The best of both worlds: The story of the Reuters picture service

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Reuters established a picture service after its competitors. So why did it enter the picture market when it did? What advantage did late entry give it? How did this new technologically driven business model based on pictures offer the key bridge to the contemporary multimedia company Reuters is today? In this article, the story of the Reuters picture service is told for the first time since it was officially established in 1985. Using Reuters archive, it begins with the purchase of UPI's US pictures service and ends with the contemporary business. It explores the ways Reuters managed to finance the production of pictures; build a new network for the picture service; invest in (and develop) new technologies of distribution, consumption and operation while being constantly on guard through research; study its markets, its competitors and clients; make room for new product lines in the form of news pictures within an already fully operational organisation, and deal with difficulties that resulted from such structural changes. Establishing its picture service during the 1980s not only helped Reuters make a strong entry into the international image market at a time when international news had just entered a new digital era, it also helped Reuters build a strong business and technological model during a period of media industry upheaval. And it used its picture operations to establish an elaborative infrastructure, enabling this forward-looking multimedia business to become a powerful international news agency ready for the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)74-92
Number of pages19
JournalMedia History
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Reuters
  • international infrastructure
  • picture service


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