Reinvention: The Backcast Concept

Posted on 7/27/2009 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

If you sell pictures for use in print publications, take a look at Backcast Online Magazine—not so much for the content, although it is great, but for the concept, which could be a huge new opportunity and salvation for editorial photographers.

Every publisher who is concerned about the cost of paper, printing and distribution should look at this concept. Every advertiser who wants to look environmentally friendly and still get his message to consumers should consider this concept. Those concerned about cutting trees to print magazines and the copious amounts of gasoline used to deliver them should consider this concept. Every advertiser and publisher who has a budget problem should consider this concept.

The Backcast concept has the visual look of a well designed magazine, but with the costs of printing and distribution eliminated. It is an environmentally friendly way of getting editorial and advertising information to consumers. And, this method of publication can result in huge cost savings for publishers and advertisers.

The product is free to the consumer. Consequently, if magazines were first to be offered in both paper and online versions, many customers would elect to get the information they want for free rather than pay for delivery of a printed version. Readers can easily review back copies and not have to worry about storing them or going to the library in case they want to see an older story. They can easily do text searches for previously published subjects. Customers would be notified by email whenever a new edition becomes available, so they never miss the next offering. Thus, an ideal way to transition from printed products to online.

Because there is no cost to the customer for the product, more will be encouraged to sign up for material of marginal interest. Their level of interest can then be easily tracked based on the frequency of their visits to the site. It will also be possible to track to some degree (by which stories readers choose to print) the level of interest readers have in particular stories.

Individual stories, or the whole magazine, can be printed on a home printer. While this will end up using some paper, it will be no where near what is used in traditional magazine publishing, because many customers will read the content online and others will only print the stories they want to read. Stories can run longer, with more pictures and text at no additional cost. Video can be used as well as links to additional editorial content.

All the revenue paid by advertisers goes to pay for content creation. None is wasted on printing and distribution. Links to ads for products or services mentioned in the editorial content can be used, and these ads can be sold based on the number of hits and how long they are left on the site.

Advertisers can offer their customers a wide range of information at little or no cost beyond that of creating the content. Corporations can sponsor publications that produce content of interest to their customers. More corporations will be inclined to design publications with content of specific interest to their customers, because the costs will be minimal.

For example, consider if the Marriott Corporation were to create a Web site with a separate magazine for every major city or region where it does business. Each magazine would contain stories about what to see and do in the region. They could sell ads to companies providing services within that region, which would probably more than cover the cost of creating the editorial content, and Marriott would get its own advertising for free. Ads could easily be changed or replaced and parts of the content easily updated without the need to produce a whole new publication. Every customer who rented a room online could be encouraged to check out the “What to do in _______” Web site.

Associations and internal company publications, which are always concerned about cost, could supply more information, more effectively, to their members and employees and still retain all the graphics of a printed publication.

And best of all, creatives – writers, photographers and designers – could sell their services directly to the end users, because publishers and distributors would no longer be needed. Once a template is designed, writers and photographers should be able to constantly update the editorial content and create new editions with relatively little additional technology or design help.

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, 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:  


  • Bob Prior Posted Jul 30, 2009
    Not really a huge NEW opportunity in our view , as we introduced the digital edition of Stock Index USA in 2007 (sample at and it did not quite turn out the way you are portraying here as being ‘cheap’ or ‘free’.

    Yes, we got hundreds of requests but the majority of researchers and buyers ALSO ordered the printed copy, so very little of what you are presenting materialised.

    Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that none of your crystal ball gazing meets the needs of researchers and buyers, whereas printed paper does.

    After all how does ‘your’ world work on a train, bus or plane or sitting back in your chair with a coffee and Danish at your elbow.

    Furthermore, nothing compares to a impact of a ‘wow’ inducing ‘killer’ image printed on paper – such images are what the stock business is about – selling.

    The essence of ‘selling’ has been forgotten, with the industry supporting the current lazy thinking that as long as it ‘fills a hole’ in the layout then it is good enough. If this were true why not just print a magazine front cover blank – now that IS cutting costs – and sales!

    Your piece seems a policy of deletion. I quote re revenue “None is wasted on printing” and then you say “publishers and distributors would no longer be needed”. So you seem to be advocating the ‘removal’ of the publishing, printing and distribution industries.

    As we have found at Stock Index USA the internet and digital editions do not work the way you say. It was the same when they invented cars - they didn’t shoot all the horses as it is somewhat difficult to win the Kentucky Derby in a Ford – there were outstanding benefits to both, and by viewing them as complementary they worked together.

    The internet and digital delivery of information should be harnessed to work with other media not be promoted to destroy it. To do so will only result in a repeat of what happened to the Seattle Post who decided to close its printed edition and go ‘web only’. In March ’09 it lost 23% of its unique web users. So, without a printed edition to remind its readers to visit the website, traffic fell dramatically.

    I seem to have travelled a long way from the opening paragraph, but I believe that we have got so caught up in the debating new technology and how it should be harnessed and made to be cost effective that we have forgotten the REAL purpose of the stock business – great pictures.

    It is “killer” images that sell product – and whether it be a magazine, book, advert or the internet – powerful images are vital to the life blood of their success.

    The thinking should not totally be about how to use the internet to sell a commodity called stock photography. The business is not solely to do with selling images - but about images selling product – which should be priced accordingly. Maybe then we can stop the words ‘free’ and ‘cheap’ being the language of today’s stock business.

    Robert Prior - Publisher

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