Publishers need better photography to stay relevant on the web

Today a sluggish economy and tectonic changes in the media landscape are squeezing editorial outlets. Publications understand that they need to compete on the web and in social media, and to compete they need to maintain a hyperactive content cycle. A handful of long articles every month won't cut it. With a requirement for daily content, hiring two creatives for every story is an unaffordable luxury. Since, through a sort of institutional inertia, the writers have remained the prime movers for most media outlets, publications have addressed this problem by asking authors to take up photography on the side. The results: predictably poor.

The irony of this situation is that it is happening at a time when the visual image is achieving ascendancy.

AN EXAMPLE Last September USA Today unveiled a new website design devoting prime real estate to photography. Somebody in the design process understood the visual nature of the web—photos sell stories and increase click-through rates. The layout highlights photography and dedicates the entire area above the fold to images on many pages. The design is smart and attractive, but although the designers understood the value of the image, the editorial staff has yet to catch on. USA Today doesn't seem to be commissioning photos to fill this space. Instead they are relying on writer-supplied images with the occasional wire or stock photo.