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Every celebrity has a neighbor

Let’s review. Up to now, USG, or User Generated  Content, has dramatically and irrevocably changed the Commercial stock photography landscape. It has brought it down to a commodity by not only bringing the prices down to, well, the prices of a commodity, by making it even more widely and easily available ( no need to call a bored Account Executive anymore) and finally, by not passing the cost of production to the customer. No real news here. However, will it stop here ?Definitely not. UGC has made some roadway in the Video footage world ( Numbers not really available, yet), as well as in the editorial space.  The commercial still space is so overcrowded that, besides the companies offering the distribution ( Istock, Fotolia, Shutterstock), no one will be making money anymore. The top photo producers  of this space are all suffering 40% or more decline in their income and it is certainly not due to the Recession. It also shows no sign of picking up. It’s a dilution effect, quite expected for a Long Tail type of business. So what next ?The editorial space. We have seen some somewhat failed attempts up to now. The news oriented site like Scoopt and others did not succeed in creating enough traction to get consistent exposure to allow them to become a major distribution channel. Demotix, lately, was the talk of the town during the Iranian revolt, only to quiet down ever since to a mere murmur. Without regular income, it is also destined to fail.  News is a very hard, yet not impossible, segment to convert to UGC.  Mostly because the market is already very well served with wire agencies who can deliver pinpoint images extremely fast. Amateur do not have, yet, the reflex to send images out very quickly. Furthermore, they are the first one to be evacuated of a dangerous area, if they don’t leave themselves first. Finally, with current prices and lack of medium, it doesn’t have the appeal of volume that the commercial stock market has. Doubtful that a company will ever succeed in being a UGC only news photo distributor but not impossible that one of the existing distributor, be it Istock, Shutterstock or Getty increase their demand and offerings. Of course, since they will no longer incur the cost of helping a photographer get those images, they will be more apt in lowering their prices if needed.But what about other editorial spaces. Celebrity for example ? Shutterstock is already being trying to perforate it by helping amateurs cover movie premieres and other events that need official credentials. It is unknown how much success they have had in licensing those images, but if credit in publication is any indication, it is inexistent. Not many have followed yet because of the poor prices, huge already existing volume and the added cost of production. After all, Shuttertsock needs a full time person to call, email or fax those publicist and get approved to cover. Not something they do for their commercial stock contributors. Finally, since the red carpet coverage is also already invaded by low pricing photo agencies , it doesn’t make  the UGC pricing special or appealing in any way.What else ? Well there is the street paparrazi stuff. With rumors of images being sold in the thousand , if not millions of dollars, it is a very interesting space. No credentials needed, no risk involved. With celebs twittering their every move or blogs exposing their schedules openly, it is very easy for anyone to find them. If you add the flock of Fame whores who demand to be taken in pictures, well, there is plenty. And you do not need much. Even a cell phone is adequate to snap a celeb in the street. No need for heavy or expensive equipment . And since prices are still quite high, the appeal of lower priced images will be a huge draw for some dying publications. Thus those companies who have been living quite nicely thanks to a small army of tip filled street paparazzi are slowly seeing a rising competition of week end paparazzi’s who would gladly take half of what they are making. If not, 1%. Because like the UGC crowd, they have other jobs and could really care less. Having a picture published will be a treat by itself.Of course, existing Pap agencies are doing all they can to avoid such a leak. They now all offer, on their site, an upload button for those amateurs seeking a representative. But that will not be enough to stop the bleeding.These Pap agencies all know that is doesn’t require any skills to take these images, as they themselves have been employing hungry beginners, fitting them with cameras, showing them where to press the button and telling them where to go. But in this game, the masses have the lead as every celebrity has a neighbor. It will not be long now before we see this market also become flooded with part time shooters looking to make a quick buck on a sunday afternoon. It will not take long now before the prices of street celeb photography will tumble to un-previously known depth.Sure, most people in the photo industry will not care. However, as walls keep crumbling down, everyone is affected. Like an earthquake, it is just not the epicenter that suffer damages.

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