UPDATED: Interview with Diederik Meijer, editor of new iPad photo magazine “50pm”

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“This is what 50pm stands for: independent, unsubsidized, no corporate sponsorships, just a small team sharing our passion for photography with people around the globe.” —Diederik Meijer, editor in chief, 50pm

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It’s one thing to complain that the ubiquity of imagery has eroded the value of photography. It’s quite another to try to do something about the problem. 50pm is a new photo magazine that seeks to create “new audiences for top-level documentary and fine-art photographers,” cofounder and editor in chief Diederik Meijer tells me, writing from his home base in Amsterdam.

That’s an ambitious goal, and Meijer and his 50pm cofounders, Michael Itkoff and Taj Forer of Daylight magazine, have raised the stakes for their endeavor by publishing their bimonthly magazine using a platform that has yet to reach critical mass: the iPad. (A side note: There’s a launch party in NYC on Friday, March 4, for Daylight Books’ first full-length monographs: Bruce Haley’s Sunder and Alejandro Cartagena’s Suburbia Mexicana. More details here.)

“Marketing is a huge challenge,” says Meijer, who is also the founder of the online photo magazine Bite!. “iPad penetration into our standard audience of documentary and fine art photographers is still low. This means we need to reach out to audiences beyond our own networks, which takes time and energy.”

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The inaugural issue of "50pm" was themed "Family Matters."

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Still, there is reason to feel encouraged. Wired magazine’s Raw File blog gave 50pm the thumbs up not long after it debuted in December and linked to a video preview of the magazine, which led to a nice spike in sales. “Half of 50pm‘s first issue’s downloads occurred in the days following a review on Wired‘s photography blog,” notes Meijer. In fact, I learned of 50pm through Raw File.
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UPDATE: Got an opinion on this post? As a special SMart offer,
Meijer is giving away a promo code to the first three iPad owners who comment on this interview. If you want to check out 50pm on your
iPad for free, this is your chance!

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So far, Meijer and his collaborators have released two issues of 50pm. The first centered on family, with contributions by Chris Verene, Hee Jim Kang, and Elizabeth Clark Libert, among others, and the second focuses on sports, tackling questions such as “What is it with sports and Mao Zedong?” and “What does the bodybuilding scene in the Middle East look like?” They’re now working on issue 3, slated to hit iTunes April 15. “Various ideas are being considered—China, passion, landscape and nature,” says Meijer.

If you’re risk-averse, you can always try the free “lite” version of the magazine, available at iTunes’ app store. Though if you are indeed iPad-equipped, why not go ahead and buy both issues. If we in the photo community don’t support each other, why should anyone else?

Here’s the full text of my interview with Meijer…

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Stockland Martel Blog: What was the inspiration for the magazine, and how it was conceptualized?

Diederik Meijer: 50pm aims at creating new audiences for top-level documentary and fine-art photographers. Photographers face a lot of challenges—decreasing print numbers, increased competition from professionals and amateurs. We are flooded with images every day, and my impression is that images have decreased in value in the general public’s perception as a result of that. A big part of why 50pm came about lies in trying to create a product that is based in some of the best photography in the world, and that adds value to the general public’s life.

In making 50pm, it has become clear that in trying to win this audience over, there are specific challenges. I believe that, for a general audience, the photography in the magazine is only a starting point. What they are looking for is story and entertainment. We provided that by loading the magazine app up with state-of-the-art Web integration, which is a great way to position the magazine within the realm of new media. So when a text added to Tomasz Gudzowaty‘s photo essay on synchronized swimming talks about the history of this sport and how it was promoted in the ’50s by Esther Williams’ aqua-musicals, we have added a multimedia tab button through which users can see a YouTube stream with clips from one of Esther’s movies put to contemporary dance music.

The aim is to make 50pm a guide to the best photography in the world, suitable for a general audience, that has so much added content that hours of user experience are guaranteed. In addition to YouTube streams, we have selected shortlists of selected additional online reading resources and our own news ladder, compiled from the ten photography blogs and resources that we find inspiring. All of the extra content is streamed into the app, so users can navigate easily between core content and additional content. Bonus materials include an on-board photofilm [multimedia content included in the app that can be viewed without an Internet connection].

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A photo by Chris Verene from the "Family Matters" issue of "50pm."

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SMB: Who is the target audience?

DM: We are constantly making efforts to understand what a general audience wants with photography and photomags these days. It is my impression that a general audience tends to experience a photo essay as a set of individual pictures and appraises the photography based on that notion. For this reason, our editing makes sure that every single image in the magazine app is so strong that it can stand out by itself AND is essential to the storyline of the photo essay as a whole. This raises the bar significantly as to what we can publish.

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SMB: How is 50pm curated/edited?

DM: Curation is done by the three of us: Michael Itkoff and Taj Forer of Daylight magazine and myself. In the end, I have the final say, but I listen carefully to my U.S. team members. Their vision and knowledge is very important.
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The current issue of "50pm."

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SMB: How did you determine the price for 50pm?

DM: The price is $1.99. The first issue, which is now a back issue, is offered at a 50% discount. As a rule of thumb, print and distribution make up 80% of the production cost of print media, with editorial, etc., being the remaining 20%. Those are now replaced by Apple’s 30% commission, setting revenue per sold item at $1.40. Multiply by five, and a comparable print magazine would cost $7.00, which would be a competitive price.

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SMB: How are you marketing the magazine?

DM: Marketing is a huge challenge. IPad penetration into our standard audience of documentary and fine-art photographers is still low. This means we need to reach out to audiences beyond our own networks, which takes time and energy. To give you an example: Half of 50pm’s first issue’s downloads occurred in the days following a review on Wired’s photography blog. At the moment, it’s peeps who love technology and gadgets, who own iPads. Wider audiences still need to follow. This is also visible in the app store. Almost every app in the photography section does something gadgety. There are close to zero real, top-content, photography magazines in there. This will change in time, and we are very glad to be the first in there.

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A photo from Andy Day's series on free runners, from the Sports issue of "50pm."

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SMB: Can you give us some highlights from 50pm?

DM: Highlights from the latest issue: I personally like Any Day‘s free-runners’ series a lot. I am an underground kind of guy. So this series about guys jumping from one building to the next, outside the realms of any type of organized and structured sports championships, really takes my breath away. In a way, this is similar to what 50pm stands for: independent, unsubsidized, no corporate sponsorships, just a small team sharing our passion for photography with people around the globe.

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Thank you, Diederik!

Download 50pm at the iTunes app store right here.

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One Comment

  1. Posted 03/02/2011 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Its good to see photography magazines embracing the iPad. Its a perfect device for showing off people’s work and I look forward to more photo mags on it.


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