website:
Take control of your career. Attend the American Society of Media Photographers' weekend conference series Strictly Business 2. Learn to negotiate your prices and contracts. Get answers to your marketing questions. Prepare yourself to build a successful and sustainable business. Don't miss this rare opportunity to gain first-hand experience from the experts.

ASMP’s Strictly Business 2 is a weekend conference that will teach you real-world business skills and help you thrive in our highly competitive industry. SB2 brings you consultations, lectures, video presentations, a keynote address, workshops, hands-on negotiating training, and social gatherings to share and learn from your peers. This weekend will change the way you look at your business — join us.

Who should attend? Are you struggling to put the business pieces together? Are you overwhelmed with the pace of change in the industry? Is your career meeting your creative and financial goals? Attend SB2 and get a road map of answers. Strictly Business 2 is for those starting out in the business and those needing a boost. Have you been working in retail photography and dabbling in commercial? SB2 is for you, too. Are you a student or emerging professional? Treat yourself to an intensive weekend packed with the information you need to build a career as a photographer.

The original Strictly Business series was a transforming event in the careers of many of ASMP's most prominent members. Read their testimonials. Today, Strictly Business 2 can transform your career too.

Traveling to SB2? The extra benefit of SB2 is the community it creates. By staying at the conference hotel, you receive even more opportunities to interact with fellow photographers, the educators and our sponsors. The locations offer ease of travel for those flying or driving. Use the conference hotel and take advantage of incredible ASMP secured rates. And don't forget that two meals a day and two social hours are included in your conference fee!
Click here to register.

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Photo Business News & Forum Turns 1

At 11:16 pm EST on 1/16/07, Photo Business Forum & News' existence was pushed into the world when I shared with my friend and colleague David Hobby (Mr. Strobist) via e-mail:

David --


deep breath here....

I've started my blog!

...My concern is that I will not be diligent about daily (or every other day) updates, which it why I was reticent to do a big e-mail/launch. However, with about two weeks under my belt, I feel a little good about it, so what the hell.

So, here goes. We'll see where this takes me, and let me know what you think.
And here we are, exactly 1 year later. We have almost four hundred posts up, and just over 100 in various forms of draft, awaiting the right moment to put up (Jess), Evergreen posts for when I'm traveling, or just a few sentences of an idea that need fleshing out, so, fortunately the concern about not being diligent wasn't a problem in the end.

I recall early on, a commenter posted his concerns that most blogs lasted only four months, and that he hoped mine did, as he appreciated what I was posting. That, however, gave me a goal - I wanted to last longer than four months, and, so, here we are, going strong 4+8 months later. Whew!

How strong? Well, we've grown steadily since David's nice mention on his blog. About 10% each month, until December, where the D3 & 1Ds Mark III blasted our views skywards. In November, we were over 60,000 readers a month, and this doesn't count all you feed-readers, figuring in over 900 feed readers, that's about 90k or so, all told. As of right now, we've had over 850,000 pageviews - not bad for a one-year-old!

How is this the case? Well, it's about and for you, dear readers. The commitment I made was to deliver news and commentary about our business, from the perspective of someone who want's to see it (and you) survive over the long term. On some controversial postings, people questioned what my agenda was, and it's been transparent all along, and is as stated above. Nothing more, nothing less. If you're an entity that's doing harm to the business or the creatives who call themselves professional photographers, expect more critical looks at what you're doing to expose the "make cash now, who cares about them later" mentality.

Thanks for reading, thanks for your private e-mails over the past year, of insights, leaks, praise & criticism. Thanks to the PR folks for the various companies that I've written about who have not taken issue with the criticism I leveled at their clients, but rather have sought to make slight technical corrections about employee titles, and so forth.

The more we share, the more we all learn, together. Yes, a rising tide does raise all ships. I'm doing what I can to swell the waters, please pay forward whatever you learn here to your friends and colleagues, and continue the wave of knowledge.

In the coming year, we'll take a look back every so often at the posts from the previous year around that time to encourage a fresh look at that material, especially content that is as on target now as it was then, but, perhaps, with far fewer readers. Hit this link to see what I was writing, in a vaccum last year, pre-launch, to get into the swing of things. Then, there's this link for material which was written around the launch.
(Comments, if any. after the Jump)

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Speedlink - 1/16/07

Today's Speedlinks.

  • Photo Licensing Done Right? - A thoughtful look at licensing, and re-licensing of images.

  • The Business of Photography - Ed McCulloch had stopped posting for some time, but now he's back, and it's worth a read!

  • I'm already listening to music... - The blog has some worthwhile sentiments about using music on your website.

  • Music Lessons - Seth Godin's look at the Music business, with interesting parallels to our own.

  • Photo Allies - Greg Clarke's new blog about the trials of being a student/budding photographer and getting started the right way. Greg says, of his new endeavor:
    My vision for this blog is that college students and budding pros can share and support each other with the help of experienced pros. Together it is so much easier to succeed. I encourage everyone to send me valuable links that could help others out.
    You Go Greg!
Now go! Check 'em out, and come back soon!
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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Getty, The Stock Market, and Warren Buffett

I've been around business for some time. One of the refrains I've heard often is to invest in what you know. Stories abound about people who invest in companies they know, and that do well. Maybe it's the consistent positive customer experience a trucker gets at a donut shop that tells them that is a company worth investing in. Maybe it's someone who knows about how a trucking school closing will impact newly minted truckers in the south that will haul fruit in the coming months, and thus, selling short Del Monte stocks. Invest in what you know is a common refrain.

Many people can tell me that the Getty Images "roll-up" is just what the stock photography industry needed. What Getty really needed to do was remain private, as Corbis has done, and not be beholden to the stock market.

