Brother, can you spare a dime: Flickr owner sends mass-email begging for subscriptions

Nothing on you? Ask a friend

The owner of Flickr has once again brought out the begging bowl after telling the service's legion of users that company accounts are still daubed with red.

"Flickr needs your help. It's still losing money," wrote Don MacAskill, co-founder and CEO of SmugMug, earlier this week in a mass email to users that implored them to subscribe to Flickr's premium service, Flickr Pro.

Last year, the niche image hosting platform SmugMug acquired Flickr from Oath — the company founded by Verizon media to manage the remnants of Yahoo! and AOL, which it had acquired in 2017 and 2015 respectively.

A site like Flickr would always pose challenges to its owners. The contemporary online sphere is fundamentally different to what it was in 2004, when current Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield first founded the site. The rise of Facebook, as well as backup services like Google photos, have arguably diluted its raison d'étre. At least, as a mass-market product.

From January 8, 2019, SmugMug began to limit free Flickr accounts to 1,000 photos and videos, telling users: "If you need unlimited storage, you'll need to upgrade to Flickr Pro."

Seemingly, not enough users took it up on the offer, as several discussion board threads attest, and SmugMug has struggled to monetise the site.

"Hundreds of thousands of loyal Flickr members stepped up and joined Flickr Pro, for which we are eternally grateful. It's losing a lot less money than it was. But it's not yet making enough."

You likely pay services such as Netflix and Spotify at least $9 per month. I love services like these, and I'm a happy paying customer, but they don't keep your priceless photos safe and let you share them with the most important people in your world. Flickr does, and a Flickr Pro membership costs less than $1 per week.

In his plea, MacAskill described the site as "core to the fabric of the internet." He also enlisted the site's community of users to get their friends and family to sign up.

SmugMug, which owns a handful of patents, is also a family-owned independent business that has refused to take venture capital money, according to Crunchbase. And while those are commendable qualities, they don't inspire confidence in the company's ability to absorb sustained losses from its Flickr acquisition.

While this email might temporarily boost subscriptions, it's just as likely to spook users who are terrified at the prospect of losing over a decade's worth of photos. ®

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