The curious decline of free photo sharing

Research firms like InfoTrends say the #1 thing that influences consumer choice of photo sharing sites is whether they’re free. Makes sense.

But a curious thing happened during the last few years: while impressive free sites from great companies like Sony, Canon, Microsoft, Epson, & Adobe lost momentum or closed, sites like Flickr, SmugMug and Webshots—who charge—have grown like weeds.

free photo sharing

It’s true: Flickr and Webshots have free versions, but they are very limited. Flickr free accounts let you display just 200 photos.

free photo sharingPhoto sharing sites like PBase and Fotki converted to pay years ago and when they did they joined the 1,000 most trafficked Internet sites.

What unintuitive things are at work here?

Here’s the cycle:

1. Getting a free account is anonymous. Posting gross content is so very easy…

2. So companies hire screeners to view every photo and delete bad stuff. Yet some leaks through.

3. The leaks offend advertisers and partners, who flee.

4. They offend users, who drift away.

5. They cause some corporations and ISPs to block access to the site, frustrating users.

6. They discourage good brands, who don’t want their brands tarnished with offensive content, and don’t want the liability. They quietly de-emphasized the site.

Q. But aren’t Kodak and Snapfish doing well and aren’t they free?

Indeed. But they aren’t about easy public sharing like Flickr and SmugMug. You can’t go there and search for photos. They’re about ordering prints & gifts (which they do well).

It wasn’t easy to understand why Yahoo auctions, which were free, bombed—while eBay auctions, which are pay, thrived. Until you saw the content posted on each. Then it was clear.

There are strong parallels with photo sharing.

First SmugMug Pro Roundtable a success!

We held our first Pro Roundtable tonight – featuring Pro Photographer Shay Stephens, on the topics:

  • publicity and marketing
  • getting and keeping clients
  • pricing your services and photography
  • leveraging web resources

You can listen to the hour-long conference, via iTunes or via this RSS Link.

I hope to make this a regular feature :) so keep checking in here, and also on our SmugMug Pro Sales Support Forum on Digital Grin!

Work at home in your jammies

Work  from home in your jammiesSmugMug’s mantra for our help desk was shamelessly stolen from Mark Twain, who wrote: “Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

We do our best to astonish our customers by answering help email in minutes.

We do it by hiring people who know and love SmugMug and its customers. They work full or part-time, from our help center in Salt Lake City, Utah, or from their homes in their jammies.

Ivar, for example, works from Utrecht in the Netherlands. His specialty is helping customize. Barb Gates from Boise, Idaho, has the digital photography fever and came to us by way of our community.

Ivar and Barb are customers who have the passion. They both work (play?) part-time, from their homes, to the delight of many SmugMug customers who receive quick, friendly and knowledgeable advice from them.

Our customers come from every walk of life. What binds them is their passion for life’s memories.

If helping them while sprawled on the couch with a laptop sounds like a dream job, why not drop help at smugmug dot com a line to get more info?

About SmugMug.