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Q&A with Getty Images CEO Jonathan Klein

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** A longer version of this interview appears in MacUser Vol 28 No 18
http://bit.ly/mu2818 **

Jonathan Klein's fundamental impact on the photographic industry and the business world is beyond questioning. With admirable foresight and famously brave embrace of digital technology, this astute businessman has turned a fragmented industry into a global force, culminating in a recent $3.3 billion sale to The Carlyle Group.

The company which in 1997 represented several thousand artists and licensed less than 100.000 images, now cares for 125.000 artists, serves 1.4 million customers and licenses a staggering 30 million images a year.

Six years after making it into Fast Company's list of 50 people who 'will change the way we work and live over the next ten years', we meet Klein to discuss this evolving industry and his pivotal role within it.

Q What are your thoughts of the present day image provision market?

A The days of creative imagery being used predominantly for a print campaign are long gone. The number of platforms and ways to engage consumers has seen rapid growth in recent years and so has the ways our content is being used. Our industry is still changing, with technology presenting new challenges and opportunities, every day..

Digital platforms are creating a world where media companies need to produce and publish at increasing speed, across numerous platforms and to an ever-fragmenting audience. Connected digital devices are creating an increasingly visual world where media, advertisers and service providers need to produce offerings that address this world

To meet this need, Getty have invested heavily and made available their API and web service,
Connect, where, for the first time, we're exposing our technology, our metadata, and our content to give our customers full and direct access...

Q Today's Getty Images is fundamentally different from the one you founded with Mark Getty in 1993. You went from licensing less than 100,000 images to 30 million images a year, how did this happen?

A Quite simply technology enabled us to make it easier for people to create, distribute and use imagery. When the internet came along - and before we knew it - we were able to provide imagery digitally but at that stage, still from professional image makers, first on discs and then by download. Now we work with professional photographers as well as photography enthusiasts, through initiatives such as our partnership with Flickr, where we are working with thousands of Flickr contributors to source regional, authentic content.
Q Photographers' livelihood has been negatively affected by technology and the internet, is image provision the answer?

A For a commercial photographer, it is of course important to know the trends and types of content that customers are looking to use..We regularly work with over 2,000 creative photographers and give them insight into the types of content our customers are looking for or where we see potential demand..

On the Editorial side, it is clear to me the following principles apply and will not change: News needs to be distilled and edited. We need professional editors to wade through the information chaos, give it context, determine what is trivial and most importantly, determine what is authentic..

Q You have achieved a position of great influence, can you reflect on your personal route to the top?

A This is a tough one. I never talk about myself and prefer others to comment..suffice to point out that any influence I have is not personal but by virtue of the position that Getty Images has earned, over almost twenty years.

At Getty Images, we are a tight knit team with a very strong culture. I firmly believe that it is our culture and the way we work that has enabled our business to be so successful..We see Getty Images being a success if, when our employees end their careers, they will look back and state categorically that Getty Images is the best place they ever worked. We also strive to make it a pleasure for our customers to work with us and this is much more likely to occur if and when our employees are happy, energized, motivated and cared for by the company.

Q How does Getty Images manage to hold such a lasting attraction to highly sought after advertising clients?

A We have a savvy approach to understanding not only clients' content needs but also how to commercialize our content..as well as a strong distribution network. ..We aren't afraid of change - we embrace it... Being the first to license imagery online proved this in our early days..when others thought that customers would not possibly consider buying content online..

Q How do you personally keep up to date with what is happening on the 'factory floor'?

A I read a huge amount, try go to conferences when I can, have very good contacts in the angel and venture world so find out early and often what is happening with the wider market..I ask questions, am curious to get candid views from people and visit offices around the world as often as possible..