Although I was aware it was coming, I read the news on PDN today. The media giant TIME, Inc has fired 289 people yesterday. Closing offices, laying off staffers, it is terrible. I know some of the people there and it hurts.
One of the very interesting comment made by a spokesman who appears to want to remain nameless was “…our focus on increasing efficiencies and allowing for closer collaboration between our digital and print businesses.” What does this mean?
Magazine publishing is closely following newspapers publisher in a move that will send everyone on the web. For a media businesses, it makes complete sense, because it is much cheaper to create and certainly much cheaper to distribute, which is getting very expensive. Furthermore, more and more people are getting their customized news on the web rather than in print. Finally, Print magazine cannot compete with the faster news cycle. Less and less people will wait a week to read a story about an event that was widely covered the same day by multiple web sites and the TV. What is happening at Time, Inc already happened at Hachette Filipacchi in France and soon, most certainly, in the US.
The same goes for celebrity magazine and it would not surprised me to hear about the same kind of move from the tabloids that are suffering the same type of competition . Let’s face it, even if we are not interested, we know about any major celebrity break up within minutes of it happening. It will be on line somewhere.
What does that mean for photography ? A few things, actually. Historically, image usage on a web site has been licensed for much less money than print. The main reason is that when website first appeared, they had little or no budget so most photographers/agencies reduced their regular space rate to a very low price. At the time, it was not such a big deal, no one really surfed the internet. Unfortunately, those prices have not change since while budgets have increased. Hopefully and despite those uninformed amateurs that give away their images for free, rates will increase.
Usage of images, along with video, should increase. There is more real estate on the web, more room to do longueur lay outs for much less money than print. More sideshows, galleries and video stream. Text is very annoying to read on a computer screen. We might even see the resurgence of photojournalism features.
Finally, I am sure I a missing a lot, not all magazines will be on the web. I do not see fashion magazines like VOGUE being able to migrate, or most monthlies for that matter. Since they are out of the news cycle and more or less create their own news, they do not have the same pressure.
This is in no way the end of magazines, but rather a repositioning, a replacement of its paper support to digital support. It will save paper and trees ( at least, I hope) and create new opportunities for photography.
Like everyone, I am disturbed by change and I worry about my friends that have been layed off. It’s always a terrible and traumatic experience. But I remain in good spirit about the evolution of editorial photography.