Friends and business associates often ask “how’s business?” I have to say that 2006 was my best year and there’s been a decline since then. Since my market has been tied to magazine and book publishing how my business fares is connected to how the publishing business fares.
This morning a quote caught my eye over on A Photo Editor: “Chicken Little, don your hardhat. Nudged by recession, doom has arrived.” I followed the link to an interesting post on Advertising Age by Bob Garfield. The basic thrust is that the mutually beneficial relationship between big media and advertising is going away. With the rapid rise of the internet, where most people expect content to be free, where the barriers to creating content are low, and where the supply of advertising is high the end result is a quickly receeding revenue stream and dropping valuations for media companies.
Referring to magazines, Bob writes:
In 2008, newsstand sales — the profit engine of the industry — fell 12%. According to Media Industry Newsletter, gross ad pages so far in 2009 have dropped a staggering 22% — that coming off a dismal 2008. In recent months, Condé Nast has folded Domino, Meredith has folded Country Home, Ziff-Davis has folded PC Magazine, Hearst has folded CosmoGirl and O at Home, The New York Times has folded Play, and Hachette has folded Home.
Over the years Country Home and Home have been among my customers. Bob doesn’t talk about books, because they’ve rarely been ad-supported, but two publishers in the gardening world have folded up shop in the last few months. Sunset Books is no more; likewise Meredith garden books.
Rights-managed stock photography through big agencies continues to consolidate and license fees are slipping. Will sales return as the economy improves? I don’t know but I’m skeptical.
So to answer the original question, business is deteriorating. Yet I’m optimistic that by changing directions and focusing my efforts on a more personal kind of photography I’ll be successful. For years I’ve avoided the business I now find that I enjoy very much. There’s great satisfaction in helping families remember important phases in their lives through portraiture. I’m excited about 2009 and hope to see some of you for a portrait session.