Category Archives: Disintermediation

SXSW This Week!

It’s that time of year again: the annual convergence of tech, content, entertainment, music, film and general weirdness that is South by Southwest, or SXSW. I’ve been going for the last two years, and I find that it’s the most mind-expanding event I attend.

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This year, I had the pleasure of working with the festival to curate some of the programming. I’ve been working with David Fox, the festival’s archivist to make a day of photography, content and distribution. We’ve got a really interesting day, exploring some of these issues in a multi-faceted way.

Sustainable Photography in a Disintermediated Era
I’ll be doing a panel with some of the smartest people I know: Mikkel Aaland, Anna Dickson and Leora Kornfield. We’ll explore how disintermediation has changed the professional landscape for photographers, and how we can find new ways to make a living.

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We’ll be presenting on Pi day, 3.14.15, which is pretty awesome.

Our Day’s Programs
Here’s the list of other programs in our stack. Most of these were people I’ve met over the years and encouraged to submit a proposal. All of these programs take place in the same room at the Hyatt Regency Austin, Texas Ballroom.

Nat Geo Captures the World For Nokia, With a Phone 9:30-10:30
Steven Alvarez, Alice Keating, Tiina Johnson, Richard Kelly

Creativity & Success from the Majority World 11:00-12:00
Dominique le Roux

Image Creation and Sharing: Practice vs. Policy 12:30-1:30
Leslie-Jean Thornton, Lisa Silvestri, Magdalena Olszanowski, Victoria Ekstrand

The Camera Reimagined – New Forms, New Tools – 3:30-4:30
Hans Peter Brondmo

Sustainable Photography in a Disintermediated Era 5:00-6:00
Mikkel Aaland, Anna Dickson, Leora Kornfeld, Peter Krogh

Surveillance Photography: Personal, Public, Profit
In addition to these, Katrin Eismann will be speaking Monday morning with Stephen Mayes, David Fine and Oskar Kalmaru.
JW Marriott – Monday, March 18 9:30-10:30

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.

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.

 

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.

The Engagement Layer

I love the immersive experience of SXSW. Seeing, hearing, conversing, touching and tasting* a culture is essential to getting a real understanding of it. And this place, at least for this week, is the intersection of technology, media, culture and business. Being here helps to understand the context of what I see from a greater distance in regular life.

Krogh_140310_0467What does SXSW sound like? To me, it’s the nonstop cultural mashup of Girl Talk. It all comes together as a compelling stream of youth, energy and flagrant copyright violation.

One of the things I’ve been investigating here is the ongoing battle for control of something I’m calling The Engagement Layer in mobile and internet. I’m using that term to mean the place that the user puts his attention. (Back in the olden days, we called this “Portal”) The gigantic explosion of Apps, media, social services and big data all come together in the battle for the top layer of that 3×4 inch screen (for mobile) or 10×12 inch screen (for computing).

The companies that control the Engagement Layer – for the time they hold that control – have an immediate opportunity to gather massive wealth. And every few months, some new game-changing technology is introduced that shakes up the landscape.

Note that the Engagement Layer does not necessarily refer to the main screen you log in with. There’s plenty of opportunity in building an Engagement Layer for a specific area of interest. Food, photography, music, social interaction and more can be brought together and presented to the user in subject-specific engagement.

Those who own a chunk of the Engagement Layer want to hold on to it and expand. And there are tens of thousands of startups that are tying to get into the game and either knock off the top players, or, more frequently, sew up existing services to make a new top layer. Some examples.

Twitter v. Facebook
Twitter and Facebook continue their war, but it’s become an open firefight being waged through the API. They apparently have changed the Terms of Use to forbid major broadcasters from running their content on the same screen simultaneously. (I can’t seem to find a reference to this anywhere on the internet, but the sources were very credible.) In this case, they are fighting to provide the Engagement Layer bridge between the internet and broadcast TV.


140312_MakerMaker Studios

I got to see Ynon Kreiz, CEO of Maker Studios yesterday speaking about the way are using a data-driven curation model to create an Engagement Layer on top of Youtube. I hope to do a longer post on what I saw in that session. I’ll quote my friend Emmanuel Fraysse, “That guy’s a killer.” Later in the day, Disney announced that they were in talk to buy Maker Studios.

Getty
I think the Getty move should also be seen in the context of the battle to control the Engagement Layer. It has three things that any successful player needs here. First, engagement in mobile is driven by photos, and they have a lot of photos. Engagement is also driven, under the hood, by semantic connectivity. (By this I mean, “get me from this thing I’m interested in to this other thing I’m interested in easily or automatically”.)

And, of course, Getty has a lot of users, which is often what companies are really paying for in an acquisition. (Facebook paid $19 billion to purchase WhatsApp – a half-million dollars worth of code and 400 million users.)

