Paul McAleer

This Is Not My Beautiful House

Paul McAleer

The most recent episode of Back to Work, “Bold with the Scissors”, talks about agency. While it was discussed before I didn’t quite get a handle on it until this episode. Merlin Mann spells it out well, and you should definitely listen to it. The talk of the different types of agency got me thinking and helped me realize why I’m squeamish about Facebook.

But that’s another post. In this one, I want to talk about another incident I had a few months ago.

I was contacted out of the blue by a content producer from a very large corporate weather site. They saw one of my photos from my defunct flickr stream and said, hey, we love your photo. We’re putting together a slideshow. Can we use it?

All of my photos on flickr are copyrighted. That’s just how I roll and that’s what I’m comfortable with for now. So I was glad they asked. I thought about it for a few moments and replied.

I said yes - but attached a price to it.

My rationale, which I didn’t share with them, was this: you’re not getting my creative work for free. This photo is going on a page loaded with ads. You’re making lots of money on this page. Lots. And the fact that you’re doing a slideshow suggests it’s going to be broken up into individual pages - more page views and more money. So sure, I’m OK with that for a price. (I’m selling out!)

Their reply came quickly: we have no budget for this, so, sorry.

I was fine with it. I wasn’t mad. I’m not. What it boiled down to was this: if this large weather site, owned by a very very large corporate conglomerate, wanted to be an agency for my work, then they needed to share in their nearly-guaranteed profits with me. That’s all. I think it’s fair.

Using a similar context, this is what makes me feel weird about Facebook. I’m creating a lot of writing, photos, videos, and rants. I’d create them anyway. But if I put them on Facebook, they’re making money off of it and I get… likes from friends and family. Not without value, to be sure, but a very different currency.

Agency matters.