Saturday, December 5, 2009

Monkey Business & Photography

Q: Why is a monkey smarter than 98% of all microstock photographers?

A: Because the monkey can feed herself by taking photos.

Sadly, this isn't a joke, it's the truth. Paul Melcher, over on his "Thoughts of a Bohemian" blog (here), shares the news that a 33 year old Orangutan earns a raisin for every photo taken.

Let's see - why don't we do the math: reports from some photographers suggest a ratio low ratio of images "snapped" to images "accepted", and it's not unreasonable to believe that 100 or more images are taken at a shoot. So, you shoot, say, a gross of 500 images and get, say, 10 accepted. Your monkey competitor has earned 500 raisins. That's about equivalent to 9 15 oz boxes of Sun-Maid raisins. A 15 oz box of Sun-Maid raisins sells for $2.50 at So, after 500 photos, the monkey has earned $37.50 in raisins. In order for a microstocker to have $37.50 to spend on food (i.e. a personal item), they have to have earned $75 in taxable income because between federal, state, and self-employment/social-security taxes on their microstock income, they are paying 50% taxes on their profits, and we all know that microstockers argue that it doesn't cost them a thing to make photos, so whatever they earn is profit, right?

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How long does it take for those 10 accepted photos to make $75? Quite awhile, when the average per-sale figure is about $2, according to Jim Pickerell, in this article.

The numbers could be even worse. According to the iStock Contributors site here, the TOP contributor, Yuri Arcurs, in 4 years only has 5,006 files uploaded, which equates to 104 images a month, on average, that are accepted. the site lists Arcurs as having 136 new files in the last 30 days. In his profile here, it is suggested he shoots "hundreds of 39mp files per day...", so assuming he shoots 5 days a week, and let's say 200 images a day, that's 1,000 a week, 4,000 a month, and he's only getting 136 accepted - and he's the TOP guy? That's a 3.5% shoot-to-acceptance ratio.

So yes, this generalization of math and microstock income provides the rough estimation that even a monkey is smarter than almost all microstock photographers.

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Time Warner - Letting Freelancers Screw Themselves

If you're a freelancer, and Time Warner owes you for assignments, for a fee you can get it paid in 25 days after it's approved. Want it in 10 days? The fee quadruples. Again, this is an acceleration of "approved payments", not the acceleration of payment. Reports of 60 to 90 day payment cycles abound,(despite claims that you are getting paid in 30 days) so at what point are they approved in the system? I highly doubt that you could actually get paid 10 days after sending your invoice, for example. The concept of "2/10 net 30", while common in the business world, assumes that you're actually getting paid in 30 days in the first place.

We all can understand the concept that if you have $100 owed to you, it is better for you to be paid that $100 immediately, than to have to wait a year for it. If you get that $100, compounded interest could mean that after a year in your bank account earning interest, you'd have $105 (or more). However, if you wait to be paid the year, your debtor has earned that same $105. This concept is called Time/Value of money, and you can read more about it here. While you may not be able to leverage a $5,000 early payment of a bill for an assignment (including expenses) into more than a few dollars, imagine JP Morgan (Time Warner's payment vendor) being able to leverage 100 of those $5,000 bills by delaying payments a month or two? That's called "the float." Banks used to delay making the funds available for upwards of 7 days even though they got the money within 24 hours. A long time ago, it might have taken 7 days to get a check drafted on a New York bank validated by a California bank. However, long after those days had passed, the delays were still in place, giving banks a 5-6 day "float" on your money, so that tens of millions of dollars could earn interest for just a few days, and you would be none-the-wiser. Laws were enacted to force banks to change.

Here's the "Happy Holidays" memo sent to Time Warner's freelancers:

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Happy Holidays!

If you are receiving this email, you are the JPMorgan Xign administrator and you, or someone from your organization, is submitting electronic invoices or receiving electronic payments via the JPMorgan Xign solution on behalf of Time Inc. I apologize for the blind distribution but I wanted to protect everyone's privacy while sharing this important information.

