ASPP Reinvention Weekend Highlights Multimedia as Area of Future Demand

Posted on 4/26/2010 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

The opportunity to interact with editors from publishing companies, picture researchers, stock agents and photographers at the American Society of Picture Professionals’ Reinvention Weekend in Boston provided a clearer picture of where the business of producing images for publication is headed.

Educational publishers recognize that in the next few years, there will be less demand for books and more demand for multimedia. Yet hey seem very unsure as to what will be needed in the way of visual material or how quickly the changes will occur. Those who want to sell imagery that is used for educational purposes should recognize that there will be more demand for short multimedia stories and less for still illustrations.

Book publishers are currently purchasing more microstock and less rights-managed imagery. In general, the percentages of use for the average book project are 30% rights-managed, 15% traditional royalty-free, 30% microstock, 10% public domain and 15% wholly owned by the publisher. These percentages vary somewhat from project to project. A couple years ago, the percentage of rights-managed images was much higher, and the percentage of micro much lower. The percentage of micro uses continues to grow, despite the complaints of editors that often the caption information on microstock images is not detailed enough and its accuracy cannot always be trusted. 

Still, images will be used in some multimedia presentations, but as keynote speaker Brian Storm said “story trumps technique.” The story will be the driving force of the presentation. As examples, see MediaStorm’s “Common Ground” and “Intended Consequences” stories.

For examples of short video stories, see the Dallas Morning News site.  Ed Malitsky creates multimedia stories using mostly stills. The thing that sets one multimedia project apart from another is how all the elements—story, interview, music, text, headlines and photos—fit together, not just powerful photos alone. In a multimedia project, not every picture will be an award winner. Some images are needed to build sequences. Photographers need to be aware of sequence and cut-aways as they are shooting.

In the education arena, see Discovery Education’s short videos on math and social studies. Discovery Education vice president of global outreach and professional development Scott Kinney cites a Kaiser Family Foundation study that found that kids in the U.S. spend 6.5 hours with media per day. He points to many of the reasons why there is an increasing demand within school systems for electronic education materials.

Among the reasons for more electronic resources is the push toward more online teaching. The Florida Virtual School has over 100,000 students taking some of their courses online. Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School estimates that by 2019, half of all high school courses in the U.S. will be consumed over the Internet. Online systems also allow instructors to employ repetition and interactive testing to determine in real time how well the student is grasping the information.

The importance of using visual materials in education to tell stories is being elevated. But many of the production and distribution tools and techniques are new. Photographers will need to develop a whole range of new skills, or the work will go to someone else.

Many stories will be short, one to three-minute pieces with only a few hundred words. They will deal with narrowly focused visual issues—how magnetism works, long division or solar-powered cars, for example. Multimedia does not always have to include video, but in some cases video will more clearly explain the issue than would be possible with text and stills.

Narration, interviews and sometimes on-screen text will be important elements of successful stories. In future, photographers hoping to license rights to imagery will need to be able to produce stories that integrate all these elements into their productions, not just produce still pictures or video clips.

One of the complaints about the Canon 5D has been the difficulty of using it to follow focus. However, it is often possible to produce very effective video stories with little or no panning, zooming or follow focus. This can be accomplished by allowing most of the action to take place at one point, without moving the camera or the distance from the subject and by the careful use of cuts. Many MediaStorm stories demonstrate very effective use of this technique.

Textbook publishers are beginning to focus on producing electronic “learning objects” rather than printed books. Learning objects are short elements that might be used as one small part of a lesson rather than a full curriculum. This gives school systems and instructors flexibility in choosing the teaching resources they need. Such teaching materials offer the advantages of dramatically reducing the costs of educational materials, making updating easier and appealing to students who have been raised with computers and multimedia and find older education systems boring.

Currently, interest in producing textbooks is declining among authors, given the requirements and burden of updating. Many experts in various fields now prefer to produce narrowly focused learning objects. This strategy also makes it possible for students to benefit from the knowledge of a much wider range of experts.

In the last few years, we have learned that anyone can produce a good picture occasionally. But it is a much more complicated process to produce a good story. That is where future demand for the professional will be.

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:  


  • Benjamin Winters Posted Apr 26, 2010
    Great article Jim. Based on our experience, this insight is spot-on. The transition to and demand for rich multimedia content outside of publishing has happened quickly. An understatement for sure. The story commands the type of content when telling brand stories as well. Brands increasingly need content that spans platform and device, tailored to the venue. Consumable bits or shorter videos for mobile consumption and more robust edits for traditional web use for example. It looks like there is a lot of exciting stuff coming for publishers in the near future. Interactive books for the iPad for example. Like: We were recently asked to put together a program to take a music publication from it's traditional station in print to the mobile space via apps and mobile website content.

    Oh and last thing, re: that kind of bummer situation with the 5D Mk II and the follow focus. We've been using some gear from Red Rock Micro, combined with a live monitor that helps to solve this. There's no replacement for a DP that knows their gear, but this makes pulling focus and following much more reliable with the 5D MkII. By the way, we are in no way affiliated with or sponsored by Red Rock Micro.

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