SmugMug CEO Don MacAskill told USA TODAY he's committed to breathing new life into the faded social networking pioneer, which hosted photos and lively interactions long before it became trendy.
SmugMug, an independent, family-run company, will maintain Flickr as a standalone community of amateur and professional photographers and give the long neglected service the focus and resources it deserves, MacAskill said in an exclusive interview.
As some of you know, SmugMug was cofounded by @Chris, who also cofounded Cake, and several of us worked at SmugMug before we built Cake.
I also worked at Yahoo for many years and got to know some of the Flickr folks. Some of the best people I've ever worked with work at Flickr and SmugMug, so it's pretty exciting to see them joining forces!
I was never a full fledged Flikr user (their T&C's were terrible) but I was a Smugmug user for many years. Yahoo beat Flikr like a poor stepchild and I suspect Smugmug will invite Flikr users to the big boy table and let them eat steak finally.
I joined Flickr a few days after getting my first dSLR and transitioned to using SmugMug a year or so later. After being a SM customer for 5 years I joined the SM family as a QA tester. Five years later I'm still thrilled to be a part of a company that cares so much about their customers and their photos.
I'm beyond excited for what this means for the future of both services!
This made me smile. I've been a happy SmugMug customer for more than 10 years. I remember that years ago I used to worry that Flickr was going to acquire SmugMug. Life sure takes some strange turns. Hoping that the union works out well for both communities.
I wonder who benefits from this more, Flickr or SmugMug?
Assuming Flickr is a company that's break-even from a financial perspective why would SmugMug toss so much capital into investing into flickr. Certainly not for altruism?
It feels unlikely that a Flickr user, many on a free account would scale up to a Smuggy subscription... but perhaps it would be to offer Print sales as an option to existing flickr users? But with print in general a stagnating market... what's the long term plan? Is there an intent to get into stocks like 500px - an already oversaturated market, or are they just looking to deepen community? If so are they trying to edge onto Instagram territory?
As exciting as it FEELS, the mechanics of it leaves me feeling more worried than excited if I were to be completely honest.
Would love to hear some alternative positive perspectives on how this will benefit SmugMug from a corporate growth standpoint.
I really hope they aim to bring back to life the Flickr photo community, moving in also photographers pissed off by 500px & Co..and probably they expect to get more subscriptions with Flickr+SmugMug bundles, that actually is not a bad idea considering the top quality of SmugMug service!
The news broke when I was in the Tribeca film festival with my phone on do not disturb. Turns out I was in the film and then the cast & crew stayed until the wee hours, so I didn't get to read anything about the Flickr acquisition until this morning.
My inboxes are insane right now because I was cofounder of SmugMug and there for 14 years, yet I have another Tribeca appearance I have to rush off to. Fortunately, everything is amazingly positive except the Gizmodo article, which was pretty funny.
It's pretty remarkable that it has come to this when in the beginning, virtually everyone told us we wouldn't be able to charge for subscriptions, the only real business model was free. Even Chris Anderson wrote a book about that.
Yes challenging, but probably a side effect too, not the real aim. I think the real challenge nowadays is to create a real meritocratic community where people are eager to share their stuffs. (Think about how it was 500px and how it is now).. if you have a working algorithm, you can make money with it..
Agree on the value of Instagram, but how many companies really check if you have an organic engagement or just the followers number and they accept it consciously even if they are bought? Instagram is not a community, is a showcase platform. Another concern is how long it will last..Yesterday was Facebook, today is Instagram but tomorrow for sure something else..I just hope that Flickr will be that tomorrow 🤞
"Hoping that tomorrow" it's Flickr is what I'm particularly skeptical and worried about.
From the smuggy press releases it sounds like they also are not too sure what the future holds and that worries me :(
If you're making a multimillion dollar investment, should there not be a little more concrete of a plan?
Not trying to bash on smuggy. On the contrary, I hope they kill it - but I just don't see the full picture.
“It sounds silly for the CEO not to totally know what he’s going to do, but we haven’t built SmugMug on a master plan either. We try to listen to our customers and when enough of them ask for something that’s important to them or to the community, we go and build it,” MacAskill told USA Today.
How often when you go into a project do you have a fully formed final idea of exactly what the end product will be? On day 1(ish)?
I don’t think this is any different. Don doesn’t know exactly what the “final” product will be in 3 months, a year, a decade... he’s going into this with open eyes and ears. What he (we) hear from the community, find in the details, learn from the team that has been closest to Flickr all these years... all of that will influence where it goes and what is done.
