JPG magazine: Great idea, bad business?

Like many others, I was saddened to hear about the closure of JPG, the “crowd-sourced” photography mag that started in 2004 and became a real Web 2.0 success story. I confess that I never actually saw a physical issue of the magazine, but I thought the concept had a lot of merit: a collection of the best photos submitted by a community of passionate photographers, voted on by the community and then printed and published. Printing and distributing a high-quality magazine costs a lot of money, however, and it seems JPG couldn’t quite find the business model that would make that part of the organization work.

On the first day of the new year, the magazine — backed by a consortium involving former CNET exec Halsey Minor — announced that it was folding due to a lack of funds. For many, this was the second in a series of tragedies for JPG, with the first being the ousting of founders Derek Powazek and Heather Champ in May of last year, after what appeared to be a falling-out with Minor and other backers. Many people cancelled their JPG accounts as a result, in solidarity with Powazek and Champ, and it’s possible that the friction and stresses that event put on the JPG community helped contribute to its current problems.

On a more hopeful note, there are signs that JPG could potentially be resurrected. As Mike Arrington notes at TechCrunch, there has been an expression of interest from SmugMug CEO Don McAskill, and a post at the JPG blog says that discussions are underway with a number of interested parties. I hope they can come to some kind of agreement, because the concept behind the magazine makes a lot of sense to me, and seems like a natural fit with an existing community like SmugMug’s.

14 thoughts on “JPG magazine: Great idea, bad business?

  1. Pingback: Posts about Web 2.0 as of January 3, 2009 | The Lessnau Lounge

  2. I haven't looked at a printed photo in years – except for the photo xmas cards people send. Magazines are such a powerfully inefficient (in so many ways) format to look at good photography, IMO.

    • A fair point — there's nothing like looking at a large-format, high-resolution photo on a really nice computer monitor. But I must admit that a glossy magazine with really good quality photos can be an impressive sight as well. If only it didn't cost so much to print the damn things 🙂

  3. JPG worked because it played effectively to both the print and online mediums. The website and online community thrived and the physical copy of the magazine, with its fantastic print quality and design, was a nice thing to receive in the mail. None of my photos were ever published in JPG but I'm sure that if they were I'd be ecstatic about it: there's something *different* about seeing your stuff in print vs online. That being said, like so many others I ditched my subscription when Heather and Derek were ousted…

    • I agree, Greg — there is still something about seeing your stuff in print. And I wonder how many people like you were turned off by what happened with Heather and Derek, and whether things might be different if that hadn't happened.

  4. I hope Don McAskill is able to revive it, because he has a clear understanding of what the community meant to the publication. In my view, JPG mag ceased to exist the day they ousted Derek and Heather and turned their back on the entire community that had formed around their ideas. It was a great idea and viable. But not without the support and participation of the community as originally intended at launch.

  5. The story is quiet simple… it seems that when Derek and Heather left JPG, the real spirit of JPG Magazine disappeared. A poor administration and a weak business model made the magazine fail economically. But I would very much like to know where are the mistakes, what was wrong and why, if the idea was so good, the potential investors can not reach to an agreement with them … too many questions for a quiet simple and logical idea.

  6. It is pretty clear Minor of CNET has over spent and he is trying to pick up some cash by dropping JPG

  7. It is amazing to look at the great upswelling of support from jpg users after they heard the news. 15×100.com, a site founded by all jpg users, started a savejpg site, that received more than 100,000 hits in its first 48 hours of existence. You can check out much of the discussion here: http://www.savejpg.com/?p=3 The community that made jpg great is trying to rally together together to come up with creative ideas(and funding…) to keep the site alive.

  8. hopefully jpgmag can be bought and not changed.
    smug mug is a stupid name, and sounds to me very clickish.
    jpgmag is founded on the average joe taking pictures.
    and the community actively contributing their opinions, praises and tips.
    there is a grand freedom at jpgmag, and I personally have tried redbubble and flickr and they in no way compare (they are set up very much alike) to what jpgmag has.
    with the community in an uproar over the sudden announcement of folding, I would hope investors will jump at the opportunity to pave the way for this yellow brick road to stay open….like nikon or canon….

  9. I don't think Heather and Derek leaving had much to do with the failure of JPG. It is pretty simple: the amount of overhead to host and maintain the what amounts to a free site, staff the operations, and distribute a hardcopy magazine cannot be balanced against the ad revenue. No subscription model is going to save this.

  10. hopefully jpgmag can be bought and not changed.
    smug mug is a stupid name, and sounds to me very clickish.
    jpgmag is founded on the average joe taking pictures.
    and the community actively contributing their opinions, praises and tips.
    there is a grand freedom at jpgmag, and I personally have tried redbubble and flickr and they in no way compare (they are set up very much alike) to what jpgmag has.
    with the community in an uproar over the sudden announcement of folding, I would hope investors will jump at the opportunity to pave the way for this yellow brick road to stay open….like nikon or canon….

  11. I don't think Heather and Derek leaving had much to do with the failure of JPG. It is pretty simple: the amount of overhead to host and maintain the what amounts to a free site, staff the operations, and distribute a hardcopy magazine cannot be balanced against the ad revenue. No subscription model is going to save this.

  12. Pingback: JPG magazine: Great idea, bad business? : Chuqui 3.0

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