RIP Photokina, you had a good run.
One of the biggest photo industry news bits in the last few days was that Photokina is no more.1 The 70-year-old photo trade show held in Cologne has been canceled, citing the significant decline in the camera market.
They’re not wrong. By all measurements, the market for cameras2 of all sorts (from DLSRs to mirrorless to point-and-shoots) has been decimated in the last several years. And although trade shows such as Photokina are fun, ultimately they exist for a business purpose.
Prior to the internet making it easy from anyone to easily and quickly learn about new product releases, trade shows performed an important function in allowing photo industry companies to show off their new products for journalists and others in the industry. Those folks would then write about those products in their magazines or other trade publications. Eventually consumers would learn about the new releases through articles and advertising. The camera and other gear manufacturers were dependent on trade shows to help them easily reach the media who would promote their products and bring them to the photographic masses. Large photo conferences and trade shows… whether we’re talking Photokina, PhotoPlus Expo, ImagingUSA, or others all depend on trade show booth sales for a very significant portion of their revenue.
With the web, social media, and easily-distributed video, journalists and consumers can learn about new products as quickly as the manufacturers can release them. We’re no longer beholden to the trade journalist gatekeepers. The impact of the internet on magazines and other paid information media has been significant, and much as those organizations have had to shift how they do business, so must the trade shows.
If the camera, lens, and lighting manufacturers no longer need the centralized press coverage provided by a trade show, this means that the show organizers can no longer command high premiums for trade show booth space, and many companies are opting out of these shows entirely. Much like the internet has led to the disruption of various other business models, the combination of the internet along with the decline in traditional camera markets means that the traditional business model of how to run a profitable trade show is no longer viable. I see that ImagingUSA is going to attempt a virtual trade show this year; I’m curious to see how that works. Trade shows were already on the decline; the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the reality that they’re no longer a good model for the role they previously held.
There was a time when we didn’t find out the news until it arrived on a piece of paper on our doorstep, hours or days after it occurred.
There as a time when the release of a new camera or lens would only become known after a big press unveil at a tradeshow.
Times have changed. Rest in peace, Photokina and your brethren.