There’s an old saying in French: Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (the more things change, the more they stay the same). This is true in our industry as much as it is anywhere. There are discussions and fears all over about new technology and its implications, especially as it relates to value. It has always been thus–especially in advertising.
When radio came about, it took a while for previously print-only advertisers to get the hang of the new technology and for companies to figure out how best to exploit it for financial gain. Same for TV. Now the same thing is happening with the ‘net and broadband services in general.
However, as the money pulls back from traditional TV, more and more is getting spent in web-based advertising. Also, newer technologies may permit a greater integration of TV and targeted advertising that we’ve hardly dreamed of–imagine watching a show and seeing a product you want to know more about–click on the product with your TV remote to be taken to that product’s site, on the fly, where you can learn more and even order it. That isn’t too far out there any more.
This presents photographers with significant opportunities, if we keep our heads about us. In the short term, yes, pricing and value are going to be difficult to quantify. However, rather than assuming the lower potentialities, try to look at the greater ones. In time, the prices and costs for these newer media uses will, I believe, rise to reflect their greater value to the advertisers and we should be ready to reflect this in photography license prices. That will be easier to do on the higher end if we push for greater prices now, rather than lowering the bar.
Of course, for those of you who are using media buys as a factor in your license prices, these new uses pose a difficult problem. Until the media is quantified (which will be done by others than us) there is little to go on for pricing. For these uses, I suggest perhaps doing a variation like determining the number of potential “eyeballs” and charging for each of them. Ask a client how much reach, in terms of people, they expect to get, then multiply that by something between tenths of a cent and a couple of cents per potential person.
After all, web banner ads, for example, are priced all over the place, but usually based on CPM (cost per thousand impressions)–like for BusinessWeek.com, 1 million impressions would cost $40K to $108K, depending on the banner size (that’s $40-$108 CPM). $40 per 1000 means the media costs 4¢ per appearance. Pricing your usage license a few tenths of a penny per view would seem a more than reasonable valuation (.5¢ would be 12.5% of media cost–a significant percentage from the advertiser’s point of view, but it is, at least, a starting point).
Of course, I’d prefer those numbers to be higher. $5000 for a million eyeballs seems pretty low to me. However, at the very least we can make a credible argument for it. As the valuation of web use shakes out for the media, it will become easier and easier to determine the relative value of imagery within those uses. In the meantime, this gives us some logical place to begin negotiations.
As I’ve said before in all my writings about pricing, I’m not married to these numbers. I want photographers to push for the highest prices their images’ values will bear. I am simply trying to find logical quantifying methods and provide credible arguments for their defense.