Loss Of A Market For Photography

Posted on 9/28/2009 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

On October 31, 2009 the Encarta Web site will be discontinued. Microsoft stopped selling Encarta products in June. Now the place for reference information is Wikipedia.org.

In the 1980s and early '90s, among the biggest users for stock images were encyclopedias, with Encyclopedia Britannica the leader in the field. New editions came out every year and articles were updated on a regular basis. They needed lots of pictures. Prices for use of an image ranged from $200 and up.

In 1993, Microsoft launched Encarta, first on CD and later on the Web. By the late '90s, it had replaced book-based encyclopedias; it was more convenient and available for a fraction of the price. Initially, Encarta purchased pictures for prices less that what the printed encyclopedias paid.

In 2001, Wikipedia, the free Web-based encyclopedia was launched and Encarta's popularity began to die. Wikipedia is updated by a community of users from around the world, rather than an in-house group of professional editors. Some complain that the quality of research for the articles doesn't match Encyclopedia Britannica, but more topics are covered. Customers seem satisfied with the availability and the free price.

As far as I can determine, there is no remuneration for the pictures that appear with Wikipedia articles. Thus, progress has resulted in millions of dollars in lost photo sales.

According to its FAQ, Encarta's Web sites will be discontinued on Oct. 31. (Except for Japan, which has until Dec. 31, 2009). From the FAQ:

Encarta has been a popular product around the world for many years. However, the category of traditional encyclopedias and reference material has changed. People today seek and consume information in considerably different ways than in years past. As part of Microsoft's goal to deliver the most effective and engaging resources for today's consumer, it has made the decision to exit the Encarta business.

Microsoft's vision is that everyone around the world needs to have access to quality education, and we believe that we can use what we've learned and assets we've accrued with offerings like Encarta to develop future technology solutions.

In 2005, Encarta tried to take the middle ground by allowing users to submit suggestions for Wikipedia article updates, but these were not integrated into articles until they had been approved by Encarta editors.

For a full history of Encarta, be sure to check out its comprehensive Wikipedia entry, which has already been updated to reflect Encarta's shutdown. Encarta's entry on itself doesn't mention anything about its demise, and actually seems to have less information than the Wikipedia article.

Copyright © 2009 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 www.selling-stock.com, 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: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


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