Images at Center Stage
The demand for images has exploded in the last decade, propelled by the expansion of digital media. All the executives in the U.S. Hispanic and Latin American media industries interviewed for this article by Portada agree that photographs and graphics no longer play an auxiliary role to news content, but are instead integral elements of that content.
What is photography’s new role in digital media? When did photography take center stage? What is the media’s relationship with photo producers? How does the media handle copyright issues for photos?
These were some of the questions Portada’s editorial team asked several experts in the Latin American and U.S. Hispanic media and content industries. “Usage of photos has certainly increased. Today’s media need to produce a much more graphic rich product to compete in the market,” says John Camarillo, marketing director for Latin America at Tribune Media Services Marketing. Camarillo adds that, “The image is the hook that grabs the eyeballs. Today's consumer demands a better user experience, especially as better technology emerges and media on the go is available everywhere. Going forward consumers will get more demanding. Not only will they want graphic rich products but video rich as well.”
Miguel Ferrer, Managing Editor of HuffPost LatinoVoices, notes that Huffington Post Media properties daily literally use hundreds of photos and images. “Demand for photos by visitors to AOL Huffington Post Media Group properties over the past few years has increased substantially. The old truism still stands: A picture is worth a thousand words. People gravitate towards striking imagery, towards images that further illustrate a story or an event, towards images that capture a moment that people are talking about.”
Hilda Garcia, VP of Multi/platform News and Information at ImpreMedia, says that ImpreMedia uses more than 100 images on a daily basis across its digital properties. “Demand has increased in all properties”, she says. “For print you need more and bigger pictures and for the websites it is very common to promote pictures and photo galleries to invite users to "see" the content. Visuals are very important to get reader attention.
EASY TO SHARE
Ferrer, from the Huffington Post, points out another interesting feature of images: They are easily shared. “It’s the medium itself. Images are natural elements that people can comment on, they lend themselves to simple manipulation to further reinforce the point they trying to make; and images are something easy for people to create, publish, share, etc.”. ImpreMedia’s Garcia agrees with Ferrer’s analysis: “The digital medium has enabled people to take more and better pictures. End users can generate their own pictures and the capability to share them through friendly platforms. They don´t need to be a photographer or a programmer to upload a picture of their babies.”
Of course, demand for images is not independent of general economic downturns and the structural changes affecting the industry. “Hispanic Media properties were severely hit by the economic crisis and the demand for photo services decreased significantly between 2008 and 2010. Since then, the market has been recovering at a moderate pace,” says Rafael Carranza, director of North American sales and business development at Efe News Services, the largest Spanish-language news agency in the world.
At Yahoo!, “All articles appearing in the main module of the Yahoo! Home page have eye- catching and editorially relevant images. These photographs are selected by our team of editors in different countries, and are of the highest quality. All of our properties have slideshows created by our editorial team to improve the user experience and provide another way of communicating an article or topic,” says Yahoo!’s Regional Sales Director for Latin America and the Caribbean Henry Zamarripa.
Darío Datri, Editor-in-Chief at Argentina’s Clarín.com, claims that in the Argentinean market, “Clarín is a pioneer in terms of producing multimedia content like web photo galleries and web videos—the antithesis of newspaper linking where the reader sees lists of 15 to 20 news articles that are heavy on text, small fonts, and lots of links. Clarín is a visual site where we permanently feature two to three photo galleries on the home page and most articles are accompanied by images inside the story.” Datri adds that “Clarin.com’s visual side has grown a lot, including our vertical sites and the shows and sports sections, which have a large photographic component. The sub-sections of the online edition—such as home, television, multimedia and i-eco— also feature rich image content.” Clarin.com has a sizable audience in the U.S. Hispanic market.
Gastón Roitberg, Multimedia News Secretary at La Nación, the main competitor of Clarín in Argentina, told Portada that “The goal at Lanacion.com is for each article to be accompanied by available images drawn from our large repository (including both our own photos and photo agency pictures). The [proportion] of images on our home page is very high and much higher than that of other online editions, covering 80-85 percent of the page. We’ve also upgraded our visual presence dramatically between version 6 and version 7 of lanacion.com.”
