CC Licenses, APIs and Content Stacks

I just read an article in Wired that pushed a lot of my buttons, and illustrates a number of the points in my talk at the PACA conference two weeks ago.

A company called Pro Populi has used some AOL data to create a new service that makes the data available in new ways, notably on a mobile platform. The data is published by AOL under a Creative Commons license which allows for reuse in an nearly unlimited number of ways, as long as credit is given.

At first I thought this was a story about people unwittingly giving away the store. As I have been writing recently, I think that many people are granting very broad licenses to use their content when they post on social media. This can come back to bite you when someone starts to build a new service with your data in ways you aren’t expecting.

This is a particular problem for media companies that publish stuff to other social media platforms. If you are a media company pushing your content online to Instagram or Facebook, you may find that the content shows up in competing products that you exercise no control over (and get no revenue from). The story in Wired uses this as the lead – AOL publishes database, and company scrapes up the whole thing, reformats it, and builds a new service with the data.

But buried in the 12th paragraph is the real story – the business implications of the Application Programming Interface or API. APIs allow one company to make their data available to another user, service, device or application. And they come with their own terms of service, with implications that few people understand.

On the surface, an API seems like a great way to short-cycle development. You can wire up the content or service into your own in a matter of minutes, hours or days, instead of months or years of development. It’s creating phenomenal growth as data stacks and business models are remixed on the fly.

But APIs typically come with take-it-or-leave-it usage terms. When you build with APIs, you run great risk that the service which is offering the API-fed data will simply turn off the spigot. If your business depends on the live link to the data that APIs provide, you are at the mercy of the provider. And that’s the story here, the one that Wired buried.

Welcome to APIworld. Over the next few years, APIs are going to become central to the battle for commerce and business development, particularly in the media realm. We’re going to be seeing this story a lot in the next few years, as more people find that they have built their businesses on agreements they did not even know they were making.

David Byrne and the Independent Creator

I’m peeling this post off of a discussion I’m having on Facebook with Leora Kornfeld, who writes about Disintermediation as a Harvard Research Associate. I think this message is an important one for all independent creators to be thinking about as all content-based industries are changing around us.

Here is David Byrne’s Oped in The Guardian. In it, he argues that new media consolidation on the internet is squeezing the economic sustainability out of music broadcast.

And here’s my take on it:
I think he has a point about the economics of the new aggregators. It’s a little ironic to see a reference to the good old days of the record company fairness, since they were the posterboys of IP robber baronism. 

Now, it’s the tech aggregators turn. It may be an even less fair arrangement, due to a confluence of factors. The end result will probably depend on whether the winner-take-all model topples, or whether it stands. 

Also it’s probably more accurate to say that the new model is sucking the economic sustainability out of the middle and bottom rungs of a professional art form. Whether that translates to the “life” or not is a different question. 

Of course, both of the above questions are linked. Do new disintermediation models spring up to get around the reintermediation™ of Amazon and Pandora? Jeff Goldblum would say that life will find a way.

You’ll see many people in the tech world shrug and say, “Get used to it.” But this ignores the fact that there is no one single natural order of things. The rules (laws) governing business practices set the playing field. And those rules are set by governments.

When radio was new technology, for instance, payola was outlawed. This law was instrumental in the development of music businesses in the radio age. Without these laws, the record companies would have had an even tighter stranglehold on the entire industry and could have required even more onerous contractual terms.

Monopolies deform the marketplace, generally to the detriment all outside stakeholders. Disintermediation is undermining the power of the existing content oligarchies, but reintermediation is apparently on track to bring an even greater concentration of wealth and power into fewer hands.

Along the way, these companies will work to bend the rules in their own favor. So I don’t think that stakeholders outside the new oligarchy should simply “get used to it.” Our laws are ill-equipped to deal with the challenges of the digital age. And we should not leave the law-writing only to those with the highest concentration of wealth and power. History teaches us that they will try to increase their power by tilting the playing field. 

It’s possible that these companies will be prevented from becoming true monopolies through some market-based limiting factor, such as hubris, incompetence or outside competition. But it’s also possible that they win the winner-take-all game.

In that case, as with the monopolies of the last century, it may fall to governments to limit the power of these companies. It’s important for independent creators to stay informed and to advocate for their own best interests.

Platforms and Channels

As you think about the use of social media to promote your business, it’s helpful to make a distinction between Platforms and Channels. Platforms are foundational. You build upon them, using the tools they offer to implement your communication strategy. A channel is a means of communication or distribution. You need to be much more careful about the services you use as platforms compared to those which are simply channels. So what does this mean in practical terms? Let’s take Facebook as an example.

