A year and a half ago, SmugMug bought Flickr.
In response to the financially-unviable model that existed under Yahoo ownership, they changed the features included with free accounts to encourage folks to subscribe to a pro account. At that time, they offered a 30% discount for folks to purchase Flickr Pro accounts, offering an ad-free photo hosting solution.
Yesterday, Flickr and SmugMug CEO Don MacAskill sent an email to Flickr users, and posted on the Flickr blog, to note that
The world’s most-beloved, money-losing business needs your help
It’s a candid, straightforward note indicating that Flickr continues to lose money. Despite work throughout the year to improve the service, they haven’t had as many new Pro members as they need:
Not quite enough new Flickr Pro members. Huge surge in the last year, which is fantastic and we're extremely grateful for the support, but still need some more to get us into the safe zone.
— Don MacAskill (@DonMacAskill) December 20, 2019
Want Flickr to be great again?
You want a solid photo hosting service that doesn’t include advertising and where your data isn’t sold to third parties? Pay for it.
In the past year SmugMug has removed the Yahoo login system and migrated the site’s infrastructure to new servers offering less downtime and faster performance. This was work that had to be done, as things were in a crumbling state post-Yahoo, but this time and money spent keeping the lights on meant that Flickr wasn’t able to introduce new, more visible features to photographers. Fixing the servers won’t be enough to bring a bunch of new Pro members to the service.
The crux of the matter is that Flickr is the only large-scale photo hosting and sharing network that offers advertising-free accounts and doesn’t use your images for data mining or selling the information to third parties.
Folks consider alternatives…
The email from Flickr tonight makes me want to rescue all of my photos from the site before they shut it down. But I don’t have that type of storage. Has anyone created a click-to-move-Flickr-photos-to-another-cloud-based-storage-system THAT ALSO HAS EASY SEARCH?
— Jenna Swearingen Hatfield (@JennaHatfield) December 20, 2019
But there really aren’t any. Facebook, Google Photos, 500px, Instagram…. none of them can offer the same pure photo-centric experience that Flickr offers. They either pepper your world with advertising or they use and sell your data to third parties as a core part of their business model.
Want a photo service that doesn’t pimp your data to the highest bidder? Pay for it.
Don’t like the fact that Yahoo gave away more for free than it should have? Don’t like the fact that Yahoo priced its Pro accounts at a number that still caused the site to lose money? That’s tough… but doesn’t help the current state of Flickr. Want Flickr to continue? Pay for it.
The reason Flickr costs money is because it excels at what it does. It isn’t necessarily for everyone, but for the folks that share those values, it’s well worth the $50 per year to subscribe as a Pro member1.
Photographers frequently bitch that the general public devalues photography, but it seems that many photographers also devalue the concept of a place to store and showcase their work.
Have we reached the point where online photo services will exist only if they’re subsidized by advertising and third-party data mining, or is the concept of an independent paid photography network still a viable thing?
I guess we’ll find out. As someone with over 8,000 photos on Flickr, I hope things work out.
But if they don’t, well, the market has spoken. 😢