Gary Pageau of the Dead Pixels Society talks with Mitch Goldstone, CEO of ScanMyPhotos.com. In this episode, Goldstone talks about his beginnings as a one-hour photo lab operator and developing one of the first volume photo scanning operations.
ScanMyPhotos.com has professionally preserved more than one billion memories, milestones, and special event photos for its customers since 1990. The photo digitizing company specializes in photo, 35mm slide, and negative film scanning. All photo digitization and fulfillment are professionally performed on-site at the ScanMyPhotos.com corporate headquarters in Irvine, CA.
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Produced by Gary Pageau
Edited by Olivia Pageau
Announcer: Erin Manning
Erin Manning 0:02
Welcome to the Dead Pixel Society podcast, the photo imaging industry's leading news source. Here's your host, Gary Pageau. The Dead Pixel Society podcast is brought to you by Mediaclip, Advertek Printing and ip.labs.
Gary Pageau 0:18
Hello again and welcome to the Dead Pixels Society podcast. I'm your host, Gary Pageau. And today we're joined by Mitch Goldstone, the CEO at ScanMyPhotos.com. Mitch is a longtime industry member. And we go way back, don't we, Mitch?
Mitch Goldstone 0:35
Great to be with you. Not to age myself, but at least three decades.
Gary Pageau 0:42
Yeah, we go back to the minilab days. Let's talk a little bit about that. You started out as a one hour lab, like many people in the industry had, what was your background that made you decided to get into that business?
Mitch Goldstone 0:57
Sure. It My background is I'm a graduate from University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business entrepreneur program. And I love photography, my passion is pictures, it all started, actually, when I was six years old, I was I was at Disneyland with my my dad, there was a picture of both of us, him hugging me. And it was the last picture. And my only memory of him he passed away a year later. And I it it is I have that picture with me. And it's in my mind. And everyone has a story like that of the most important precious picture they have. So I I've always loved photography, I went to Andover, Massachusetts, and actually took a course in rhetoric, English and photography. And it's funny, those two still stay with me.
Gary Pageau 1:52
So then what well, what was the timeframe on this? This time, you're not to date yourself. But I think it's important from a technology standpoint for people to be aware of what was happening in photography at that time.
Mitch Goldstone 2:03
Sure, it was Carrie, you know, it was it was booming. It was 1990. My business partner Carl Berman, and I found the Kodak creative prints machine the coolest innovation in the world, you stick in negative into this huge, huge now bow diaper. And you see the image on a video monitor, you can zoom in crop making large events. And through that we met with Noritsu Jeff Rossi and the whole group and started going to the PMA (Photo Marketing Association) conferences, realize we had to buy lots of equipment. And the beginning is actually where we are 32 years later, we're still taking ideas and making it 10 times better. You talked about one hour photo lab, first thing we did is we called it 30 minute photos etc. Because it was actually only 27 minutes to develop and print photos.
Gary Pageau 3:00
Right. So that that really brings back memories, the old Kodak creative print because its technology has changed so much. I don't think anyone really understands what a groundbreaking piece of equipment that was in terms of it let people because at the time, as I recall, less than 3% of images were enlarged, because it was very difficult to do. Because you add up the sin in the negative to a lab, and they've sent it off somewhere they may or may not, you know, follow the cropping instructions. And the color may or may not be very good, but you always got to print back. And that was really the first time that the consumer had control over what the final image is going to look like on a screen themselves. It was pretty amazing. Like you said it was 1990 was before a lot of the digital stuff even happened.
Mitch Goldstone 3:52
Indeed. And over the years Kodak and Fuji started developing other innovations like a APS advanced photo system. So they kept on having you buy new stuff to do new things. And then as digital took over for film, the whole concept was doing online so we did that but as don't transition to digital Carla and I were we're facing obsolescence right and we realize there are trillions in pictures that that were printed but they're not digitized so there was this huge market and then we started with with bulk super high speed professional photo scanner and
Gary Pageau 4:40
what was the timeframe on this so you've been in the one hour lab for how many years before you started seeing you know putting on your your wizards had looking in the in the in the fortune tellers last looking and saying, you know this isn't gonna last forever. We need to make a change. So what were what was that timeframe?
