Category Archives: Business

Report from SXSW #1

Once again it was a great festival: fun, exhausting, and thought-provoking.

Our talk, Adding Meaning and Context to Visual Media was a packed house, turning people away at the door.  As with previous years, one of the main values to me was the time spent refining the presentation, and distilling the ideas to a logical sequence in digestible form. I’ll do a blog post hitting the main points, and I’m hoping to give the talk again with my fellow panelists, Anna Dickson and Ramesh Jain.
Sell-out crowd, with line out the door at our SXSW talk this year.

This year, I spent a lot of time learning about Artificial Intelligence, and came away with a lot more clarity about what AI is, how it is being developed, and how to take advantage of it. I also saw some of the ways AI-based assistants are shaking up the world of computing. I believe that Google home, Amazon Echo, Siri,  and Facebook Messenger are actually racing to become the new dominant operating system. Natural Language Processing and Conversational UI will be the way we interact with computers in the future. The way this shakes out will be really important. I’ll have a post on that as well.

Photography (in all its many forms) continued to be a major component of what I saw at SXSW. This ranged from “traditional” photography, like Cory Richard’s keynote, to photography as advocacy in Aaron Huey’s work, to Casey Niestat’s new network, and on to the VR exhibits.
Ron Haviv and Lauren Walsh spoke about the democratization of archives and the Lost Rolls project.

There was more political activism, analysis and anxiety than in years past. This included a pretty frightening discourse on big data and fascism (from historical and speculative viewpoints). There was also a heavy emphasis on using creativity and technology for public good. Carina Kolodny and Marc Janks spoke about driving change through multimedia storytelling at Huffington Post. Rainn Wilson (Dwight!) spoke about building Soul Pancake, a media company based on empathy.


I was inspired talking to Aaron Huey about his advocacy efforts. 

The National Geographic made a pretty big splash at the festival, with a 5 day installation in Vulcan Gas Company restaurant on 6th St.  They brought in a great set of speaker presentations, and the event was attended by both Declan Moore, the CEO of National Geographic Partners (the media company) and Gary Knell, CEO of the National Geographic Society (the non-profit side of the organization). I believe that this was the first SXSW for both of them, and they seemed to be really energized by the festival. Gary also led a presentation about National Geographic’s Emerging Explorers program.


Gary Knell and Declan Moore address the crowd at NatGeo Further Base Camp. 

PhotoShelter sent down an exploratory contingent, including CEO Andrew Fingerman, founder Grover Sanchagrin, and Content Marketing Manager Deborah Block. I hope to see an even greater presence next year, now that they have been able to see the opportunities it presents.

Andrew Fingerman talks with Amy Bailett of Killer Infographics about the changing nature of visual communication.

Of course, there was also great music, and again this year I got a small taste of it on my way out the door. One year, I’d love to stick around for the last 5 days of the festival and take advantage of that platinum badge. But, honestly, I’m just so exhausted from the Interactive festival that it’s hard to imagine spending even more time fighting crowds.


Some jazz band I stumbled across at 2am, that was just amazing…

I’ll make some further posts that outline some of my findings, starting with one about AI.

As I tell all my photo and tech people, I continue to think that SXSW is one of the most important events that anyone in media can attend.  Media is inherently driven by the technology that enables it. Even more important, I believe it’s really beneficial to understand how technology, content, and business models intersect. I think SXSW is one of the best places on earth to see what’s coming down the road.

Lightroom *never* fully expires

Buried in the recent Adobe Creative Cloud rollout was a revolutionary change to the way Lightroom licensing functions.  When the license expires, the program keeps on working.* This is a radical development. If you’ve been paying attention to the sturm und drang around the Creative Cloud licensing model (here, here, here, here) , this is a mind-blower.

First, the * part. Not all functions of Lightroom keep working. The sliders in the Develop module become inactive. Develop will still render the photo, but it won’t let you run the sliders. (You could still use Quick Develop in Library to make further adjustments if you like.)

