Mystified by it all.

If it's true that everyone wants everything for free and that everyone can 
do everything themselves then why do some people still pay to have 
someone else park their cars?

So. The Getty's new business model is to give the public whatever they want for free in return for creating a web site that's deemed worthy of advertising dollars. I guess that's the gist of it. They've capitulated to the larceny of the masses and they are going to put a best face on the reality of it all and drive as many eyeballs to their site as humanly possible, using photographs provided by photographers (free content for Getty no matter how you slice it) and they are going to turn around to ad agencies and clients and monetize the crap out of their site by selling consumer eyeballs to the advertising clients who can exactly target their potential markets. And buy advertising space.

No Getty photographer will make a single cent on the billions of free images that will be given away, over-used and quickly devalued for all time. Not a cent. Nothing. You can argue that the exposure will help their business but what does exposure really mean for a commodity product? Nothing at all.
Will the cream rise to the top? Sure. Maybe. Probably not. It's being crowdsourced by consumers whose overriding concern is price----or the lack of it. Understand that this is not a marketing ploy to sell more of the images that photographers are basically throwing over the transom to Getty. They (Getty) have no sustained interest in selling those images. The stream is the content in the same way that endless episodes of Honey Boo-Boo and endless re-runs of the Beverly Hillbillies exist only as  wrappers for commercials. You watch the stream. You ingest the ads. You never buy the stream. And Getty never sells the stream. They sell your eyeballs. They sell billboards next to your camera content. Content created and willingly given away.

If valet parking were free we'd never have to circle the block again.

How does all this effect real working photographers? I think it's a wash. People still need custom images of their people, their products and their processes. That's a basic. And in those markets it's always been a matter of taste intersecting the graph of cost. Some companies understand the value of really good work while others have always been in the camp of : "Good enough for government work."

The binge trough of free images does damage our ability to help clients understand usage rights and copyright but that's a whole different battle. One we're losing on our own through inertia, cowardice and ignorance.

The bottom line is that the world is awash with images and most of them are de facto free. The world of profitable commercial photography is changing and many of the niches that used to provide profitable incomes have morphed into crowd sourcing and lowest common denominator pricing.

How it will all turn out is a mystery. I think there's a huge bubble comprised of on line companies whose products attract hundreds of millions of users and their strategy is to capture the most attention and the most use by people in demographic that appeal to marketers and international suppliers of consumer goods like cellphones, cameras, cars, branded food products and techno-toys. They are delivering------AD SPACE. And they are brilliant because unlike the television networks who had to buy their content to wrap commercials around----or radio stations that have to buy the rights to air music or pay the salaries of on air entertainers---the new wave of media AD SPACE providers are crowdsourcing their content absolutely free. That's how Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and now Getty work.

But just as in the newspaper business the market can only provide revenue for a small number of providers. Think back. It's rare even in the heyday of newspaper publishing that even a major city had more than two big newspapers. The web market is much more diluted and granular. Advertisers can more effectively pick and choose markets. The markets change more fluidly and quickly now. The Facebook and Getty of today will eventually become the AOLOnlines and MySpaces of tomorrow. It's not a tech bubble, it's really an advertising inventory bubble and every tech company is racing to be part of it.

But when consumers have no real sense of community or loyalty to a site or a concept the bubble is much more fragile than before. On the other hand there's really no infrastructure to most of the companies so the downside of a bubble bursting for most of the new starts is that 20 or 30 start up specialists move on to something else and the people who held the newly created equity have their generation's own Enron stories to tell...

Photography is morphing but done correctly and used correctly it still has real power and value for clients. I'm putting on my poncho so I don't get spattered by the explosion of free images when the AD SPACE TECH BUBBLE pops and creates a mess.

The free food at the buffet for a mass market promotional event is almost as good as real food....


atmtx said...

Kirk, I really like your take on this on the "Ad space bubble".

Craig Yuill said...

A very thought-provoking post!

I have never posted photographs on Getty's site, but I do regularly post them on facebook to share with family and friends. I have had mixed feelings about facebook's claiming the right to use photographs posted on their site as they see fit. Then again, I never thought of these personal photos as something I would sell either. As an amateur I have been more concerned about receiving credit for taking a photo than payment for it. Perhaps I am being naive about the rights issue. If I want to make a few 4x6 prints of any of my (their?) photos, or post them on another site like flickr, how is facebook going to stop me from doing so?

I should mention that my wife and I have made use of portrait studios and school photographers, and have willingly paid money to do so. We have cameras at home that can do a good job of taking our photographs. But we do recognize the need to sometimes use and pay for a service to get better-quality formal portrait photographs than we are capable of producing ourselves.

As for valet parking - I prefer to park my own vehicle and walk a few blocks to my destination.

Robert Roaldi said...

And the interweb with all its ads is quickly becoming as annoying as "network" TV became with all its commercials. Our culture creates these methods of communication but quickly become commercial schlock. The only TV programming worth watching (here in Canada) is public broadcasting, where there is an attempt made to provide real information, long-form interviews, political analysis longer than 42 seconds, but there are growing voices out there trying to convince everyone that the guvmint has no business being in broadcasting. I think an argument can be made for the opposite too, not that guvmint-monopoly broadcasting doesn't have its own problems. We keep agreeing to sell off everything that matters. Why do we do that?

Jeff said...

As I understand it, sites like Yahoo, Amazon, ByThom, et. al., keep track of where you've been, what you've been reading & such and target ads to that. Problem is people's interests change, but target markets only react with no forethought. I may like reading/getting info about an item, but have no desire to purchase. By the time they think they have you figured out, you've moved on. Facebook thought it had all the young people forever, then suddenly not so much because kids didn't want to be on the same site as their parents.