Apple iPad: How Will it Affect the Publishing World

It seems like the excitement of a new device from Apple has become a annual event. Of course their marketing ploys help build that excitement, but I have to be honest in saying that I truly like what I see here. Yes, the iPhone was very cool, but it still didn’t make me run out and switch from Verizon to AT&T (even when I can get a discount due to my wife’s employment with AT&T). Mind you, I’m a HUGE Apple fan and have been since the early, early days.

But the energy I feel this time comes from a real hope that this simple, beautiful device, http://www.apple.com/ipad/#video, can help the ailing publishing world. I’m old school in that I love the newspaper and read it each and every morning with my coffee. But I also read another dozen or so daily online thanks largely to the free content. That free content, though, will have to evolve if the magazines and papers are to remain profitable. I also enjoy all manners of good books. But I didn’t like the Kindle because it looked and acted more like a computer than a book reader. The iPad looks (from what I can tell) and acts less like a computer. I love the look of flipping the pages and even the simple, fun look of downloading a book and seeing it appear on your bookshelf. These are the ways that Apple revolutionizes. Simple, elegant and easy to navigate while paying attention to details. The fact that the NY Times recognizes the potential and got on board immediately is a good sign to me. They’re the “old gray lady” for a reason and they produce a lot of excellent content in traditional and evolutionary ways (ie: multimedia platforms). What’s appealing about the iPad is that you can read an article, then click on the photo gallery or related video and integrate the mediums with ease and on a large screen.

So I can actually see myself reading a paper or magazine or book on the iPad. For the profession I’m in, as the NY Times has indicated, this device might help stem the flow of blood from the publishing industry that has been whacked by a loss of advertising and readers. It’s simple, the next generation will clearly be utilizing electronic devices to read, study, share content. The printed paper, magazine, book is not for them. The publishing world has been trying to find it’s way with this generation for a while but in reality the platform for digital distribution hasn’t been there. But this may start to change things.

The world of textbooks will also benefit, I believe, by evolving into a more dynamic interaction with students as opposed to printing a book that can easily be outdated in a year. Visual content can now be integrated into textbooks more readily because there is a platform in place for easy distribution. No longer will students have to deal with “out of stock” textbooks. And the prices should come down, though that will remain to be seen.

As for the content providers, such as myself, the iPad might change the way we look at licensing images for e-books. Where such rights were previously considered supplemental to the printed rights, I believe the reverse will become true in the near future as textbook companies gravitate heavily toward e-books. The printed version just might be “supplemental” in terms of licensing.

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Stock Photography: Where Are We Going?

Great column by James Rainey, who writes about the media, in the LA Times today. http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/arts/la-et-onthemedia22-2010jan22,0,4822231.column

The gist of the column will come as little surprise to those of us producing images for magazines and newspapers. The trend emerged years ago and was energized, to say the least, by the dominance of Getty Images. Getty’s ability to drive the model for licensing was one key aspect in the continued decline of prices for stock photography. Granted there is no debating the impact Getty has on the industry, but as Rainey’s column aptly points out, it’s not the only factor contributing to the struggles of creative professionals to make a living licensing their intellectual property.

As technology evolved in the past decade,  high end digital cameras for the average consumer became commonplace. Throw in the development of sophisticated mobile devices that take video and photographs and you have a society of content providers AND the platforms for them to easily distribute their images. Keep in mind, it was barely 15 years ago when publishers of any kind would request images from photo agencies and then wait a day or two before FedEx delivered a set of transparencies. In other words, the archival and distribution platform was simply not available to the consumer or amateur photographer. Now, publishers have instant access to photographs and the consumer can now participate in the archiving and distribution of creative content. Facebook, Twitter, My Space, Flickr, Snapfish, etc, etc, are all platforms that have evolved into places where magazines and newspapers will look for content. Remember, though, all of those are driven mainly by amateurs, not professionals, although it’s widely advised for pros to have a presence on the social network sites, thus giving credence to the power of social networks and their model for distribution of content.

When amateurs and young, naive pros looking to enter the market are willing to essentially give away their work for the thrill of being published, well, it doesn’t take an economist to see the affect that would have on the market for stock photography. Again, combined with the fact that the technology now allows for anyone to produce high resolution, in-focus images with very little training, transmit those images to a free content sharing site and the market for professional quality content will obviously take a hit. And we have…….

Having said all that, I still believe there will always be a market for high end, professional imagery. The general malaise of the publishing industry will indeed continue a push toward lower prices and the acceptance of “good enough” images, but as the photo agency, Aurora, will attest, there will always be a market for top quality imagery.

A woman with a fish she caught in the Owens River near Benton Crossing in Mammoth Lakes, CA, before it is released back into the water.

