The iPad will Save the Editorial Photography Genre

The iPad will save the editorial photography genre.
by Louis Lesko

As I watched the roll out of the Jesus Pad from Steve Jobs and Apple two weeks ago I couldn’t help to think of its effect on the photography industry in biblical terms. I think this new platform will bring with it the second coming of the editorial photography genre. And even though I’m confident that this second coming will arrive soon, we should probably take some steps to nudge it a long a little bit. Because the more quickly we can have more assignments, the better.

If you’re publicly on the iPad bashing bandwagon with the “what is it good for” mantra you might want to rethink your position. When the iPad was presented it featured content from the New York Times which was displayed via an iPad app. An electronic avenue for the New York Times to efficiently charge for content while offering a smooth user experience.

The following is pure conjecture on my part, but if the iPad has a unique ID like all computer devices, the New York Times can effectively reduce the number of times the user has to log in to get behind the pay wall. Some of the apps I use on my iPhone operate this way. After the initial login, the service doesn’t require a repeat login until I log out or turn off my iPhone. This simple efficiency, trivial as it may seem, is a huge step towards offering paper magazine convenience in an electronic device. Consider the following; if you’re popping off to the powder room for some alone time, a laptop is not your first consideration for outhouse entertainment. Which is one reason we love our magazines. Now consider the same scenario with an iPad. Grab, go, and press the app icon of your favorite periodical.

In a less sophomoric example, one of my guilty pleasures is to read the gossip rags while getting my hair cut. My stylist, Terri, subscribes to the gossip magazines specifically to cater to her many clients who have the same proclivity as me. If she handed me a laptop the experience would be too cumbersome to be fun. An iPad on other hand, that’s easy. There are dozens of other comparisons. The point I’m trying to make is that an iPad device is much, much closer to a magazine in terms of portability and convenience. And it has the added benefit of not shedding subscription cards with every page turn.

These two scenarios presume that the iPad is going to be successful in spite of several other attempts by several other companies to sell tablet computers. I think it will. It comes down to the right company at the right time.

In the editorial world magazine ad sales have plummeted. In 2009 ad pages shrank by over 58,000 while paper, printing, and shipping costs increased. Silicon Alley Insider did an interesting piece on how it costs twice as much for the New York Times to print their paper versus buying their subscribers a Kindle. Also, the lag between the production of a magazine and the consumption of it caused by printing and delivery makes any current, breaking events an exclusive feature of the internet.

Apple has an extraordinary reputation identifying growing markets and producing better devices and services for that market. The iPad was not developed with the intention of being a fanboy tchotchke, it was developed to be the next step in Apple’s dominance of the mobile computing space. Much of Apple’s success has to do with their obsession with elegant simplicity. Anyone who picks up an iPhone can muddle their way through how to use within a few minutes. You can’t say that with any other mobile communication device. The iPad is destined to do the same; provide a user experience with just a little more complexity than opening a magazine in which the user will be willing to give up the ultimate simplicity of the glossy paper in exchange for the value added experience of the iPad. As much as you may want to argue that paper magazines will never go away, I think they will. And I think it’s going to happen fast.

One of the reasons reality TV exploded in the late nineties and on into the aughts was that it was cheap to produce. It removed the costs of writers and talent. Which is why most reality shows are total rubbish. Happily, in the editorial world, the adoption of electronic publishing will see a massive costs savings being realized with the elimination of paper purchases as well as printing and shipping expenses – not the elimination of talent. In fact with the efficiency of electronic publishing to devices like the iPad, we may see more content produced more often.

Traditionally editorial scheduling is influenced heavily by the amount of time it takes to print and ship a periodical. Given an option for electronic publishing, the same content producers can probably produce twice as much content in the same amount of time. Which will mean twice as many assignments for photographers. As long as we can shoot video.

The new publishing platform is multi-media. That multi-media experience is going to be maximized by publishers to make their content interesting and dynamic to readers. If, as a photographer, you’re unwilling to fall into step with the new content requirements, your phone probably won’t be ringing all that much.

The inevitable question that will undoubtedly show up in my inbox in the wake of this piece is; “what about stock photography edging out assignment.” Micro stock is much more the domain of the blogshpere because it’s ultra cheap and quickly accessible. What I see happening in the new e-publishing space is a need for higher quality work so that subscription rates can be justified. Also stock video isn’t turning out to be the boon that stock agencies hoped it would be because it’s not that easy to manipulate beyond editing.

What we need to do as photographers is to start talking the game of the future. Let your editorial clients know that you’re embracing video, or, photocine. Throw a small photocine vignette up on your web site as a sample. If you have questions about shooting motion, visit PhotoCine News, my partners, Michael Britt, Tom Stratton and I have compiled an extraordinary staff of knowledgeable writers in the last two months that are experts on this stuff.

Last week Amazon purchased a startup company that makes touch screens. They also capitulated to publishers requests to increase the price of books and periodicals in the wake of Apple announcing that they would be charging 14.99 as opposed to 9.99 that Amazon imposed on the publishers for a Kindle download. I also got a notice this week from Amazon that my Kindle subscription to the Financial Times is increasing to 14.99 per month, up from 9.99. The signs are on the horizon that e-publishing is about to permeate the main stream. Now is the time to let anyone who has the potential to hire you know that you’re already on the wave of change.

6 comments to The iPad will Save the Editorial Photography Genre

  • Great article Lou, I liked the ipad from the start. It will also make a great portfolio for photographers, letting them showcase case stills as well as video. Please come back to Charlotte to speak again. Thanks

  • “Which will mean twice as many assignments for photographers. As long as we can shoot video.”

    And, as long as we’ll do it all for less or the same money we shoot stills for now (as proven by a recent article in PDN where they interviewed many magazine creatives on the subject and they flat out said no more $$$ for video). But hey, just like digital doesn’t cost us anything, now that your camera shoots video, it doesn’t cost anything either!!!! (or so that’s what most photographers rationalize). And just like photographers caved on web use and low or no digital fees, they will on video.

    Timeliness of information: I don’t buy magazines for up-to-the-minute news. I buy them for in-depth and interesting articles, usually on an event/subject that happened weeks or months prior. A newspaper and a magazine are two different things though. Newspapers do need to have up-to-the-minute information to compete. I don’t need my magazine to be a newspaper, even in the digital world.

    As for using the iPad in the “powder room”, that will certainly make you think twice before grabbing someone else’s iPad to check something out. I can see a whole new accessories department… iPad sanitizers.

  • Daniele: Thank you for the kind words.

    Jeff: Thanks for the reply. And the iPad sanitizer idea. I see a new business opportunity. I’m going to the scrubbing bubbles people for financing.

  • [...] to pour myself a large celebratory bourbon. On the heels of the piece I wrote over at the APA about how the ipad the will save editorial photography I see the iPad, which is a sexy revamp of a mobile computing class that has been around for years, [...]

  • Lou,

    Just make sure I get a cut :-)

    RE: Video.

    Was just listening to the Adbase interview with Outside Magazine PE:
    “Right now, the more any photographer shoots video, the better … I just did a shoot where the photographer just shot video, volunteered to do it and just did it… I mean that’s the other thing, too… we want more and more for no extra money, you know. We’re not paying for video.”

    There we go already, photographers lining up to do more for less.

  • The Ipad will save nothing if there is no intelligence, sensibility, motivation and remuneration in selecting and use photographs!
    Till photographers are paid nothing for images, and articles are written by ordinary people (not in a professional way), I have doubts that a new kind of gadged can save the world of journalism-photojournalism and photography in general.