Saturday, June 14, 2014

CrowdMedia - What Is It And Will It Replace Photojournalism?

I recently received a message on my Flickr account that said, "You take beautiful, authentic photos and I'd love to add some of your Flickr photos to CrowdMedia's collection in a profile made just for you, with your copyright and your attribution."

I'd never heard of CrowdMedia before, and I wasn't sure what this was all about. So I did a little research. Perhaps you have received a message similar to mine and are looking for more information.
"CrowdMedia helps photographers gain exposure by revealing their point of view on what touches them and what surrounds them. We also believe publishers are looking for photos from more people, different sources and distinct points of views. We aim to help them find these photos and their photographers." --CrowdMedia
The idea is simple enough: photographers are looking for publishers and publishers are looking for photographs. CrowdMedia, then, is the middle man, hooking both sides up.

CrowdMedia is basically a stock photography agency with a different approach. There are many stock photography agencies out there that you can become a contributor to. For example, I have photographs over at Veer. Getty, Fotolia, Shutterstock, iStockphoto--the list goes on and on of all the different options.
Aspen Tree In Autumn - Flagstaff, Arizona
This is not my best photograph, but it is my best-selling stock photograph.
How stock agencies work is that they sell the rights (typically limited rights) of your photographs to businesses, organizations, publishers, etc., and they give you a percentage (usually small, but sometimes not) of the profits. Some people earn big bucks doing stock photography, but the vast majority do not. Also, it can be difficult to get accepted to the stock agencies. Almost always there is an application stage where you must submit some of your photographs, and there is a high rejection rate.

One way that CrowdMedia is different than those stock agencies is that they seek out photographers instead of waiting for the photographers to come to them. They search Flickr and Twitter for photographers that they believe have images that potential buyers are looking for. When they find a worthy candidate they send an invitation to join. If you received such an invitation, you can take it as a compliment.

Another difference is that CrowdMedia selects your photographs that they think are best for their purposes. With other stock agencies you upload and submit your photographs to them (some of which may be declined). But since you've already uploaded your photographs to Flickr or Twitter, there is no need to upload again or submit anything. CrowdMedia will pick the photographs of yours that they're interested in. For me this is great because I really don't have the time to be uploading and submitting photographs to different places.

It seems that publishers are the clientele that CrowdMedia is aiming for. Stock images are typically sold to a variety of different folks, and it can be surprising just where these photographs turn up at. I don't get the impression that CrowdMedia is following that model. I think magazines, books, newspapers and websites are the aim of this company.

CrowdMedia splits the profit with photographers, paying half of what's earned. That's actually better than what many stock agencies pay. Now just how many images are actually being sold by CrowdMedia is unknown.

Because of the association with "social media" and who the intended market is, some have suggested that CrowdMedia will replace the traditional photojournalist with amateur "photojournalists". Those at the right place and at the right time with cell phones, snapping images of events, will take paying work away from professional photographers.

That's not really a good way to look at this.

First, things change. As a friend of mine likes to say, shift happens. You cannot stop it. But you can find ways to roll with the changes and even benefit from the changes. This is a good opportunity for photojournalists to prove that they're worth their price by crafting their best work. They need to make a case through their lens that there is a significant difference between their work and that of the non-professional.

Second, I'm not convinced that CrowdMedia can replace professional photojournalists. And I don't necessarily believe that replacing photojournalists is their intention, anyway. In other words, they can both coexist, and it isn't likely that they'll get in each other's way.

Finally, where I see the potential of CrowdMedia is in discovery. If it catches on, I see this as a way for talented but unknown photographers to be discovered by publishers who are looking for the next great artist. This could be a platform for hopefuls to make it to the big leagues. Perhaps the next top-notch photojournalist gets his first big break through this company.

Is anyone going to get rich from CrowdMedia? Maybe the founders. Is it something that you should join or something that should be avoided? That's up to you, but there doesn't seem to be any harm in joining. It is, however, a good idea to read their terms of service before you decide to join.

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