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Quick Develop will still run in an expired version of Lightroom 5.5

And the Map Module will stop working. The map technology is licensed through the Google Maps API, so Adobe has to pay for each Lightroom copy that uses it. If Adobe is not getting paid, they don’t want to pay Google, so the Map Module will be disabled for non-revenue users.

But other than Develop  and Map, everything else works.  You can  make new catalogs, add new photos, add keywords, make collections, books, web galleries. prints, slideshows, exports, published copies… Basically, you have Lightroom LE.  For free, if you want it.

Yes, free.

You can download the trial version of Lightroom and, at the end of the trial period, it mostly continues to function. Free.

Hopefully, this will quiet most of the fears that people have about Adobe’s motives in moving to the Creative Cloud licensing model. In the last few years, they have dramatically reduced the price of their photo software.  Buying Photoshop Extended and Lightroom four years ago would set you back $1300. You can buy a decade of CC software and services for that price.  And now Lightroom LE is free for those who are even cheaper.

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This is a bold play by Adobe. Here’s how I interpret it. Basically, they are betting that photographers will see enough value in the subscription services that they will continue to pay for Lightroom, Photoshop, Lightroom Mobile and Lightroom Web ($10/month).  Even when they can get most of Lightroom for free.

Stephen Colbert would say that a move like this takes big balls. You only do this if you are all-in on providing ongoing value to your customers. It’s the opposite of lock-in. And it illustrates the core values of the company. Your stuff belongs to you, and it’s up to Adobe to provide compelling value in order to deserve your software dollars.

There’s no guarantee that Adobe will get this right. Even though their software powers much of the creative services industry, they have not been able to hit a home run in web services.  But they understand that the future of media is squarely pegged to APIworld, and the only way to survive is to go all-in.

I’m really stoked about this decision (and I’m almost never “stoked” about anything, even those things that I’m quite enthusiastic about.) It’s gutsy, forward-thinking, bet-the-farm confidence on making some kick-ass software and services.

To those folks at Adobe who had the vision to move this forward, hats off.

Some of it is true

Paul Melcher  @Melchp just wrote a piece entitled That Much is True about the value of the professional photographer.  I started to write a response on Facebook, but decided it would be a better blog post.

Paul and I had recently discussed this very issue in response to a blog post I wrote called UGC and PGC, debating the value of Professionally Generated Content in a world flooded by User Generated Content.

So here’s a response to Paul, pointing out the places where I think he gets it right, and where I think he’s missing the mark.

Every profession would love to have an impossibly  hard moat to cross . Unfortunately for pro-photographers, theirs is small and almost dry.

Paul, while much of what you write is true about the traditional stock business, it does not address important aspects of assignment photography, which often carry some requirements that are best addressed by pros. You seem to say that professional releases are about the only real difference.

What still protects the pros are rights management ( copyright, model release, property release) but that is also fading away quickly as more and more platforms are helping out . So what’s left ? Who will put some water in the moat ?

I think it’s important to deconstruct client needs when talking about the value of a professional. This might include high-pressure situations, special equipment, certificates of insurance, high-cost shoots, location needs, showing up during business hours, etc.  Any of these can force the assignment into the province of a professional.  This moat is not created by photographers, it’s created by the requirements of the job.

Ignoring these needs instead of highlighting them does a disservice to all. Obviously it does damage to the market for professional photographer, but it also may lead people on the client side to make poor decisions. People who remove photography from their marketing budgets may regret that as complex needs arise.

There is nothing glamorous in taking corporate portraits or real estate pictures. If given a chance, all pro photographers would rather be making a living shooting what they love, like amateurs do,  rather than shooting to pay the bills.

I’d also take issue with this. In a 30 year career, I have gotten great satisfaction from making portraits and from the challenge of shooting architecture. So while most people would rather be on vacation than at work, don’t assume that no one likes doing a particular kind of photography just because you don’t want to do it.

