RIP Popular Photography

Popular Photography magazine has ended all media operations, with the March/April edition marking the final copy of the publication’s 80 year run.

The first edition, printed in 1937.

Eric Zinczenko, CEO of Bonnier Corporation, which owns Popular Photography, attributes the closure to digital technological advancements and improved smartphone cameras, resulting in a loss of ad revenue and audience support.

‘Unfortunately, the photo industry is an example of where this disruption (digital technology) has forever altered the market. The rise of smartphone-camera technology and its increasing ability to capture quality photos and video and instantly share them socially has dealt the photo industry formidable challenges,’ he wrote in an e-mail to colleagues.

‘For our brands, these industry challenges have left us with insurmountable losses in advertising and audience support. Despite the extraordinary efforts of our committed colleagues at Popular Photography and American Photo [another of its imaging publications], as well as our best attempts corporately to find a sustainable path forward, we are simply unable to overcome these market forces.’

The announcement was suddenly made to the magazine’s contributors, with the editor-in-chief Miriam Leuchter telling them ‘our recent March/April 2017 issue will be our last in print, and while both of the websites may stay up for a while, as of Friday we will cease to post anything new’.

Allen Murabayashi, chairman of PhotoShelter and a commentator on photo industry issues, suggests a significant contribution to the magazine’s downfall was due to it being a content aggregator. It wasn’t selling premium content – its pages often features how-to tutorials and buying guides – information easily found elsewhere (on the internet) for free.

Its enthusiast and consumer photographer audience, which apparently shrunk, was no longer buying it.

Popular Photography launched in New York City, 1937, and became the largest circulating imaging magazine.

It attempted to survive by moving to a bimonthly printed edition from a monthly, and running an online edition through Popphoto.com. But this wasn’t enough.

Contributing editor at the magazine, Jeff Wignall, said the magazine may have succeeded if Bonnier focussed on delivering better online content.

He said the website began with ‘a lot of energy flowing into it’, but was eventually abandoned and became ‘lame’.

‘Ironically, for a print magazine to survive is if it has a good partnership with an online edition of the magazine. Without that there is a sort of breakdown in communication between the print reader and the online person,’ he said.

He said it came down to a ‘lack of belief’ that the photo industry and community would support a ‘big website’

The magazine peaked at a circulation of almost one million, Petapixel writes, but that shrunk to around 320,000.

It could be found at most newsagents in Australia.


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