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.

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