The current pandemic has deeply impacted the global economy. It is of no question that the Image Economy is one of the most affected, both positively and negatively
Written by Jan Denecke, CEO of RYDE
The COVID19 crisis has the world in its grip, and the impact on the global economy is currently difficult to predict but already so profound that every industry is directly or indirectly affected.
It would be naïve to believe that there are industries that are an exception — the global economic web is too tight and the dependencies too high. The Image Economy is already feeling the effects in individual sectors directly, having been struck in some cases by the first outbreaks of the crisis.
Nevertheless, at first glance, there are also “winners” in the Image Economy, mainly in the areas of rights exploitation. Image Economy should be understood here in a broader sense — all goods and services that are related to the production and exploitation of visual content, such as photography, graphic design, fine arts, videos, advertising, and others.
The Increase in Demand For Visual Content
One side of the coin is that, apparently, people are consuming more content, and one can assume that demand will increase during the crisis. According to the forecast published by Strategy Analytics for March 2020, subscriptions to video-on-demand services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime will increase by 5% this year compared to previous estimates.
These numbers may be due to consumers having more free time, or the general public has become more interested in the daily events during the crisis. The rising demand is initially having a positive effect on the image industry. However, it remains to be seen whether the increase will be permanent.
Data published by BuzzAngle and Alpha Data and reported by Music Business World Wide show that, in March 2020, the number of music streams on YouTube rose by 1.3%, and TikTok downloads increased by 18%. One might agree that this situation offers digital content creators excellent opportunities to make more content available to a more vast audience and thus generate more revenue.
The Impact of The Photography Industry
The other side of the coin, however, is that in many areas, it has made the production of new content almost impossible. The photography industry is a perfect example of this. The worldwide lockdown and state-ordered “social distancing” meant that photographers no longer had the chance to press the shutter release button. Reasons are many — they either did not get the desired motive, or it was prohibited or canceled. Take sports photography, for instance. Photographers in this field are running out of motives due to the cancellation of all sports events.
What happens, then, is that it leads to enormous and unforeseeable loss of income for photographers all over the world. Areas like event photography, sports photography, and travel photography are among the most affected branches. But if production comes to a standstill, it will also become tight for the user at some point in time, since this is, of course, dependent on ongoing production to satisfy the increasing demand.
The Future is Now
The current situation has forced the world to do everything possible digitally. There is now more content shared than ever before, as personal exchanges have become deeply limited due to travel restrictions and contact bans.
The internet shows its full power and possibilities and proves that one can do many things just as successfully, though a personal exchange with the other is missing. However, meaningful pictures are necessary because an image is a form of expression that communicates or touches the other immediately. This realization will remain even after the crisis, and the demand for visual content will increase sustainably — consequently, growing exponentially.
With such a development, the demand for regulated use of images by photographers, agencies, and their customers will also increase. Illegal and unlicensed use of content will continue to grow strongly, as more of it can be recycled and re-used and not produced anew.
Photographers should take a look at how to build an environment where the use of their creations is rewarded at the end. Especially in times like these, when the next job is not expected to be just around the corner. The few pictures that can be produced in such a time should, therefore, be exploited to the maximum and at best achieve what many pictures initially already did.
Photographers sitting at home can secure income by finding and offering retroactive licenses for images already used online — recycling (re-using) their images already shot.
Therefore, I say: Qualitative recycling will be the key to success.