As year end approaches I wanted to ensure that you were aware of the PayMeNow functionality, which allows you to _accelerate payment for invoices that have already been approved_ by TIME. This is an excellent tool to help with your cash management at year end! This does not change your payment term on future invoices, it simply accelerates the payment on the ones you specifically request.

* If you are receiving this email, it means you have approved invoices that are pending payment and can be accelerated for payment this week or any day before year end. *

This is a purely optional service that is available to you by following these easy steps:

1) Log into your JPMorgan Xign account at

2) Look for the green $$ and click the link.

3) This will display all available invoices

4) Either select the fastest date to be paid, or select "Lower rates" to schedule payment later in the month, but still before your year end.

Thanks very much and please let me know if you have additional questions related to cash acceleration. For all other inquires, please contact our Support Team at 800 485 XXXX.


Linda Piazza

Vice President, Relationship Management
It seems that a survey done by the JPMorgan Business Settlement Network, as reported by Financial Services Technology - Early payment discounts – a lucrative cash management tool - suggests that "faster payment" represents "one of the great earnings opportunities in corporate finance." The article encourages "You need to consider the amount of discount ‘leverage’ you have with a particular supplier." Then (and here's where the lowly freelancer comes in):
"There is another large pool of suppliers...the non-strategic suppliers. These suppliers are typically small to mid-size suppliers...they are also the hungriest for cash and much more likely to accept discounts versus strategically sourced suppliers. Understanding your supplier’s need for cash is a key to success."
So, the next time you think that that Time Warner employee is your friend, or cares about you, remember, they are fronting for a payment system that wants you to be the "hungriest for cash and much more likely to accept discounts."

Gawker reports - Time Inc. Will Pay You Promptly, If You Pay Them for the Service - "Given how desperate freelancers are to be PAID NOW, largely because companies like Time Inc. never pay them on time, this is a pretty genius idea."

If you'd like to know more about the author of that missive, Linda Piazza's LinkedIn profile is here, and you can send her an email via LinkedIn, if you are so inclined.

Photography is business. Keeping your money longer and then giving you discounts, (as Gawker accurately describes it "charging its freelancers for the privilege of being paid for their work in a timely fashion") is Time Warner's business. So, you freelancers who fall into Time Warner's "non-strategic" category of vendors, remember how much they care when they won't pay you in full on time, despite your mortgage and credit card bills all being due in 30 day payment cycles, and you can't pay your bills.

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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FLYPMedia - The Future of the Magazine Experience

For some time now, FLYPMedia has been creating some really really cool interactivity, building it not only into existing content with publications you know, but also their own original content. So, it was with great anticipation that when I saw the new Sports Illustrated Tablet Demo, I had expectations that a FLYPMedia-like interaction was in the offing. Nope, not so fast. Something similar is in play for the advertisers, and the SI Swimsuit Edition, but Gizmodo sums this tablet idea up pretty well "...How is this different from a web page? Other than costing ten times as much to produce, that is...Never mind, I will tell you how: It’s a lot worse. It’s just pasting an old medium into a new one, painting the resulting clusterfuck with two layers of thick varnish."

Why Time Inc, who is slashing and burning staff these days, and seems to have forgotten that content is king, isn't embracing FLYP as they should is a big mystery.

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Here's the SI experience on the tablet:

Here, however is the FLYPMedia experience of a Sports Illustrated story. First - it's in your browser (full screen), so no tablet needed. Second, it is FAR AND AWAY more interactive than the tablet. Browse around, and check them out. They've got some really amazing - and engaging - stories. The FLYP technology isn't, as Gizmodo put takes the tablet to task, a "... resulting clusterfuck with two layers of thick varnish." FLYP gets it right.

