Kickstarter And Mossless Magazine

The website Mossless Magazine is looking to print a real magazine and they’ve taken to Kickstarter to try and fund it (here). The magazine itself looks pretty cool with four 50 page booklets each dedicated to “emerging photographers based in NY” and they’ve got 7 days left to raise a couple grand to make it happen.

What’s interesting is a recent project at Kickstarter that may have revealed the true use of a website that “helps people collect funding for creative projects.” Product designer Scott Wilson, founder of the Chicago-based MINIMAL studio, started a kickstarter project to build a watch out of an iPod Nano (here). When the new Nano launched geeks everywhere were murmuring about what a cool nerdy watch it would make, so Scott decided to do something about it. But, rather than follow the normal course of funding and developing the project in-house then getting it into stores and selling it he took to kickstarter to fund and pre-sell. He was initially looking for $15,000 to get it off the ground but by the time it closed last night he had nearly a million dollars pledged.

A similar project to build an iPhone tripod (here) had the same kind of success as they went 13 times past their pledge amount. So, what this reveals about kickstarter is that manufacturing projects put forth by people who have a track record of creating solid products, that fill an immediate need will be successful (provided the internet helps spread the word as well). I think there are photography projects that fit this mold as well, we just haven’t seen them yet.

In The Future Clients Will Visit Shoots Remotely

I ran into this post from Christopher Kilkus (here) about a shoot that the client couldn’t attend, so he setup a computer with a webcam so they could watch the shoot remotely. What initially struck me as creepy and weird on second thought makes sense when you think about cutting cost and collaborating with people all over the country. Heck, Nick Knight pioneered studio shoots live on the web 10 years ago with his SHOWstudio site. There’s even remote webcams that could roam around set controlled by the client (here). Anybody else have experience with this?


Treesaver Launches

Treesaver, a startup founded by Roger Black and Filipe Fortes, is a platform for combining text and pictures in a layout that scales to fit any size screen. I was pretty excited about it when their teaser video came out several months ago and here’s the first story using the technology:

It seems very workmanlike. Not sure why they didn’t create something super glossy to demo the features of this platform, but maybe there are serious limitations that prevent real design to occur (effing algorithms…). One thing I’ve never understood is why photographs get smaller online. When space is not an issue, most of the photography (if it’s good) should fill the page. Using photography to decorate a page is a waste of time, money and effort. Nice try.


Generic Photography Ignored Online

Last week the NYTimes Bits blog reported on a study that website usability expert Jakob Nielsen conducted (here) that purported to show how generic/bad photography is ignored by people visiting websites. Well, duh. It’s amazing how much filler there is online… heck even in magazines these days, which I’m chalking up to the rise of inexpensive stock. People feel like they need a photo but aren’t willing to spend some money to get something decent (or don’t have a clue what good photography looks like). I believe very strongly that as the web space matures the need for high quality imagery will increase. This report confirms that.

“…the random or stock images on Web sites are completely ignored by users, add more clutter to the page and don’t necessarily help from a business standpoint.”


The Paywall Goes Up And The Money…

doesn’t go down!?

In a paywall experiment everyone is watching, this summer Murdoch owned papers The Times and The Sunday Times of London started charging for web access. In a press release yesterday New Corp. said they had gained 105,000 paying customers because of this. According to the NYTimes (here) website visitation was expected to drop 90% once the walls went up but according to Nielsen that number only fell by 42% (1.78 million).

Tech blog GigaOm further parses the numbers to reveal that out of 105,000 paying customers only 50% are subscribers which the writer paints as a failure: “after four months of selling its new paywall system, News Corp. has only managed to convince a little over one-and-a-half percent of its readers to pay something for the newspapers’ content — and has only been able to convert half of that already tiny figure into actual monthly subscribers.”

TechCrunch picks up the failure story and does some quick back-of-the-napkin math to show why it’s not actually true:

Basically, those 50,000 monthly subscribers are paying $12.80 a month, or $640,000 a month total. Let’s say the other 55,000 pay-as-you-read crowd is generating another $160,000 a month in subscription revenues (I am being generous here and assuming two days a month per person at $1.60 per day). That comes to $800,000 a month, or $9.6 million a year in online subscription revenues.

