Trackside Tuesday: The Content Economy

07/23/2014 @ 12:22 pm, by Jensen Beeler19 COMMENTS


A question I pose to my photographer friends: why should I go to your site on a regular basis? For most of the photographers I work with, their websites are more like digital portfolios — selections of their best work, maybe a couple lines of prose to art things up, and a contact button. If they’re really savvy, maybe there are password-protected customer galleries available too…probably being hosted on SmugMug or some other prosumer service.

I get why that is the case, this is the online version of the physical portfolios that photographers used to carry around (some still do) to peddle their wares to editors and fans on race day. Maybe a few years ago, that is the kind of website I would have made as well. Show off my work, get my name out there, I’m starving damn it, buy my prints! Ah, but alas that’s not the kind of website that thrives in the cutthroat digital landscape — we want more, and for free.

As a publisher, I’m constantly juggling the interests of the photographers I work with with the needs and expectations of my readers. I want 10,000-pixel-wide shots that anyone can download without a watermark; that is after all what I would want if I was a reader of Asphalt & Rubber, and that is standard I use when trying to make decisions about this site. “Would I want to read this?” is a common question I ask myself.

For photographers, the game has traditionally been the opposite online. In a world of right-click-save-as, the opportunity for someone to snatch a high-resolution photo for just about any purpose is an easy one. There’s not much that can be done to stop it — for every trick, there’s a workaround. A for every click, money is being taken off the table. They only way to make sure your photo isn’t stolen when publishing online, is not to publish it, and even then…scanners.

I feel the plight for my photographer friends, and perhaps if my own shots were any good, I’d feel just as defensive about my hard work swirling around the interwebs with nary a check coming to my inbox. The game is brutal, and by the time you’ve finally “made it” as a bona fide pro-shooter, you’re on the backs of your feet trying to protect what you’ve worked so hard to earn.

Over the course of our many adventures, I’ve had the fortunate ability to debate these ideas with my good friend and colleague Scott Jones — maybe you’ve heard of him.

I absolutely love Scott’s work, he might be one of the most technically gifted photographers in the MotoGP paddock, and he has an amazing ability to pick-up on the subtleties of situations that are happening in a fraction of a second. I love the fact that I can look his work a dozen times, and each time come away seeing something I didn’t pickup on before. For as much of a bromance that we have brewing, I have however never been much of a fan of his website.

I think we were in Austin last year when I finally asked him, “why should I go to your website on a regular basis?” For the thousands of superb photos that Scott has in his archives, for all the great content that he is creating each race weekend, there is little incentive for me as a MotoGP enthusiast to make Photo.GP (his motorsport portfolio site) a daily destination, and that’s because it does nothing for me as a consumer in the content economy.

There is this idea that the internet is content-driven, a theory which is perhaps why professional photographers bang their head against the wall every work day. The traditional philosophy that photographers can run their business online like they used to do in the brick-and-mortar days is just not a sustainable one —  the proof is in the paychecks.

But what if sites like Photo.GP were more like Asphalt & Rubber, a source for daily moto-escapism? I know that most of our diehard readers are visiting A&R while at work, sneaking a story or two each day. Others come to our site more causally, usually by links found on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or on various motorcycle forums. Our business model is simple, we try and provide the most relevant motorcycle industry stories in a digestible and sharable format. Heck, that’s pretty much the internet business model in a nutshell, right?

Well since our conversation last year, that’s the same idea that Scott has been working on for the past I-don’t-know-how-many months for Photo.GP – a daily stop for motorcycle racing enthusiasts who want a daily dose of Scott’s excellent work. It’s a pretty bold move (and probably all my fault if it doesn’t work out), and I don’t think anyone who sells photos for a living comes to this point lightly.

The benefit is a simple one though. Instead of fighting enthusiasts who “borrow” Scott’s work and share it on social media, Photo.GP has taken on a form that embraces sharing — “For the Love of God Share This Photo!” is the new battle cry, as it finally allows Scott to benefit financially from what readers were already doing, and in fact makes it easier for them to do so.

In the same way that iTunes gave the music industry a new revenue stream, while simultaneously fending off music piracy with an easier legal option, we too hope that Photo.GP will represent a new model for photographers in motorsport to not only promote their work, but make also line their pockets with ad-driven revenue, which means it’s easier for them to afford showing up on race day.

The general concept here is nothing new (another inspiration for Scott’s new site), I will be the first to admit that, yet it’s surprisingly unheard of in the two-wheeled space. I don’t know why that is, but I hope for the sake of everyone who enjoys the magnificent work that so many of these lens-swinging artists create, that it becomes the norm. I’d love to see my RSS feed full fantastic two-wheeled photography.

Since Scott is too modest to plug his relaunched website (today is its grand re-opening), I’ll do it for him instead. If you haven’t done so already, head on over to Photo.GP and check things out. Let Scott know what you think of his hard work, and how to make it better. Follow him on RSS, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+ too — we need all the moto-distractions we can get, right?

Photo: © 2014 Scott Jones / Photo.GP – All Rights Reserved

  • Thanks again for the idea and all the help to get the new PHOTO.GP web site going, Jensen!

