One week ago, I got an email from the Photokina team, the team behind the (former) world-leading fair for photography. Since 1950, every second year in September all eyes worldwide were directed to Colone in Germany to see the latest products and services for photographers: cameras, lenses, tools, gear, paper, printing machines, and so on.
Over the last couple of years, there was already a change visible. In my 2016 Photokina review, I already talked about it. 2018 was the last year the fair was held in the traditional way. Starting from 2019, they changed the frequency and the time of the year to face the changes in the photography business: Starting from 2019 the fair should run each year in May. (I wasn’t at Photokina in 2019, because I was in Wales at the same time). In my opinion, changing the time to May was a bad idea. It’s already vacation time. New consumer electronic products are already introduced at CES in January and for the shops, it’s too early to order products for Christmas. So, I really wonder which audience they want to address.
The other problem is, although we’re taking more photos than ever, only the tiniest part of them is ever printed and put in an album. In my opinion, more than 99% of the photos are taken with a cell phone and will never leave the device (expect from being put on FB or Instagram or being forwarded by a messaging service like WhatsApp, signal, or telegram to only name a few of them). And instead of printshops and laboratory, we only need a computer, software and maybe a desktop printer. And, we have an enormous diversity spreading from the pro wedding or product photographers to the ordinary snappers.
Over the last couple of years, we can notice an increase in camera and lens prices, while, on the other hand, the revenues of the manufacturers are decreasing. In 2015 I was asked by a fellow blogger about my opinion on the future of cameras and wrote a post on it (sorry, it’s written in German, but hopefully, this link works for you to translate it into English). When looking into it today, I see, many things I prophecized are already a reality.
Back to Photokina. In 2020 Photokina was canceled because of the Covid19 pandemic. 2021 now is also canceled because of the still ongoing pandemic and no-one is able to predict if we’re able to run a fair for several hundred-thousand visitors safely. So, this cancelation was already overdue. Now, the email is titled by “Photokina bis auf weiteres ausgesetzt” (suspended until further notice).
Now, the Photokina team has to use the time very carefully to re-invent themself and come back with a (new) concept attracting the manufacturers as well as the audience. CeBIT is an example, where the management did the wrong decisions. CeBIT is history (1986-2018). Is Photokina also already history? When looking at Gamescom (2009-), you can see, a renewed concept can make a fair successful. In the beginning, in the early 1990s, one of the fair halls at CeBIT was dedicated to gaming. Over time, gaming became more and more room. But, at some point, someone came up with the idea to dedicate a complete fair to only gaming, and it became a huge success. Even changing the location from Leipzig to Colone wasn’t able to stop the success.
As I stated above, the audience is extremely diverse in their needs and interests. Photokina could stay relevant when concentrating on pro-level photographers, and leaving out the consumer part. But, the fair needs to refinance itself by getting the entrance fees. During the last years, the entrance fee was already quite high and raised each time. So, I was wondering about many of the visitors. I had the impression their only purpose was filling the room. Many, many visitors seemed to be completely uninterested in the exhibitions. When planning with fewer ordinary visitors (this would probably re-attract more pros), the entrance fees would need to be increased even further. Although pros might be able to deduct the entrance fees from their taxes, I’m not sure if that’s enough.
CeBIT has had similar problems. Once, computer and IT were a small part of the Hannover Messe Industrie (industrial fair). Spinning the computer sector off, was a great and successful idea. But, with the upcoming success of computers, more and more ordinary people interested in computers became attracted by the fair the halls became extremely crowded. Gamescom was able to absorb many of the people interested in gaming, but still, too many people were visiting the fair making it more and more uninteresting for the businesses because they were unable to talk to their business customers. House fairs, organized by either the manufacturers or by big distributors, were taking over and the importance of CeBIT decreased. In 1995 about 755000 visitors and 7500 exhibitors were visiting the fair. In 2018 only 200000 visitors and 2800 exhibitors found their way to Hannover. That was less than during the first CeBIT in 1986.