Mitch Goldstone 4:59
Ah, I'm really good at scanning pictures not that good at math. So it was 1990. And then 2008 is when we started. And we said, you know, we want to scan my photos. And because no one was doing it, we were the first ones that pioneered all of this technology. It's service online, that scan my photos.com domain was available, and you can't get better for SEO than that. So I had reached out to David Pogue, he's a well known author, all over CBS Sunday M M orning, everything was as Walt Mossberg and David Pogue, and David's correspondent, CBS Sunday Morning, and I had reached out to him on a Sunday morning, and I said, Hey, David, I can scan 1000 photos in five minutes. And he were back right away. He said, I don't believe it. And I said, Yeah, we can. So he sent in photos showed the whole thing. And it turned in on August 14 2008, his featured New York Times story was on scan my photos, and that, that put us on the map. And as you know, over the years, just hundreds of media from all over the place. So it was kind of 2008 that that started. And then we reinvented and created new digitizing products after them.
Gary Pageau 6:22
But then at some point, you said the retail thing is isn't where we're at. So you close your physical store, but you still have a facility there in California, correct?
Mitch Goldstone 6:31
We do. right nearby, it's in a large, corporate complex. And we have the building people go to the website, you could see the scan my photos, campus, all of that. So it's it's much larger, and everything changed. We have I think about 10% of our business actually comes from California, it's all over the country.
Gary Pageau 6:57
For that, and you do some I mean, obviously, Canada and other countries, I'm sure send to you as well.
Mitch Goldstone 7:03
I do and I was looking to expand internationally. But it's it's just I want to control everything. And people wanted us to franchise and buy the company everything and I I need to control everything because it's all about word of mouth, you can't have one hour. And so everything is processed on out of Irvine, California. So
Gary Pageau 7:29
you're the self proclaimed godfather of the scanning industry. And a lot of there's a lot of people out there who are also doing that, right. And they're they're also doing video and some other things. So how have you kept the business fresh over the years? Because some would say, because you're dealing with, you know, just pictures, and there's trillions of them. And everyone, you just have to create a workflow and create the business. How do you keep it fresh,
Mitch Goldstone 7:57
I keep it fresh. Well, first of all, I love competition, except for one company, everyone probably knows who they are. I love and that's because of their business practices. But I love competition, because for any industry, it raises the type of awareness for a product, and it gets more people engaged. And the more than enter to better but to keep it fresh, you've got to constantly be innovating. If your website hasn't been updated, you're you're out of business. We just launched a whole new scan my photos.com. website and to share with you to keep it fresh. A lot of it I'd love to take credit. I know Carl would too. But it's all for customers. It's listening to customers say, Hey, can you do this. And people were wondering if we could do with slides, as we do with photos with bulk, high volume. And we're getting so many customers who had slide carousels they wanted those digitized. So we'd launched a brand new product just now for $40. Your entire slide carousel, it's 140 slides, digitized. 4000 dpi resolution. It's like going to a restaurant though where you can just have the entree, you could look our appetizers and drinks all the other stuff. So we have a whole menu of had on services including what I think is pissing off everyone else in the industry, which is express scan fast. Same day scanning. Okay.
Gary Pageau 9:37
Yeah, so tell me a little bit about that. Because one of the challenges you have, I mean, it's a very competitive space in terms of the way consumers can get this done. They can, you know, obviously they can buy the Epson fast photo and try and do it themselves. Then go to their local photo retailer who probably has a scanning operation they probably have a few of the codec scanners there which have sadly been discontinued but they're you know, they're The workhorses, they're still out there. Or they can use innumerable number of send away services that are out there like yourself. So you're competing against all of those channels. And so now you're trying to up the ante in terms of service time.
Mitch Goldstone 10:18
In T, you know, you could buy a scanner to eat yourself, just like you could cook at home, but you want to go out to a restaurant that someone else a professional, serve you your meal, but it's scary. If you buy a scanner, do it while you're out hundreds of dollars. Before you digitize your first image. It's kind of like Amazon Prime Day where you save all this money, but you have to pay $139 up front before you save the pen. And so yeah, you could do it yourself. But it's it's so much easier. We handle everything with them. But yeah, that's upping the anti with Express scan fast were just click the button, and all your stop is digitized uploaded to you same day. So what do
Gary Pageau 11:07
you do the process? So somebody goes to your website, they order a box, you send them a box, right? And or they can just send you here they mentioned they can go to the store and just get one of those FedEx boxes, right? Or does that be your box?
