Curation and Expression in the Connected World

Last week, Amazon rolled out a new service, called “Amazon Collections,” which lets consumers create a visual display of products they like, pulled from Amazon’s catalog of goods. Or as David Seifert wrote last week in The Verge, “Amazon Collections copies Pinterest’s layout to display your wish list.”

Pinterest, launched in early 2010, had more than 70 million users worldwide at the end of July 2013*, and has the potential to reshape the way in which commerce happens, as evidence by Amazon’s new service. In his article in Fast Company “Can Ben Silbermann Turn Pinterest Into The World’s Greatest Shopfront?” Max Chafkin writes “To create a pinboard is to say to the world, Here are the beautiful things that make me who I am–or who I want to be.”

So how do these two services relate to our professional lab customers? On Pinterest and through Amazon Collections, disparate individual products are curated to create a social visual representation (and purchases) that some argue is greater than its individual parts. We began thinking about this consumer behavior years ago and this past June, introduced KODAK PROFESSIONAL Collections and Creations software, to allow our professional lab customers to engage in this curation and present professional photographic output that mirrors this social, visual expression.

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Collections represent the manifestation of what in the past we’ve described as our Prints, Pages and Screens strategy into a tangible product and an actionable plan for the professional market.  We defined a Collection as a thematic compilation of photo products, such as DVDs, enhanced stills, prints, albums/books, photo gifts, and more to commemorate life’s treasured moments.  This expert curation enables consumers to:

  • Promote their memories and stories by sharing with family and friends anytime, anywhere. (digital output)
  • Produce their memories in story form. (photo books, albums and keepsakes)
  • Preserve their milestone memories for a lifetime. (heirloom prints)

The concept of Promote, Produce, and Preserve helps define the meaning of photographic-oriented Collections.  And the order of these three benefits is crucial to successful sales: Promote memories first, then fast follow to produce them in story form, and complete the collection by preserving them in heirloom products.

Photographers are encouraged to lead with socialization products; digital products that meet consumers’ primary need to showcase their important life moments in their socially connected world. Consumers’ today expect to use their professional images in the same manner they do their own images – to share them anytime, anywhere.  Once the photographer has achieved this objective, they can then move on to produce the memories in story form in albums, books, keepsakes, and more and complete the collection by preserving the memories for a lifetime in heirloom prints.

KODAK PROFESSIONAL Collections and Creations presents professional output, not as individual disparate products, but as a curated, visual representation of important life moments that enable consumers to share, tell, and preserve their milestone events.

*Semiocast, July 2013, “Pinterest has 70 million users
More than 70% are in the U.S.”

Kodak DP2 and Animoto Video Slideshow

Just a few weeks ago, more than 160 professional lab owners, general managers, and technical staff gathered in Rochester for our annual Kodak Pro Lab Workshop, which includes a blend of business strategy and technical sessions. As has become an annual tradition at the workshop, along with (sometimes bad) golf and Elvis sightings, we introduced the latest version of our market leading workflow software for professional photographic labs, KODAK Professional Digital Print Production Software (DP2), version 16.

While the full set of enhancements can be seen here, I wanted to spend some time on the Animoto Video Slideshow features for pro labs and photographers.  With DP2 v16, we have added two significant enhancements to the Animoto Video Slideshow feature.  Both of these enhancements are designed to create more selling opportunities for photographers and labs.

So what’s the value of the professional lab in offering these services, when photographers can work directly with Animoto on their own? It’s the combined benefit not of just what pro labs can help photographers do, but also how they do it.

In previous posts, we’ve talked about how soft-copy can drive hard-copy purchases. In this case, Animoto videos, showing professional content choreographed to impactful music, simply grab the consumer and make an emotional connection. Imagine a new bride and groom first seeing their wedding photos not as static proofs, but instead, as a series of images, set to beautiful music that conveys a story – their story. First come tears. Then comes the purchase – one that’s less transactional and more experiential.  Pro labs can encourage photographers getting proofs to consider presenting them in this story-telling format.

With Animoto videos, pro labs can help photographers generate business as well. Word-of-mouth marketing remains one of the more impactful ways of generating business among professional photographers. When photographing someone, whether it’s a wedding, a family portrait or school photography, there’s an inherent trust placed in the photographer. Pro labs can help create that word-of-mouth referral by working with their photographers to create a video, a digital album of sorts, to send to their clients as a “thank-you” following a photo session. Embed the name of the photographer, logo and contact information within the video, which at some point, will show up on the happy client’s social networking site. Once the video is posted, the client has essentially “endorsed” the photographer’s services to their friends and family.

What pro labs help photographers create provides an even greater return when how labs create Animoto videos enters the equation. Sure, with infinite time, professional photographers can create these videos on their own. But who has infinite time? By using a pro lab, the photographers free themselves up to spend more time shooting (and generating business) and less time behind the computer.