Krogh_140401_2974I love everything about assignments like this one I did for PBS in April. The client, the people I work with, the process, the people I photograph, and, yes, getting paid. And while it may look like this could be shot by any enthusiast photographer, I can tell you that the requirements of the shoot definitely called for a professional. 

Brands and advertisers are turning to  Instagram for their next campaigns.

Lumping all of Instagram into one bunch is also a bit of a disservice. Instagram is many things, including a channel for the distribution of professionally-created brand communications. We’re starting to see companies hire photographers at professional rates to produce needed images. There are plenty of news stories that illustrate the need for professionally created and managed social media communication.

Additionally, I think there is a lot of opportunity for professional visual communicators to carve out new methods to make a living in a changing technical landscape. (Own the stack!) It’s true that the old stock photography business is in big trouble as the water disappears from the moat. But many of us only got part of our incomes from that business, and all disruption creates opportunity. So let’s dive a little deeper as we analyze the place of the professional visual communicator in our current marketplace.

Both Paul and I will be at the LDV Vision Summit in New York June 4th, where I hope we can carry on the conversation. If you’re interested, you can get a 20% discount using the code KROGH.

Privacy, Rights and the EU

I’ve said recently that the extent of social media licenses will be probably tied to issues of privacy, and that it’s likely the EU will take the lead. In the recent Google case, that’s exactly what has happened.

EU courts are far more friendly to the individual rights of privacy than US courts are. Thus, the EU courts are more likely to limit the rights that technology companies assert to our photos, identities and other data.

In the recent decision, the court ruled that an individual could require Google to suppress accurate public information that he did not want associated with his name. (In this case, a foreclosure filing that came up in a search of the person’s name.)

While this does not directly relate to the limits of the Instagram Terms of Service, it shows an aggressive stance by the court regarding an individual’s right to information about themselves. It’s not a far jump to imagine the court siding with the individual in a dispute about perpetual social media contracts.

Having said that, I think the recent decision is terribly flawed on many levels. Enforcing the decision seems entirely unworkable. And in many ways, it’s like requiring the removal of public records from a public library, or, at minimum, the indexes of the public library.

While I don’t think this decision is likely to stand over time, it does outline a way for backstopping some of the more open-ended social media contracts. Watch this space.

UGC and PGC

As I outlined previously in The Fire Hose, there is a flood of User Generated Content (UGC) being redirected for editorial and marketing purposes. The flood waters are rising constantly, as new services come on line to collect the content, mine it and monetize it.

Even though this will be transformational in the photo and communication realms, it does not mean the end of Professionally Generated Content (PGC). In fact, most editorial, marketing and advertising efforts will need a combination of both. Let me outline how I see the relationship between UGC and PGC.

Continue reading UGC and PGC

Life without a radio

Dateline SXSW – Attending SXSW without speaking Twitter is like living life without a radio – in a world where everyone else has one.  There is an invisible layer of communication that takes place, and those around you just seem to know stuff.

Krogh_140311_0553It’s nice outside, but I want inside information.

As a photographer, I follow the time honored tradition of never declining free food. Or, more accurately, seeking out free food and drink whenever possible. And at SXSW, free food and drinks are everywhere. It is laid out in hundreds of venues around town, sponsored by companies and institutions big and small, as well as states, cities and countries. And it’s frequently popping up at a moment’s notice.

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Once inside – free food and drink. Thank you, state of Georgia.

And so I followed the SXSW App, and I searched the web, and I asked around, but a huge amount of it was simply invisible to me.  I asked people how they knew where to go, and the universal response was “Twitter.” Of course that makes sense, since this is the place Twitter was introduced.  It’s their radio.

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Psyche-punk group, La Femme plays at the French Tech House. How can you find this stuff out without Twitter?

I’ve been pushing my blog posts out on Twitter for a while now, but I have not been using it for my own two-way communication. And I didn’t even really know how to find information when I was looking for it. It has become clear that this needs to change.