Mitch Goldstone 11:20
It's either way it's, you could send in your Yes, send in your photos individually, following our instructions, how to prepare them, but slides.
Gary Pageau 11:32
And then they arrive in your place. And within a day, you're going to have them scanned and uploaded within a day. Yes. So from a technical standpoint, from a technical standpoint, and I don't want to get into your secret sauce, but those are high res images, right?
Mitch Goldstone 11:53
Oh, yeah. So for photo scanning, you could choose 600 DPI for slide scanning 4000 dpi, same for negatives? I'm kind of laughing because I hear from customers basically the same thing, like, what is this all about? How can you do this? I just had an experience. And this is becoming more common. But there's this one company, it's taking five months, six months? Where is why is it all over social media? And I thought, What the heck, why is it taking so long? It's just like on the photo labs, right? 30 minute photos, if you can develop and print pictures and 27 minutes, one or 230? And the same with with this. So it's all about workflow. And Carlin, I would love to take credit, but it's all our employees, they are our secret sauce.
Gary Pageau 12:48
Right? Yeah, how many? So just give people an idea of the scale of the operation? How many employees do you have?
Mitch Goldstone 12:55
Well, you know, I try to keep that stuff, because it's so competitive. But what I do say is this year, we preserved our 1 billion picture, which is an enormous amount. Sounds like a lot. But you know, considering their I think the number was like three and a half trillion, whatever it is, that there's so many. So, you know, when I started, it was super small. I remember we got our first box and then second, and then you know, how do we get our third, and now to have preserved a billion pictures is is is is really, it's kind of emotional, because he think of all of those memories that have been preserved for forever. So so how do you determine
Gary Pageau 13:46
like the pricing model, because, you know, there's certain people go premium for high res and things like that. And they've got tiers for various resolutions, and, you know, very similar models, but it seems to me like you've kind of tried to hit that kind of affordability sweet spot, but not so cheap that it's as we were talking before the podcast, crazy Eddie territory.
Mitch Goldstone 14:11
They're different categories. You might my whole thought is if he could do it super fast and crazy and expensively, do it that way. So you can, as you see on the website, we have flash sales up at the top for discounts for but if he could do it so fast and economically pass on those savings to customers, because today, it's all about social media, reviews feedback, and if someone has an extraordinary experience, it's, you know, that's that's where they are marketing or advertising.
Gary Pageau 14:53
You know, it's funny because you and I exchanged emails probably a couple times a year and you're always saying What What's the latest marketing technique? What is the latest, you know, program or site that people are using. And it's really, it's really not even anything trendy anymore. I mean, he used to, like used to do a lot of grip on a lot of people used to do a lot of Groupon and that kind of died away. I think it's just basically just being super consistent. And getting those reviews and just, it's more blocking and tackling than going for the Hail Mary touchdown pass.
Mitch Goldstone 15:27
I liked that. And indeed, and yeah, we were one of Groupons national account merchants, and then it was the best thing ever. And then that's all gone. And so you got to keep on coming up with with new things. I think for us. My number one marketing is scan my photos as a content provider for every photo sharing app from Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Google Photos, all of that. Whereas their users have us digitize all of their content. And they upload. And that solves a huge problem for Facebook, meadow, whatever, all of them. Because people were just uploading recent pictures from smartphones. And if you're kinda like me, they're pictures of you know, what you ate last night. But not those generations past. Nostalgic, family photos, those aren't being uploaded to any of these photo sharing apps. Right. So so how does that
Gary Pageau 16:32
work? I mean, you said, I mean, you said you're a provider, how does that help you? If you're just an on ramp? If you're helping them with content? How does that help you?
Mitch Goldstone 16:40
In terms of,
Gary Pageau 16:44
I mean, do you have a partnership with them? Or how does that work? I'm just curious. No,
Mitch Goldstone 16:47
no. And that's what's beautiful. I'm so glad. I'd love Twitter. I'm so glad I'm not in strategic partnership with them, or at least right now. Because we have our independence. So we're content providers, in that all of their users that have their pictures digitized and uploaded them. So it's kind of like a triangle where you have the media, you have the customer, and then you have the photo sharing app, and where the catalysts that links the three together.
Gary Pageau 17:25
Well, that's interesting. So tell me a little bit about the impetus for the development of the scan fast idea, because, honestly, it's I wouldn't say it's kind of extreme. But it's not something you really had to do that. I mean, were you getting rigging demand from the customer that I need this same day? Or was it just sort of like, you know, anticipating this is where it was gonna go?