One Upload: To create Animoto videos, photographers need to upload images. By creating the videos through a pro lab, to whom they’re already uploading the images, photographers simply do one upload, rather than two.  It also frees the photographer from editing and sequencing the photos, all of which take valuable time – time that the photographer could use to acquire more clients.

Turnkey Service: The pro lab will make the video format ready for client delivery – both in how the video is presented (format, labeling, cases), as well as a guarantee that the images in the video are color corrected and match all the printed output. The photographers simply deliver the video to their clients when it’s ready. Again, less time behind the computer, more time out shooting.

Pay As You Grow: Pro labs offering Animoto services through DP2 v16 can create a risk-free business model for photographers, which in turn, will create more interest and use of the service.  Photographers only pay for videos sold to clients, or make a modest investment in videos for marketing purposes. We’ve made this even easier by adding the capability for the photographer to share a preview of the video with up to 30 of their clients to help facilitate sales of videos to a broader audience.

This value proposition means the photographer saves time and money while still receiving the highest quality output, which in turn, will help them grow their business.  This is the same value proposition that pro labs have built their reputation and business on all these years: Quality – Convenience – and Value.

‘From Fleeting to Forever’ – New E-Book Makes Memories Everlasting

Michael McEnaney and his co-author Greg Scoblete have covered the photo and technology industries for a wide variety of print and online publications. McEnaney, a long time industry expert, was most recently publisher and editor-in-chief of Picture Business Magazine as well as the editorial director of the TechnologyTell network. 
Michael McEnaney

Michael McEnaney

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Is there anything more important than our memories? Most of us spend endless hours snapping pictures and recording video in an effort to preserve and recall the best moments in life. According to research analyst firm, IDC, consumers take about 266 million photos each day, or about 97 billion photos every year, and those numbers are expected to rise year-over-year.

While smartphones and digital cameras have made it easier than ever to capture every fleeting moment, they’ve also created some unique challenges: many of our cherished photographic memories are locked away on computer hard drives or camera memory cards never to see the light of day again. These images are not only gathering virtual dust, they’re also vulnerable to hard drive crashes that could erase them forever.

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All of the above is why I co-authored a new eBook titled From Fleeting to Forever: Enjoying & Preserving Your Digital Photos and Videos, that explores the many remarkable things there are to do with your digital images and, just as importantly, how to protect them for future generations. For just as digital photography has created a new set of challenges, it’s also unleashed a wave of new creative services for reliving and enjoying our digital memories. The e-book includes chapters on how to better organize you growing photo/video collections, how to share your images safely and privately in the digital era and how to ensure that you can pass your digital photos down to future generations as easily as you would a shoebox full of prints.
The idea for eBook sprung from a website I launched with fellow journalist and the other half of the co-authorship on From Fleeting to Forever, Greg Scoblete. The site is www.your-digital-life.com and as you’ll quickly find we provide visitors with a daily dose of information on post-capture suggestions,ideas, services and deals in an effort to keep your images and videos alive and more a part of your everyday life. We feel strongly about the notion that they’re your memories so why not relive and enjoy them as frequently as you can?
During the book’s research stage, I began realizing that this was a subject matter that had potentially very wide appeal since everyone we talked to immediately agreed that they never know what to do with their images and videos after they capture them. A lot of people also told Greg and I that more often than not, the person who took a particular picture for them—or of them—was the only person who ever ended up seeing it.
Above all, the eBook stresses the importance of printing your images and the joy inherent in turning your digital memories into lasting keepsakes. And ultimately, when it comes to your digital photos, the truth is there’s no better way to store them for the future than to print them. Not all of them, of course, you’d go broke, but certainly the keepers.
And if printing at home simply isn’t an option for you, retail photo kiosks remain a great option and Kodak’s Picture Kiosks (Retail Systems Solutions) are still a dominant part of this landscape at retailers such as CVS, Target and Bartell Drugs.  Wi-Fi connectivity (www.Kodak.com/go/mobile) has now become a standard part of the kiosk mix so getting prints from the images on your mobile phones has never been easier.
From Fleeting to Forever: Enjoying & Preserving Your Digital Photos and Videos is available now for $6.99 at Amazon, Sony, iTunes, Kobo, Apple and Barnes & Noble bookstores. It will be available at other e-book sellers soon.

Printing is Alive and Well by Joe LaBarca

Today’s Wednesday Works comes from Joe LaBarca

Joe LaBarca Photo

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On Wednesday Works, we’ve discussed topics relevant to both the retail and professional photography industry. While we’ve talked about how as an industry we can drive printing, just as important as driving printing is the media on which you print.