All of the other discussions I saw in the last few days – including those involving Amazon, Mental Floss, Atavist, Twitter, Dropbox, and a couple dozen other companies I’ve never heard of – all of these discussions could be best understood in the context of a battle for control of some piece of the Engagement Layer.

*In case you were wondering. It tastes like bacon fried rice, with a Monster Energy Drink and Vodka.

 

Form and Content

I read a post on boingboing recently that got me thinking. In it, Cory Doctorow takes a swipe at business models where the term Content is part of the core plan. (“Content” has the stink of failure…)

While I don’t entirely agree that the term Content is a marker for a poor business plan, Cory raises some interesting points. The form of the presentation must drive the design of the material. New technologies and formats create new opportunities and limitations for the artist/writer/photographer/musician/publisher/whatever. (DJ Clark, for one, is working to create good disciplined thinking about the form, structure and usage of content as it relates to various media.)

Krogh_131102_0752Repurposing material has created a lot of wealth. Great books can be turned into movies or even video games. Movies have had multiple new commercial lives being repurposed for tv, DVD and streaming.

So it’s tempting to create a business plan that is medium-agnostic (as Cory says, to remove all “form-dependent elements.”)  The “content”, the theory goes, could be created in a non-native form, and simply poured from bucket to bucket, reducing the friction for each new instance of monetization.

I agree that this feels like MBA-think which does not respect the creator, audience or real value of the product.

However, there is an element of “Content” that is essential as part of a media business plan. But that content exists in the underlying ideas or story, not the exact expression in a particular medium. The story of To Kill a Mockingbird has a beautiful perfection in the manuscript form, but also a different beautiful perfect form in the 1962 Universal Pictures version. The content is the language in the original book, but on a more fundamental level, the content is the story and the characters.

When used in the proper context, “Content” is at the core of all media enterprise. It’s essential to understand exactly what your real content is. Is it the words or images, or is it the underlying ideas? There’s no universal shortcut for creating form-independent expressions of content, but there are huge opportunities in understanding the opportunities new forms present.

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.

The DAM Book now available in PDF!

DAM_Book_Cover_Digital2As of today, you can now purchase The DAM Book, 2nd Edition as a PDF file for digital download. This is the same version published by O’Reilly in 2009, with a new cover. This should be welcome news for overseas purchasers, as well as the many people who have asked for the book in electronic form over the last few years. We’re really happy to be able to make this available.

Digital Download – $19.99

I know there are some questions, so I have put together a short FAQ.

Where can I buy the PDF?
What formats are available?
Speaking of versions, aren’t we due for a new one?
Are printed copies still available?
If I’ve already bought the paper book, can I still get a discount?
Can I buy from Amazon?
Why should I buy from you?
Did you say Special Offers?

Where can I buy the PDF?
At the moment, you can only purchase it from us. We’re selling through ContentShelf, which handles the transaction and download. This is our first time using this service, and we’ll be very interested in the buyer experience.

What formats are available?
The book is available as a paper copy and as a PDF.   It’s unlikely that we will make it available in any other electronic formats, for this version.

Speaking of versions, aren’t we due for a new one?
This book was published in 2009, so the software versions included in the workflow sections are several versions old. However the fundamentals in the book are still quite solid and useful. I’m planning on writing a new version, but have not worked out the details yet. If you’d like to be placed on our mailing list, send me a note.

Are printed copies still available?
Yes, there are a limited number of printed copies available. You can buy from Amazon or from us directly. If you buy directly from us, we’ll also provide a free digital download of the PDF.  (You can buy a printed copy from Amazon, but it won’t qualify for a free digital download.)

Order your book here, and we’ll send you a coupon for a digital download within 24 hours.

If I’ve already bought a paper version, can I still get a discount?
We will offer a free version of the PDF book to anyone who purchased it directly through our website. Sorry, this does not apply to anyone who purchased the book through Amazon or any other outlet.

Qualified purchasers can contact us here to request their coupon.  Please provide name, address and purchase info at the time of request.

Can I buy the PDF from Amazon?
O’Reilly also has rights to sell a digital version of the book. The book may become available on the O’Reilly site and/or Amazon. At the moment, DAMuseful Publishing has no plans to sell through Amazon or iTunes.

Why should I buy from you?
We will offer special discounts for people who buy directly from us.

It’s our hope and expectation that we will be able to make book writing and video training a sustainable business by selling direct. When we provide the retail part of the transaction, it helps to make our business sustainable.

Did you say Special Offers?
As a matter of fact, I did. We’ll start by taking care of past customers. Anyone who bought The DAM Book 2nd Edition directly from us will be eligible for a free download of the digital version. And as we publish more books and videos, we will continue to offer repeat customers some love in exchange for their loyalty.

Email directly to request a voucher. Remember to provide name, address and purchase info.