James K. Colton Lecture at Annenberg

I had a chance to catch a long time editor, mentor and friend lecture the other night at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Century City. Jimmy Colton, Picture Editor at Sports Illustrated, flew in from NY to speak to a packed house about what he looks for when editing for Sports Illustrated. Having worked and known Jim for twenty years now, I was still impressed by the passion and desire to reach out to young photographers that he exhibited during the evening.

He showed a lot of great images. No surprise there given SI has always been about the photos (sorry to my friends who write for the mag, but there is more than a modicum of truth to that!). Jimmy showed iconic images and examples of the magazines evolution into convergence with audio slideshows and use of video. All that fine work aside, it was the inflection in the voice, the impassioned pleas to forget about how bad things are in the publishing world (while acknowledging that these are tough times) and create images that make impact. Cause a reaction, Jimmy said, and you’ve succeeded.

I had the pleasure of sitting next to a group of students, one from California State University, Northridge, where I lecture part time, and several from Brooks Institute of Photography.  First, it was energizing to see that the students, at least one of whom has no interest in “sports,” had the desire to travel LA’s labyrinth of freeways at rush hour to listen and learn from one of the industry’s most accomplished editors. Then to watch their reactions and listen to their questions and comments was a glimpse into the future and I liked what I saw. Jimmy reached them. And not just with sports, but with photojournalism in general. Telling a story about another colleague, Lynn Johnson (a fantastic photographer whose work has graced the pages of National Geographic, SI, the NY Times Magazine and beyond), taking photos of young kids in the Dominican playing ball with sticks and the reader reaction to the photos, Jimmy explained how Lynn’s images made a real impact. Readers asked how they could donate so the kids could have real baseball gear and before they knew it, Jimmy and Lynn gathered enough gear and personally delivered it to the kids in the Dominican Republic. I could see the impact the story had on the students sitting next to me.

Jimmy made sure to emphasize how well the business of photojournalism has treated him. In return, he is committed to giving back and does so in a variety of ways. He helps young photographers by being available to them for advice and professional critiques. He has given since the beginning (over 20 years ago) to helping young photojournalists accepted into the Eddie Adams Workshop. I was one of those, so I can tell you forthright that he walks the walk. He is also committed to Do 1 Thing.

A great lecture from a great editor at a great gallery. For those who haven’t visited the venue, you should try. The Annenberg Space for Photography also hosts the annual exhibition for Pictures of the Year, International.

For more on the lecture, visit Beate Chelette’s blog at http://photosecrets.wordpress.com/

Editor, Mentor and Friend, Jim Colton and Me (thanks to Beate Chelette at http://photosecrets.wordpress.com)

Looking Back

It’s hard not to look back over the previous year. As tumultuous as it was for most of the country, if not the world, it still was a pretty good year. I have my health, as does my family, and I continue to make a living doing what I love.

I’m blessed and thankful for the diverse clients who continue to call with assignment work. From a lifestyle shoot on the Mexican Caribbean to hanging out with disabled vets learning to play sports again, Sports Illustrated continues to prove that “sports photography” is not only about being at the Rose Bowl, Final Four or World Series.

A disabled vet at the VA Sports Clinic in San Diego, CA

The second half of the year also presented some heavier subject matter such as shadowing a hate group, The Westboro Baptist Church, for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report as the church members spouted extreme messages of hate against (in no particular order) homosexuals, Catholics, Americans, and Jews.

Member of Westboro Baptist Church, labeled a hate group, demonstrates with his children.

On a more positive, yet equally significant shoot, I met Margo Bouer, a wonderful, intelligent senior citizen who smokes marijuana daily to combat severe nausea and other symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis. Meeting Margo was also the first time I had been hired to shoot a story for a radio program. As convergence becomes a common term, I was hired by NPR to provide a gallery of images on Margo to accompany their radio report. Great story from a storied journalistic institution that I’m proud to call a client.

Later in the fall I was trekking through Joshua Tree National Park with an undercover federal agent for Preservation magazine. It was a enlightening story to say the least as I discovered that one agent is responsible for protecting a vast array of ancient Native American

Preservation Magazine

culture spread throughout our public lands. Petroglyphs, arrowheads, pottery and other artifacts are common in and near Joshua Tree National Park and are sought after by looters who sell artifacts to dealers. It’s a lost soul who will chisel a piece of rock adorned with ancient drawings just to make some money. The undercover agent said many are “twiggers,” a word combining “tweaker” (meth fiend) and “diggers” (those who dig for artifacts). Sad but important story, for sure.

One of my oldest clients, the Chronicle of Higher Education, is one of my favorites. I had a chance to shoot a university freshman on scholarship. He had only been in the counry 18 months and came from El Salvador with his parents. He excelled in his one year in high school in Los Angeles and was the first in his family to go to college. Polite, punctual, well spoken and heading off to study after our late Friday afternoon shoot (how many 18 yr olds study on a Friday afternoon?), he reminded me that its important to be thankful for all the opportunities we have.

I know I am.