In my two previous posts [Part I, Part II], I’ve mentioned Flattr and Emphas.is as new platforms that could allow individual photographers to gather funding from outside of the traditional print journalism model. Photo agencies and collectives bring a different set of resources and possibilities into play. The managing director of the VII Photo agency, Stephen Mayes, has put a lot of thought into how to reach new audiences and how to harness the talent and credibility that he sees as key assets at VII. He recently launched VII The Magazine, an initiative to simultaneously give more editorial control to photographers and develop a new commercial model. He explains his thinking in the following video, from the “Sortir du Cadre” interview series. Of particular interest is his vision of the concepts of crossmedia and transmedia.
My first feature for VII The Magazine went live yesterday, a news piece from the floods in Pakistan titled “Storm in the Swat Valley.” It was edited by Scott Thode.
I’ve also added this Swat feature to my Flattr account, and you can show support by clicking the button:
Speaking of which, it has now been one month since I started using Flattr. The results are in:
From Aug. 6 to Sept. 6 2010, I received 33 Flattrs on the North Korea photo essay that I initially posted for testing. That turned into 17.26 Euros, for an average of 0.52 Euros per Flattr. Over the same period, the NK photo essay had 1175 page views. If I am doing the math correctly, that means that I had one Flattr for every 36 page views.
In addition to the North Korea photo essay that I originally posted, I also added Flattr buttons to my blog, a photo essay from China and a few other pages. None of those got as many Flattrs, nor as many page views as the North Korea essay that I had actively promoted, but taken together it gave me an additional 18 Flattrs and another 5.74 Euros in revenue. Grand total after the first month: 23.00 Euros. Below is a screen capture of my Flattr revenue report:
Since Flattr is still in public beta, the crowd that has signed up remains fairly limited. Most of those registered seem to be from Germany, Sweden, and the computer programing world—basically from the first circle of word-of-mouth and viral marketing coming from the creators of Flattr. If a larger audience of photography enthusiasts joins, the number of Flattrs per page view should start rising.
To that end, I have been reaching out to a number of photography blogs and online magazines to start integrating Flattr buttons onto their sites. Over the past few years, a tendency has grown amongst bloggers to copy and paste my photos onto their own sites. In the beginning I found this rather annoying, especially when people did this without bothering to ask. Now it has become so commonplace that is increasingly difficult to challenge. Rather than trying to fight this copying frenzy (like the record companies a few years back), I am now making it a policy to ask personal blogs and non-commercial sites which feature my photos to integrate my Flattr button next to the photos. (All that is required is to paste in two lines of code.) So far, the people that I have reached out to have been generous and responsive. In addition to drawing more photo enthusiasts toward Flattr, it is an easy way for them to give back to the people whose content they are posting. A big thanks goes out to the first adopters:
• Rob at www.aphotoeditor.com
• Jim at www.lensculture.com
• Matt at www.dvafoto.com
• Trent at www.theclick.us
• Tewfic at thetravelphotographer.blogspot.com
• Keith at chiaroscurophotoblog.blogspot.com
• Dave at www.iso200.com
Looking into the future, one can imagine a combination of Emphas.is, VII The Magazine and Flattr replacing the traditional print media cycle of funding, publishing and compensating the photographer. In the short term, this could very soon offer an alternative to a single magazine assignment for a freelance photographer like myself. A few years into the future, these platforms could conceivably grow enough to replace several assignments per year. In my case, I can’t yet envision it replacing all my clients, but as new innovations come to maturity and young photographers who have never worked for the traditional print media hit the scene, a new breed of publicly-backed photographers is likely to emerge. Adding their perspective and working style to our ranks could offer a welcome jolt of energy and diversity to the craft.
*UPDATE – Sept. 20, 2010: Wired.com’s RAW File has picked up the story about new funding models and is featuring my experiments with Flattr and more news from Karim about Emphas.is on their blog.
*UPDATE – Nov. 16, 2010: Digital Photo Pro interviews Scott Thode and Stephen Mayes about VII The Magazine.
*UPDATE – Dec. 27, 2010: Emphas.is posted an in-depth interview with me about experimenting with social funding models and my plans for a project pitch on their platform.