Predicting the iPad’s Impact on the Photography Business

When the Wired app for iPad launched in June, it sold 105,000 copies — 25,000 more than the print issue of the magazine that month. The total circulation on which the advertising rate was calculated was more than double that of the print magazine.

Currently, five Condé Nast publications — GQ, Vanity Fair, Wired, Glamour, and New Yorker — have iPad apps. Probably the most innovative of them is Wired, developed in a collaboration between Adobe Systems and Condé Nast. But the other publications are heading in the same direction.

And even Wired is only beginning to scratch the surface of how information delivery can be enhanced for tablets with the addition of sound, motion and interactivity.

The iPad’s Stickiness

Another piece of good news for Condé Nast is that almost half the people who have purchased the Wired app are outside the United States. This means that some magazines will be able to expand their readership far beyond their traditional market.

The iPad also appears to engage reader interest for much longer periods of time. Condé Nast has determined that GQ readers spend an average of 64 minutes a month with the print publication. They only spend an average of 15 minutes a month on and 75 minutes accessing the magazine through a smartphone.

However, when it comes to the iPad app, readers are spending more than two hours on GQ and almost three hours on Vanity Fair.

Part of this may be due to fascination with a new gadget, but it seems clear that it’s possible to offer much greater dimension to stories by adding video and sound. With the iPad, storytelling becomes an infinitely richer experience.

What the iPad Means for Photographers

Suffice it to say, anyone who hopes to be in the business of producing or licensing photographic content five years or more from now needs to buy an iPad — or one of the other electronic tablets that will be coming on the market soon.

I would also recommend buying several of the magazine apps to understand the reader experience, and how much richer iPad offerings can be in comparison to print publications. Image producers will have to create with this market in mind.

It is estimated that by the end of 2011, there will be 25 million tablets in circulation in the United States (up from 4 million today), and 90 million smartphones capable of accessing magazine content.

U.S. readers pay $25 billion annually for magazines — more than they pay for books, spend on video games or on going to the movies. While magazine readership is not likely to disappear, electronic tablets are likely to command a much greater percentage of reader time before we know it.

Author Once, Publish Anywhere

Condé Nast’s new goal is to “author once, publish anywhere.” For the buyer, it is “buy once, read anywhere.”

Condé Nast wants its editors to select material in a multi-channel fashion and then produce both paper and electronic versions. The publisher hopes that in a couple years, it will be able to produce “smart content” that knows the kind of screen it is being displayed on and flows effortlessly anywhere onto multiple screens.

This naturally leads to a new strategy for acquiring content, because it will be impossible to anticipate how imagery initially acquired for print use might be repurposed. Condé Nast has instructed its picture researchers to make certain they have the digital rights for all content originally published in print.

The company mandates that contracts stipulate use in all media; that vendors are informed that magazines are not limited to print distribution; and that outtakes and other additional materials are available for use on the iPad without further negotiation.

Researchers must make certain that rights obtained are broad enough — even for uses that are only “possible,” not definite — so that employees avoid going back to clear additional rights.

Opportunities and Challenges

For photographers, Condé Nast’s approach, which we can expect to be replicated by other publishers, presents opportunities — but also challenges. Among them:

  • Certainly, the tablet boom will mean more demand for visual content and the talent that can produce it. However, it will be strongest in multimedia and video, not still photography.
  • We may see a return to publications hiring full-time staffers for visual content. Centralized production operations tend to generate enough of a volume of work to hire their own design, photo, video and programming teams.
  • Even with the growth in demand, the long-term trend toward lower single-image pricing is not expected to reverse itself.
  • Photographers will have to work harder than ever to secure compensation for the various uses of their work. We may be forced to turn away from the whole concept of pricing based on usage and begin looking at each sale as an all-rights assignment transaction.
  • One strategy discussed among photographers is to get publishers to pay a little more for electronic uses as a way of “establishing the principle” that the extra use is worth something. However, if the amount of work the creator is required to do, or the secondary sales he is required to give up, are greater than the additional compensation, the creator could end up in an even worse situation.

5 Responses to “Predicting the iPad’s Impact on the Photography Business”

  1. This is another way the IPad will change the photography game...

  2. And images that publishers have misappropriated will also be hidden behind paywalls.

  3. Thanks! really useful approach! hope dslr video will help us!

  4. Saw your blog post on Newscom's Facebook page. Someone had posted a cool video that showed how much the iPad can change the very concept of what we define as photography:

    Thanks for the post though! Love to think about how these new tech gadgets will be changing the future of photography.

  5. This is actually an insightful article from Jim, I'm impressed.

    However, one glaring fact was not considered here. Still images WILL still very much be a part of the game because IT professionals are having to deal with network slowdowns due to gadgets like the iPad. Network controls can be tweaked to slow down allotted bandwidth for streaming video, which will tick off iPad owners...but helps pave the way for photographers still trying to make a buck in a video-driven tech world. Images will be still first, video link second, accompanying content.

    It's funny to me to keep reading about the death of photography from long time photogs. It's very clear that most of you guys just don't "get it" when it comes to technology, which is why so many of you think the industry is dying. One of these days you'll realize that it's your refusal to adapt and take on a new business model.

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