As Facebook moves farther into pay-for-play, it is less attractive as a channel for professional communications. (And this does not even begin to address the terrible Terms of Service issues.) Twitter is much less controlled – more open. Of course this means that you need a tool to help you make sense of it – some kind of way to tune into the frequencies you want to hear (to extend the metaphor.)

Tweetdeck is one, and that’s what I’ve been using to help me make sense of the massive flood of information going through the service.  I’ve started to tune in to the invisible interchange of communication that I’ve been tossing my tweets into. It turns out that there is a world of people responding to my blog, discussing my books, and wondering about stuff I’ve been saying. Who knew?

(Of course, a bunch of you knew. As I look through the notices on Tweetdeck, it’s clear that a bunch of my friends and colleagues  have been using Twitter on a daily basis.)

Tweetdeck
Tweetdeck allows you to separate out parts of your Twitter feed so you can make sense of the constant stream of information. Notifications are showing tweets I’m mentioned in, and Messages are direct messages to individuals. You can see here I made a new friend, possibly leading to free beer. 

Not everyone will need to speak Twitter. But it’s looking like a much better bet than any other social media platform, at least for professional communications.

 

Beyond Pixels Unfestival

Last April, I had the pleasure of attending the Beyond Pixels Unfestival, part of the Nordic Light International Festival of Photography in Christiansund, Norway.

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Our two day discussion on the future of photography covered a lot of ground, including the implications of new technologies, changing business practices, and the social relevance of photography. Over the last year, I’ve used this discussion to help me frame many of the changes coming to the art and practice of photography.

Here is a video of our group sharing some of our themes and conclusions with the rest of the festival. Leading the discussion are Mikkel Aaland and Hans Peter Brondmo. I’m joined by Severin MatusekIvan Cavero-BelaundeKnut Koivisto and Kate Jordahl.

Live Second Display

Musings on the Semiotics of Connected Photography

Dateline SXSW – Most people have heard of “Second Screen”. Typically, that refers to the practice of checking out Twitter or Facebook while watching television. It’s a type of engagement that is most common during live broadcasts like sports events or the Oscars. While some people may disparage the practice, there’s a pretty obvious value proposition there. Television does not offer two-way engagement, and people want to engage. So they naturally use what they can to make it happen.

Now I’d like to turn to those people who shoot pictures at concerts, weddings, dinners or other events. I’m not talking only about selfles. I’m also talking about the people in the crowd who pull out their cell phones and shoot outward-facing photos or videos. These folks are often dismissed as “not living in the moment” or something similar. “Why,” some ask, “can’t these people just experience the event without having to photograph everything that happens.

Same as it ever was
On an immediate and obvious level, I’d be a hypocrite to level such criticism. For nearly 40 years, I have used photography as a key to my own engagement with events. When I go to a friend’s wedding, I’ll probably shoot lots of pictures, and even get special access. I don’t just attend. I participate. I engage. By using photography.

And there is longstanding precedent for photography to validate any experience. People pay wedding photographers handsomely because the documentation of the event is a marker of value. Before photography, people hired painters. “We stand in witness of this promise, and these pictures prove it.” The role of the photographer is essential here – it is true and important participation in the process. Not only does it provide memory, it provides validation. And now, when something notable happens, up go the phones.
Krogh_140313_0939I shot this photo at the MTV Woodie awards. As soon as surprise guest Lil Wayne came onstage, a huge wave went through the crowd, and all the phones were held high, capturing the moments.

It’s not only large venues where this happens. I was at a really intimate performance of Billy Joe Shaver, a songwriting legend who plays small clubs with his band. Billy Joe is so close you could actually touch him, although that would probably not be welcome, (depending on who you are.) And so the ubiquitous phones are held high, shooting photos and videos throughout.

