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Now that in many parts of the world we’re slowly moving beyond the most immediate crises imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is a good time to reflect on how to move forward. What’s more, what can we learn from the opinions of fellow photo and video industry executives and entrepreneurs?

We will discuss the long-term ramifications of COVID-19 for our industry more in depth at our October 14-15 Visual 1st conference, but in the meantime, I’d like to share some perspectives of my partner Alexis Gerard and myself, based on the responses to our COVID-19 Mitigation and What’s Next Survey, which we recently conducted.

(You can download the complementary survey report here, which includes the verbatim answers to all open questions).

As industry analysts we’re naturally focused on spotting new paradigm-shifting trends that might be appearing on the horizon – all the way from the days when Alexis foresaw that the shift from film to digital was inevitable, and its consequences far-reaching, to yours truly stressing the same for the mainstream migration from standalone camera photography to smartphone photography, to us both advocating the development and use of open APIs to replace closed ecosystems, to us stressing the growth of hybrid short-form videos, AR, heuristic imaging, and many other phenomena that have or will become mainstream and (at least partly) replace the old way of doing things.

But sometimes that trend emerging on the horizon keeps evading us and adoption develops more slowly than expected – unless there is a crisis, downturn, or recession that disrupts things in a major way, as portrayed in this excellent article by Om Malik published recently. Momentous events don’t so much trigger completely new behavior as, more often than not, turbocharge the adoption of behavior that was previously confined to early adopters, he observes.

We’ve probably all used Facetime, Skype or some group chat application in the past – now Zoom has 300M daily participants, Slack has seen 10M simultaneously connected users and Microsoft Teams has more than 75M daily active users. We might have had products delivered to our homes but few of us it used it as our standard way of shopping. Now it is the default mode of mainstream America, triggering Amazon to hire an additional 175,000 delivery people and Instacart 250,000 extra shoppers.

We have seen two years’ worth of digital transformation [compressed] in two months,” noted Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in a call with Wall Street analysts after reporting earnings that were just shy of astounding, as quoted by Malik.

Conducting more business online – a theme throughout our survey – might not be that spectacularly different from what happened in the past, but for many photo or video industry vendors (or their customers) it could mean the genie is out of the bottle and there is no turning back.

Malik makes another observation about the economy at large, which raises interesting questions for our photo & video industry.

Disruptions, downturns, and recessions make the weak weaker and the strong stronger. The 2001 downturn turned telecom and cable giants into the Internet’s gatekeepers. Microsoft emerged victorious with its Internet Explorer. During the 2008 financial crisis, when cash was king, the big banks — JP Morgan Chase, for example — became more prominent and more pervasive. In a similar fashion, the present pandemic is making big tech bigger.”

Today it is Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook who are all doing really well, especially considering that major parts of their businesses are being hurt by the pandemic and global downturn. Big tech companies are the COVID-19 winners.

But how about our photo & video industry? We are seeing quite the opposite. For one, the big players weren’t that strong to begin with (for instance the large digital camera vendors like Canon, Nikon, Sony, or Fujifilm), or their businesses were 100% tied to the physical production and/or sale of printed photo products (in the US: Shutterfly/Lifetouch/Snapfish; in Europe: CEWE, which sells and distributes much of its print products through physical retail stores).

Unlike what we see in the tech world at large, the big photo & video ecosystem players are not likely to be the winners whose tech will accelerate the masses’ transition to the New Normal.

Who could be the winners instead? Youngsters and millennial-focused social media companies, the likes of Instagram, TikTok or Snapchat, assuming they can make the leap to mainstream adoption? Digital or Internet-first companies that have added photo print products, the likes of Google and Amazon, assuming they can convince the masses that their photos and videos will be safe in privacy-secured hands? Smartphone vendors, the likes of Apple, Samsung or Huawei, assuming their general-purpose devices can become the photo/video capture devices of choice? Or some yet unknown innovative startups that could successfully jump into the void and find rapid adoption?

Stay tuned – we’ll find out, and it wouldn’t surprise us if we did so sooner rather than later!

[Photo: Anna Shvets on Pexels]

Mark your calendar:Visual 1st 2020 will be Oct. 14-15

And a few more COVID-related things…

Borussia Mönchengladbach. “Stay at home, be in the stands” campaign. German soccer team Borussia Mönchengladbach enabled its fans to upload their photos to order personalized cutouts, with which the club filled 13K seats in its 55K-seat stadium. Who said photo print products can’t be creative?

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Canon. Counting heads. Spurred by the pandemic, Canon announces The Crowd People Counter, video content analysis software which can provide event management teams and law enforcement agencies the ability to gather crowd size data in real-time. The Crowd People Counter software can detect up to 88,000 people in maximum resolution, or 9,000 people in Full HD.

Google. Measuring social distance. Don’t know how far 2 meters (6.5 ft) is? Google launches an AR tool that shows a virtual 2-meter indicator surrounding you. Android only. Nice touch: no app required, just launch the tool at in your Chrome browser.

Skylum. Donating $. Photo editing software developer, Skylum has donated $118K to 3 prominent organizations that are on the front lines of the pandemic, corresponding to a pledge to donate $5 from every purchase made on in April. Almost 25K customers contributed to the cause.

Shutterfly. Donating $ among other thingsShutterfly has donated more than $750K to organizations that are helping communities most in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Shutterfly has also partnered with stock photography company Scopio to deliver over 18,000 photo prints to residents in six elderly care facilities throughout New York City. Until August 30 Shutterfly will also donate a cloth face masks to local Feeding America food banks for every face mask the company sells.

Picanova. Donating masksPicanova (and its MEINFOTO brand) has now donated a total of 70K face masks to medical clinics in Germany.

CirceGraphics. Donating face shields, signage, gownsCircleGraphics is now producing face shields and donates materials for hospital gowns. In addition, the company produces free signage for hospitals and COVID-19 testing sites.

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Hans Hartman

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