Flickr CEO Appeals to Users to Save the Platform, Admits Huge Financial Losses

Flickr CEO Appeals to Users to Save the Platform, Admits Huge Financial Losses

The CEO of SmugMug and Flickr has emailed users of the latter site, requesting they sign up for Pro accounts as a means of saving the platform. In the unusually candid message, he refers to Flickr as a “money-losing business” and admits some years, the loss was as great as “tens of millions of dollars.”

As many know, SmugMug acquired Flickr some two years back. Recalling the acquisition in the email, CEO Don MacAskill wrote:

We’ve spent 17 years lovingly building our company into a thriving, family-owned and -operated business that cares deeply about photographers. SmugMug has always been the place for photographers to showcase their photography, and we’ve long admired how Flickr has been the community where they connect with each other. We couldn’t stand by and watch Flickr vanish.

One of the most significant changes to the platform after SmugMug became involved was the decision to end the one terabyte of free storage Flickr had allowed its users since 2013. Their aim had been to sign people up for the Pro account and use the platform for storage instead of the likes of Google and Dropbox.

He continues:

We didn’t buy Flickr because we thought it was a cash cow. Unlike platforms like Facebook, we also didn’t buy it to invade your privacy and sell your data. We bought it because we love photographers, we love photography, and we believe Flickr deserves not only to live on but thrive. We think the world agrees; and we think the Flickr community does, too. But we cannot continue to operate it at a loss as we’ve been doing.

SmugMug is now offering a holiday promotion for Flickr Pro, with 25% off: “If you value Flickr finally being independent, built for photographers and by photographers, we ask you to join us, and to share this offer with those who share your love of photography and community,” MacAskill adds.

Lead image by Josh Appel on Unsplash.

Jack Alexander's picture

A 28-year-old self-taught photographer, Jack Alexander specialises in intimate portraits with musicians, actors, and models.

Log in or register to post comments

Photography has really evolved this past decade. What used to be of value is no longer (as much). Companies are going to have to look at different business models to stay in the photography business.

To save it. He should allow smugmug users to merge their Flickr accounts to smugmug, and then just let flickr die. I love Flickr. But if it is not feasible, then supporting it is foolish

Why? I pay both services separately, and don't want them together: Flickr is my portfolio and place to discuss on groups; Smugmug my backup place.

Nothing in life is free....protect and save yourself!

See the thing that gets me on this, these companies are all pretty narrow minded. Imagine you have several interests and several ways of viewing content. For example you like photography and music (many do) and you want to have premium ad free content, let’s say you sign up to YouTube, Mixcloud, Soundcloud, Prime, Netflix, Flickr, 500px, Spotify... add those together and suddenly you are approaching £50 a month without even including something like Sky TV and your broadband payment or a subscription to software. Do these people not realise that them and everyone else is trying to fleece money from people and it’s getting to the point where people just can’t afford it.

Mixcloud and YouTube are pretty much unusable now with all the ads and features that have been taken away from the platform, you can’t even rewind a track in Mixcloud unless you start paying monthly, what the hell is that all about? And as for YouTube those adverts are embarrassing, there is even one popping up over the video header now, all advertising shite I’m not interested in.

Sorry I forgot to add, Instagram are now promoting a ‘pro’ version, I have no idea what it costs but I’m dying to see how they start crippling it to try and make us pay, I’m kind of at the stage now where I don’t really care if these organisations disappear out of pure greed.

You are completely missing the point, these companies need to be looking at the bigger picture and realising that each one of them cant expect to charge between £5 and £10 per month then come begging when nobody wants to pay. Perhaps their business model moving forward should be some sort of one off package that gets you access to several sites, maybe working together with other companies to provide this.

But as i said i dont care what happens to them.

Sounds like you need got install adblockers on your computer/phone. I highly recommend "pi-hole" and putting it on your home network, blocks ALL adverts on all devices on your network. Good stuff, because adverts suck.

Its not going to stop Youtube videos having adverts though is it, or Mixcloud/Soundcloud from having them.

Stuart... here's an ironic aside to Mr. Pi-hole's admonishment of your position.

I did some reading on Pi-hole. Led me to Bloomberg News article.

Seems one gaming company went belly up after 30% of their users used ad-blocking software.

Maybe this is what's happening to Flickr? Doh. Caught at their own game of cutting a piece of the 200 billion dollar pie that is advertising?

