285 YOUR NEXT CAREER
February 16, 2000
One of the roles of Selling Stock is to help individuals who enjoy taking
pictures, achieve greater satisfaction and economic independence while engaging in
their chosen profession. We focus on the business side of the profession, and
from time to time we look at the future -- and how the business is changing.
Stock photographers who earn income from their images are principally engaged in the
communications business. Their photographs are used to communicate ideas,
concepts, information and to tell stories. As methods of communication change the
images needed will change.
As photographers try to assess the future demand for still images they need to
objectively consider how information will be communicated in the future. I believe
there are strong indications that:
The demand for still images as a way of communicating
information and ideas will begin to diminish and the demand for moving images
accompanied by sound will increase.
This is a hard premise for still photographers to accept. They want to believe
there will always be a demand for the "decisive moments" they create. The good
news is there will be. But the volume of usage is likely to be greatly diminished
from what it is today, and the change will take place in a relatively short
period of time.
In 2000, still photography as a means of communication is a mature industry much
like buggy whips were in 1900. Still photography will eventually go the way of
the buggy whip. It will be an art form -- images will be cherished for personal
purposes -- but still images will play a dramatically reduced role in commerce.
Skeptics say, "Maybe you're right, but it's not going to happen soon."
I believe that if you are a professional photographer under 50 years of age your
way of earning a living will change dramatically in your lifetime. If you're over
60 you can probably get by until retirement without making a career adjustment.
If you are between 50 and 60 maybe you'll be able to get by, particularly if you
already have a well established position in the industry, but you may see your
income start to fall off sooner than expected.
Consider Some Facts:
- In 1998 Time Inc. spent almost $1 billion on paper, postage and
delivery. Even considering the cost of hardware and software Time could save a
large percentage of this money by delivering more of their content on the web, and
less in print.
- Forty percent of newspaper ad revenue comes from classified ads. A
searchable on-line database will supply this information to user much more
efficiently than any newspaper ever could.
- Ford Motor company has announced a program to provide every one of its
350,000 employees worldwide with a home computer, color printer and unlimited
access to the Internet for as little as $5 per month. Hewlett-Packard will supply
the computers and printers and UUNet Technologies will provide the Internet
Access. Delta Airlines has also announced that it will supply computers to all
its 72,000 employees.
- In December 1999 Dan Okrent, Editor-at-Large of Time spoke at the Columbia
University Graduate School of Journalism on the topic "The Death of Print?" His
conclusion: "I believe ... all forms of print, are dead. Finished. Over. Perhaps
not in my professional lifetime, but certainly in that of the youngest people in
While Okrent has been editor of new media for Time Inc. for two years, he has
spent almost 30 years of his professional life as a print journalist. His heart
is with print, but he recognizes the realities of the new media.
See the Digital
Journalist for a full text of the talk.
- Consumers may prefer print journalism to digital or TV, but print exists,
not because readers pay for it with their subscription fees, but as a vehicle for
advertisers. Advertisers will go to the vehicle where they can get the best return for dollars
expended. The shift may not be sudden, but it will be deliberate, and at a faster
pace than such shifts have occurred in the past. As advertising space drops
editorial space will drop proportionally.
- Senator John McCain's internet advisor pointed out recently, that if they broadcast a
30-second ad they have your attention for 30 seconds, but people spend an average
of 14 minutes on McCain's site on the internet. The campaign has spent $300,000
on its internet operations and raised $3.7 million, almost 25% of its total
$16 million raised.
- Ray Kurzweil, 1999 M.I.T. Inventor of the Year, says, "The exponential
growth of technology in the first two decades of the 20th century matched that of
the entire 19th century. The exponential growth of technology in the first 5
years of the 21st century will inevitably, inexorably, match that of the entire
20th century." (See story on Kurzweil and his book at
Story 211 .
- The market for print encyclopedias is almost dead already.
More and more of this type of information is being made available either on CD-ROM, DVD or
on-line. If you're getting the information on-line anyway you will want more
video clips than still images.
- MSNBC is already a huge on-line user of still images from Picture Quest and
other sources. As bandwidth increases video clips will replace many of these
still uses because video can supply more information.
- AOL had purchased Time/Warner. The goal is to deliver more T/W content
- The New York Times Company has announced plans to issue a tracking stock for
Times Company Digital, their Internet division, in an effort to raise as much as
$100 million in an IPO. In its preliminary prospectus filled with the SEC the
company said it had more than 138 million page views on all web sites in December
1999 and 90.7 million for the Times web site alone.
- Leslie Walker, technology editor for the Washington Post, says that the
newspaper industry's ink-on-paper product is doomed.
"...it is only a matter of time before Internet news services grow so big they
displace their print counterparts."
He acknowledges that newspaper companies are working hard to ensure that if
digital products do cannibalize newspapers the papers themselves will own the
- Vin Alabiso, Associated Press Vice President, believes that within a couple of
years new technology will enable photographers to simultaneously capture video and
still frames with a single camera. The quality of the still frames will be
sufficient for newspaper and magazine reproduction. He added, "The technology
needs to evolve somewhat, but it is close."
- During a speech in San Jose in December, Microsoft
Chairman Bill Gates proclaimed that streaming media -- real-time distribution of
audio and video over the Web -- is "going to be a mainstream part of the PC and
digital device experience," and will be a part of the Windows operating system
within about a year.
- Consumer product advertisers pay huge sums to put ads in newspapers and
magazines but have absolutely no idea how many readers look at these ads.
On the web, the advertiser can more easily target individuals with pitches
designed to appeal to very narrowly focused groups of buyers. Advertisers pay by
the "click-through" so they know when someone is specifically interested in their
product or service.
- Incentives for reading internet ads are being developed. With
"click-through's" advertisers know when someone has clicked, but they don't know
if the information has been read or absorbed. Some advertisers are now offering
incentives by paying users to read their ads. Here's how it works.
A consumer pays a monthly subscription fee for access to their favorite web site
in order to benefit from the editing that site provides. The consumer clicks on a
banner ad and reads the ad. At the bottom of the ad there is a simple question.
If the user answers the question correctly they get a credit of $.50, paid by the
advertiser, against the next month's subscription cost.
A win, win situation.
- The advertiser is assured that a particular individual has taken the
time to read their message. They also know a lot about that individual based on
the registration information the person supplied the on-line site. The efficiency
of the advertising goes way up.
- The advertiser can refine the message to appeal to smaller and smaller
segments of the large buying public.
- The consumer reads those things that are of interest and gets paid for
- As the consumer's profile is better understood it becomes less and less
likely that the consumer will be bombarded with ads that are not of interest
because that is not cost effective for the advertiser.
The consumer gives up a degree of privacy to get targeted information that fits
his profile, but wastes less time going through unwanted material. The consumer
can always actively seek information outside his normal profile and such an action
will change and adjust his profile as it is immediately included as part of an
Consider how these developments will affect still photo demand in the future.
If you make significant income from producing stills for stock, isn't it time to
consider a career adjustment?
If there is a decline in print use relative to web and TV use -- and web and TV
are capable of using moving images -- doesn't it stand to reason that there will
be more demand for video than stills. To examine the video option look at
Story 286 .
Some Good News
Despite his predictions about a combined video and still camera, Vin Alabiso doesn't
think there will be a decline in the use of print.
"I feel what will occur will be an ever greater synergy between the print medium
and the online medium. They will provide one another with different reader or
people looking for different information, but one won't be at the expense at the