What did they give up in online advertising revenues? At 41 million estimated pageviews a month, assuming a $5 CPM (cost-per-thousand-impressions), that was only $200,000 a month in online advertising revenues.

[…]Depending on the actual CPM, financially they are doing at least two to four times better than they were before. And that is with only about 1.5 percent of their former readers becoming paying subscribers.

In the end this strategy will work for many publications, because the CPM’s will go up under a paywall. Advertisers want to reach engaged readers and there’s no better test of engagement than making someone pay for access. The problem all along has been the cost of making the leap both in increased infrastructure and temporary loss of advertising and subscribers. Media companies and their nearly retired owners aren’t about to take any chances.

Go Vote

From Seth Godin’s Blog:

This year, fewer than 40% of voting age Americans will actually vote.

A serious glitch in self-marketing, I think.

If you don’t vote because you’re trying to teach politicians a lesson, you’re tragically misguided in your strategy. The very politicians you’re trying to send a message to don’t want you to vote. Since 1960, voting turnouts in mid-term elections are down significantly, and there’s one reason: because of TV advertising.

Political TV advertising is designed to do only one thing: suppress the turnout of the opponent’s supporters. If the TV ads can turn you off enough not to vote (“they’re all bums”) then their strategy has succeeded.

The astonishing thing is that voters haven’t figured this out. As the scumminess and nastiness of campaigning and governing has escalated and the flakiness of candidates appears to have escalated as well, we’ve largely abdicated the high ground and permitted selfish partisans on both sides to hijack the system.

Voting is free. It’s fairly fast. It doesn’t make you responsible for the outcome, but it sure has an impact on what we have to live with going forward. The only thing that would make it better is free snacks.

Even if you’re disgusted, vote. Vote for your least unfavorite choice. But go vote.

5 Reasons The Future Will Be Ruled By B.S.

And so, to save society, we’re going to have to rely on our old friend, the invisible force that has saved humanity again and again. It’s a little thing I like to call bullshit.

Bullshit is the next growth industry. People who deal in it are going to be more valuable than surgeons — yes, the same people who convinced us that bottled water comes from an enchanted mountain spring and made uneducated mothers believe that contaminated baby formula was a life-giving health potion. Only they can save us.

As civilization advances, these heroic protectors of FARTS (Forced ARTificial Scarcity) will build a culture where we will pay for things we can get for nothing, based purely on a vague superstition that it makes us better people. You know, the way an Apple logo will hypnotize people into paying twice as much for a product when cheaper alternatives litter the landscape.

Read it on via Bosacks.

Quite an interesting article coming from Cracked of all places. There’s plenty of BS’ing that goes into selling products with superior photography, but I don’t believe it’s all hooey.

The Recession Of The Industrial Age

These two stories seem to go together.

Seth Godin asserts that while one recession is over, the recession of the industrial age is here forever.

The networked revolution is creating huge profits, significant opportunities and a lot of change. What it’s not doing is providing millions of brain-dead, corner office, follow-the-manual middle class jobs. And it’s not going to. (story here)

Over in AdAge we have the story of a mass exodus from large agencies:

Since the beginning of the year, a veritable Cannes jury worth of senior creative talent has shrugged off the leashes of big agency networks for their own start-ups or for creative pursuits outside the ad industry. (story here)

I’d like to believe this is the end of the brain-dead office job, but I really doubt our love affair with corporations is going away any time soon.

Treesaver – Porting Magazines Online Just Got Easier

Wow, Roger Black is at it again. After releasing the controversial magazine and newspaper design templates Ready-Media he’s got his hands on a platform for publishing content online that will automatically adjust the layout to the size of the screen. With the recent announcement that Kmart is selling a 7 in. tablet for $170 bucks and the Android OS being sold in every size and shape of phone available the hand made rigid templates media companies use to publish content online are looking to become a very costly portion of the bottom line. In comes Roger with Treesaver to save the day:

Adaptive Page Sizing Demo:

Continuous Reading Demo:

Magazine And Newspaper Templates Rock The Publication Design Boat

Wow. Roger Black, the consummate magazine and newspaper redesign mogul has rocked the design world with the announcement of his new company Ready-Media, which seeks to sell high quality templates to publications seeking an overhaul/upgrade. The Society of Publication Designers blog has lit up with commentary from many of the top designers chewing over the ramifications of Roger’s new product. Luke Haymen, a partner at Pentagram and architect of high profile redesigns for New York Magazine, Time and The Atlantic comments that “…I think this may not be such a bad thing. These designs are decent. In fact I’d say they’re better than 90% of the magazines and newspapers out there. They are generic but of course they have to be to have broad appeal. A good designer will take them and customize them.” He and a few other super star designers seem to be the exception in the commentary with many bemoaning how this plays into the publishers hand of cost cutting at any opportunity and a demotion for unique one of a kind design.

