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The Simple Math of Photographer Xenophobia

I have written this article because the average vendor may not understand why there is no money in a photographer stealing their idea and opening a stall in direct competition. The idea we are idea thieves out to screw them over is a glaring absurdity.

The math is simple. Consider that the concerned market vendor may take $240 per Saturday in sales (and I believe that may be optimisic) for selling something we will call their Product. The individual Product is worth $40 and the vendor sells 6 of them on the day.

Let’s work backwards. With all things being equal and given no advantage of stall position to foot traffic at the market on a given weekend, the assumption has to be the same number of Product will be sold – $240 in value. This would mean $120 sales to Vendor A and $120 to Vendor B. In other words, the sales pie for Product doesn’t increase simply because there are two vendors and therefore the current sales figure is split equally between the two.

So Vendor B, who stole the idea with a photograph some weeks earlier, would rake into their pocket $120 in sales. That math should make sense.

However, there are a number of costs Vendor B would have to deduct from that $120 before working out the profit (idea theft and product replication being a profit motivated business). These costs include (but are probably not limited to):

  1. effort to reverse engineer the Product
  2. production cost to create the Product
  3. transport & storage of the Product
  4. market stall rental to display the Product
  5. tax to government from sale of the Product
  6. value of man-hours invested in the Product

Add onto those deductions something called Vendor B’s opportunity cost – the best foregone alternative that Vendor B could have been doing to earn money instead of photographing, reverse engineering, replicating, displaying and otherwise investing in the Product.

This is a very simple example but it should make one business fact obvious to every market vendor. Those other Vendor B costs far outweigh $120 in potential sales from stealing an idea and opening a market stall. That is why the feared business model of idea theft and replication via photography is market vendor’s fantasy. Neither does it provide Vendor B with any long-term competitive advantage over Vendor A to warrant the effort.

That xenophobic idea of a photography thief’s business model is clearly not viable. There is also the question of a Break-Even-Point… at what point would the photographer’s original investment in this theft return a profit? Because profit doesn’t come along until the money coming in from the business model outweighs the money that has gone out to bring that Product to sale. In plain terms – if Vendor B only has three sales of $40 each Saturday (also noting that vendors fork out for market stall rental each Saturday) then how many Saturdays would they have to invest at Salamanca Market to recoup their investment and turn $1 in profit.

To the contrary, photographers and other market patrons with mobile phones (duh) pollinate knowledge of Vendor A’s Product throughout society long after the market day has ended. Through review, recommendation and description (in words and photographs). Photographers bring their families to the market, they purchase food and local products… they support the community market business model. What’s so hard to understand about the math?

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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