The Collapse of An Industry

I saw an interesting statistic the other day that put into stark relief what technology does.

Photographer ‘day rates’ at major publications have crashed — from $3,000 or more a day to under $300.

And that’s for the really good photographers.

Why?  Because print media is gone and digital media is increasingly “free” online – although there are traditional publishers trying to “monetize” their digital sites directly via subscription systems and everyone has a camera with them 24×7.

Newspapers and magazines, in short, simply don’t pay any more because they don’t have to.  Everyone and their brother will pull out their iPhoney and send in pictures hoping to get them in print for nothing more than bragging rights, and in addition damn near everyone has one — so the need to dispatch a photographer to cover a “news” event disappears since odds are high that whatever the occasion someone already got the shot.  Yeah, 95% of them are crap but the paper only needs one that isn’t and it no longer has to pay anything to get it.

So what does someone who loves imaging — whether still or video — to do?

First, don’t go to college.  Seriously.  If you want to destroy yourself go ahead and waste $50,000 or more on something that has a career path for the top 10% that make under $100,000 a year.  The average shooter coming out of college will make a literal zero.

Instead look at where the market went: online.

Then cut all the middlemen out.

It’s never been easier to tell a story and if someone’s going to get advertising revenue why not make it you?

Think about the newspaper: Yes, they sell subscriptions but most of their revenue is from ads.  When you work for them you get a small piece of their revenue, because they have to pay for all the printing, distribution and overhead costs.  The editors.  The trucks.  The presses.  The ink, paper and distribution expenses.  That big building full of executives.  All that money comes out first before they can pay you.

Or look at Facesucker in all its forms (including Instagram), Snap and similar.  All of them sell ads that run on your content and they keep the money.

What sort of stupid are you to provide them with content for free and get no cut of the revenue they get from attaching advertising to your content?

Instead publish independently, you tell a story people want to read and see, and you keep at least some of the revenue from doing so.

The cost of doing this has never been lower.

You can put together a low-cost publishing system that works for $50 a month or so — that’s under $600 a year.  Yes, it’s still work, all yours — and the ad brokers, whether “Adsense” or otherwise will still take their cut.

But you get the rest.

If you’re good at telling stories, and let’s face it that’s what media is about, whether in words or images — then this path might well be viable for you provided you can find a niche that is underserved and thus you can stand out in some way against the morass of crap.

Trades rarely die but they often mutate, and those who get blown out are usually the ones who simply refuse to adapt; they instead watch what they believed was their “path” turn to dust.

Find the fork in the road instead and take it before the bridge goes out from under your feet.

Story originally published at Market Ticker.