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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Race Photo - Sunset Industry?

Following my last post, the Australian director for SuperSportsImage has given an apology to Running Shots. His apology can be found on one of the Running Shots comment posting. Check it out. So since apology given, and no offence taken, I shall let this matter rest and move on. But one thing strike me while mulling over the whole episode.

The way I see it, his major grouse is the competition we guys gave him. We were a big threat to his profit margin . After all, he had to incur costs in getting photographers to shoot for him, then do backend processing etc. A lot of works involved and with us around, there was no way he was going to make money not less recoup his cost. I guess he was afraid that we were going to kill his business.

But on hindsight, this area of sports photography. Is it a sunset industry? I wonder how many people nowadays actually will buy race photographs. Over at Running Shots, we don't sell photographs. But we do charge a very nominal sum for high resolution photos. Even then, despite covering more than 80 events this year, todate we have received only requests for not more than 15 photos. Certainly none of us are laughing all the way to the bank. And we are not killing SuperSportsImage or Marathon Photo or FinisherPix business.

The fact is nowadays people simply do not keep hardcopy photos unless they are real important. For normal photos, most of us are content to just keep them in soft copy format on our computers, tablets and phones where we can look at them any time, any place. And they don't take up space, not like those chunky photo albums. And there is no need to spend tons of moneys to print photos that we will look at probably just a few times after which the albums will be relegated to the drawers to be opened maybe once or twice a year. Just look at the photo finishing kiosks that used to be so prevalent in all HDB estates. Most of them are gone now. Only a handful remain and to survive, most of these places have to offer other services such as photocopy, selling photo frames etc and value added photo printing. My point is selling race photos is like selling photo films. It is a dead business. That is why Kodak went bust. Because it did not know how to innovate and meet the new challenge. With rapid change in technology, businesses cannot continue doing things the old way.

So I think for SuperSportsImage or the others to survive, they need to think out of the box. Do not simply sell the softcopy or a hardcopy with timing. The majority is not going to go for that, at least not at the prices that these people charges. Think of how to entice people to buy their photos. One innovative way is to partner with the event owner to build in the cost of the photo into the race fee. Like what Great Eastern did for the recent Great Eastern Women Run. GE bought up the rights to all the photos and gave it to the participants FOC. That is probably the way to go. Work with the event owner, bundle the cost of the photos into the race fee. The participants automatically get a photo after the race, the event owner get happy customer and the photo service provider smile all the way to the bank! Imagine if he just ask for $1.00 for each registered participant and there are 10,000 participants, that will be a cool $10k. Compare that to selling say 200 photos at $40.00 which will fetch him only $8,000.00 if he can sell 200 photos in the first place! 

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