So you would think that with all the problems that online publications are causing to the print magazine industry, they would fight back in some manner. The print paper world would be all gang ho in trying to secure its predominance as the primary source of news and information so that the crowds would rush to purchase copies. But no.

It’s a complete lethargy. Well, at least in the USA. Take editorial photography. As much as they care if an image has been used in a competing publication, they completely ignore anything online.  They seem to be completely oblivious to the fact that they come out sometimes with the same image that has been seen previously for more than a week on numerous websites. As if no one paid attention. However, with some URL’s drawing millions of visitors , and most, the same people they also try to attract, it should be hard to ignore.

Yet, they continue to ignore the reasons for their decline. Partly to save money ( as if it is going to help) , partly because a completely blindness to the forces that are shaping their market. If I have seen an image numerous times, for free, online, I am going to be a bit upset if I see it, again, days, weeks later, in a print publication I had to pay for. If it happens once, I could ignore it. If it happens issue after issues, I would want my money back.

No other industry has this approach to its consumer. Movies only show trailers, music have just snippets ( of  course, I am not mentioning stolen material) and you pay to hear/see the full version. If all was available online  a week before they could be purchased, it is doubtful that a lot of people would pay for them.

Magazines, in some sort of oblivious superiority,  continue to publish , week after weeks, month after months the same images already seen online more than once. Maybe they think that if they ignore it, the problem might disappear. Maybe they think that by the time they come out, readers will have forgotten what they had seen just hours ago on a website. Maybe they just think that their support is so superior than the digital, no one will notice.

The second issue with this, a bit more hidden, is that photogrpahers and photo agencies provide website with a free first right  at a lesser fee than  what a print publication would pay. In other words, website get to use the same image, much sooner than print for 10% of the price that a magazine pays to use it a week later. Does it make any sense ?

In France, for example, no magazine would ever publish an image that has been used on a website previously. None. Photo agencies or photographers do not have a problem with that since website pay so little, it is not even funny. Thus, readers can be sure that will discover new image in every issue. And with just cause, they paid for that, and other privilege. They paid to purchase a  product that do not consider them like fools. They pay for originality. They pay for what they value.

In the upcoming or ongoing debate about online pay walls, how many of the newspapers, magazines and others will take the step to guarantee original photography ? Because if it is to see another slideshow made of pictures from the trilogy (Getty, AP, Reuters ) that you can see anywhere else, I doubt people will be happy. And if they are not happy, well, they won’t pay. A pay wall will only work if people want to get in. And people will want to get in if the content inside is not something seen elsewhere for free.

The war between original content ( expensive) and  cost cutting  (cheap) is raging with  cost-cutting seemingly winning most battles these days. However, creating something for cheap that no one wants to pay for is not at all a guarantee of success. Once the CFO’s and their bosses finish destroying the very nature of what made their companies successful in a rarely seen slaughterhouse of talent, there will be only a few standing. And those will not be the ones that are the cheapest to operate but those who have found the zen like balance between originality, quality, cost and timeliness.

Photography will always be here to offer  all of this and much, much more. We know it, we are just waiting for them to understand it.

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