Category Archives: Business

Ink, Paper and Diesel Fuel

Once upon a time, print media empires were built on a platform of ink, paper and diesel fuel. The most important prerequisite for a publisher was the ability to afford the cost of distribution.  On top of that platform, an editorial voice or service was built, along with an ecosystem of advertisers, and an audience of readers. Record companies added the cost of vinyl to the mix, and broadcasters added access to a government-licensed monopoly of the public airwaves.

Because the publishers controlled the means of production, they were the gatekeepers of media and, to some extent, of modern culture. They became the intermediaries between the creators and the public at large. Publishers built success by curating a voice or a point of view, leveraging their distribution abilities to make a coherent body of work. Few creators could afford to front the cost of distribution, even if they could manage to do the production themselves.

The high cost of distribution helped to create a controlled ecosystem for publishing. The value proposition for any media could be calculated using some factor of the cost of distribution. For many years, photographers charged on the basis of image size and print run – fees were tied directly to the cost of ink, paper and diesel fuel.  This set a valuation that people could understand and created a relatively stable market.

Disintermediation describes the what happens when the intermediary players are no longer needed. Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, Hulu, Google and a few more have taken the middleman out of media and retail businesses. Disintermediation is clearly happening, and it’s measurable. You can compare audience size, money paid, number of paid performers, profit sharing of the technical partners and more. If you have some good information to work from, it’s possible to form a good picture of the actual progress in getting rid of the middleman.

ZenithOptimedia recently came out with a list of the 30 largest media companies, and Google is at the top of the list with media revenue of $37.9 Billion. And the vast majority of Google’s revenue in this space is tied to a model of Disintermediation, where the gatekeeper simply opens the door, and lets anyone walk through.  Of course, there are still a number of companies that remain on the list that do function in a more traditional manner, but they all are working to adapt to the new environment.

The gatekeepers have lost their oligarchy, and, yes, the barbarians are at the gate. Electronic distribution has taken the hard value factor out of the compensation equation for creators, leaving a zero in place in some instances. In other instances, the multiplier remains, but it is so much smaller than the cost of physical distribution, that it amounts to nearly zero.

Crowd-sourcing is not the only model, thankfully. There is still room for a voice or a point of view that is curated. Yes, you can listen to a computer-generated playlist on Pandora, but I still prefer the surprise and delight of listening to great DJs like Mark Wheat at the Current (a real over-the airwaves station, in addition to an internet station.) I don’t think we’re anywhere near the end of curation. Rather, we are in a new world of curation where it’s possible become an editorial voice, despite your inability to pay the cost of ink, paper and diesel fuel.

Leora Kornfeld is doing some really interesting reporting on this subject.  She’s a Reasearch Associate at Harvard, studying disintermediation. Her blog De-mass’d reports on the phenomenon, providing good research into the specifics of the media reach, money earned, and implications of the demassing of mass media.  If you want to really get a handle on Disintermediation, and how it is actually taking place, put her blog on your reading list.

Instagram creates terrible new user agreement


I’m generally not alarmist about web rights boilerplate, since there is often a lot of ambiguity. Nothing ambiguous about this. (Item 2 in Rights, emphasis added.)

Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.

Note that this includes minor children.

If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata)) on your behalf.

Oh, and you agree to indemnify them in case of breach of privacy. (That means you agree to pay their legal team in the event one of your subjects sues for being included in a viagra advertisement).

(Item 4 in Rights)

You represent and warrant that: (i) you own the Content posted by you on or through the Service or otherwise have the right to grant the rights and licenses set forth in these Terms of Use; (ii) the posting and use of your Content on or through the Service does not violate, misappropriate or infringe on the rights of any third party, including, without limitation, privacy rights, publicity rights, copyrights, trademark and/or other intellectual property rights; (iii) you agree to pay for all royalties, fees, and any other monies owed by reason of Content you post on or through the Service; and (iv) you have the legal right and capacity to enter into these Terms of Use in your jurisdiction.

And this part in Indemnification:

You (and also any third party for whom you operate an account or activity on the Service) agree to defend (at Instagram’s request), indemnify and hold the Instagram Parties harmless from and against any claims, liabilities, damages, losses, and expenses, including without limitation, reasonable attorney’s fees and costs, arising out of or in any way connected with any of the following (including as a result of your direct activities on the Service or those conducted on your behalf): (i) your Content or your access to or use of the Service; (ii) your breach or alleged breach of these Terms of Use; (iii) your violation of any third-party right, including without limitation, any intellectual property right, publicity, confidentiality, property or privacy right; (iv) your violation of any laws, rules, regulations, codes, statutes, ordinances or orders of any governmental and quasi-governmental authorities, including, without limitation, all regulatory, administrative and legislative authorities; or (v) any misrepresentation made by you. You will cooperate as fully required by Instagram in the defense of any claim. Instagram reserves the right to assume the exclusive defense and control of any matter subject to indemnification by you, and you will not in any event settle any claim without the prior written consent of Instagram.

