Category Archives: Media 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.

SXSW – An important place for visual creators

For the 5th year, I’m headed down to SXSW Interactive. Since my first visit, I’ve been convinced that the future of visual media can be seen here, as it is making its way from idea, through doomed startup, successful startup, into the marketplace, and on to reiteration.

There’s no doubt that visual communication – journalism or entertainment – is highly dependent on the new platforms, business models, and distribution channels that are technology-driven. SXSW is the speed-dating phantasmagoria of media tech. If you want to see where media will be in 2, 5 or 10 years, there’s no better place to see it than at SXSW.

And it’s becoming obvious that tech companies are increasingly dependent on visual imagery for core capability. Photographic communication, writ large, is perfectly suited to the mobile era, with onboard cameras, beautiful screens, and a premium placed on jamming lots of attention-grabbing information into a 2×4 inch space. In recent years, visual storytelling and visual media have been a constant thread through much of the programming.

This year, we see some real love given directly to photography at SXSW. National Geographic photographer Cory Richards is a keynote speaker, and graces the cover of the SXSW magazine. NatGeo will have a Further Base Camp at the Vulcan Gas Company on 6th St.

I’ll be interviewing the amazing Aaron Huey at Further on Saturday at 6pm, discussing how he balances authenticity and passion vs. risk and vulnerability in his life and work.  I’m so impressed with the way he has leveraged great photojournalism into awareness, advocacy, fundraising and cultural impact. Seriously, this guy is a poster child for visual creators owning their media stack and putting it in service for the things they believe in.

(Technically, being on stage at the NatGeo venue means I’m sharing the bill with Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Ridley Scott, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Jason Silva, Cory Richards, Steven Kolter, David Guttenfelder and Aaron Huey.)

There will be a good PhotoShelter contingent at SXSW as well. CEO Andrew Fingerman will be there, as well as founder and tequila entrepreneur Grover Sanchagrin.

Sustainable Photography in a Disintermediated Era

Here’s a little more about our panel presentation on Saturday at SXSW. This is an extension of conversations I’ve been having with my three other panelists for years.

SXSW Program Announcement
It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there

The Panel
Mikkel Aaland is our moderator. I’ve known Mikkel for about 15 years, and we’ve had the pleasure of working on a number of projects together. We’ve both been involved with Adobe and ASMP since the last century.  I was part of the Lightroom Adventure book projects in Iceland and Tasmania that Mikkel created, and Mikkel invited me to the Nordic Light Beyond Pixels Unfestival two years ago.

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Mikkel is a poster child for embracing change and thriving on disruption. Coming from his roots as a traditional photographer, he was an early digital pioneer. He’s written and photographed many books – some about digital tech, some about ancient technologies, and some that are just about people.

AnnaAnna Dickson is the former Director of Photography for the Huffington Post/AOL, and now deputy Director of Photography at the Wall Street Journal. She also came out of a traditional photo background as a photo editor for major magazines back in the film days.

Anna has also embraced change with gusto. She has done extensive development with the Huffington Post tech team to develop an enterprise DAM system. And she has kept the pulse of nearly every new photo startup claiming to provide the firehose of content needed by online publishers. And she has been able to put them to the acid test – can they actually deliver.

Anna and I have shared the stage twice before: at PhotoPlus in 2013 and at last spring’s Palm Springs Photo Festival. Although we get to take opposing perspectives on stage, we’re good friends with broad agreement about where the future of media is going.

leoraLeora Kornfeld was introduced to me by our mutual friend Eric Drysdale, with whom she shares comedy roots. She has a long background in traditional media, including radio work for the CBC.

When we met over Facebook a few years ago, Leora was working as a Research Affiliate at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard. She’s been studying the effects of the fragmentation of traditional media entities. We hit it off immediately, and spent a lot of time comparing the experience of the practitioner (me) with the analysis of the academic (her).

Our Presentation
We’ll be looking at the effects of shifting market forces on the independent photographer. It seems as though everything about the way photographers built their businesses has changed. Media companies are in turmoil. The tools and methods of the trade have changed radically. The availability of crowd-sourced images has eroded some markets completely. And people’s concept of a photograph’s value is all over the map.

How do we carve out a place in this tumultuous ecosystem? Well, there are some ways forward, and we’ll look at them from each of our different perspectives – photographer, client, academic. While the way forward is not clear, and certainly contains risks, we think we can help identify strategies that can work.

Our panel comes at the end of a day-long track that presents pieces of the very same changing landscape. what is the historical context, how are big media companies coping with the issues, how does social media push new norms legally and socially, and how are new hardware and software developments going to affect us?

I’ll post some of the more promising ideas here, as well as some of the new stuff I run across. Like the SXSW of the last two years, I expect it to be a fertile place to see how photography, technology, media and culture move forward.

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

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.


Read more about getting the most out of Lightroom


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.

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.

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.