I read a lot – in case you have not noticed. Sometimes it is hard to say what got me interested in something – sometimes it is plain obvious. Sometimes you find people who think the way you do – your parallel minds. Sometimes somebody else just expresses your thoughts so much better than you ever could… and I’d like to introduce three of them here: Mark Loundy, Seth Godin and Marc Andeerssen.
And I swear I read the first two only after I had written my previous post…
Mark Loundy is one of the bright minds I do follow. His Common Cents (March 2010) article is worth quoting:
“If I were running a publication, I would look for the best possible images at the lowest possible cost. I would look for the hungriest photographers with the poorest business practices and I would offer them minimal fees for all rights to their images.
After all, I’m running a business and I want to make as much money as I can while spending as little as I can. Since I can’t negotiate with my printer or the public utilities, I’m going to target the ones who have proven eager to be screwed-over. In business, they refer to the easy stuff as “low-hanging fruit.”
I would continue to run my business like that for as long as I could find photographers willing to be victimized.
How can you really fault that approach to business?”
He is right – and that IS a great business model. It will kill the business eventually – but then you move into something else. And goes without saying: it has nothing to do with doing journalism. It is not about saving the print, but it very accurately describes its death.
Seth Godin is another one. He quotes the words of Andrew Carnegie – often regarded as the worlds second richest man in history after Rockefeller – a brilliant thinker, philanthropist and a very succesful businessman:
“Take away my people, but leave my factories and soon grass will grow on the factory floors……Take away my factories, but leave my people and soon we will have a new and better factory.”
And Godin goes on noting that the majority of the companies have it backwards now: the factory, the infrastructure, the process, etc. – they rule and they are the king. Applied to journalism or photography it translates to seeing the professionals, the creative minds as an unpleasant expense and nothing else – whereas The Print is the Holy Grail.
In reality, just the opposite is true – as Andrew Carnegie expressed it so accurately 100 years ago. How the traditional print media will survive – if it will survive – and create our future depends on the kind and quality of the journalism we produce – not who owns the largest printing press. If the quality of what gets published is what your average hobbyist or wannabee photographer can produce – why should we have any paid professionals at all doing this?
Erick Schonfeld interviewed Marc Andreessen some weeks ago and their conversation brought back Cortez and his order to burn down the ships once they had landed in Mexico some 500 years ago: as a result of this act, his men were highly motivated to push forward in order to survive. Yes, I had heard the example before (remember e.g. Sean Connery as Captain Marko Ramius in “The Hunt of the Red October”?) but just never made the connection between the ships and the printing presses.
We won’t be doing that though – we’d have to be crazy to do that – like Cortez. But Andreessen insists:
“Print newspapers and magazines will never get there, until they burn the boats and shut down their print operations. Yes, there are still a lot of people and money in those boats—billions of dollars in revenue in some cases.”
The whole article is worth reading but the bottomline is: if you accept his argument it would make sense to do it – or at least MAKE THE COMMITMENT (with capital letters…) – when you still have options and headroom to play with. When there is still a notion of a skilled media professional – be it a journalist or a photographer? Change when you still have something to say about it – not when it is forced upon you?