PRODUCING AUDIOVISUAL CONTENT
Regarding how Yahoo! U.S. Hispanic and Latin America and the two leading online newspapers in Argentina Clarín and La Nación produce audiovisual content, all three rely on a mix. All three companies produce editorial and audiovisual content inhouse and also buy content from large agencies, plus use material available on the Internet with alternative licenses such as Creative Commons. “We are living in a world where anyone can create high-quality content and it is important to know about the rights for content uploaded on the Internet. A good resource for all content creators is Creative Commons (an institution that develops, supports and oversees the legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing and nnovation),” says Yahoo’s Henry Zamarripa.
La Nación’s Gastón Roitberg emphasizes the potential from images circulating and produced on the web: “My opinion is that between material in the public domain and material with restrictive copyright, there is an entire area of licensing alternatives worth exploring and incorporating into business models using photos. The Internet does not seem to be a black and white area, and we need to understand that for today's audiences, “use” equals “publish,” and that publication is already social and multidirectional. Photo providers will have to adjust to this reality and be more in touch with audiences, making them partners and disseminators of their work.”
Clarin’s Darío Datri agrees that web users are producing a large amount of video and photos that have great potential. “Today, there are many videos and photographs taken by Internet users that are freely circulating and becoming popular. This material is also taken into account when editing the news.”
IS THERE SUCH A THING AS A HISPANIC IMAGE/PHOTO?
Image stock provider Real Latino Image answers this question with a clear yes. Real Latino Images is a Chicagobased firm that exclusively provides images with Hispanic/Latino motives. “This is our specialty and we will continue to add collections in order to offer you a broad variety of Hispanic images,” says Larissa Lopez, owner and Founder of Real Latino Images.
Efe’s Carranza takes a more nuanced view, saying, “In Efe’s case it is not that a photo is Hispanic, our whole photo service has been built around the concept of reporting on the Hispanic community, its culture and its lifestyle.”
Tribune Media Services’ Camarillo takes issue with the notion of a “Hispanic” photo: “I don't think that can even be said. An image is used to compliment and illustrate a story. That image can come from anywhere and anyone. The image that eventually is used will always be the one that will best illustrate and complement a story. At the same time the topics that interest the Hispanic community will require images from the Hispanic community but it does not make those images ‘Hispanic.’ Those images can also be used in other markets and story illustrations outside of Hispanic media.”
Most of the executives interviewed believe that there is still a way to go in developing the sector, but that little by little, companies are being created to cater to the dynamic times made possible by new technologies and respond to digital platform’s urgent content needs.
“It seems that except for some large agencies (newswires, Getty, Magnum, etc.), there is a long way to go, especially regarding distribution, costs, flexibility in licensing content use and interaction in social networks. Overall, photography continues to work along the principles of the analog world and in two dimensions, when in fact images are now in constant movement and we need to develop hybrid formats that are more focused on the web’s multimedia, interactive and social nature,” says La Nación’s Roitberg.
Henry Zamarripa believes that “the photo provider industry is limited in the Latin America and U.S. Hispanic markets and there is a need to increase it. The content available for niche events is extremely limited in certain Latin American countries. As content increases, the industry needs to keep developing its technology platforms in order to instantly send images with the necessary metadata to the media outlets that distribute it.”
CONTENT MARKETING/ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS...
Corporations are often morphing into media properties through so-called “content marketing.” Are corporations becoming a major factor in the demand for images and photos? Efe’s Carranza says: “Even when most of our customers are media companies, as more corporations are developing and publishing content on the internet we are experiencing more demand from this segment. They are also reaching out to us to cover events for them in different parts of the world.”
According to Tribune Media Service’s Camarillo, it is crucial to look at the way they are licensing the image.“If the corporate client is licensing the image for an advertising campaign then there is certainly a lot of money to be made. Some top photo agencies have large ‘Rights & Clearances’ departments to deal [solely] with this type of licensing. Corporate clients can also hire your photographers on assignment to illustrate their brochures and marketing pieces; there is money to be made here as well. If they are only licensing an image to illustrate an editorial piece then editorial licensing fees apply which historically have been much lower than commercial licensing. But by far the largest clientele is the editorial market.”
…AND IMAGE RIGHTS
Essentially, there are two types of image offerings from most agencies: “Rights Managed,” which means that products are licensed with restrictions on usage, including limitations on size, placement, duration of use and geographic distribution; and “RoyaltyFree” which means that products may be used by the end user multiple times for multiple projects without incurring additional fees. Licenses will vary depending on the end usage.
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