Demand for Photography to Change

Posted on 2/18/2010 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (2)

A huge percentage of all professional imagery licensed is used in one way or another to promote a product or service. But advertisers have recognized that the old ways of promoting are no longer working. They are aggressively searching for new and better ways to reach consumers. Advertisers’ decisions dramatically impact future demand for photography, as well as where and how it will be used.

In 1970s America, there were three television networks, which were supported by advertisers trying to reach a broad cross-section of the population. On Sunday nights, 60% of consumers watched “All In The Family.”

Today, the most popular show is “American Idol,” the finale of which reaches 17% of the population. There are currently almost 20 minutes of commercials in an hour-long program, and many viewers fast-forward through them with a Tivo or DVR. With the number of available programs, no single one can reach a broad cross-section of the population, so television no longer amasses the audiences it once reached.

In-store promotions are becoming a more effective way for many advertisers to reach the right consumers. Every week, more people go through WalMart stores than watch the Super Bowl. Every week, 65 million people go through a Kroger store, and 40 million visit a Walgreens location. In the last three years, marketing budgets for in-store promotions have doubled.

Photos used as part of in-store promotions tend to be still images rather than video. Good news for still photographers. But will more video be used in in-store kiosks? Will the same 30-second television spots be repurposed for kiosks, or will a different format be needed, because only interested consumers will bother to view the ads? Are still photographers pricing image used for in-store promotions correctly? Will they recognize the potential volume and importance of such uses? Will they under-price such uses as they did with the Internet, and by the time they recognize the significance of such marketing have set precedents they can’t change?

The ability to communicate with people at the right time is shifting from us on the couch to us in the store. It is shifting from print to digital vehicles. It is shifting from trying to reach large numbers of consumers with messages of general interest to reaching individuals with very specific messages.

In the past, adverting was designed to “push to” and “interrupt” the consumer. Now, many consumers prefer “pull” advertising, where the information is easily available when and where they want it. Such advertising can now be found on the Internet and various mobile devices.

Newspapers and magazines

The daily newspaper is designed to supply news and information that will be of interest to everyone, but no one is interested in everything in the paper or has the time to read it all. Most people read a few stories and ignore the rest. Advertising next to those unread stories is a waste. What consumers really want is a customized news source with only the stories they want to read—so they turn to the Internet.

There, the major wire services provide headlines and a brief summary of the top stories. Many newspapers provide a daily email with brief summaries of all their stories. Content aggregators and feed readers offer a way to greatly customize an electronic newsfeed that includes not just news from one publisher but opinions from a variety of sources.

It seems likely that in the future, somebody may figure out how to charge for such news content—via a traditional subscription model or perhaps only charging a customer’s account for stories he chooses to read. How will photos be fed into this mix? Will they automatically be included with each story and a portion of the fee the reader pays allocated to the photo? Will the reader be shown one image and given the choice to view more for an additional fee? Will there be more video than stills?

Archive material

One of the things often lost when dealing with printed publications is access to an archive. Readers do not want to hang onto old printed editions of publications in case they want to go back to read something they missed. In any event, there is usually not much of an index. Most publications have online archives, but there is no consistency in the way the information is organized. In addition, if you are looking for one item that is more than a week old, it is often necessary to buy a subscription to the Web site in order to read the one item. On the other hand, if a reasonable per-story fee were charged for a story the person doing the search is actually interested in reading, there would probably be very little customer resistance.


Will random ads be placed beside each story regardless of the reader’s interest? Will the newsfeed delivery service learn enough about the reader to know what kind of ads to include in his feed? Will the reader be able to indicate what kind of ads he does not want to see again? Since I have never been a smoker, I wish there was some way I could get back all the time I have been forced to spend watching non-smoking and how-to-quit-smoking commercials—avoiding this in the future is theoretically possible.

How will advertisers participate in the new environment? I do not think I have ever purchased anything as a result of a newspaper or magazine ad; they are wasted on me. The only good thing about them is that the money the advertisers paid has supported my career. But the advertisers had not benefited. On the other hand, my wife uses the ads, particularly those of department and grocery store sales. She wants the paper for the ads. Why not publish a free “Just Ads” paper once or twice a week and deliver it to those who want it? It would cuts costs for the advertisers, use less paper and probably only be delivered to those really interested in looking at the ads. In addition, it could be better organized by category and would be more likely to be retained by those who find such information useful. If it were also delivered digitally, it could be easily customizable to neighborhood advertising as well.

• • •

Whatever form they might take, it is unquestionable that the near future will bring yet more changes in how advertising is produced. Photographers need to recognize that they are not in the picture-taking business but in the communications business. They need to quickly determine where communications is headed and the various skills and talents that will be needed in that environment.

Copyright © 2010 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


  • Rahul Pathak Posted Feb 18, 2010
    Interesting point about in-store, Jim. One of the things we see in sales stats is a spike 1 week before a seasonal event. We think it's due to big-box circulars which have high print runs.

    Things are changing and putting yourself in the mind of your client/customer always makes sense.

  • john lund Posted Feb 19, 2010

    Great post. I think you are certainly asking the right questions. Now where do we get those answers?


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