With top names contributing templates to the collection have publication designers just been handed their Getty moment?


VII Magazine – Photojournalism Transitions From Supplier To Publisher

I think most people will agree that if photojournalism is to survive the media revolution the innovations will need to come from the photographers and agencies, because the magazines that used to support them have run out of gas. The only hope really is experimentation and failure. The right business model will involve many different income sources and a myriad of ways to present the stories.

VII photographers agency recently hired former Fortune Magazine photo editor Scott Thode and launched VII Magazine as their platform to experiment and innovate. One innovation that I think has great potential is the photographer interviews they’ve been doing. Infusing the photographers personality into the pieces makes them so much more enjoyable and watchable to me and seems like the opposite of the objectivity and invisibility photojournalists usually strive for. I think VII is different, with the strong personalities of the founding members and their initial foray into advertising the group with canon and their ongoing workshops, these videos are a perfect match.

Vanishing: Antonin Kratochvil

The Consequences of War: Ashley Gilbertson

Paparazzi: Jessica Dimmock

I asked Scott Thode to tell us more about VII Magazine and what they’re up to:

It is hard to describe what it is when in truth, it was and continues to be, a grand experiment. It is an experiment that is very much in a formative stage from an editorial and business standpoint. That might sound strange as it’s been online for two months and any casual viewer can see what’s there, but maybe knowing what’s not there gives a better perspective. There’s no website (it’s online but only as an insert in other people’s sites), there’s only a hint of commercial activity and there is limited content in the various story telling formats we have put together.

I think in some very important ways VII The Magazine is a reaction to what has happened to our industry over the last few years. Photographers have always been seen as “suppliers” (the traditional role of editorial photographers, one or two rungs up the ladder from stationers and utilities but suppliers nonetheless) to the print world. A big question now seems to be who is left to supply and why should we remain dependent on the whims of a dinosaur industry. The question VII asked is why not become publishers and control their own destiny? Obviously the answer to that is VII The Magazine. This is a huge shift in the role of the photographers and the agency that opens up a whole new world with all the possibilities of originating and distributing.

Editorially, the magazine is an editors candy store. There is just a wealth of content to be explored and repurposed in new and interesting ways. When I first came on as Editor in January I felt we needed to be very careful not to overextend what we could do with very little time and no budget. After some discussion we decided to proceed on four storytelling fronts: The Interviews, The Stories, The Videos and The Day. This strategy was important in that we also did not want to compete with newspapers and the newsweeklies. We aren’t a news source. To this end I see us telling stories in a different fashion. I don’t see simple linear tales but hope to break away from a beginning, middle and end format to a nonlinear story telling based on the emotional and visual. I’m really excited about this type of approach because it involves still photos, video, music, text, and audio in various combinations and emphasis.

From the outset, I have always felt that the strength of the magazine and its ultimate success would lie with the personality of the photographers and their personal visions, quirks, and unique way of seeing the world not only visually but editorially as well. They all have something to say and do it in their own way. Initially, my job was finding an interesting way for them to get their visual and auditory voices out there. To this end I came up with the idea of doing “The Interviews”. These are produced videos done in conjunction with Michael Hanna and Protean films where I sit down with the photographer and interview them on a specific subject. We have produced four of these, Ashley Gilbertson, “The Consequences of War”, Jessica Dimmock, “Paparazzi”, Antonin Kratochvil, “Vanishing” and Christopher Morris’s, “Mr. President”.

