Tuesday, May 15, 2012

No Surprise: Sports Photography is a Deteriorating Market


On SportShooter.com one of the hot topics these past few years has been USPresswire. While many are upset with them, to me they are just like Getty or Walmart. The business model is working for them, but taking out a lot of professional sports photographers in their wake.

Much of this blog is based on my reading of the book Beating the Commodity Trap: How to Maximize Your Competitive Position and Increase Your Pricing Powerby Richard Anthony D'Aveni. Read it for a more comprehensive understanding of avoiding being a commodity than I am giving here.

D'Aveni says, "The arrival of a dominant low-end player shakes up the market power of the industry, as Southwest did in the airline industry, Dell once did in computers, or Walmart is still doing in retailing. It is very hard for incumbents to compete with these disruptive players using their existing cost structures."

These are the signs of a Deteriorating Market for D'Aveni
  • A dominant low-cost competitor has emerged in your market, disrupting the status quo.
  • The economies of scale enjoyed by the disrupting company make it impossible for you to compete on price.
  • Customers are less and less willing to pay for additional benefits such as superior service and industry expertise.
  • Your margins are falling and you are losing market share, even though you have lowered prices and product benefits to catch up with the competition.

We have to concede the low-end price market and step aside. Photographer John Harrington talks about a client of his chose another photographer for something he did annually for them and were disappointed. The following year when they came back to John he realized he had a niche´. John not only got the job but he raised his price knowing they didn't want to get burned again.

I don't think there is a quick fix to the deterioration of prices being paid for coverage of sporting events.

I do think where there are no spec shooters and low ball photographers shooting events are places for profit to be found.


If we are not careful we will become like moths drawn to a flame. We need to remember the saying "Don't fall in love with the car." It will make it difficult for you to make a sound business decision.

If you have fallen in love with standing on the sidelines of sporting events with your camera, you are prone to helping deteriorate the industry even more. Once more you will deteriorate your own bank account to support your habit.

If what you offer (photography) is similar to a large group of photographers then you are just a commodity and the low price will always get the job. Basically, you can't tell the difference between one company's product and another's. When something is viewed as a commodity, it generally means that the only difference is the price tag.

If you cannot distinguish yourself from other photographers in a way that customers desire, you will have a very hard time making a living. Sometimes you may have to leave a certain niche´ due to saturation.