“Blink” Your New Virtual Photography Agent?

screen-shot-2016-10-13-at-5-43-01-pmRecently, a freelance photographer friend of mine brought the mobile app and desktop site “BLINK” to my attention. This app, which works a bit like Airbnb – allows subscribers to find and hire photographers based on their location. As a matter of fact – in the very few months I’ve been a subscriber I have been contacted to photograph for Airbnb as well as a company in Denmark. As with most democratic and emerging technologies – the user is able to access more talent and as a result, I’ve noticed that rights, work for hire prices, etc are less than the “old days” of freelance photography. However, it does offer real world scenarios for working photographers, and other freelancers have had positive experiences with clients through connections on this app – check it out yourself. – Erika

Why Blink Could Save International Freelancers
By Julie Schwietert Collazo
September 16th, 2015

Matt Craig was hired by The Wall Street Journal as the front-page photo editor in 2008, less than a year after News Corp. took over the paper. “It was at the very, very beginning of their visual journey,” Craig explained. “After 140 years of doing pie charts and graphs and dot drawings, they hired me and a team of other editors to go from zero to a hundred.”

Suddenly, the paper needed a massive amount of photography and videography, so management urged Craig’s team to “go out and shoot everything.”

But Craig and his in-house colleagues couldn’t be everywhere in the world; as a photo editor, he was dependent upon freelancers. This was especially true as the newspaper, like many of its competitors, started trimming staff.

“We faced a lot of problems that many other news organizations are facing,” Craig continued. “Numbers [of staff] are in flux. They’re not hiring new photographers or videographers. We were in need of producing more content than the paper had ever produced and so it was up to us to find freelancers to do all the work.”

Like any good editor, Craig had a mental black book of contacts. But as Page One editor of a newspaper that covers international news, he needed a comprehensive global network of freelance contributors. “You need to cover Fukushima, a story in Venezuela, a story in Dayton, Ohio, [and] Miami, Florida. I needed to know where every great freelancer was right now. I couldn’t put the pieces together fast enough. It was a lot of legwork, a lot of analog, a lot of offline, a lot of calling. The dots never connected.”

He also knew the situation wasn’t better or more efficient for freelancers, calling the pitch process “super broken.”

In his view, there were two fundamental problems: The first was knowing where freelance photographers and videographers were and being able to get in touch with them via up-to-date information. The second was connecting them directly with editors who were actively commissioning work.

Confident he could fix these industry-wide problems, Craig left the Journal in October 2013. By January 2014, his potential solution, Blink, had launched.

How Blink works

Blink is a platform that connects editors and publishers, who are seeking to cover breaking news around the world while containing costs, with journalists, who are trying to earn a living in a ever more densely populated field of “content creators.”

Blink proposes to connect these two groups in real-time by providing a web- and app-based marketplace where editors can find and assign seasoned journalists, photographers, and videographers quickly.

Journalists request free membership, and their portfolios are then vetted by Craig’s team before going into the global pool of freelancers available for assignments. Once reporters are in the system, editors and publishers can search for them by name, skill, or location. Freelancers, meanwhile, update their contact information as they change locations. Editors connect with the freelancers via Blink but ultimately make assignments and payments off the platform.

Eventually, Blink’s services may expand to include brokering payments, but Craig doesn’t think the timing is right just yet.

There are about 8,000 freelancers from 160 countries who have been vetted on Blink. Those freelancers log a total of about 150,000 location updates per month. Craig’s particularly proud of the fact that Blink is leveling the playing field for local photographers who would otherwise find it all but impossible to get on the radar screen of editors at outlets such as The New York Times.

He points to a “big barrier of entry that was totally unfair” for freelancers outside of urban media hubs, and especially for those who live outside the so-called first world. READ ALL

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