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Flickr in trouble (again)

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Posts: 33

Flickr in trouble (again)

Post Fri Dec 20, 2019 3:18 pm

During the numerous problems that have impacted Pbase in recent years, a number of members have announced they were moving to other sites including Flickr.

I have just been reading an article on DPReview about a recent email that was sent out by Flickr (and SmugMug) CEO Dan MacAskill.

In the email MacAskill says that Flickr is still losing money and is pleading for more people to take out 'Pro' subscriptions. I think people will be reluctant to pay for these subscriptions if they thought the company could suddenly close and their images would be lost.

Is the market for sites like Flickr and Pbase coming to an end?

Posts: 3192
Location: San Diego, California

Re: Flickr in trouble (again)

Post Fri Dec 20, 2019 8:40 pm

Not a direct answer, but a few of my opinions and observations:

I think few PBase members are moving to Flickr as the layout and interface are not attractive, especially given the amount of customization possible on PBase. I have seen many more PBasers move to 500px, zenfolio and smugmug.An annual plan for Flickr is $4.17 a month, billed annually, so it is $50.04 a year, so I don't think that money is an object. I think that Flickr does not have a high level of photography and does not get the traffic that serious subscribers are looking for. In my experience Flickr has always been more of a "snapshot" or "vacation pics" kind of site. I think subscribers are leaving PBase because of lack of new features, intermittent problems with the site, lack of customer service and because of PBase friends going elsewhere. My stats are down about 75% from 2010 and about the same number of my PBase contacts have left. (I currently have 1,025 contacts listed of which not more than 250 are active.) Some other reasons for subscribers leaving, are Facebook, Instagram and the fact that more people are using their phone for photography. As for sites suddenly closing, I would not be surprised if Flickr and a few others closed. I hope it doesn't have to PBase, as I still enjoy it here, have a lot of friends left and have over the years invested a lot of my time here. I do think the next ten years will bring some changes, hopefully PBase will survive them.
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Posts: 921

Re: Flickr in trouble (again)

Post Sat Dec 28, 2019 11:54 pm

reticulatus wrote:Is the market for sites like Flickr and Pbase coming to an end?

I think that's a "time will tell" thing, but the nature of the market is changing which makes the outcome hard to predict. Back in the 90's / early naughties if you wanted to share images with friends / family / potential clients your only realistic option was to do it through an actual photo sharing site. Then along came social media. These days the people who would once have used a (frequently free) account on a photo sharing site will head to Instagram or Faceplant instead. That means a much lower client base for photo sharing sites.

This is both good and bad. The bad obviously is that if photo sites don't have viewers, they become irrelevant. People don't know about them and don't go there. The good is that it gets rid of the freeloaders; the people who post 75 iPhone images of their cat each day and then complain when the hosting sites start to impose limits. "Flickr used to have unlimited freeeee hosting! Now it's only 1000 images! The owners are greeeeedy and should give me bandwidth and storage for nothing!" That kind of thing. By getting rid of those it allows a site to better serve those with a genuine interest in photography. Despite how photos have become a commodity now ("an iphone shot is as good as one from a full frame with a quality lens, err, isn't it?"), there are still those who appreciate actual photography. PBase recognised this necessity years ago which is why trial accounts are so limited, and rightfully so in my opinion.

Has it worked for PBase? Eeeeh... I've posted elsewhere about the number of photos posted on PBase year on year falling dramatically in the last decade. There have been double digit percentage falls every year from 2011 to 2017 (2016 was the worst with a 28.4% fall compared to 2015), though it flattened out remarkably in 2018 when the fall went from 20.62% in 2017 to 8.4% in 2018. With a couple of days to go in 2019 we're on track for a reduction of 8.72%... but that's still about 1.6 million photos. However PBase is not a good example because of the way it's run, which is... "barely".

Other sites have real staff doing real work on the site, and not just popping in from time to time in a burst of enthusiasm which rapidly dies.

I do not like SmugMug at all. When PBase was completely imploding in 2010 I set up a parallel gallery there with the intent of transitioning to it. Worst. Mistake. Ever. You get the vibe as soon as you go to the SmugMug front page. "Hey, here's a deal for you! And here's another deal! Come on, you know you want it, how about this deal? Look at all the hand-curated photos that we have on show, huh, huh?" OK, but where are the actual galleries of real users?, you ask. "Aw, you don't wanna see that! But you can see some of our most popular galleries if you sign in for this deeeaaalll!" And that's the way it works once you're in. The amount of exposure that you get depends on whether you manage to get yourself into a "scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" clique. There was NO "Recent Postings" list the way there is on both PBase and Flickr, just "Popular". You can in fact find some photos if you don't have a SmugMug account but they keep the curtains drawn fairly tightly. Where they are doing it right though is in having an emphasis on pre-built packages to support professional photographers, who can have their sites powered by SmugMug rather than having to build their own. Whether that will work given the low visibility of SmugMug in general, I can't be sure. (It doesn't help that Google Images, supposedly powered by the world's premier search engine, is a steaming pile of trash which frequently seems to completely ignore search terms. That's not a SmugMug problem, that's an "every photo sharing site except the abomination that is Pinterest which Google seems obsessed with" problem.)