Mitch Goldstone 17:51
Or, you know, I think everything with the photo business and you know, this for all these decades is, it's the most emotional, personalized business there there is. And the Express scan fest came, everything comes out of our customers, almost tearing thinking about it, because during COVID, all of the incoming feedback, comments, calls, live support, were from people who needed everything digitized immediately from memorial services. So we just pushed them to the front of less than I realized that people needed all of us preserved, whether it's for funerals, happier times, for weddings, everything else celebrations, fast they had, they didn't want to wait. literally months. So that's where we came up with it, it came out of the COVID pandemic.
Gary Pageau 18:51
It's I mean, it's interesting how you hate to look at the bright side of a pandemic, because that's, it's, you know, it's a disaster. But it's almost like the same thing that happens when a hurricane hits Florida. And people realize how valuable their pictures are. It's it's one of those things like you said, from a moon motional content standpoint, know that some of those pictures like that picture of you and your dad, that means the world to you. And you know, you've made multiple copies, I'm sure you've got to frame the large event somewhere in your office, you know, just and that's something the industry I think, despite the technology changes, has really been able to focus on
Mitch Goldstone 19:34
it has anyone just go to the scan like photos website because of halfway down? There's a video from those produced one of those from the US Postal Service. They did a commercial on us that they love the story that people trust the US Postal Service with delivering their most precious possessions cool commercial, but right above it is the Weather Channel. story. There was a hurricane and they coping with this this sweet older lady in New Jersey during Hurricane Sandy, and the first scene is her outside her house. There's no house, Carrie, there's not all of the photos are all over. And that's where they came in and introduced scan my photos for protecting from wildfires, hurricanes, it's the stuff to plan ahead. If all of your slides or photos are tucked away in albums, closets all, you got to plan ahead. And that's I think that's what is the other reason why people are doing this because of preparing for natural disasters. Well, and
Gary Pageau 20:45
also because there's a certain thing, you know, the the analog demographic, right, the the Gen X and the boomers who were still using film, you know, they're aging out, and they're passing those images on to their kids or their families. And a lot of cases, they don't want the prints, but they want the images. So from a demographic standpoint, I think there's a lot of drive there.
Mitch Goldstone 21:07
It is, our demographics are females 45 and above. But what's interesting over the years is I'm seeing that coming down where the kids and grandkids now are doing this as projects for the seniors. And there's one of the best that Steven Spielberg said not to brag about USC. But one of the greatest things about the University of Southern California is Steven Spielberg established the Shoah Foundation. And he went out preserved the memories of all the remaining Holocaust survivors, all of their archives, everything digitized, and to tell those stories. So you know, if you sum up our industry, it's all about storytelling, and sharing and new ways of doing things with with your old memories.
Gary Pageau 22:01
Where can people go for more information about I know you've named Rob the website, dozen times, but do you want people to connect with you on LinkedIn? Or go to the website? How do people How do you want people to talk with Mitch,
Mitch Goldstone 22:15
just to go just directly to the website, everything is, is there in one place and what I'd love for people to to because I don't want to hear how great it is how modern and cool the bells and whistles, the accessibility family, all this stuff we have. I want to hear the bad stuff. That's all. That's my job. And like, I want to hear what's wrong. And there's there's a story, there's a joke, where it goes up to poor, elderly women at the end of their meal is ladies. Was there anything all right? And that's me, I don't want to hear what's all right. What you've loved everything. I want to hear any issues problems, what we can do better? Because that's, that's what it's all about constantly improving and but yeah, just go to the website and connect with me and all that. But I always love feedback on what's wrong, what's missing, and what can we do to make things even better?
Gary Pageau 23:20
Well, thanks, Mitch, for your time, best wishes on your new fast scan program, and look forward to talking to you soon.
Mitch Goldstone 23:28
My pleasure and carry you're the best you are. There's no one better than you. So I'm just grateful for constantly reading of a dead pixel society, your emails, everyone subscribe.
Gary Pageau 23:42
Well, thank you, man. Appreciate that. Take care. My pleasure.
Erin Manning 23:47
Thank you for listening to the dead pixel society podcast. Read more great stories and sign up for the newsletter at www the dead pixels society.com