He’s the visionary/creative side of the company leadership, just as you’re the visionary/creative in your own work. I kinda picture him right now in the same position I think you were in sitting in an empty warehouse with a ton of recycling and a vision of models with mermaid tails. :)
Don has shared a very high level vision statement a few times, it’s in the faq on the site. How close is it in specificity to what you wanted to accomplish with that photo shoot?
In the end, you lead your team to create beautiful images with a powerful message. I don’t know how long it will take, but I trust Don to lead the combined teams to improve and grow the social photographic platform that Flickr seems to want to be, just as we have grown the beautiful and private home for your stories that is SmugMug, and the powerful commerce platform that is SmugMug’s professional plan set.
(Disclaimers in case it’s not obvious to everyone: 1. I love Ben VonWong’s work, not questioning his work, just drawing a parallel to what I suspect is his process in an attempt to calm the anxiety before it blows up here like it has in some other venues. 2. I’m the tech lead for SmugMug’s commerce team. 3. I don’t know much that isn’t public at this point about the situation.)
It's funny, I didn't have anything to do with the Flickr acquisition and found out about it from a friend who pointed me to the USA Today article. It was all Don. But it sprinkled fairy dust on me here at Tribeca as people said admiringly, "congratulations!" One exec from Google said she tried to buy Flickr on 3 separate occasions.
I don't know if this is a coincidence, but Caterina Fake, the cofounder of Flickr and somone I have long admired, did a great interview with Reid Hoffman just before the announcement where she said:
These products have come to be called ‘social media,’ but that’s not what Flickr was. Flickr was an online community. The reason they started calling it social media is because you can sell media. You can sell column inches, you can sell broadcast hours, you can advertise against it. But Flickr was not social media. Flickr was an online community.The people there were not marketing; they were having conversations. They were known to each other, and they were being part of the community. And so, that is the spirit under which Flickr had been conceived.
I don't know any details about purchase price, how Flickr is doing, tech, team, etc., but I did watch Reddit rise from the dead when the founders returned a couple years ago. I saw that Caterina tweeted to Don offering help with Flickr, so who knows? It's crazy but after that interview and before I heard about the Flickr acquisition, I thought about reaching out to Caterina to help with Cake.
Based on the stories I've heard from Chris, SmugMug understands, and loves community. The heart of Flickr is the community. The strategy can be sorted out later. How often can a service with 75MM users be acquired? This is a once in a lifetime opportunity.
130MM visitors per month according to Similarweb.com. That's insane. This is an amazing opportunity for SmugMug. Very excited for SM.
For a family owned company to pull this off is incredible. It's so the opposite of the Silicon Valley, private equity stories we hear about endlessly. I love it.
Keeping the free option is going to be telling of the direction. Many may fall over to the pay subscription once they see the value. The value is the next step, what does this mean for current smuggy users, what do they see or benefit from? Can be a big culture shift taking on this many users.
Heh appreciate the time you took to make the analogy to my career! An interesting through experiment.
To answer your question though, when I buy a plane ticket I usually have a fairly clear idea of what I want to achieve, just not how I want to achieve it - which as you clearly pointed out is no different than this situation.
The part I'm seeking clarity on is the business model - so, in my case, the business model has always been: Make something crazy that goes viral no mater what... so that the companies that want to hire me can find me. That's how I make a living. When the day comes where I am unable to create projects that bring in my next projects - that's when my career dies.
It's actually the crossroads I find myself at right this moment as the constant algorithmic changes to social have greatly impacted my ability to create visible content - and actually one of the reasons I'm starting to shift out of social.
So I guess I totally understand the mission and the community and all that... the part that worries me is the business opportunity side of thing. The 1x return. 5x, 10x
"It's actually the crossroads I find myself at right this moment as the constant algorithmic changes to social have greatly impacted my ability to create visible content - and actually one of the reasons I'm starting to shift out of social."
Interesting point. I think content creators including digital publishers are at the same crossroads. I've seen reports of some sites just shutting down. One had 2 million followers or something like that. Everything had to be at scale to be impressive. Maybe we're moving past vanity metrics and into an age of true engagement.
I suppose it ties back into community and real connections and engagement. 50,000 loyal and loving fans is probably worth more then 2MM followers on social. Is Flickr the kind of place someone like yourself can develop a loyal following?
Will something going viral actually be more valuable then ever in the age of it being more difficult to achieve?