I laugh all the way to the delete option. :)

You can stop YouTube/soundcloud adverts (don't know about mix cloud, I don't use it) through a simple browser adblocker, like Ublock Origin, or Adblock. I would recommend Ghostery as well, to block trackers like Facebook/google, running through EVERYTHING stealing data.

But yes, PiHole will block all adverts coming into your house. I'm not super tech knowledgable, so I don't *really* get how it works, but here's its website if you want to read more: (I think they have pretty active forums/reddit where you can get more specific answers and assistance!)

Yeah I’ll have a look at that, I mainly watch YouTube through the iPad app though so unsure if it will block those but definitely worth a try.

I watch YouTube just fine everyday... Not sure why you think it's unusable. The ads are like 5-15 seconds long in most cases, which is a fine price to pay for hours of free content.

My view on it is, those adverts at the start I have no issue with, the ones during a video and them random ones that come on right at the end are annoying as hell. And as I said adverts have started to cover up the title part of the video now, it will get worse and worse I can guarantee it.

I definitely share your frustration with the never ending litany of requests for subscription fees for loads of services, but I don't think in all cases this qualifies as greedy businesses (some, probably do though). In Flickr's case, they're flat out losing money and need a solution. Obviously Flickr is a business and it has staff that need to be paid, operating costs, infrastructure costs, etc. No I don't want to pay for further services either, but I don't think the advertising model works like it used to - that advent of adblockers alone means that not all websites can serve ads to the visitors to their site. I suspect that's why so many sites are moving to subscription fees - they aren't getting sufficient money to keep the lights on with ads anymore.

I think that we as users have really been spoiled by many services which are considered free for years - I mean, even a website operating out of someone's basement has costs to operate and that money has to come from somewhere. As frustrating as it is, it really just makes me really think about what services do and do not have value for me.

Yeah true, I’m considering paying for a year on Flickr but at the end of the year I need to feel more engaged with the social side of it than I currently do.

That's fair. I'm on the fence over paying as well - I may buy in for a year at the discounted rate and see how things go. In my opinion, the user fee model that Flickr is using is really only attractive to current users - getting someone to try Flickr out and convert them to a paying customer right away will be really hard. I am curious about how they're going to draw new people into Flickr and then convert them to Pro users, because if they can't figure that out, then the service may not last. Time will tell I guess!

It seems like every single business in the country thought they could herd us onto a subscription plan. And many of us are now "just saying no" to anything new that requires a subscription - or even an account.

Same applies to non digital content. You have to value what you use, I'm paying a lot for my car, house, food, electricity... But also restaurants, bars... And that's not a thing you really need. Just value what you get for what you pay

They got me. I haven't posted anything to Flickr in several years but I still remember the good ol days and I do still have 1800 photos out there already. I signed up for a Pro account for a year to see if they can get things figured out.

Do you not know Yahoo owned Flickr and screwed it up before Smug Mug bought it or are you too busy sport trolling?

Flickr was doomed the moment Instagram became a thing.

And now Instagram is a landfill.

After years of limbo under Yahoo and Oath/Verizon, Flickr is finally moving in the right direction again. If you ask me. I never left them. Been there (and been Pro-member) since 2005. But under Yahoo Flickr moved away from being a primary gallery oriented site, to first for a short while trying to be an instagram competitor. Then when that didn't succeed, they tried putting focus on a photo backup service (and data harvesting I guess). Surely Yahoo was just trying to copy other peoples game, instead of taking advantage of Flickr's own strengths (photo organising and community).
With SmugMug as the new owner, it looks like that instagram dream is finally forgotten and the backup service clearly down-prioritized. I finally got all my uploads pre-2012 updated to same display-sizes as my newer uploads (Yahoo "forgot" the old photos when they in 2012 stepped up from 1024px to 2048px max display-size), and now we also have up to 6K for all photos.

Yes I know, there's a lot of Fstoppers who are afraid of posting anything larger than a thumbnail online, but then Flickr is probably not the kind a site you are looking for. Flickr is for people who would like to organize their photos and share them in a community. At least that is how I want Flickr to be, and I believe SmugMug agrees.
Flickr still needs to bring back a possibility to show albums on the frontpage of flickr photostreams, before it is getting really good (again). And the community parts could also need some love. But I definitely like the signals and directions seen from SmugMug so far.

And as for the letter. Don't over-dramatize. It is not the end of the World (or Flickr). Read the update I posted a link to in an earlier comment.

I think I am more optimistic about the future of Flickr, than I have been at any other time in the last decade. At least since start of the decade.

