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An Interview with Eolake Stobblehouse

Eolake Stobblehouse is a Danish internet pioneer whose websites are viewed by millions. Eolake's DOMAI.com was one of the first nude art websites, having been around since 1997 and is still one of the few successful commercial sites to feature artistic nude photography rather than hardcore images.

Here we chat about the internet, being noticed as an artist, and making it a commercially viable living.

The iPad looks nice. Will it really change publishing and what role do you see video playing?

I'm excited about the iPad. To an embarrassing degree actually. I don't remember the last time I've been this excited about a new tech product.

I and other wanna-be visionaries have for many years been talking about the coming replacement for books and new media...

(All the way back in Arthur C. Clarke's book "The Fountains of Paradise" from the seventies, he predicted something like it, getting your news according to your interests, automatically, on a tablet, every morning.)

... the idea always was that it would update automatically, you could browse news and writings around the world from your sofa or a cafe, and most importantly in this light: *you could hold it in your hand!* This is the last bit which has been missing, and I think most people will not realize quite how important this is, until after they've used it for a while.

For example, I could read, say, the NYT on my Mac easily, using a leisurely hour doing it. But I *don't feel like it*, because a traditional computer, even a laptop, is made for work! You sit upright, using your hands. It's not meant to be comfortable.

So as a reader I'm excited about the pad.

I'm also excited as a publisher, as a writer, and as an artist. For just the same reasons. Web comics and eBooks have existed for a many years now, but they have not taken off as markets, and I feel in my gut that one of the main reasons is just the above: why would people pay money for content, when they don't have a platform which lets them enjoy it *comfortably*?

For video, I'm a little less sure. I'm sure it will be very good for video of various forms and lengths, but I'm not sure how married people are to viewing it on a big screen. For casual use and for *travelling* use, though, it's unbeatable. (Though I'm actually not sure if you can hook up a DVD player to it.)
I can imagine Playboy magazine going iPad-only and paper magazines disappearing altogether, do you think there is a whole new door opening here for videographers?
There's no doubt that all kinds of content will experience a massive exodus from paper to screen over the next couple of decades. How complete it will be depends on economics. If paper and gas prices keep going up, for instance, it'll very soon be very hard for paper publications to make any kind of profit.

Don't get me wrong, it'll still be hard for *any* kind of publication, but at least electronically, the starting hurdle is vastly smaller. Any family blog, if you think about it, is a "publication".

There has already been a big trend towards accompanying news stories with short video segments for the web, and there's no reason this should go away. Video is an entertaining and easy way of consuming data and news.
What do you think of Philip Bloom's HDSLR stuff?
There's a reason he's so influential.
I have artist friends who produce great work but never seem to be able to make any money from it. As someone who runs a successful website, what opportunities do you see for artists to make money from their creativity? Any advice?
Ouch!! We all have friends like that. In fact, sometimes it seems like *most* of my friends are like that. (And I am too. As a painter, commercially, I'm a failure.)

A few months ago, I suddenly started writing a little book called "One Hundred Tips for Success On the Internet". I'm unsure if it will be helpful, though, or it's too generic. It only has a few chapters so far, but anybody who will give me feedback on it can mail me, my googlemail.com address is eolake.

Anyway, this is a *huge* subject. Almost as huge as the human mind itself.

One thing is: I don't *know* why Domai is so successful. (So far as I'm aware, it's the only commercially successful arty nudes site in the world. I have friends who have failed in the same arena.) It has simply always worked for me, with very little advertising. There may be something in the tone of the whole thing, and the editing I do, which speak to people.

Another thing is: most of us tend to sabotage ourselves one way or another. For example, you often see that somebody becomes really good at doing something... and then they leave and do something else.

A friend of mine told me about a photographer he knew who had made an adult site (of the Goth social kind), but it was failing. My friend did not see why, so he tried to help. But it turned out that 1: the guy was actually not a good photographer: he spent many hours in Photoshop making his work look good. That's untenable. 2: he did not get along with people, he somehow managed to antagonize most everybody he worked with, models, everybody. That's also untenable.

So probably everybody has individual reasons for not being successful. It seems to me that the most common denominator for people who *are* successful, is that they 1: work very hard, have high production. 2: ... at something they are *very* interested in. If you are only motivated to watch football and getting laid, probably you won't get very far with anything else.
Computers and internet are changing the way virtually everyone makes a living. Do you see a point where the democratisation stops and the internet becomes controlled by just a few big companies?
I don't think it'll happen, or even could, for long.
The girls on DOMAI are spectacular - and I know you have you shot nude photography before and what was the experience like?
Well, for one thing, if you are interested in what you're doing photographically, and you should, then it's not a sexual experience at all. Your mind is too busy.

Yes, I'm highly pleased with our models these days. But this is actually also a result of the blessing of digital. Until roughly 2004, when good digital SLR's became affordable, I had the hardest time finding enough good tasteful nudes photos, because anybody good only did porn, pretty much. But since then, I'm daily offered much more than I can buy, it's a bounty.
What do you think are the people-skills needed to be a photographer?
Same as people skills in anything. Be gentle, be kind, be diplomatic, be complimentary, talk and joke. Be professional.
What do you think is the best way to make money from a website - via advertising or paid subscription?
Only the latter has ever worked for me. It also seems to me to be the most attractive. With a http://www.TidBITS.comno longer looks like my site to me.

But ads work well for TidBITS.com for example.

I must say: ads must not be disruptive or distracting; it will drive away your readers/viewers.

And TidBITS also have nice success in an excellent way with their "Take Control" series of technical eBooks: very targeted and well-edited specialized eBooks, at ten dollars.

I think ebooks could be huge on the iPad, if done right.
There doesn't seem to be very much nudity in mainstream cinema any more, even in R rated Hollywood pictures, any ideas as to why the industry has become so conservative?
Beats me, I hope it turns around. It's idiotic to be upsets at nudity, or at least to be *so* upset that you try to bar others from enjoying it.

Look at upcoming film "Kick-Ass". Tons of graphic violence. But imagine a single nipple shown in it! Panic!

One day I hope to make a film with no sex in it, but with lots and lots of nudity.
I think the internet has an influence on people's way of interacting. For example Vimeo seems be a more civilised place in terms of people's behaviour on the comments thread, than say YouTube. Why do you think there is a such a big difference in behaviour on the sites?
It's like Facebook is more trivial-chatty than Twitter, for example, which is more so than a blog. It attracts different people.

What is the average level of education amongst its visitors makes a big mark on any forum. And a site becoming hugely popular changes that level dramatically,http://eolake.blogspot.com/2010/03/video-with-still-cameras.htmlr the interview. You can read an interview with me about HDSLRs, on Eolake's blog