  • TheSeaward

    The new site looks great, but I have one thing to add. Put your favorite/popular photographs for sale as cheap posters, etc. I don’t have the pockets to buy a limited edition signed Marquez photo (even if it is stunning), but I don’t mind buying a few decent sized posters to be framed at my convenience. It’s almost easier to get a high quality poster of myself on the track than it is to get some quality MotoGP shots on the wall. $95 is a big chunk of change for a small poster. It would be even more helpful if you could buy in a size that’s a common frame size. Keep up the good work Scott.

  • Justaguy

    Jensen, look up my boy Neil at Kremer-Johnson in Redondo Beach and check out their work. It isn’t bike specific, they do all kinds of work from fun ‘we had nothing else scheduled’ to commercial but Neil and Cory both were amateur motocross racers and Neil rides street now so bikes are often the subject.
    Neil’s previous life was as one of the owners of a motorsports clothing design/manufacturingcompany in Oragne County (anytime you see King Kenny sporting one of those yellow ‘bumblebee 50th anniversary’ Yamaha pit shirts ‘that was Neil’). They love to talk shop and are always looking to expand their photographic world.
    Here is the link to their page:

    Watching him transition into professional photography, I feel for anyone in the industry because it is brutal. Piracy is beyond rampant and you know better than I do that once one guy finds ‘the’ spot to photograph as soon as it’s published other photos will flock there for the same shot and crush any market value the original guy might have had. It’s a tough business man, but when I see some pics….. like the B&W Rossi one I’m a kid again reading car and bike rags with articles about 3 engined dragsters, Miss Hurst and Hollywood stars (like McQueen, Newman, Jimmy ‘Rockford’ Garner RIP) out racing in Baja or down the road at Watkin’s Glen because that is what ‘men’ do if they have the time and money.

    (I get it if this post goes into moderation or isn’t posted because of including a link but they do amazing work and that isn’t just my 40 year friendship with Neil talking, he and I ARE from Rochester NY, home of Kodak…… pics are in our blood……. or at least our ground water)

  • Thanks for the suggestions. I’ve looked into posters and not yet found a good package that will let me print a decent size and ship to customer for a price he/she likes AND make it worth my while as well. If you know of a good vendor, please pass it along!

  • Aaron

    Love it!!! Great work Scott! The site is really fun to navigate.

  • n/a

    [Quote] I want 10,000-pixel-wide shots that anyone can download without a watermark; that is after all what I would want if I was a reader of Asphalt & Rubber [Quote]

    So true.

  • L2C

    Another great one, JB.

    One of these days, glossy magazines are going to make a comeback. Just as vinyl records and hardware modular synthesizers are experiencing a resurgence, so too will glossy magazines. And big, beautiful photography books for the coffee table. Watch, you’ll see.

    Feel — tactile feedback is what we’ve been missing in the digital revolution. The old ways cannot be so easily dismissed after all. And thank goodness. Besides, more ways to have more fun and make more money means just that. But as always, the fun comes first.

    You can still buy and use paints and inks, brushes and pens and paper, easels and canvas. Pencils. Pianos ain’t going anywhere. Neither are paperbacks. Kodachrome might be dead now…

    I think the new site is a major improvement over the old version, Scott. Looking forward to how it evolves. Also looking forward to Taschen (or some worthy publisher) publishing one of your first major hardback works!

    Obligatory: Love your work, of course of course of course! ;-)

  • Thanks Aaron and L2C. I appreciate your kind words. L2C, I hope you’re right about magazines coming back. And about a book of my work!

  • I have seen Scott’s work before and love his pictures but you are right, whenever I needed a photo to say something about MotoGP or motorcycle related I would go somewhere else and get a picture. Scott’s work usually couldn’t be saved. I usually try to put a link to the place where I got the photo, some times I don’t know who took the photo specially if I get it from Tumblr. I wish people would do the same to my site and put a link. The new site is great and now if I need to share a photo I can and the watermark is perfect. I try to put watermarks on my photos too, I know they can be removed but I think most people are not out to steal photos, just share to make a point/comment. A watermark helps everyone see who took the photo. Keep up with the beautiful photography and make sure there’s a way for people to buy posters or photos without the watermark.

  • Justaguy

    L2C, I’m with you. My 18 year old niece asked for and received a record player last Xmas. Granted it has a USB input, but I still had to explain to her what the adapter for 45’s was for.

  • Justaguy

    And now I miss Road Racer X……….. damn shame that mag is gone.

  • paulus

    Best of luck with the site… will check it daily.

    Printing posters.
    I think that this is a commercial package/plug in function already online.
    A system to pay and download the selected resolution/files… and locally print. Saving shipping and still paying the rights to the works owner.
    Especially relevant to us international readers.

  • Tifo

    As said above, coffee table books. Some of the best I have seen are those by Stephen Davison showing the Irish real road racing scene and IOM TT. It certainly seems to be working for him. New books fly off the shelves and out of print ones can go for well over original rrp. I for one would love similar books in MotoGP flavour. I can’t be alone.