SmugMug kept it afloat and huge thank ‘em for that. As I’ve heard people at SmuMug are pretty passionate about photography and honest apparently. I feel that Wikipedia target donations model could suit them pretty well, but it is not feasible since they are taking subscriptions... What do you think will work for them?

Flickr is an invaluable tool for landscape photography research, that's why I support it with my pro membership fee.

I think it's inevitable that Flickr dies. The bad thing is that I'm a pro-member who's website uses Flickr API to get all the photos to my website so I will be looking for a new solution to showcase my photos. And I thought Flickr would be the last site to go down of all the options I had when planning my website... How wrong was I? :(

Things looks better now than before SmugMug bought it. Flickr is not in immediate danger of closing down. But of course, in the long run SmugMug needs to succeed with their Flickr project. SmugMug CEO Don MacAskill in a follow-up comment in Flickr's help-forum:

- Flickr is not in danger of being shut down, and shutting it down is not one of our contingency plans. Your photos are safe. We just need to generate a little more revenue to ensure they're safe _forever_. We're close, thanks to the big surge in support from this community in the last year, but we're not quite there yet. We have to reach a break-even run rate. But we will get there, one way or the other. And again, we're close.

A quote from Don MacAskill in the update: "Less than 1% of Flickr members pay for Flickr Pro". People want something for nothing. Some people get upset when they don't get something for nothing. Imagine that. Some people think they are getting something for nothing on certain sites but are they really? I don't mind paying for something that is useful to me.

I have been on Flickr since 2012 and a Pro member. I like Flickr. I like how it works. I used to be on ipernity and a paying "Club" member for several years too. A few years ago they raised prices due to financial difficulties and I had to make a decision which site I wanted to stay with. I stayed with Flickr because they not only offered more but much better organized. Just better overall.

I know Instagram is supposed to be "the" photo site but I have tried it twice and hate it. I Can't upload photos from my PC unless I do a hack to Chrome. WTF??? First thing Insta suggested after I created a new account was to follow popular celebrities like the Kardashians and Ariana Grande. Give me a break! Yet I see a lot of posts on here saying how important Instagram is to photographers. Maybe I'm doing something wrong but I think it's a disorganized mess. I sure as Hell don't ever want to see Flickr turn into Instagram or Instagram by the only game around for photo sharing.

As for posting photos on Facebook, it's not made for photo browsing like Flickr is. It's slow for viewing photos but there are lots of good photography groups on there.

Unless Flickr Fluks up turns into Insta-something I'll support them! ;-)

I've been on Flickr for about 3 years. I've been using Instagram actively for about 2 years; not a large following by any means. I've done a number of paying gigs as a direct result of people contacting me via IG. I've never had any such inquiries via Flickr. I think part of the reason for that is that Flickr is about and for photographers. Instagram is about the masses. They are two completely different beasts.

It's losing money because they've never adapted the business to a more current market. They became obsolete, and never adjusted. Why on earth would anyone put more money into a business that clearly cannot survive another decade

Google photos is going to kill a lot of sites like Flickr. Instagram is a joke.

Flickr has continued trying to fit a square into what "used" to be a square but's now a triangle.

Used it since around 2007 and it served a good purpose for hosting images...which could then be linked elsewhere blogs/web portfolios etc.

Then came Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.

Maybe if they had maintained the communities (groups) and built in more features such as a "portfolio" view they might still be in the race.

Kinda sounds like they are getting subscriptions which will end up being rolled in SmugMug at the point Flickr fails.

I don't think it survives as a standalone platform anymore.

As somebody that's had a flickr pro account since 2008 and saw smugmug double what I paid, and has had a smugmug portfolio account since 2014, and recently saw that raise in price by $30, I'm kind of done with smugmug asking me for more money.

Never used and don't plan on. I don't get the point of it.

The dooms day scenario was long coming. Watch out for the nukes dropping. I see some other sites ending soon. Hopefully not fstoppers.

Maybe Flickr has outlived its usefulness and needs to be retired at this point

Really, Flickr is going under the financial crisis? I could never believe it as this has been quite a famous platform. I must say there should be done something to save this platform.

I started my first online gallery in 1996 with up to 2.500 very small pictures for the 800x600 screen size
then I used for a while and switched to with many pictures in many albums
in 2008 I switched to flickr with a pro account and have now about 11.000 pictures with about 26 million clicks

I don't and will not use FB or Instargram
If flickr will close down, I may start my own home page again and then don't have to ask any body for any permission??