An Interview with Daryl Lang, News Editor of Photo District News

Over two decades, Photo District News (PDN) has staked its place as the Bible of the professional photographic industry. But like all trade publications, the monthly has had to adapt to dramatic changes in recent years — first the emergence of the Web, and now of blogs and social networks.

PDNOnline, the publication’s Web site, launched its first blog, PDNPulse, last month. We asked Daryl Lang, news editor of Photo District News and PDN Online, about plans for this new venture.

Scott: Before blogs entered the picture, how would you say that PDN has traditionally differentiated itself from other magazines that photographers read?

Daryl: Thanks for the chance to participate, Scott. PDN is different in many ways from other photo magazines, but the main thing is our focus on the business of being a professional photographer. We are journalists writing for a readership of pro photographers and industry people like photo editors and creative directors. Readers are more likely to find stories in PDN about running their own businesses, promoting themselves to big clients, and buying high-end equipment.

Scott: How has the emergence of blogs and online communities by and for professional photographers changed PDN’s approach, if at all?

Daryl: Basically, blogs and online communities mean there’s more information out there about pro photography. This is good for us and everybody else. These sites help us come up with story ideas, they give us some idea what people online care about, and they add a lot more voices to the conversation. But I think our approach remains the same in terms of writing good original stories and championing great photography.

Scott: I’m sure you’ve been considering a blog strategy for a while. Can you tell us how PDNPulse came about?

Daryl: You’re right, we’ve been interested in starting a blog for a long time. The short story is that PDNPulse came out of an initiative by Nielsen Business Media (our parent company) to start a number of new blogs for its publications. More generally, a blog is a smart idea for any magazine. Our job is to deliver information, and a blog is a great way to do that. It’s also a nice way to connect with our readers, who can leave comments or link in from their own blogs.

Scott: What can readers expect from PDNPulse? Are there blogs created by other magazines or newspapers that you look to as a model for what you’d like to achieve?

Daryl: PDNPulse is new and will evolve over time. To start, we’re using it to post a daily roundup of headlines from around the Web called the Photo Feed, plus little gems that we come across throughout the day. Compared to our news coverage on PDNOnline, PDNPulse will feature less original reporting and more “Did you see this?” posts. We haven’t tried to emulate any specific blogs; we’re just trying use our own voices and give readers another place to visit when they’re surfing the Web.

Scott: Obviously, the photography industry as a whole is evolving very rapidly — with technology playing a big part in that. What are the hottest topics that PDN is covering today, in terms of reader interest?

Daryl: The changing nature of intellectual property in the digital world is a huge ongoing story, so copyright and legal stories are big. Other topics that generate a lot of interest are stock photography, photojournalism and new products. Of course, what readers say they want is not always what they click on. I know we’d do very well if we started a photo blog with nothing but swimsuit models and embarrassing pictures of politicians. Oh, and baby animals.

Scott: I know that all online publications — and particularly trades — struggle with the question of what content to charge for and what content to make available for free. Can you describe PDN’s approach to this question, and if you feel you’ve achieved the right mix for your readers?

Daryl: Much of our Web content, including PDNPulse, is free to everybody. Some of our PDNOnline stories are accessible only to readers who subscribe to PDN magazine. (Subscribers use a code from their mailing labels to sign up for a password.) The subscriber-only stories are usually ones that come directly from the magazine or contain detailed industry information aimed at helping photographers connect with clients or make their businesses more successful. No approach is perfect, but this one tries to strike a balance. Obviously, a lot of publications are puzzling over how to attract readers online without diminishing their print products, which still bring in more money. A nice thing about PDN is our readers appreciate seeing a good photograph in print, so there’s a tangible advantage to getting the print magazine. Photos don’t reproduce as well on the Web.

Scott: Anything else you’d like to add?

Daryl: To all reading this: Please visit and leave a comment somewhere. It’s fun to do and it’s good for our self-esteem!

[tags]Photo District News, PDNPulse, Daryl Lang[/tags]

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