Sponsored Editorial Photography?

There was a great post a few days ago on A Photo Editor titled “The Future of Editorial Photography is Sponsored” which I wanted to take a moment to weight in on. Rob Haggard interviews photographer / director David Clifford (how long will it take to come up with a word that means both these things) about new work of his that looks like editorial but has corporate sponsorships. “I think it’s going to be more effective for companies to pair up with editorial photographers, give them products or people with interesting stories and tell them to go produce something worth watching”, writes Haggard. I think this is an interesting trend and a natural progression as we move forward.

Technology has always been great at cutting out the middleman. For a long time it was hard to get a significant opted in audience, especially hard for corporations that wanted to sell them products. Thus they would find something people liked and sell advertising against it – sporting events, tv shows, and magazines. In a real sense editorial photography has always been sponsored, it’s just been one step removed – magazines would take the money and then hire content producers to make whatever they thought their audiences needed. This worked great because everyone got what they wanted, magazines could serve their readers, advertisers could reach them, and photographers (writers, designers, etc.) could work. As technology evolved, specifically with the internet, we as consumers have grown tired of and become desensitized to advertising.

DVRs, downloaded TV shows, event plugins for our browsers allow us to skip advertising. We also have more places to focus our attention, if a boring ad comes on during the show we are watching, we pull out our iPhone and check Facebook. In essence, there are a lot of interesting things we can have access to at the same time, what ever is most interesting gets our attention. Nearly all ads are really boring, it’s just clearer now that we have other options.

Now there are a million ways to reach an audience if you have interesting content. The idea of something going viral is based on it being so interesting that it’s a must see, it doesn’t matter if it’s an ad, a home video, or just a great story. What is happening now, and perhaps has been all along, is that corporations are beginning to notice. They’re building their own audiences and hiring their own content producers to help tell stories about their product. Anyone will realize that the story of an up and coming runner, with all her hardship, struggle, and endurance (who happens to wear Nike shoes), is more infinitely more interesting then an ad showing the top features of the shoe. Those who will strive in the coming years will be those who find unique fascinating ways of telling stories about things that people care. Strangely this has always been the case, everything and nothing has changed.

Image by AGrinberg