How Social Media and Digital Photography Changed News Media Forever

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you likely know that a couple years ago I made the decision to return to school and finish my B.A.  I am now one class away from completion, and in my previous class I had to write a paper about any subject related to mass media.  I decided to take the opportunity and write about how social media and digital photography changed magazine and newspaper media for the positive.

I received a fantastic grade for the paper and thought, “this is definitely worth sharing with my readers.”  So that is what I am doing.  Below you will find a modified version of the paper, with citations linked instead of a references section.

The outline for my paper was as follows:

  • Introduction
  • Newspapers
  • Magazines
  • Digital Photography
  • Social Media
  • Conclusion

While the paper is not that exciting, I hope you learn something new from it that you didn’t already know previously.


Digital photography and social media changed the face of news media forever.  Both newspapers and magazines have taken drastic turns since digital photography became commercialized.  I personally believe that the changes were for the better, but it is very likely that there are people who disagree with my opinion.

Newspapers have been around for hundreds of years, however it wasn’t until 1729 when Benjamin Franklin moved to Philadelphia and purchased the Pennsylvania Gazette that they really began to take shape. It was at this time that newspapers began utilizing improved typography and layouts.  While Franklin’s newspaper closed its doors after his death, there were many other newspapers to continue their journey over time.  The New York Times, which opened shop in 1851 under the name New-York Daily Times, is still producing popular papers to this day.  In addition, the company has grown to include another popular newspaper, The Boston Tribune. (nytco.com)

In 1856 after The Associated Press was formed, news was being transmitted to its associated newspapers from the battlegrounds.  Illustrations were created and included in articles based on war photographs and stories.  In 1876 when Alexander Graham Bell invited the telephone, the transmission of information became much quicker for newspapers.  This was definitely a sign of the future to come for newspapers. From August 1896, the time when photographs could be printed in newspapers, they have grown as part of the daily news.  Originally, though, photographs only appeared in the Sunday issues. (nytco.com)

More recently, the Internet has become widely used around the world.  So newspapers, like The New York Times, have taken the appropriate steps to guarantee continued readership.  In addition to offering free and paid articles on their websites, newspapers are developing mobile applications so customers can read the content from anywhere and anytime.  Some of the devices commonly used are iPads, iPhones, Android phones and tablets and Windows phones. (nytimes.com) An advantage to offering electronic copies of the articles is the quality of photographs that can be viewed.  Instead of the photograph being degraded through newspaper printing, readers can view high quality photographs from their devices.

Magazines had a similar history to newspapers, but their focus is slightly different.  Newspapers are intended for people to read news and editorials whereas magazines are more about the visual content and illustrations.  Also like newspapers, magazines we a part of American history thanks to Benjamin Franklin’s General Magazine, formed in 1741. (yahoo.com)

One of the core differences between newspapers and magazines are the topics covered in them.  Newspapers cover the gamut of topics depending on what has happened in the world.  However, magazines typically have one topic that they focus on in each issue.

While Life magazine is one of the first American photograph focused magazine, I believe National Geographic is the best example of what a magazine is.  Formed in 1899, National Geographic continues to be the most popular and influential magazines. Each issue is filled with the world’s best photography, companied by extremely well written articles on topics ranging from wildlife to technology. (cybercollege.com)

Digital photography has been around since 1972 when Texas Instruments created the first digital camera.  Although the technology existed, it wasn’t until 1989 when Kodak began converting Nikon cameras from film to digital.  At this point, the Hawkeye II digital accessories created a portable way to photograph without film.  Still though, the cameras were not to their true potential.

Through the years Kodak continued to improve upon their own technology and in 1991 they created the first Kodak Professional DCS digital SLR camera.  Also converted from a Nikon chassis, this camera was priced at $20,000.  Eventually in 2002, Kodak created the DCS Pro 14n, which was priced at $5,000, and manufactured themselves rather than converting a Nikon camera.  (nikonweb.com) Unfortunately Kodak made many wrong decisions through their time racing towards the finish line of digital camera success.  In the end, Kodak’s digital photography journey ended and in August 2012 Kodak announced that they were leaving the consumer photography business.