Note that this language seems to grant a license to the actual photograph, and not just the copy uploaded to Instagram. If they could find a high-res version somewhere, they may have the rights to that also.

The only opt-out is to delete your account.

The changes take effect January 16, 2013.  So, what does one do?  Well, I don’t see much option except to delete the account.  And if your tween or teen child has an instagram account (and many of them do), you’ll want to think about blocking that.

Instagram claims the rights to any photos uploaded after January 16th in perpetuity, regardless of whether you delete your account later.

(Cnet article here.)

This is breathtakingly horrible.

Wrangling Technology

ASMP has just published a new book that helps photographers understand photo markets in the digital age, The ASMP Guide to New Markets in Photography. The chapters were written by several of ASMP’s most experienced presenters, including Tom Kennedy, Blake Discher, Judy Herrmann, Richard Dale Kelly and Barry Schwartz. My chapter discussed the relationship of technology to your art and business.  

Advancements in technology are among the most important change agents in both the art and business of photography. Most of us greet the new developments with a mix of amazement, uncertainty and varying degrees of enthusiasm. But we don’t often step back and take a look at the structure of technological change, which can help us formulate a strategy for dealing successfully with it.

Photography has always been highly dependent on technology, and the development of digital photography has only enhanced that relationship. Likewise, our businesses are ever-more influenced by the changing technological landscape in which we operate. In order to create a successful business producing photography, you need to be able to understand and work with technology.

In my chapter of The ASMP Guide to New Markets in Photography,  I outline the forces at work in technological development, and provide some tools to understand your place along the techno-savvy spectrum. And finally, I provide a list of steps you can take – in both the short and long terms – to use technology for your advantage, no matter where you fall on the spectrum.

An effective strategy for wrangling new technology has several components.  You need to be able to make some sense of how technology is developing around you. And you need to make a clear-eyed assessment of your own strengths and weaknesses in accepting and making use of new technologies.  And you need to create a strategy for the future that takes this assessment into account.

Technology development is not a magical black box that pops out wonderful (and sometimes threatening) new products. With a little unpacking, it’s possible to see some broad outlines of how it develops, and where the areas of heaviest action are. You can break development down on a technical level, and more importantly on a business level. In many ways the business forces are much more powerful than the technical. Let’s look at one example.

Right now we are watching a race for platform dominance in several important areas. The platforms include the ones we’ve come to expect: computer operating systems and applications. But there are much bigger races, in much less mature markets. These include mobile and device platforms, publishing platforms, cloud platforms, retail platforms, and social media platforms. The details and results of these races have profound effects on the way your photo business operates. And the choices you make now can have a big impact in the future.

To make sense of your place in the changing world of technology, you need to do some self-alaysis. Are you an early adopter of technology, or do you always come late to the party? There are advantages and disadvantages of each. And your long-term planning should be done in light of an honest assessment of your own strengths and interests. The early adopter needs to be wary of spending too much time chasing technologies that don’t pan out.  And the late adopter needs to be careful not to let the market pass by.

Armed with a better understanding of what is happening around us and inside us, it’s possible to make a plan for wrangling the messy business of disruptive technological change. is live

For the last couple of months, I’ve been working on a project to help African photographers put their photos and multimedia into the world marketplace. is a free online learning resource, geared to professionals and aspiring professionals in the Majority World.  It was funded by World Press Photo and the Dutch Postcode lottery.  The project was run by Dave and Rosanne Larsen at Africa Media Online.

There is a comprehensive set of learning resources here, including help for business basics, marketing, business practices, as well as technical information.  Dave, Rosane and Dominique LeRoux were in charge of the business, sales and marketing materials. D.J. Clark produced a great section on multimedia production, Graeme Cookson provides background on imaging technology, and I wrote about Lightroom and how to create a safe and cost-effective digital photo computer system.

The entire project will look familiar to those of you who have seen dpBestflow, since it is powered by the same Drupal software that used over there.  It’s hard for me to see how we could have created this project without the generous support of ASMP. They contributed the use of their Drupal customizations, and paid for the work by Context Solutions, the excellent development team that worked on the site as well as

Here’s the first movie in the Lightroom lesson plan: it outlines some of the creative possibilities offered by Lightroom in image adjustment.  I’ll provide more background about the project, the material and the team in future posts.