I have also incorporated the photographer’s voices and video in “The Stories”. These are meant to be less produced and are done by the photographers themselves at home or on the road. They are still asking to hear a point of view about what happened or in the case of Agnes Dherbeys what was happening as the story of the Red Shirt Protests unfolded. This was our first attempt to try to be on the news but with our own unique photographers point of view. I also decided to do wrap up of the story with Agnes that became “UPDATE: Red Shirts” where she summed up in her own words how she felt about what took place. One of my other favorites of this type of story telling is Marcus Bleasdale’s “Fashionista”.

Not all the stories incorporate the photographers. I still love a good slide show with music. One that I am especially happy with is by Ziyah Gafic called “Tito’s Bunker.” Not everybody wants to hear the photographers and not all the photographers want to lend their voices or be on camera. Take a look at “Invisible” with Franco Pagetti.

The Videos are the photographer’s own productions that are unedited on my part. It is a new way of working for many of them and I am very excited seeing what they are doing with it. I love Stefano De Luigi’s “Blanco”, the videos Chris Morris has done on Obama, and Ron Haviv’s Haiti. This is all about approaching stories in new ways and finding new forms of reaching our audience.

Finally there is “The Day” which takes an event that happened on a the specific day you are looking at and uses a photograph from the VII archive that speaks to the event but doesn’t necessarily pertain to it. It is definitely one of my favorite things to do as an editor.

The most difficult part for me is making sure there is a balance of stories from something on the lighter side like Jessica’s Dimmock’s Paparazzi and The Kimbangist Symphony Orchestra by Marcus Bleasdale to a story on Afghanistan by Eric Bouvet or Haiti by VII.

So what’s to look forward to? First, I’m happy to say that recently I became the full time editor of VII The Magazine. We will begin designing our new home for the magazine on the web and on the iPad. We will continue to search for new ways to tell stories in as many new and exciting formats as we can think of. We are also going to begin incorporating writing into the magazine. Yes! The written word does have a place in our hearts.

From a business standpoint, VII The Magazine is designed to be a commercial tool. In the modern environment where innovation and implementation often precede monetization, the evidence for this will have to follow (and I’m not giving away the keys to our thought-bank just yet), but suffice it to say that there is a method in the madness. We are greatly encouraged by the responses to date and we have laid the foundation for a dynamic (and funded) editorial product.

For even further insight into the future of VII and the Magazine here’s an interview with Stephen Mayes managing director of VII Photo Agency.

via, Gerald Holubowicz/bulb

Luceo Images – Documenting Small Town America

Back in 2008 when I first heard about the new photographers collective Luceo Images I questioned the value a collective creates for the clients. Well, ever since then I’ve seen the name Luceo pop up in all the major contests and generally enter the lexicon of the photography industry, so the value has been clearly shown. As David Banks told me when I initially questioned him about it it “The other reason for all this is our belief in helping each other out and being open in the photo industry rather than the one-for-all mentality that is so ingrained.” So, it’s no surprise that they recently announced a new group project where over the coming year all the members will be “documenting various aspects of life in rural America.” What a fantastic idea. Not only will fans and clients get to watch as the story develops, in the end they will have created an important and original body of work.

From the blog post about it:

LUCEO will be documenting the decline of small town America as a group project over the coming year. Over this course of time, LUCEO members will commit several sessions of 24-48 hours documenting various aspects of life in rural America in different towns across the country. Among our goals is to record history during a unique shift which may very well lead to the demise of these places that once stood as the core of America. One of the most exciting parts of the project to me is working together with my colleagues towards a common goal, and this idea that what we can create as a team is greater than just the sum of our individual parts – one of the same notions that drives our partner network, some of whom we will likely be collaborating with as the project evolves.

vist the post (here) to read more and see an interesting discussion in the comments.


Le Book Connections 2010

There’s some really interesting information in this video shot at the recent Le Book Connections in NYC (and some not so interesting, but whatev’).

I am told by agents that the only reason the advertise in Le Book is because of this connections event. You can see why it has become so important in the following video:

Love to hear from anyone who attended the productions side of the event.

Ben Van Hook – Adding Stop Motion To The Reel

Awhile back Ben Van Hook sent me this stop motion video which he shot for the experience, but told me it was generating him work now. I was intrigued because Ben already has an impressive reel and in my mind there really is no comparing the two so I wondered how this new piece generates him work.

Here’s what Ben had to say about it:

Almost all the stuff I’ve directed over the past 8 years has had some degree of production involved, some WAY more than others.

