Despite the plethora of photo sites that have existed over the years, I still use Flickr quite a bit. If anything it’s got worse for archiving and organising the photos I’ve taken, but it’s extremely familiar to me, having signed up originally in February 2006.
After 8 years, I’ve uploaded around 4,000 images, and around 2,000 of these are public, which have generated 47,867 views in that time. Back in 2008, I bought myself a Pro Account to allow (at the time) unlimited uploads – from memory it was while I was on holiday in Sweden and I had full memory cards to clear. It also followed shortly on from the birth of my son, which I assumed would mean I’d be taking a lot more photos I’d want to share with family and close friends in the future…
Apparently my Pro account is due to expire at the start of February 2014, right about my 8th anniversary of signing up, and 6 years after I originally started paying $24.95 a year.
That’s why I’m now torn. Because I have no problem in paying for services, but I do have a problem understanding what I’m now getting from Flickr, and why they should receive money for it?
Does Flickr have a business model?
Originally when I paid for a Pro account, I signed up for the main reason of unlimited uploads and storage, but it also enabled statistics on my account and an ad-free experience.
But now everyone gets one terabyte of free storage anyway (since May 2013), so I’m left with the choice of renewing my Pro account just for stats and avoiding advertising. I’m pretty sure I won’t be hitting the terabyte limit of more than 150,000 hi-res images anytime soon.
I’m assuming that if I allow it to lapse I’ll lose all my stats, along with the ad-free status – and to purchase a standard Ad Free account is now $49.99 per year.
While I’m happy that Pro account holders haven’t had a price increase, I’m still left wondering whether as a non-professional who uses Flickr partly as an archive, and sometimes to source Creative Commons licensed images, whether it’s worth it? Installing an ad-blocker in my browser and using one of a supply of other Creative Commons image sourcing solutions would avoid any payments. And as a non-professional photographer, does it really matter how many people have seen my photos, or which one has been most popular in the last 24 hours?
(For the record, it’s always this one)
And then it forces me to consider whether Flickr actually has a business model?
If it’s based on paid accounts, then boosting membership by making the free accounts comparable doesn’t work – eventually people do question why they’re paying.
And if it’s based on ad revenue, then the more content driving more page views is important. And being able to get a feedback loop on the pictures I upload is vital to encouraging me to upload more. That’s how almost every social site elicits a Pavlovian response to getting a Like, a Retweet or a comment of agreement. Losing stats that I do occasionally browse out of casual interest means Flickr becomes even more of an dusty archive into which copies of my Instagram and Facebook photos are sent but rarely seen.
It becomes even stranger when you look at the clarity of rival 500px. Free with 20 uploads, Plus for $25 to add stats and a Personal Store, and $75 for Awesome with themes, subdomains, portfolios etc.
Oddly you don’t actually get any more for the same price – Flickr has an easy option for licensing photos through Getty anyway, although it’s much less explicit, and separated off as a Getty responsibility. In fact to find the info, you have to hope a photographer has signed up for that scheme, or contact a member directly.
What should Flickr do?
It’s hard to solve Flickr’s issues without following the approach of 500px, although having just read about the closure of photo startup Everpix, it does seem like there is an approach and technology there which would give Flickr a much needed boost.
I’d suggest the Free account is pretty much fine, but I’d overhaul the way licensing is currently implemented to make Creative Commons and Getty licensing an intrinsic part of the package, and offer a SemiPro account for around $20. That’s not a huge expense if there’s a chance of selling a couple of photos a year, and you could offer some extra functionality.
For instance, Flickr has finally rolled out ‘Creations‘, a willfully obscure service for creating Photo Books which can be ordered as print albums. Which is currently US only. And just books – no calendars etc. Give me the options to create a range of products for the brands I run or manage, and there’s another justification for a paid account.
And finally, do a proper account for Professionals – even those with an expensive DSLR and a photography business aren’t necessarily going to have 200,000 images available. But they do want to be able to sell their work, accept commissions and probably lots of other things that wouldn’t occur to me as a non-professional. Certainly with photographer friends, they always seem to struggle with photo management on whichever CMS and web service they use to advertise their businesses and sell their images.
Then Flickr might become a viable asset for Yahoo, instead of feeling like a forgotten image archive in a dusty basement somewhere, filled with filing cabinets hidden behind an endlessly scrolling homepage which makes it harder to actually use.
Ironically, I couldn’t embed the above image from Flickr, because then WordPress wouldn’t pick up a Featured Image for the blog post. Another niggling technical annoyance which I’m sure could be solved somehow.
Update: On publication, I spotted the new Flickr embed now seems to allow you to scroll through a user’s images. That’s an annoyance if I’m embedding an image from another user to illustrate a blog post (Am I going to vet all their images in case a reader gets distracted?), as well as making me question whether I’ve set all personal family images to the right privacy setting, or if I can see them just because I’m logged into Flickr. Basically a reason to encourage people to download images, and then re-upload with the opportunity to forget to credit them.