First, why so much discussion of printing when some say printing is dead?  If you look at the statistics of number of pictures printed and compare to the number of pictures captured, it’s a very logical assumption because the number printed is such a low percentage.  However, let’s go a little deeper to understand why printing in general, and printing on silver halide photographic paper in particular makes so much sense.

In the beginning, there was film, and negative film required a print to be made.  While a seemingly obvious statement, as a result, you could say that 100 percent of images shots became prints. Consumers today still want prints, but they have the choice to print or not to print. So they don’t ask for every print, but rather, the “keepers” that they want to have around for months, years, and generations.  This includes consumer snapshots, as well as professionally captured images from important events such as weddings and school photography. While the amount of prints made today is certainly less than those made during film’s peak years, the number of prints made from digital is growing and the growth is accelerating, according to InfoTrends, in its January 2013 Consumer and Professional Imaging Analysis titled “Road Map 2013: Photo Printing Trends.

So let’s get the math straight – the percentage of images printed is smaller than ever because of the explosion in the number of images captured.  Many in the industry estimate that nearly 400 billion images were captured in 2012.  That’s four times more than the roughly 100 billion from film’s heyday.  And with this number growing the number of images printed will also grow even as the percentage of images printed versus captured continues to decline.  A fast rate in growth of images captured with a slower rate of decline in images printed versus captured, means images printed will grow.  And this growth could mean that prints from digital might actually meet or exceed the number of images printed during film’s peak in the not too distant future.  Bottom line: a very small percentage of a very large number is still a very large number.

So, as a professional photographer or a professional lab, how will you print this growing number of digital images?  Knowing that people want the “keepers,” as a professional lab or a professional photographer, you should consider what paper would ensure that these images last a lifetime. While there are many choices in digital printing technology, KODAK PROFESSIONAL ENDURA Premier Paper, is optimized specifically for digital printing and reflects the newest emulsion and dispersion/dye technologies to provide further improvements in an ongoing stream of benefits to the labs and the consumers. A technical paper presented to the International Symposium on Technologies for Digital Photo Fulfillment provides the technical specs of ENDURA Premier, as well as the benefits of this silver halide paper to both wedding/portrait and commercial labs. Among those benefits: the latest in efficiencies for high speed, low cost digital printing, providing consumers with greater color gamut and improved image quality. At the same time, the paper maintains the critical characteristics of excellent flesh tone reproduction and all-around image longevity that, in my opinion, simply cannot be matched by any of the other digital print technologies available today to professional labs and their clients.

“Good Enough” Not Enough

Recently, a friend of mine walked by a luxury boutique in New York City. In the front window was a large display of a super model/TV personality. She related to me the following:  “I don’t remember which model and I don’t remember what she was modeling. What I remember is the large two-foot blotch on the upper edge of the print.  Not the highly paid model. Not the luxury item for sale. Not, to think of it, the brand selling it.“

Paco Underhill, one of the industry’s foremost experts on retailing and founder of Envirosell, said “Today, the photograph in retail is everywhere—silk-screened images in windows, lifestyle graphics in the aisles, flat screens mounted from ceilings, projections on the floor, and the incorporation of images onto packaging. The creative drive has been focused on making good stuff look great.” http://click.si.edu/Story.aspx?story=787

Make good stuff look great. When I heard the story above about what should have been a gorgeous display instead tainted by the quality of the media on which it’s printed, I’m even more committed to what we’re doing at Kodak.  In recent years, lower quality display materials have entered the market, and as marketing budgets have shrunk, some brands saw using these “good enough” materials as a viable cost-saving alternative.  “Good enough” does not create great. And in this case, it created just the opposite.

We recently introduced our new KODAK PROFESSIONAL ENDURA Transparency Display Media to the market, based on the fundamental belief that our customers in this space require media that creates the most visually effective output – for large displays (such as trade-show stands and booths), in-store point-of-purchase materials, and indoor transit displays (airports, subways).

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Our labs partners and specifiers use Kodak Display media for some of the world’s most well-known brands because they know that no matter where in the world an image is printed, our media ensures consistency and the preservation of the quality those brands represent. Dominick Dunne, COO of Splash Worldwide, a technology based communications agency, said this when asked why he recommends Kodak media to his clients.

We recommend Kodak media because it is the most consistent and has the highest quality. In most offset printing applications, there are industry specifications that enable Splash to show a digital proof and know that no matter what press they will print on the printer can match the proof. The best examples of this are SWOP and GRACOL. No specifications exist in the out-of-home or in-store production business. By standardizing on Kodak media, Splash has created a de-facto standard.