And then I shot this photo, which really rolled up the whole concept for me. In it, the photographer reaches out and touches Billy Joe, if only on the screen. She connects with the performer, and probably her friends and family, sharing the experience, and providing real and important engagement for herself and her tribe. This provides her with an experience that is not possible, exactly, IRL. (In Real Life)
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The photo illustrates to me the additional layer of importance that connected photography adds to the live experience. One one level it’s exactly the same as the photographer’s role I’ve been playing for decades. On another level, it’s a much deeper and more engaged experience. You can interact with your tribe. Or you can simply raise up a flag for the world to see, “I am here and I’m a part of this.”

So, what do we call this?
In order to understand a thing, it’s important to have a name for it, and I can’t seem to find a name for this phenomenon. We can describe Second Screen as the use of a social media device in conjunction with some kind of one-way broadcast. And selfie is well-understood as a self portrait used to document your participation in some event and then shared through social media.

But we don’t seem to have a term for “shooting photos or video at a live event as a means of engagement, sharing or documentation.” You could just call it “taking pictures”, but in the world of connected photography, I think it’s deeper than that. I think this action has meaning on multiple levels. It’s about interaction with your people, present or remote. It’s about your own personal memory-keeping. It’s about feeling as though you are actively participating in the event – processing it through your own point of view and creating something new and yours – a photograph.

So, I want a name for this thing. I titled the post Live Second Display. Live, because it’s about creating something during an event. Second because it is an auxiliary experience to the main experience. Display because that term could encompass both the event and the device you are using. And because it acronyms out nicely, if confusingly. I’m not suggesting that LSD is the right term, only that there should be a term.

I’d like a name for this. Anybody know one I’m missing? Any other suggestions? Let’s engage.

The Fire Hose

Dateline SXSW – I’ve written over the last year about how Instagram is creating a commercial service to supply photos for editorial and marketing purposes. The legal foundation was laid in January 2013, the service was turned on as a trickle last fall, and now it’s starting to get traction.

At SXSW, I spoke with some people who are making use of these photo streams. This includes people on the client side who are building campaigns with these services, as well as companies that help clients make sense of the photos and other data.

They have a name for it. The Fire Hose.

The analogy is obvious on one level. There are so many images coming through these services, it’s like the difference between a drinking fountain and a fire hose. These companies are excited to create engagement with their audiences by mining the millions of photos, tweets, Facebook posts and more that make up the world of User Generated Content (UGC). UGC creates a  new kind of media engagement.

And the Fire hose analogy is also useful in another way. In these arrangements, the company does not pay for the “water” (the photos), they pay for the access to the “pipe” (the API.) This allows the service to sell access to the material in a way that denies that the photos have any value. The value being charged for is the underlying access to the Fire hose and the connectvity. (See Getty).

Of course, this has profound implications for the independent creator. If you put your images on sites like Instagram that are part of the Fire hose, they may be republished widely with no money coming to you.  And use of UGC is creating a great deal of excitement for the client companies. It will take an ever larger share of the budget and attention of advertising, marketing and editorial teams.

Even though the use of the Fire hose does not replace the use of professional photography, it will certainly divert money away from it. I believe that it will take a while for companies to understand the best way to get a proper mix of UGC and PCC (Professionally Created Content, to coin a term.)

Still lots unsettled
I can also report that much of what I have previously identified as unsettled remains unsettled. This uncertainty is what is holding back the full blast of the hose. The unsettled issues are, in my view, primarily about the legalities of the TOU agreements.

• Are the rights in these contracts really something that can be sublicensed?
• Are the liability protections in the TOU going to hold up in court?
• Does the user really forfeit the right to terminate the agreement?
• Will there be a public relations nightmare in the early days that makes this a risky tool for marketing?

As we see companies pushing the envelope, we’ll start to find the legal and moral edges of what is considered acceptable use of the Fire hose. I expect that the boundries that we settle on will give Facebook, Twitter and Google an extremely broad right to make money from the Fire hose.

If you are a professional creator, it would be smart to factor this into your business strategy and your long-term planning, carving out a viable value proposition in a world drowning in UGC.