Many manufacturers continue to do very well in the market, like Nikon and Canon.  Their innovations have shaped the photography industry and changed newspapers and magazines.  With the assistance of stock photography companies, like Corbis and Getty Images, and then technology originally developed by the government to transmit images from space to Earth, media transmission became more immediate.

In a presentation made at the Luminance conference in 2012, CEO Gary Morgan explained how Splash News disrupted the content chain and released celebrity news and gossip to Internet readers faster than ever before.  Through the use of digital photography technology, cellular and satellite transmission, Corbis (who purchased Splash News in 2011) photographers have the ability to stream photographs in real-time to a database where writes and editors have the ability to choose which to use for immediate publishing.   (splashnews.com) In the presentation, Morgan states that the company can transmit real-time photographs from camera to customers in eight seconds.  (photoshelter.com) What this means for newspapers and magazine is the ability to be the first to break important news on their Internet based publications.

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Getty Images has taken a similar approach to for their customers, but also went with a social media approach to top it off.  Social media has excited since CompuServe opened their public Internet service in 1969.  Following that milestone in history was chat rooms from AOL, blogging websites and eventually Facebook in 2004.  (uncp.edu) Search engines began to take interest in social media and in 2005 Yahoo acquired the one-year old photo sharing company, Flickr.  (flickr.net) Not too long after the acquisition, Getty Images and Flickr announce a partnership where any users can submit their photographs for possible usage in the largest stock photography agency in the world. (gettyimages.com) This partnership means that finding photographs to use in newspaper and magazine publications can be faster than a real-time transmission approach because the necessary photographs may already exist.

Social media and photography have grown together over the years.  Every week a new social photography application appears in the iTunes store for iPhones.  In 2012 Facebook acquired Instagram for one billion dollars. (cnn.com) Google realizes the potential of social media and photography and created a photographer focused social network called Google Plus.  Also in 2012, Google acquires Nik Software because of their photography software. (techcrunch.com) The fast pace of social media and the quality of photographs being shared throughout the world have changed newspapers and magazines forever.  In fact, Time Magazine decided to use a photograph taken with Instagram in the issue following Hurricane Sandy impacted the east coast. (forbes.com) This marked the first time an iPhone was used to photograph the cover of a magazine.

Demotix is another company who grasped the notion of news media and photography.  They created an iPhone application that pushes important news to users based on their location.  The user then has the opportunity to photograph whatever the news is, and have it sent to the Demotix servers.  Corbis wanted in on the idea, as a way to compete with Getty and Flickr’s partnership, so they acquired Demotix in 2012. (techrunch.com)

As you have read, digital photography has made it easier for newspapers and magazines to acquire photographs for their publications.  Another great example of technology assisting publications on finding photographs is by Internet tools like PhotoDropper.  This tool is a free plugin for the content management system, WordPress.  WordPress is a website platform used by some of the most popular news sources on the planet.  Both CNN and the Wall Street Journal use WordPress as a means of sharing immediate news not necessarily worth the front page.   By using the PhotoDropper plugin, websites have the ability to search for creative commons photographs, available to use free as long as credit is given. (wordpress.org)

As you have read, social media and digital photography have helped changed news media forever.  Every day, technology continues to change and improve on what is already there.  Some magazines and newspapers have closed their doors because of the demand of staying modern with their publications.  However, the companies who have embraced the change continue to do extremely well and will keep doing so.

New Jersey Photographer

Thank you for reading the Scott Wyden Imagery blog. I am a Manalapan, New Jersey Photographer sharing my passion for photography any way I can. I am also the Community & Blog Wrangler at Photocrati, teaching other photographers on how to increase business with their website.

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One Comment

  1. Otalia March 31, 2013 at 3:43 am #

    Congrats for the BA :)

    Actually, for me as a photographer Social Media is not only a way yo present and share my work but also a way to attract customers.
    I think the days when you are sitting in a studio and you wait for a customer to come in, are over. Now we should use Social Media to promote our work and our ideas.

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