My customer, my supplier

Posted: 06.22.16

Subscriptions open the portals for media flow

Today, Adobe is rolling out new improvements in its Creative Cloud services. Because Adobe’s products span so many creative industries — photography, graphic arts, illustration, video production, movie production, marketing, audio, and all the jobs that fit somewhere in between—these releases have a little something for everyone, but it helps if everyone is employed at a company that subscribes to Adobe’s products and services.

The new features are far-reaching. Photographers are going to find the simple solution of content-aware fill to restore the content lost by straightening images, an absolution for the scourge of having a slanted eye. Adobe has put a lot into its video products and has taken the first steps at building a VR workflow. It has added an additional tier to its Stock product, which currently offers customers a subscription for stock art at very reasonable prices. The upper tier makes high-quality photos available for high-quality prices—around $100 to $200. Adobe is paying higher prices to photographers if their work is accepted for the premium tier, which is nice. And, for the most part, Adobe’s prices are still very competitive with other stock photo services, but the best part is that people who used Adobe’s products can maintain their stock libraries in the products they’ll be using to access that art, like Photoshop, Illustrator, or InDesign.

This is yet another example of Adobe getting off to a head start in subscription and now marketplaces. The company is created symbiotic relationships with its customers, enabling them to also become suppliers by selling work in the marketplaces. Avid is trying to do the same thing with its Marketplace— it helps when you have become the de facto standard for a particular field. Avid has had that position in media editing, but now it’s fighting hard to maintain its position. Adobe dominates in imagine, and it’s got significant market share in video editing and advertising content creation. So, helping their customers make money is a good way to keep those customers loyal.

For Adobe there is a dark side. The Stock subscription is in addition to the Creative Cloud membership. Customers may well feel they’re getting nickel and dimed. Creative Cloud itself has locked out many users, especially freelance artists, who can’t get around paying a subscription forever when they’re not so certain about paying gigs forever. There is a growing chasm for Adobe that has not seemed to bother the company over much because they’re doing so well in the enterprise.

De facto standards or becoming one

Autodesk has enjoyed a position of dominance in the design field, movie content creation, and 3D modeling, but it is battling on all fronts as new products arrive and new approaches to content creation shake up their markets. Autodesk is moving its customers to subscription, and the transition is going smoothly but their next phase, turning their customers into partners, is happening in a very Autodeskian way.

The roots of Autodesk’s early success in design were its sales of a lowcost, vanilla design tool that could be customized for special applications. The company built a powerful developer network and encouraged developers to reach out to their own customers with specialized products. The range of customization tools and utilities was astounding, including plumbing, home building, sewage, NC for stone markers, etc.

Last week Autodesk announced the latest advances in their Forge program, which enables developers to build new, customized products using components from Autodesk’s APIs and SDKs. This really feels like a return to the future but different. Autodesk is making the technology available on a subscription basis, so its new partners are also customers … for life.

Adobe has done something similar, offering technology for free to developers who will build on Adobe’s products and attract new customers to the Creative Cloud. The catch there is that the products built on Adobe’s SDKs write to the Creative Cloud formats and libraries so customers using them are going to have to sign up for some level of Cloud subscription—though possibly free.

Autodesk is making money from and hopefully with its developers. Adobe hopes its extension of its technology will result in more products that will attract more users to the Creative Cloud family. However, it must be said that after, an enthusiastic introduction, Adobe has not done much to promote its third-party app partners.

These initiatives are clearly difficult to manage, but they do also highlight the potential of subscriptions and the power of an invested community—people who are paying to be part of the club and who expect to get something out of it. One of the things we can expect to see are the challenges that come as products and communities grow ever larger. It will get harder and harder to manage and nurture the ecosystem, and the stakes will get higher—a bad update can do a lot of damage.

There are lessons lurking out there, just waiting to get learned.