A recent Bloomberg article, “Twilight of One-Hour Photo, America’s Fastest-Fading Business”, painted a rather bleak picture of the photo industry. Focusing on U.S. Census data, the article stated: “The U.S. counted just 190 one-hour photo shops in 2013, according to new Census data, down from 3,066 in 1998. Extinction looms over other retail niches oriented around analog media. The number of newsstands dropped by nearly half over the past 15 years, and video-rental stores dwindled by 85 percent. But nothing can rival the 94 percent death rate for America’s photo-processing shops, which are vanishing faster than all business categories tracked in the Census.”
In an attempt to make a point the decline of analog-based businesses, the author, Patrick Clark, made a significant comparison error. It’s not the fact the film business was analog that lead to it’s decline; if that were the case, music CD sales would still be climbing and there would still be video-rental stores on every corner.
Digital wasn’t the only factor contributing to the decline of film; cost, waste and convenience played a role, too. Every exposure cost money, whether the picture turned out or not. Consumers had to wait to see their precious memories, and often had to pay for pictures they didn’t want. If they wanted reprints, enlargements or custom products, consumers had to engage in an arduous process of selecting negatives. This was not convenient or economical.
On the other hand, digital photography now gives consumers more choices over what to do with their photos. Consumers never asked for 4-by-6 prints; they took what the industry gave them. Photofinishers offered 4-by-6 prints because the paper suppliers made photo paper in 6-inch wide rolls. These were production-driven decisions.
Digital photography is more marketing driven than ever. Consumers are faced with an incredible array of choices for photo output – from simple prints to collage posters. They can print their image on porcelain, metal or canvas. Therefore, it’s important the creation and ordering process to be easy and visually appealing. This allows marketers to be create marketing messages around content and emotional appeals, rather than simple price-driven strategies.
Photo printing didn’t die, as Mr. Clark asserts. Photo printing has evolved into a convenient and affordable way for everyone to preserve their memories and to express their creativity. At Mediaclip, we work hard every day to create software solutions to enable consumers to be more creative and online retailers to be more successful. Digital choice is a key component to that.