The Future of ApertureExpert.com—The Question
Greetings faithful readers,
As you of course know by now, Aperture will see no further development, clearing the way for Apple's next big thing, the universal Photos app. If you've been following along here, you know I'm very optimistic about what's coming. Unfortunately, that's at best 9 months away.
Unsurprisingly, sales dropped to near zero on this site the moment the announcement was made. I've even had requests for refunds. That's bad news :-)
As you have probably noticed, this site has NO outside advertising. Every “ad” is a house-ad, promoting content either on this site, or on lynda.com where I have additional training. Personally, I hate non-relevant ads popping up on sites I visit regularly. (Especially since they are usually advertising something I already bought!) Since I have designed this site to be one that I personally want to use, I made the decision long ago to fund the site solely by sales of content. It's a good model that's proven very effective…
- Give away lots of free information — very specific, very targeted information on Aperture and it's supporting systems.
- Provide a free platform for users to seek support from one another.
- Provide advanced training (and presets, add-ons, etc.) for sale to fund one and two.
I have no intention of changing this model.
However, given that Aperture will be developed no longer, needless to say we can't just talk about Aperture anymore. We will continue to discuss Aperture for as long as Apple is supporting it, which means at minimum through the end of Mac OS X Yosemite's lifespan, but with no new features coming, and with third party development for Aperture add-ons undoubtedly also coming to a halt, what we do have to say is minimal.
So, I need a new topic
The obvious choice is to start supporting Photos.app. That is a given. However Photos won't be shipping until “early 2015”, which is at least nine months away. This site can't survive for nine months with no sales. Plus, if Photos is a really simple product when it comes out of the gate, there may not be much training needed.
Another option is to start discussing other related products and topics. However I'm not a Lightroom expert, Capture One expert, or an expert on any other keystone app. And frankly, competing with Kelby and the likes for Adobe training market share doesn't seem like a clever idea. I know I could do well enough in it, as alternate perspectives and training styles are always appreciated, however I wouldn't be entering the market with guns blazing.
I see two viable paths. Neither one is easy, and this is where you come in. I'm not saying I'll go with popular consensus here, but I definitely would appreciate your opinions and input in guiding me towards the right decision.
Option 1: ThePhotosExpert.com
This is the more obvious choice. I don't need to change much in the site other than the name (eventually), and once Photos is shipping, I can pick up essentially where I left off. There are of course advantages and disadvantages of this model.
- The site maintains focus on a single product/ecosystem. I believe that focus is important on a website where revenue is driven by product sales. (If revenue was driven by ads, then all that would matter is page views). People buy from ApertureExpert.com because they trust that the information provided is of high quality, and they trust this because they see plenty of free high quality content on the exact same topic.
- As the Photos.app user base grows, this site stands to be the #1 site on the web for Photos users, as it currently is the #1 site on the web for Aperture users. And the user base will grow, because every iPhoto user will become a Photos user. That's potentially a lot of new people.
- It'll be nine months minimum before we see Photos.app. That's a long time to sit idly waiting for a new product to talk about. And there's no guarantee that we'll see it in nine months, either.
- We already know that Photos.app version 1.0 will have fewer features than Aperture does today. So that's fewer things to talk about and make sellable training for.
- The ramp-up of third party apps that tie into Photos (i.e. plug-ins) could be slow as well. We have no idea when we'll see all the additional Photos.app-connected software that I could also provide training and support on.
- Photos could be so easy to use that no one feels they need paid training.
Option 2: ThePhotographersExpert.com
This is a much, much bigger option. Instead of focusing on a single product/ecosystem, I take the site in the other direction and open it to all photo-related software. Not just Lightroom, but every other solution out there. Everything a photographer needs. The site could at first focus on the main alternate apps, grow into covering all supporting actors, and eventually even expand to anything photo related. Cameras. Bags. Photography training. Workshops.
- The sky is the limit. I can immediately jump into Lightroom training, and rapidly add other topics, including Photos.app when it ships.
- There's no waiting period. The market is there today. And it's a huge, growing market.
- I could “bring along” the current Aperture users who decide to make the move to Lightroom. Teach them as I learn the app myself.
- I'm not an expert on Lightroom or any other keystone app. So, I need to get up to speed, and hire people who already are.
- The site would be competing with folks like Kelby, who have direct relationships with Adobe and a massive built-in audience, undoubtedly much larger than mine.
- The market is over saturated with Lightroom and Photoshop training (not sure about the other apps, but there's at least one easy reason that ApertureExpert is #1 — virtually no competition). I'd be the little fish, at least to start.
- I can't imagine quality staying as high as it is today. The site would have to become an information factory. That isn't inherently a bad thing, but finding quality trainers isn't trivial. And I'd need a lot of them.
What am I personally going to do?
As you all know I'm a working professional photographer as well. I shoot mostly commercial and portrait work in my studio in Ashland, Oregon, and use Aperture every day. I need a professional solution, too. So what am I going to do?
My intention is to continue using Aperture, and eventually migrate to Photos.app when the time is right. I seriously doubt that'll be 1.0, but I also expect that I'll start a second library, perhaps for personal or casual work, in Photos, and keep all my client work in Aperture until ready.
I will however be learning Lightroom in the interim. Why? See below…
One thing is for certain — a lot of Aperture users are going to transition to Lightroom. And for many that will be the right choice to make. I'm not going to try to convince people to stay or to switch, but instead will provide information and assistance in the quality and style that you've come to know from this site to help people decide, and then potentially make the transition.
I expect to have a solid announcement and plan to share by next week. It is my intention to develop a complete and very detailed “Aperture to Lightroom Transition Guide” for those who want to take that route. I will not be creating this in a vacuum, and I am already making business alignments to ensure it's the best guide it can possibly be. I will sell it, because it will be robust and complete and expensive to produce. And I will not promise that it'll be easy, or fun, to do. This is going to be a pain in the ass.
Support the site today
What can you do in the interim? Firstly, let me know your thoughts on options one and two above (or offer a third and fourth!). I do want to hear from you, and again I don't promise I'll go with the majority decision, but all views are helpful and valid. I feel like I need to spend a weekend in the dessert staring at lizards or something to clear my head and make the right choice. :-)
Second, if you have gained from this site, and want to see it still online a year from now, you can make a financial contribution. With sales approaching $zero the site won't even pay for itself soon. And I'd like to make a buck or two myself, ya'know? So if you're feeling inclined, feeling generous, or just want to say thanks with the hope that we'll stay online, I would certainly appreciate it.