With Flickr, I used to have the same opinion as one expressed earlier; there was a lot of junk on there, and I made some rather pointed comments about that in the past right here in this forum. However the site has changed, and for the better. I think a lot of this has been the aforementioned smartphone freeloaders drifting off to social media. There is a LOT of good photography there now. I joined following a suggestion from another PBaser in 2017. However I've done barely anything with the site since then. I dreaded the news that SmugMug had acquired it thinking that it would be borged into SmugMug but to SM's credit, thus far they haven't. IMHO, the bad of Flickr is:
  • Has issues working with Firefox. For example the user menu won't open.
  • While it does have galleries and now collections, there are not the default view of your work. The Photostream is, which is just a great big bucket of photos thrown at the screen. PBase's hierarchical tree makes it much easier to tell a story, which is essentially what I for one do in my galleries.
  • Similarly it lacks the power of adapting the look and feel that PBase's CSS gives you.
  • While it will show you sample images from a camera, it won't show samples for a lens the way PBase does.

The good?
  • It has a committed staff behind it. I don't like the way SmugMug has been implemented but I've never had any doubt about the staff's belief in and enthusiasm for the site, and that's the team that's now behind Flickr. Compared toooo... well, I don't need to spell that out. We know what the deal is, most of us have been living with it for years.
  • I doubt that Flickr / SmugMug will disappear overnight. I'm less confident about that with smaller sites.
  • The Pro rate is more than reasonable IMHO.
  • Aside from the Firefox issue there is a lot less... eccentricity... in how the software works. For example when I uploaded my latest galleries, a lot of them had accented characters representing names in French or Italian. Flickr handled this with ease. PBase, on the other hand, can't handle anything beyond the most vanilla of vanilla character sets and converted the accented e in café into two characters of gibberish which I then had to go and manually correct.
  • The big one... if you want a wider viewership, you'll get it at Flickr. Not at SmugMug, and not at PBase.

Back in 2010 I had Statcounter running on both my PBase and my Smugmug sites. The PBase one had a fairly steady viewership. SmugMug had a bare fraction of that except on the days that I'd go and comment on or vote for some of the cool kids' work. They would then come and do the same with me in the expectation that I would reciprocate again. On those days I'd see blips in the Statcounter numbers on the SmugMug account but they'd still rarely equal the PBase numbers.

9 years on "fairly steady" at PBase means "a view here, a couple of views there", but I'm no longer PADing and hadn't uploaded anything for ages prior to yesterday. But I knew from experience how yesterday would play out. I uploaded 140ish photos in batches of 10 to 12 as I finished processing them, so there were uploads every couple of hours over the course of a day, meaning that my gallery kept popping up near the top of recent galleries every couple of hours. Result? Maybe 150ish views in the course of 2 days, mostly from a couple of Canadians (thank you kindly). There were a couple of genuine comments, and of course a couple from people who seem to go to the most recently uploaded photo and leave a generic "Cool light!", "Great colours!" etc comment in the hope of attracting the recipient to their own galleries. I don't need to name any names, I'm pretty sure that anyone reading this who has uploaded in the last few years knows them.

Now compare that with Flickr; I uploaded the whole gallery in one hit this morning. Within 5 minutes I had half as many views as I had on PBase in the preceding 2 days. Within 2 hours, boom, up through 4 figures... and still rising. And this is on a site that I've barely been on in the last two years. Conclusion? Probably that there are a lot more people active on Flickr. Certainly that there are a lot more people who are seeking out photos from people that they aren't in a social group with there.

If you look at an average photo on PBase, and it's a photo with comments... and you look at any other photo in that gallery, you'll usually see the same list of names. That isn't a criticism. There's nothing wrong with being in a social group. But it does mean that there can be an exaggerated feel for how much of a viewership someone's photos really has if it's all within a group.

My own feeling is that there will always be a market for quality photo sharing sites but that the market is getting smaller as the iPhone crowd move away. PBase will probably clunk along until the owners either get sick of it or it's costing them money to run it (which I hope hasn't happened yet). SmugMug will probably try to borg the two sites together... which is fine if they end up looking like Flickr ("come one, come all, new photos for all to see") rather than SmugMug ("come pay, come pay, popular photos from the cool kids!") DeviantArt probably has a bit of an advantage since it's owned by Wix and there are marketing cross-overs to be had. ("Want new art for your new Wix website? Get it at DeviantArt!"). The smaller sites? I suspect that there will be consolidations and closures.

But as I said, time will tell.

Posts: 912

Re: Flickr in trouble (again)

Post Wed Mar 18, 2020 6:59 am

Well I agree with the well thought points made here, Pbase has an opportunity, in my thinking, as I see the structure of it as more compatible to viewing photos without advertising interruptions every 3 or 4 views (which drive both viewers and free subscription photographers nuts on Flickr). It seems like Flickr is going more the way of Smugmug which I don't like at all. I transferred some of my attention to Flickr in the last couple years, and while there are a lot of good and active groups there, there's a lot of non-attention to moderation in many. There are a some great photographers over there, and some nice people, but somehow the spirit of community is lacking more than on Pbase (which I think has lost 'some of that spirit since I first came here but it does still exist). Pbase is very reasonably priced and certainly offers a great deal of customizing and arrangement options. I do think Yahoo ruined Flickr with the unlimited storage, and Flickr is still promoting that for 'Pro" members (and most real pros would have other storage options available other than a tenuous cloud realm, which may or may not exist someday) So, yeah, kind of thinking that Pbase is really offering a good base for the online photo community, even with all it's non-attention from the owners at times. The basic structure that Slug laid out still seems to work OK, seeming to work more like a cooperative adventure, than a completely commercial one.

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