18 February 2010

Archant Great British Life Rights Grab

It is pretty difficult making a living from photography at the best of times. Most of the time I feel like the petrol guage. It is made more difficult by the actions of publishers who seem hell bent on making it impossible. Chris Barton at Photographers Direct has just highlighted a rights grab by Archant, the publishers called Great British Life. It's a classic play to vanity; Archant will (of course) credit the photographer, but will not be paying a bean for the content. It also says; "there's even a chance that your photograph could become a magazine front cover". Whoopy doo!

If this is an attempt at saving money, frankly this does not make sense. In order to process, review and edit the hundreds of photos uploaded there will be a need for people who need to be paid. The more photos the more effort it will take to manage. The extensive website needs to be managed and bandwidth paid for. Having members of the public upload images means increased vigilence on the editorial staff - the last thing Archant would want is a libellous/offensive image getting through the net. And what does this save them? What is the cost of a quality stock image for the front cover of a 25,000 circulation magazine? £100, £150 at a push? And the chances are that the editorial staff will have to wade through a mountain of dross before finding that diamond which is of sufficient quality and composition to feature on the front of their glossies (check the Archant website to get a flavour of the quality of images submitted).

It did not come as a surprise to me that Readers Digest (UK) went into administration yesterday. Last time I picked up a RD book in Waterstones it was packed with $5 microstock photos. It was clear to me that RD was trying to cut costs; in vain it now appears. If that meant undermining the livelihoods of photographers, so be it. The trouble is there is no way back. Once on the road to nearly free content it is hard, if not impossible to go back to paying for premium content. Those who provided the premium content will have packed away their cameras and got nine to five jobs and there will be a general decline towards the mediocre. Ah well, it was good while it lasted.