It's been an amazing month so far. I just started a new job at Fotolia, and the folks at TechCrunch were kind enough to blog about it. Today, we launched a new site - PhotoXpress, and TechCrunch blogged it once again. Registrations and downloads on PhotoXpress were brisk, and we're looking forward to growing this business aggressively. I'm very optimistic about the prospects for both Fotolia and PhotoXpress.
But apparently, Rick Dahms, in commenting on the TechCrunch story about PhotoXpress, says I'm a "short sighted, destructive idiot". (hey, who's he calling short sighted?):
All this does is drive another nail in the coffin of stock photography. As it is, since the invasions of Photodisc, Getty and iStock, it’s almost impossible to make a living shooting stock.
The upside is that once “businessmen,” like Pat, kill stock photography altogether and put the all those photographers out of business, it will all be free all the time. It will all be crap and it’ll be the same crap every year… but it will all be free.
And that’s what’s important.
He goes on to say (in response to Avi, who posted a note in my defense):
See, Pat is not innovating anything. Pat is repeating a business model that has failed again and again. I’m not “blaming” Pat. I’m saying that Pat is a short sighted, destructive idiot.
Which is technically not “complaining” but criticizing.
Call me what you will, but I'm not short sighted. The most successful businesses in history became successful because they figured out the magic formula. It's called distribution.
In 1912, when Ralph Waldo Emerson said "Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door" his emphasis was on innovation. He was wrong. There are many cases in history where the more innovative product lost out because it had poor distribution. Sony Betamax vs. VHS, for example. (Sony anything vs. it's competitors, actually, but I digress). They can't beat a path to your door if they don't know about it.
Chris Anderson's article (and latest book), Free, explains it quite nicely. In it, he cites two trends that are driving the spread of free business models across the economy:
The second trend is simply that anything that touches digital networks quickly feels the effect of falling costs. There's nothing new about technology's deflationary force, but what is new is the speed at which industries of all sorts are becoming digital businesses and thus able to exploit those economics. When Google turned advertising into a software application, a classic services business formerly based on human economics (things get more expensive each year) switched to software economics (things get cheaper). So, too, for everything from banking to gambling. The moment a company's primary expenses become things based in silicon, free becomes not just an option but the inevitable destination.
The crowdsourced stock photography business was a specialty, niche business that most people used to ignore. That is, until Canon made the DSLR affordable to the consumer. The quality and the quantity of images at these sites increased exponentially because of Canon's technology. And today, it's amazing what you can produce with a sub-$1,000 camera.
Now I'm not saying that just anyone can do what professional photographers like Rick Dahms can do. In fact, very few can even come close. But the reality is, Canon, Nikon and other camera manufacturers have made it so fast, cheap and easy to produce billions and billions of images, that you'd expect someone to take a great picture from time to time.
So if "short sighted, destructive idiot" means "leveraging revolutionary technology to build a business that changes the game", then I can only hope that there's more name-calling a few years from now.