(Continued after the Jump)

What I didn't expect, yesterday at the close, while preparing this post, was to see Getty (NYSE: Stock: GYI) close and hit at yet another 52-week low - this time, $23.17. So, with this in mind, I've decided to bring back my JDK Resignation Watch ticker on the right. I'll expect to see him leave shortly after GYI drops below $20, which it's bound to do soon.

While reading about Warren Buffett yesterday, I came across some other worthwhile quotes that apply here, and perhaps might be worth reading, as it pertains to Getty.

Assuming for a minute that Jonathan Klein actually is brilliant, Buffett says:
"When a management with a reputation for brilliance tackles a business with a reputation for bad economics, it is the reputation of the business that remains intact." -- W.B.
I can tell you that the stock photo business has certainly had a reputation for bad economics!
"If a business does well, the stock eventually follows." -- W.B.
That seems to be happening right now - that is, the contrary circumstances to this sentiment.
"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently. " -- W.B.
Hello? istockphoto and $49 deal!
"Rule No.1: Never lose money. Rule No.2: Never forget rule No.1. " -- W.B.
istockphoto is losing GYI money, with losses covered by Getty Images.
"Your premium brand had better be delivering something special, or it's not going to get the business. " -- W.B.
Getty Images is not getting the business, istockphoto is. Klien's own statements have evidenced this, as well as our own research into searches like "white house" (August 4th, 2007 - I told you so? No, not really. (Well, maybe, sort of)), and so forth.

I'd guess, from these quotes, Warren would look at Getty as a "sell", and get out while he could.
Disclaimer: I have not in the past, do not now, and have no plans in the future, to hold GYI.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

"Price is What You Pay. Value is What You Get."

So true, and so wise, and we have Warren Buffett to thank for this sentiment.

We deliver valuable photography. It's valuable because it meets a need. It's valuable because it's one-of-a-kind. It's valuable because we see things that our clients don't see.

(Continued after the Jump)

Your work is valuable. It has value. Yet, all to often, you, dear reader, sell yourself short. How do I know? Because I too have done it.

Remember the value you bring to the next assignment you complete, and realize that they are, more than likely, paying such a small price for such a remarkable value - yours.

Warren has countless other quotes worth pondering. Here are a few:

"Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken."

"It's better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you'll drift in that direction."

"Your premium brand had better be delivering something special, or it's not going to get the business."

Go Warren!

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Ahh, the Joys Watching Maturation Happen

A colleague forwarded to me Lee Torrens' post - Microstock Full Circle, from last week.

What's remarkable is just how two-faced microstock photographers can be. The refrain that is laughable on it's face and just plain insulting when contemplated even for a minute, is the notion that microstock photographers don't do it for the money, they make pictures so they can see their work in print, and maybe their name as a photo credit, but now they're complaining because prices are getting too low. (as if $0.20 net per image isn't already too low!)


(Continued after the Jump)

Torrens' article is insightful, and talks about petitions being signed by some microstockers to opt out of the models that microstock agencies have turned to - subscription models, because they wanted to differentiate themselves. What used to be $1 per image, can now be silly prices like $150/month for "all you can eat" use, meaning those earning $0.20 per image are now maybe earning a few pennies.

And I am supposed to feel bad about it? Not likely.

Torrens makes the point that silly petitions won't make a difference, and he's right.

In the end, differentiating yourself as a photographer from the rest of the pack is going to win you more clients, more repeat business, and insulate you from the "everyday photographer" and their downward spiral.

Torrens does make one flawed argument, with bad numbers:
If you're in the business of selling photos, you'll be equally happy with an agency that sells 50 photos for $100 as one which sells 300 photos for $100.

However, if you're in the business of improving the industry for the benefit of your fellow photographer, that's very noble of you. You'll likely drop the second agency as they're not paying you as much per sale - they're not paying 'fair' prices. But will this help your cause? Not likely. One of the other 29,999 microstock contributors will get your sales.
The problem here, is that where images are priced at either $2, or $0.33 per image, it's not about the $100, it's about the fact that the license that both models promote is an extensive rights package for next to nothing per image. I'd much rather license one image for $100 than even 20 for $5 because I know that, over time, I will earn more per image because the person who licensed one once will need to come back again for a license to extend or expand the license.

That discrepancy aside, I enjoyed his piece. In fact, I enjoyed even more hearing whiners complaining about prices getting too low. Next they will be called pennystock, because you'll be first able to get an all rights package for $0.05, then $0.01. Next up will be agencies thinking that if they can get images "placed" in certain places, they will pay for that opportunity.

What then, about side deals? Consider you have great pictures of people using bicycles. It would be really easy for someone from say, Schwinn, or Huffy, to locate all their bicycles in an agency, and then offer a placement deal to the agency where by, whenever those images get used, the bicycle manufacturer pays the agency a placement fee. In turn, the agency offers to incentivize possible clients to use the photos, so any search for bike/bicycle returns these images to the top, offering them for, say $0.01 when the standard price is $1. The fee the microstocker gets is 1/20th of a penny, because they are only entitled to their percentage of the license. The fee that the bicycle manufacturer pays the agency is not a part of what the photographer gets.

Movie companies have done this forever, with proactive product placements. How likely is it that there are, say, coke cans in photos? Coke could cut a deal to get those images placed higher up, and thus, placed more. This could be done with logos on shirts for Nike, Adidas, and so forth - any branding opportunity could benefit the agency and not the photographer, and the photographer not only would not be entitled to a piece of the deal, but they would never know about it!

Enjoy continuing to be taken advantage of microstockers. Don't bother to read your contracts, they're non-negotiable, and however they read, those who own the servers where your images reside will do everything they can to preclude you from profiting from your efforts.

Happy Shooting!

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