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In an era where competition for consumer attention and ultimately dollars is fierce, we want to make sure that our customers have the best output to contribute to their success. That means consistency.  It means reliability. It means high quality. Our R&D continues in photographic paper because to succeed in a competitive market, our customers deserve, and frankly, need more than “good enough.”

The New Retail Era

Hans Hartman, Principle Analyst at Suite 48 Analytics, recently conducted research on photo purchasing behavior among smart phone users.  Among the key findings of Hartman’s research is the following:

The biggest bottleneck for this new generation of photo app users is not the quality of smartphone photos, as is often assumed. Only 13% of the photo app users stated that the quality of photos from their smartphone has held them back from ordering photo products. It turns out the bigger problem is a lack of innovative photo product creation and ordering apps, coupled with cumbersome creation and ordering workflows.

Hartman assets that it not a lack of interest in printing that dissuades younger and older generations from printing, but rather the lack of a workflow that mirrors their lifestyle and way of interacting with their content, including images.  Even those smartphone users older than 25 years old seek ways of tapping into their content on their smartphones that untethers them from the desktop, USBs sticks and clunky workflows.

The need to untether consumers from the desktop takes on even greater urgency as smart phones and tablet sales overtook PC sales in 2012. At the same time, mobile media growth is outpacing other forms of media, including TV, radio and even online by almost 2:1, according to Tomi Ahonen Consulting. Therefore, to reach the consumer with compelling offerings, retailers need offerings that fit in the connected environment in which the consumer lives.

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Coinciding with this technology shift, we’re also seeing a cultural shift and the birth of a new social collective.  The exponential growth of social networks has redefined the process by which consumers choose how to consume and what to consume.  

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Source: Rachel Botsman, http://www.collaborativeconsumption.com Feb 2013

The combination of technology enablers and this cultural shift requires a retail revolution in this networked age.  Earlier on this blog, Ed Monahan, in relation to the professional photography market, said “As an industry, we need to meet today’s consumers on their terms.” In the retail space, we need to do the same. This decade will continue to reset the retail experience. How consumers shop, when they shop – consumers want to be able buy anything, from anywhere, at any time.

Against this backdrop, we’re investing in solutions that  “free” valuable content from our consumers’ smart phones and tablets, via our retail solutions, and meet consumers at their primary engagements points.  

Last year at Photokina, we introduced a series of applications that help our retail partners meet the consumers at this key intersection point.  The apps include our Kiosk Connect App, which lets users create and print customizable gifts, including KODAK Photo Books, KODAK Personal Greeting Cards, calendars, photo cards, collages and prints, within minutes after wirelessly transferring their images to the KODAK Picture Kiosk.  We also tapped into the growth of social networks and introduced the My KODAK Moments Facebook App, that lets consumers tap the wealth of photos, including square Instagram prints, create photo books and prints.  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IOHgv_XSos

This is just the start. In coming months, we’ll bring new solutions and programs to the industry that work to harness the power of both this technology shift and consumer behavior. By harnessing this power, we hope to help our retail partners not only adapt to this new retail reality, but also thrive and grow.

Kodak Kiosk: Imagine

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Walk into any well-known retailer and odds are you’ll see a KODAK Picture Kiosk. That yellow box that invites consumers to create prints, collages, calendars, cards and photo books.

In the past year, we’ve developed and implemented new applications and technologies to make it even easier for consumers to engage with our kiosks and in turn, ensure our retail customers can extract the maximum value from their investment in our solutions. Those technologies have included mobile applications, in-store and out-of-store solutions and the ability to interact with images on some of the fastest growing image platforms, including Facebook and Instagram.

But images are just the beginning. We have more than 100,000 kiosks installed worldwide, working with retailers ranging from global brands to Mom-and-Pop shops. The common themes among all of these retailers, based on our expertise, are solutions that meet two key criteria: relevance and experience.

So what do we do with the portfolio and what do we do with the products? First, to create the experience, we’re heavily investing in building solutions that allow consumers to engage with kiosk from anywhere – through mobile applications, in-store, at-home, out-of-store. This comprises both technologies that easily enable consumers to “communicate” with the kiosk, as well as applications and products that consumers can easily use to create memories from their images.

Second, we’re thinking beyond the photo. This could mean books, movies, music and even personalized home goods. Through the kiosk, our retail customers can extend the relevance of their investment to broaden the content consumers can create. In the coming months, we are looking to build on the partnerships we announced last year, providing new content creation opportunities for our retail partners and in turn, new revenue streams from a current investment.

“Beyond the photo” illustrates our strategy moving forward – we enable personalized content creation. We are a market leader in the photo category, but that’s just the beginning.  Our strategy embraces better connectivity, broader content creation and ultimately, revenue driving relevance and experience for our retail partners. In the coming weeks, here at Wednesday Works, we’ll explore more of these solutions. We look forward to your feedback.