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Photokina: Don’t blame Covid

Gary Pageau, publisher of US-based photo business website, The Dead Pixels Society, made some astute observations on the demise of Photokina which we re-publish, with thanks, below:

Photokina is a victim of an on-going macro trend in business. Yes, the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic certainly played a part in the trade fair’s demise. But Koelnmesse had already embarked on steps to make Photokina relevant, including shifting to an annual schedule.  (Probably more distressing to long-time attendees was the shift of the event from the traditional autumn/early Oktoberfest timeframe to the spring.) The fair’s biennial schedule made sense in an analog photography world when technology was shown under prototype in a booth’s back room, not to be brought to market until one or two years later. In the digital world, entire companies and market segments can come and go in that two-year timeframe.

Also, the trade-event industry has struggled for more than a decade, across all channels. Big exhibitions with expensive booths and media launches are no longer necessary to launch products. For companies selling large capital equipment, it’s probably more cost-effective to fly prospects to a destination to wine and dine them than to set up a large tradeshow booth and hope the prospect actually shows up for the booth appointment.

Further, big exhibitors can afford to put on their own events, which gives them the opportunity to control the audience and the message. That’s why big firms like Apple, Microsoft, and so on departed CES years ago and have their own conferences and press events. They don’t have to wait for a trade show to launch products and get media attention and customer feedback/orders (two of the primary goals of a trade show). Market consolidation also comes into play; there are not as many customers to talk to anymore. When HP can sell 60 Indigo digital presses to one customer, why do they need to have a booth at a trade show?

For many entrepreneurs, however, a trade show event was a great marketing tool. PMA show attendees would come for the glitz and glamour of the Kodak, Canon and Nikon displays but usually find the real innovation in the 10×10 booths in the back. Those ‘super-saver’ booths were Kickstarter before Kickstarter was a thing, a percolating launchpad for new companies and products. With large-scale exhibitors abandoning shows, these events can’t survive on just mid-size and small booths.

Future of trade events

The demise of Photokina, PMA and other shows (such as our own Digital Show) is sad for the industry. Fortunately, in response, a series of conferences and other events have risen and even grown to serve their markets. Photo retail buying groups like IPI Member Network, PRO, Futuresource, United Imaging Group and others provide their members with valuable training, networking events and resources to build their businesses. These niche, focused events are more likely to serve their respective audiences.
– Gary Pageau

One Comment

  1. David Austerberry David Austerberry December 7, 2020

    Melbourne-based Blackmagic Design has shown the way. Products are launched with live YouTube presentations from CEO Grant Petty. Anyone in the world can watch rather than relying on secondhand reports from a press conference at a trade show.
    For a vendor, freeing product launches from academy show has so many advantages. A product can be released when it’s ready, not to the annual (or biennial) trade show cycle. A worldwide streaming launch is not competing for eyeballs with hundreds of other launches at a show.
    Trade show take a big slice of marketing budgets, and as for the carbon footprint!,
    Shows do serve as a giant networking event, and for many cultures, the face to face meeting is essential to closing a deal.
    Things change, and scaling down the trade show circus will have many benefits that may well overcome the demise of events like Photokina.

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