This movie shows “before and after” examples of photographs adjusted in Lightroom. It is part of the extensive and free training resources on

SB3 Review

I have just returned from the ASMP’s Strictly Business 3 conference, and several people have asked me to report on the worthiness of the event. I can say with real enthusiasm that it would be quite helpful for professional photographers of any level.  Whether you are just starting out or have an established business, there is a lot to benefit from.

In some ways the event was mis-branded.  It’s not just a continuation of the earlier SB1 and SB2 events, because that’s not what our industry needs. We are facing huge changes, and the conference is really geared to helping photographers understand and survive the seismic changes we are currenly undergoing.  Details after the jump.

Continue reading SB3 Review

You want to be a pro…

I met an enthusiastic emerging photographer at the excellent Atlanta Photojournalism Seminar last weekend.  He asked me what he could do to further his technical, aesthetic and business acumen, as he starts his business. My advice started with a reading list, and here it is.

1. Buy and read The DAM Book

2. Join ASMP, and read the “Professional Business Practices in Photography” book.

3. Join and read ASMP ProAdvice daily

4. Join and read APA Digital daily

5. Join and Read APANet daily

6. Read ASMP Strictly Business blog daily:

7. Read Seth Godin daily

8. Read A Photo Editor daily

9. Attend ASMP’s Strictly Business 3 seminar in one of the three cities in Q1 next year.

10. John Nack

11. John Harrington

12. Strobist

13. Gail Mooney’s Journeys of a Hybrid

14. The Photography Blog:

The Mediastorm Network

I had the pleasure of attending a couple days of presentations by Brian Storm this week. If you are a working photographer (or filmmaker) then I can’t recommend it highly enough.  Brian is a long-range strategic thinker, who understands both the very big picture, (where media is moving) as well as the hard-core tech details (how to build the next generation of network distribution).  Equally important, he really understands visual storytelling, and can communicate exactly how he approaches it.

Our current media landscape is dominated by top-heavy industry players: organizations that were built on the high-profit models of the last century. Print media and traditional broadcast media needed (and easily supported) large corporate overhead to operate. These companies are still saddled with this overhead, even as they try to reinvent themselves as web-based publishers.

It’s interesting to see how some of these big media companies don’t seem to recognize their own top-heaviness. They send photographers into the field and ask them to gather sound and video at the same time they shoot stills. They can’t afford to send an audio person along, because all the money in the organization is going to pay for that prime downtown real estate and the executive compensation and other overhead.  The result is a product that may suffer in quality.

The Mediastorm model, by contrast,is built on a wide foundation and grows organically. First, make great quality stuff. Put the resources into gathering good field capture, and then spend the time and money necessary to edit it in a compelling way. Add management overhead once the product base can reasonably support it.

Mediastorm is also thinking hard about distribution technology, and how it is changing. They have developed a media player that provides a key to their long-term strategy. The embeddable player (shown below) allows for organic, viral growth, in a way that takes advantage of the current media landscape.

In Rwanda, in 1994, Hutu militia committed a bloody genocide, murdering one million Tutsis. Many of the Tutsi women were spared, only to be held captive and repeatedly raped. Many became pregnant. Intended Consequences tells their stories. See the project at

Look at the player, and pay attention to a few things.

1. It’s branded. Even though it’s embedded here on my blog, it carries the Mediastorm branding right on top.
2. There is copy under the movie player frame. This makes it easy to simply add a link, without having to type anything.
3. Multi-lingual closed captioning.
4. Commercials. Gotta pay for all this somehow.
5. Check out the blue menu button on the bottom left. This brings up even more stuff, which includes:
6. A link to buy the book on Amazon.
7. A way to contribute to a foundation that can help the people in the story.
8. Links to comment, share and embed right from this embedded player (free advertising and viral growth).
9. And something you can’t see: this embed has its own unique code, so they can turn this off if I somehow violate the terms of use.
10. It’s pretty.

The player provides distribution, connectivity, control, and revenue.  And the stuff inside the frame is high-quality long-form journalism.

Brian is spending a lot of his effort to train visual journalists to produce this kind of material. I expected to attend a seminar that would show me how to make multimedia.  Instead, I saw something much more interesting, a plausible business model for the next generation of successful media company.

To state the obvious, if you ever get the opportunity to catch a Brian Storm presentation, do whatever you can to get there.

Jerry Kennelly at CEPIC – Remaking the design/print industry

One of the most interesting things at CEPIC was Jerry Kennelly and Tweak.  Jerry is a brilliant businessman who revolutionized the stock business and got out at the right time.  His new venture is a stock design web service arriving later this summer.

Here’s a video of Jerry’s presentation.  The first half is a great history of Stockbyte and how they did so well. The second half is a description of the, the new venture.