Like everyone else, I’ve been anticipating the move to more and more web content not only for magazines, but ad clients as well. The trick with magazines who want video content is the cost and production involved, they sometimes sorely underestimate what it takes to make video look great. Even though the cameras keep shrinking, for even simple shoots there is sound, production involved, different kinds of lighting other than strobe, platforms for the camera, more gear then you may need need an AD to wrangle talent and keep the crew moving. It really is a different animal.

I wanted to do something that was simple and could translate to the web as moving content. It was just me and the still camera. I cut it myself as well. it was really just to get my feet wet in a different technique that I’d never done before. I sent it to a few colleagues and friends and got a strong response. A creative director at an agency was pitching a campaign the next day (great timing) and asked if he could show it to the client because he thought the style would translate perfectly with the spot. Then i sent it to one of my magazine clients and they wanted me to produce a piece like this for their web content.

I will probably include this on my director’s reel here on out. I’m a big believer in shooting this personal stuff, luckily this time it dovetailed into some work… which is nice.

Aurora Photos Now Has A Journalistic Search Filter

I received a press release yesterday from Aurora Photos announcing a new search feature that allows picture buyers to license images that have not been altered or manipulated in any way. Certainly there are many organizations that need this type of imagery and it’s gotten pretty easy to manipulate images on the desktop, but you can’t ignore the manipulation that takes place in the camera, so here’s what’s so cool about this new feature from Aurora. They’ve defined what they consider to be journalistic and what is not. This is a huge step in the right direction and something that’s been lacking from photography contests and editorial submission guidelines. If you want to claim that you publish journalistic images you have to define for your contributors and the public what you mean by this.

You can see the search function (here) and this is their definition:

1. Candid photographs that truthfully represent what was taking place at the time the image was made.
2. Posed portraits of people in their environments, as is often done for magazine assignments. No digital manipulation has been made to the image, and the subject is not a model and has not been paid or rewarded materially for their participation in the making of the photograph.
3. Images with acceptable digital adjustments. This includes: small adjustments to brightness, contrast, and saturation that do not alter the reality of what the photographer saw when he/she made the photograph. Minor sharpening of an image is allowed.
4. Images with acceptable retouching. This includes: cleaning dust or scratches from film scans or dust from lenses or digital sensors. It is not acceptable to remove things such as moles, birthmarks, or blemishes from a subject’s face.
5. Creating panoramic or similar formats by stitching together at their edges two or more images in such a way that the resulting image truthfully represents the view at the moment the images were made.
6. Black and White images that are not tinted or toned in any way and adhere to all the other rules for a “journalistic” image.

1. Digitally adding or removing anything from the image that is not dust or scratches. This includes: Blemishes, pimples, dirt, power lines, lens flare, logos, trademarks, people, etc.
2. Combining two or more images to achieve a third new single image.
3. Manipulation of the image’s brightness, contrast, saturation or color that changes the reality of what would have been seen by the photographer or others present when the image was taken.
4. Images where the subjects are models or have been paid or rewarded materially for their participation in the making of the photograph.
5. Images that appear to be candid, but where the subject or any element in the image was conceived, posed or positioned by the photographer.
6. Images where the subjects are wearing clothing or using equipment or props provided by the photographer.

Kickstarter – A Way To Fund Creativity

Kickstarter is one of those collective/social/new-web ways to fund projects. For photographers and filmmakers the premise is actually quite good. You state how much money you need to pull off a project then as an incentive for different levels of funding you offer access to the project and collateral. It’s also great for the backers because money is only taken if the goal is reached so the project can be completed.

Like all new-web ways of bringing in money you must already have the audience/fans in place to make it work. Joey Daoud of the Coffee and Celluloid blog recounts his experience trying to get a film made using Kickstarter (here).

I think the main thing to takeaway is it’s a tool, not a magical source of funding.

If you’re a photographer who already has a fan base and you want to fund a project by pre-selling prints, books and access to you then this could be the perfect way to get it done. Or maybe you have friends with deep pockets but don’t want to offend them by begging for money. Turning it into a Kickstarter project will make it less awkward for them to fund your artistic ways.

Just don’t expect angel investors to recognize your genius and magically appear.