Long before the reign of Instagram and Facebook groups, Flickr was the best place for photographers to share and discuss their work, as well as meet some like-minded creatives. Now that photo-sharing and storage company SmugMug has bought Flickr for an undisclosed price, CEO Don MacAskill has expressed his commitment to breathe new life into the photo sharing community and make it a haven for photographers once again.
“We will move heaven and earth to thrill you and photographers everywhere,” he even tweeted to a Flickr Pro user.
In an exclusive interview with USA Today, MacAskill said Flickr will remain a standalone community of amateur and professional photographers, and will be finally given the focus and resources it needs and deserves. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer attempted to take on this very task in 2013, but failed to rejuvenate the photo sharing site.
Despite its decline, MacAskill still sees promise in Flickr, being “an amazing community full of some of the world’s most passionate photographers.” While the rise of Facebook and Instagram in the smartphone era has diminished the traffic from Flickr’s glory days, it still has over 75 million registered photographers, more than 100 million unique users, and rakes up tens of billions of photos. It’s a challenging task but if MacAskill does engage the most serious of photographers still using the site, it can also be a profitable venture for SmugMug. Especially if he can get more of them to subscribe to or maintain a “Pro” account for $6 a month or $50 a year.
For those who are hearing about SmugMug for the first time, it’s easy to voice concerns over the new ownership. But, SmugMug has actually been around longer than Flickr, having been founded in 2002. While it maintains a smaller community and never entertained outside investors and buyout offers, the independent company has been lauded by its millions of customers for its dedication to photography and personal touch to its service. This is what many photographers are hopeful about SmugMug now at the helm of Flickr.
Another major concern raised by existing Flickr users is the security of their information now that it’s in the hands of a new owner. Will information get sold to advertisers as well, or worse, undermine their privacy the way it happened with the Facebook – Cambridge Analytica fiasco? MacAskill assures it won’t happen as SmugMug doesn’t “mine our customers’ photos for information to sell to the highest bidder, or turn into targeted advertising campaigns.”
Meanwhile, MacAskill still has to figure out what to do with the newly acquired Flickr. He may be on the right track with his plan to start by getting feedback from employees and users.
“I don’t know what the future holds. This is a new model for me,” he told USA Today. “We certainly think we need to operate it with an eye to our cash flow and our profitability. We are going to have to take a detailed look at the business and make sure it’s growing and healthy.”
Image from the SmugMug + Flickr announcement