I am not alone in this. TechCrunch cautiously reviews the tablet here, saying " is not exactly a glorified CD-ROM, but adding more links would breathe some life into it", which would create a bigger problem because the tablet then becomes a Time Inc computer, which is a really really bad hardware business for them to get into. Instead, as TechCrunch cites the leader of the project to bring this to fruition, Josh Quittner, (who is also an editor at Time and the TechCrunch writers' former boss, hence maybe the tepid criticisms?), suggesting Quittner "thinks of it as an app. If people are willing to pay for apps on the iPhone, why not deliver magazines as apps also?" An app would be a better idea, and keep Time Inc out of the hardware business, letting the expected iTablet and whatever Microsoft tablet comes along, handle the hardware. TechCrunch ends their piece suggesting, of the name "Manhatten Project", that "Hail Mary might be a better name."

Further, Rob Haggart over at A Photo Editor (Time Inc’s “Manhattan Project” Is A Tablet Magazine, 12/2/09) thinks the tablet is a bit limiting too, however he points out the repeated highlighting of original/exclusive SI photography as a selling point of the tablet.

The concensus is, this Time Inc Tablet idea is like putting lipstick on a pig - it's still a pig. Go get yourself some real Kobe Beef, in the form of FLYPMedia - it's a far more satisfying experience, and doesn't cost you. As FLYP's tagline says, they're "more than a magazine", and you can see their own video about how FLYP is re-imagining the magazine experience here.

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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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Illyria with Others, Bidding for PDN's Parent Company

In an era where the printing presses are becoming dinosaurs of a (soon to be) bygone era, the value of niche media with a target audience, delivered in an online platform is becoming the new standard for content, and a valuable one at that. Almost since their arrival online, Photo District News, one of the several valuable properties owned by Nielsen Business Media, has delivered a partial set of their valuable content for free, with a greater set of content behind a firewall, accessible only to those with paid subscriptions to the print edition. This "nibble for free, pay for the whole thing" approach is one that is attractive to the prospective owners of Nielsen. The principal lead for Illyria is Lachlan Murdoch, son of Rupert Murdoch, who is not only known for continuing the same nibble-then-pay model at the Wall Street Journal, but is also looking to make a strong deal with Microsoft and their Bing search engine for new business models online.

Nielsen has a strong portfolio of publications, including The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, and others. Of concern though, is this quote, by Nielsen, as cited by the Financial Times, “For assets that don’t hit the mark, we’re always looking to work them out of the portfolio.” PDN is not insulated from drop in print subscribers or drops in advertising revenues. However, it would be foolish for the Nielsen number crunchers to judge PDN on print subscribers alone when their online content is not only robust, but also pre-designed to continue the nibble-then-pay model that the Murdochs (rightly) see as the future of publishing.

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One interesting model is that used by The Hollywood Reporter, touted by them as " exact replica of the print edition with page turner technology...", and that may be one model that could spread to the rest of the Nielsen-cum-Murdoch lineup, post-acquisition. Interestingly, this model just may allow some of the high per-page advertising rates to be maintained, as opposed to the poorly established low per-pixel rates being paid for online ads that was set across the board years ago, and is not sustainable nowadays (actually, it was never sustainable, just underwritten by the print ad revenues).

As noted at the beginning, broad coverage, in an attempt to serve the masses, is not the future, niche media is. TechCrunch reported on a survey that showed that small town newspapers showed an increase of 4.3% in advertising, as well as local classified ads. Considering that a local newspaper is one example of niche publishing (i.e. local news for the local reader), this makes sense. One example (and apologies in that the town's name escapes me) showed that local (i.e. niche) focus pays well, with a circulation of over 100%, because the subscribers were giving their papers to friends in neighboring towns to read. While this may be an extreme example, consider the value of the free subscriptions given to doctors offices, in terms of the number of actual readers per issue.

In the end, it makes sense for Nielsen to not only utilize and expand the PDN nibble-then-pay model, but also to keep the quality of content and reporting that PDN has delivered for years and expand on it where printed page-counts are not the limiting factors to great stories, articles, and insights.

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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