When I heard that Flickr is nearly ready to add video capabilities, I felt a bit queasy. Flickr is the leader in the photo sharing arena by a large margin. The main reason it reached critical mass was because of the community it built around the photos uploaded by users. It is also one of the harder sites to monetize since display advertising clashes with photo viewing and there isn’t enough text content for contextual advertising to work. The $24.95 Pro memberships (which can be given as gifts *wink wink*) keep Flickr from being a total money-sink.
Photos require a large chunk of bandwidth to serve up to the millions of Flickr users, but that is nothing compared to the overhead of video. This is probably a moot point considering the company is running off the pipes of it’s owner, web pioneer Yahoo.
While there are good and bad reasons for Flickr to add video, I don’t think they can compete in such a crowded video-sharing marketplace. Did Vimeo, Viddler, Revver, Daily Motion, Blip.tv, Veoh, and the all mighty YouTube leave anything for Flickr to improve upon? It looks like Flickr will have a long, uphill battle to even catch up to the middle of the pack.
Flickr has a huge community around photos and what they need to do is offer more photo related services. Many artists on Flickr have an account at 3rd party sites for selling prints of their work. Flickr could offer fine-art prints from members that opt-in to sell their photos with the service. This way Flickr would tie the browsing and buying experience together and could make a small profit off of each transaction. An example of another art site doing something similar is DeviantART.com (see my prints.).
DeviantART lets users upload as many photos as they want with no file size limitations, just like Flickr. Every member is eligible to opt-in to the standard print account which allows them to sell their art work and receive a cut of the profits. A Premium print account is available for $24.95 a year and offers more print customizations and a higher share of the profits from a sale. These are not run-of-the-mill snapshot prints like at Walmart or Costco. DeviantART does high quality work. The beauty of this is DeviantART can set a base price which includes a tiny profit with every transaction as well as helping out it’s communities. When community members profit, the company profits as well.
Flickr needs something like this! How could such a megasite sit back and watch it’s users point potential customers off to make a purchase? This is money that they are letting go by under their noses. And what do they plan to do with video anyways? Nobody has figured out a successful way to monetize video.
Flickr already has an intuitive interface for uploading, tagging, and browsing photos, why can’t they add selling photos to that list? I feel offering a way for the community to profit off their work while helping Flickr earn it’s keep makes everyone happy. This is way better than adding the latest me-too feature that is already pervasive throughout the web.