  • Paulus – I was going to suggest the same thing. It seems like a partnership with print shops (even Staples) would find this opportunity appealing…

    everyone wins…consumer gets unique posters. Print shop gets business & the photographer gets their %.

  • Xan

    I wanted to spend a couple of days fishing around on the new site before commenting…… IT”S GREAT!!! It does have a much more consumption feel than most artsy fartsy photog sites. I understand photographers probably eat that sort of stuff up, but for those of us who are their for the amazingness of motorcycling, the new format is much more friendly!

    I agree with one of the posts about posters. There are like 1,000 photos I’d LOVE to frame and stick on my wall. Surely there is some avenue (not that I know what it is) to allow you to either print poster sized sheets on the cheap or edit them to common sizes to allow us to go print them somewhere. If I can find posters at “insert any retailer” for 5-20 bucks, there has to be somewhere that just makes them for cheap. I’d HAPPILY pay 20 bucks for a 24×36 of many of those photos on whatever you can get them for the cheapest!

  • Jorge

    Same here on a nice photo book. Speedhunters have three out now and they all sell out quick. Maybe offer a limited edition version with a fancy cover. The Timeless Racer by Daniel Simon is a good example of offering multiple versions of the same book. Best of luck with your work.

  • smiler

    Great fan of Scott’s work and the almost forgotten but in myopinion just as good Dan Lo.

    Photography seems to be following the same route and making the same mistakes at the music industry. It is a shame that certain countries legal systems are so unconcerned about the right of people who produce work to get paid for it, both in the comissioning process but also at the consumer end. Tumblr is a great case in point where millions of people essentially hinder photographers ability to earn because it is almost impossible to find the original source of some of the amazing content. The responsibility or fault as it seems is the photographer’s for not protecting it.
    It amazes me the legal system has not branded Tumblr like Napster. People on Pinterest are as seeemingly uninterested. not bothering even to understand the subject of the photo let alone who took it. The famous TT photo:

    Most often mistaken for the TT.

    Perhaps like itunes there is or should be made provision for the photogragpic community to seel their photos online for very little. Imagine each tome someone posted a photo on tumblr, they paid 0.1c to the owner, each time someone downloads a wallpaper they paid 50cents
    The same happens to music, apps and other media content.
    Photographers can then be free to ofer teasers, free content and marketed images. As other media content makers do.
    Will it happen, not unless the judicial system starts to see all media in the same way.

    That is a shame because it has also meant as with other media content (journalism) the amateur is now becoming the professional. They are just happy someone likes their photo and appeciates it.

    Scotts idea ( a great one) exists in an otherwise completely unregulated market where the consumer is a parasite.

  • Justaguy

    smiler, going back to what I know from my friends with the company I mentioned, they have used SmugMug and a few other similar sites to offer prints and I’ve heard over and over that no matter how well they watermark as soon as it’s online it can be expected to be offered as a print on Ebay Germany within days. They gave up on trying to stop people from bootlegging and pirating and that is when they focused on getting commercial jobs.

    The blatantness of it knows no bounds. We have a waterfall in the middle of downtown here and when he was home for a funeral my friend took some amazing shots of it. Some ‘artist’ making money suckering cities into paying him to put up huge ‘murals’ (pictures) on buildings wanted to use the picture on the side of our Convention Center as part of his ‘work’. He offered to pay zero…… flat out offered to pay nothing and played the “think of the exposure you’ll get” line. Of course there would be nothing on the picture attributing it to my friend and no interviews, etc. about it other than with this artist. He relented for a small fee (like $500) becasue money is money.
    Same thing here with another picture he took of a 100 year old ‘swing bridge’ (pivoting railroad bridge) that was in the middle of the same river as the waterfall. The Coast Guard finally got approval to tear the bridge down which made the news along with the non-profit fighting the demolition. The main picture of the bridge on their website and literature? Neil’s. They only took it down after the bridge was demolished.

    It’s a tough business. I worked at Kodak’s main facility here (Kodak Park) for 15 months in the pre-digital age and had access to all 200 buildings on site. There were 20,000 employees at ‘The Park’ then, down from 60,000 when I was a kid. Today? Kodak went bankrupt, they now employ about 6500 people total worldwide and my phone does everything but create an actual photographic print

  • Great discussion, sure something needs to be done and this is a good example, smilers idea sounds like something for the future.
    However I see a problem with taking the same route as Photogp has taken, it is fine to switch to a photo/news format once you have a name and are in the loop with accreditation etc.
    But it is still very “you must work for a printed magazine” to get accreditation, starting out with a site in the format that photogp has now would make it very hard to get in to the more serious championships as a motorsports photographer on the way up.

    From my view-point the problem is magazines, printed or online, often go for the free pictures sent to them by the guys outside the fence (many of them being good at what the do), those guys want to get in but once they are there they face the same problem, no one want to pay for their work, but they must get that cover letter from a magazine to get in.
    Yes hard work and very good quality will be recognized and eventually pay off, Im just saying that there are other issues then the once above.

    These are my observations after a few years in BSB, German, Dutch and Scandinavian championships.

    Would very much like to hear Scott´s comments on this (and get feedback on my work)