Stacking the Deck

January 22, 2007

I just purchased a used set of stacking chairs today. I will use these for the 35mm slide shows I give to friends in my home. I realize that the purchase of used stacking chairs is not exactly compelling content (as promised) but the acquisition ties into a discussion I had with friends last week. On his blog, Tom Slee linked to a story by a photojournalist named Sion Touhig discussing how the anti-copyright lobby makes big business richer. Sion says that it is difficult to make a living in photojournalism these days and the main culprits are big business and copyright utopians.

We’re continually being told the Internet empowers the individual. But speaking as an individual creative worker myself, I’d argue that all this Utopian revolution has achieved so far in my sector is to disempower individuals, strengthen the hand of multinational businesses, and decrease the pool of information available to audiences. All things that the technology utopians say they wanted to avoid.

So what does this have to do with stacking chairs? Well I learned about the stacking chairs from a posting on Kijiji. Kijiji is E-Bay’s answer to Craigslist and both are really bad news for newspapers. Before the internet, local newspapers had a virtual monopoly on classified ads (and regular ads by local businesses). The newspapers used the excess cash from their local virtual monopolies on things like outstanding photojournalism. If you appreciate and want to support fine photojournalism I hope you will purchase some of Sion Touhig’s prints but please remember the important role my happy little stacking chairs play in his story. The world is a funny little place… I love it.

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3 Responses to “Stacking the Deck”


  1. Hello Steve
    Congratulations on the launch of your new blog. And thank you for the use of the image that helped me launch mine. Since I’ve named mine “stills” – a tribute to an essay by Roland Barthes actually – I may be knocking on your door for more of the same. I do hope you’ll use your blog as a vehicle for publishing some more of your images – they are really outstanding.
    By the way – I believe that eBay owns 25% of Craigslist now – but they have not yet been successful in prying away the rest. Probably just as well.
    Cheers.

  2. tom s. Says:

    I’m not sure about your analysis. Why would a company that has an effective monopoly invest in “outstanding photojournalism”? Obviously not to get extra readers. Do you think it was a sense of obligation?

    And given that Craigslist and Kijiji will have advantages of the of scale that Web 2.0 platforms lend themselves to (there’s only one Flickr, You Tube, etc), what will they do with the money they generate?

  3. RAD Says:

    I don’t think it is a “sense of obligation” that caused newspapers to spend money on outstanding journalism. I think it was/is self-image at work. The extra money allowed them to spend on things that enhanced their perception of what quality newspapers do.
    Craigslist is a case of disintermediation, in my opinion, rather than a case of leveraging technology to create an economies of scale advantage. Craigslist is not generating cash as far as I know. If they do generate cash eventually it will be because of the “eyeballs” they have captured rather than taking a cut of the transactions they facilitate.


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