Krogh_120514_5025Sometimes you see a platform, sometimes you see a channel.  Chegdu, 2012

If you use Facebook’s email system to communicate with your clients, and you use Facebook’s servers to store your portfolio, then you are using it like a platform. It becomes a foundation of your business marketing efforts. The longer it goes on, the more “married” you are to the platform. It may be difficult or impossible to disentangle yourself from the platform if the service goes away, or becomes objectionable.

You could also use Facebook more like a channel. You could use your own email address, and upload your photos to your own website and then link them to your Facebook page. This strategy takes advantage of Facebook as a great viral marketing tool, without giving the company so much leverage over your business. And it lets you develop other channels with much more control. You can move to Google Plus, or Twitter or PhotoShelter or some future service that’s not even developed yet if it suits you. This prevents lock-in, and alows you to create a reach that’s even larger.

As we have cranked up DAM Useful Publishing, we’ve used the distinction between platforms and channels and the concept of Lock-in to help understand other decisions. The Amazon platform is the most powerful retail force in the world. They have a turnkey publishing platform that makes getting to market really easy. But that power can work against you. The percentage that Amazon demands and their well-documented bullying practices make them a poor choice for a platform partnership. Instead, we’re looking at them as one of several retail channels.

As with all technology choices, it’s helpful to play a little “what if?” If leaving Facebook or Amazon is unthinkable because of the way you are using it today, then it’s time to start using it in a new way. Develop a strategy that enables you to own as much of your platform as possible, while making great use of any available channels.

This post was adapted from one first published on ASMP’s Strictly Business blog. It was written in advance of the panel discussion I will moderate at PhotoPlus on Safe Social Media Practices.

The DAM Global Village

Since we opened the doors to DAM Useful Publishing in July 2013, we have had an awesome (in the true sense of the word) international reach. We have sold books and eBooks to people in 32 countries. DAM Useful is reaching a true global village. It’s really amazing to me to see how far my work has gone.

In this list, it’s possible to see the the power of an individual to reach an audience directly and the popularity of digital photography. Thanks, Internet. I’ve only set foot in a little over half of these places, but I see a wish list forming…

Arab EmiratesKrogh_120424_1878
Argentina
Australia
Austria
Belgium
Brazil
Canada
China
Colombia
Czechoslovakia
Denmark
Finland
France
Germany
Great Britain
Greece
Hong Kong
Hungary
Ireland
Italy
Japan
Mexico
Netherlands
New Zealand
Norway
Portugal
Russia
Singapore
South Africa
Spain
Sweden
United States

Multi-Catalog eBook now available on DVD

Krogh_131001_2568We have created a new delivery method for the DAM Book Guide to Multi-Catalog Workflow with Lightroom 5. It is now available on DVD at our store and on Amazon. This is a good option for people who might have trouble keeping track of their digital stuff (a little DAM joke, there).

This is the same content as the digital download version. Next up, producing an ePub version to read on iPad (no ETA on that one yet).

At the moment, the DVD is available with free USA shipping when you buy from us. International shipping available by quote.

Help Wanted

New digital publishing company seeks design and production help

DAM Useful publishing is really taking off, and we need to hire some freelance help, possibly leading to full-time employment in the near future. Listed below is our Help Wanted description. Ideally, we are looking for someone who is interested in doing everything below, but we are willing to split the job into several part.

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Established author writing about digital photography, digital asset management and Adobe Lightroom has started a new publishing company creating multimedia digital publications primarily for direct sale. Although we’re new, we are experiencing a steep growth curve.

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Hope in South Africa photo exhibit today

We’ve scored a beautiful day for our Hope in South Africa event. Everyone is invited to Monocacy Crossing for a wine tasting and exhibit of photographs by Justin Nixon and me. These are our favorite photos from several trips to South Africa, documenting the work of HISA in this rugged farmland region.  Come for the photos, conversation, sunshine, hor’s doeuvres, and wine.

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Multi-Catalog Tip – Set Identity Plate

Here’s a tip from my new book. It’s a simple technique, but not everyone thinks to do it. If you use more than one catalog in Lightroom, you’ll want to create a custom Identity Plate that can show you which catalog you’re working in.  This can prevent you from accidentally importing personal images into a jobs catalog, for instance.

Setting the identity plate is easy and it’s outlined in the movie linked below. For more information on multi-catalgo workflow with Lightroom, check out the new book.

Using Multiple Lightroom Catalogs

When you use multiple catalogs in Lightroom, it’s important to be clear about why you are splitting your collection and what you hope to accomplish. In my new book, I outline the most common of these reasons so you can create a purpose-driven workflow. Most people’s workflow will fall into one of the following groups:

Multiple Master Catalogs
Project and Master Catalogs
Working and Archive Catalogs
Synchronized Catalogs
Satellite Catalogs.

Each of these workflows has a dedicated chapter outlining the goals and how to achieve them. The following video helps you understand what each of these configurations includes.

 

DIGITAL ASSET MANAGEMENT FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS