Flickr/Yahoo recently announced in the category Product/General Management two new interesting vacancies for a Product Manager A and a Product Manager B, which raises the question if Flickr will enter the commercial stock photo market in the not too distant future, with selected and rights cleared images of its huge image library. Summarizing the two vacancies, the positions -- regarding the key attributes of successful candidates and their key responsibilities -- are described as:
- We are looking for an individual who can share and drive forward our goals by helping grow a key new aspect of the product.
- Specifically, we are looking for someone who understands the potential of user-contributed media to deliver timely (personally, geographically, etc) relevant information to a multiplicity of audiences.
- Build a strategy and product requirements for next generation Flickr services.
- Develop a strong understanding of specific sub-sector of the existing Flickr user base as well as a new set of incoming users.
- Marketing, journalism, photography, photo acquisition or editorial experience all strong plusses.
- Specifically, we are looking for someone who can harness the potential of Flickr’s large and growing commercial eco-system to drive product richness as well as increased monetization for Flickr, Flickr's users, and Flickr partners.
- Develop a strong understanding of existing Flickr user base as well as our growing eco-system of partners.
- Drive product development and project manage the product implementation.
- Payment technologies, intellectual property experience all strong plusses.
The parent company of Flickr, Ludicorp, was founded in 2002, and sold to Yahoo in March 2005. Flickr was launched in February 2004 and showcases currently more than 100 million images.
Some readers may recall the brainstorming discussions between Thomas Hawk and me during the last autumn if Flickr one day will start to sell images ("Flickr: How To Displace Getty Images and Corbis" and "Getty Images, Flickr And The Reinvention Of Outdoor Advertising"), with a big question mark regarding appropriate model releases and other legal issues.
When asked about Flickr and its potential for the stock photo business, the CEO of a US photo agency recently told me that Flickr would never ever expand its business activities into the commercial field. I admire the person, however, it has been the same person responding to a question a year ago about the emerging micropayment stock photo sites and their possibilities with the words: "Micropayment, what?"
Similar to most stock agency owners, for most journalists at that time micropayment sites had been the spawn of satan. The same journalists which, after Getty Images acquired iStockphoto, cried out loud: "Hey, folks, literally, I had been inventing the reporting about micropayment stock photo websites. I saw this all was coming". Today, you can watch ads of micropayment stock photo sites in photo magazines close to ads of classical general stock photo agencies; those that will in all likelihood not survive the next three years.
One of the first marketing studies about iStockphoto was published in April 2004 (ContentBiz/MarketingSherpa: "How istockphoto.com Sells $4,000,000 Photo Downloads Per Year at $1 Each"). On the funny side and to my surprise, I noticed that the study mentioned at the end under References also a blog post called "istockphoto.com: "Bringing the price down to a level where everybody can afford to buy a stock photo"". I wrote this piece when this site was about four weeks old. Later I learned that literally no other sources had been publishing anything about iStockphoto and the so-called "Colorado-based photography nuts". I never understood why obviously so less people are not thinking beyond the day-to-day business, when things outside are changing so fast.
We think that microstock sites can capture up to 30 % of the existing market and create a new market that will be as big, if not bigger, than the one that already exists.
Later, but in a similar way, Jonathan Klein of Getty Images said during the Q1/2006 conference call:
iStockphoto introduced or invented the micro-payment phenomenon for the imagery industry. [...] It’s a new model that we believe expands the market.
There had been a time when reporting about micropayment sites did not result in lots of new friends, simply because they will kill a lot of traditional stock photo agencies and their often ridiculous mediocre image offerings in the next years. And it´s no secret that the next new wave of technology improvements (Super HD footage with annotated audio, all fully searchable including sophisticated management and retrieval of annotated audio) is standing before the door, resulting in new requirements for stock agencies.
Besides this, for the photographers of tomorrow, the classical decisive moment of Henri Cartier Bresson will disappear in the future. It´s is only one single highlighted millisecond, just another frame, in the constant electric flux of recorded reality, ready to be filtered out and picked up as a single image out of the permanent incoming stream of recorded reality. The decisive moment could instead have been the millisecond before or after that one single specific decisive moment Cartier-Bresson captured.
Back to Flickr. It has already impressively demonstrated its potential commercial value and the benefits for advertisers ("Getty Images, Flickr And The Reinvention Of Outdoor Advertising"). If only 0.5 percent of Flickr´s 100 million images would have a sufficient photographic quality, technically and in terms of stock photography, this would result in 500,000 stock photos.
Of course Flickr will hardly be able to solve the model release problem and other legal issues regarding the pictures that have already been taken in the past. But its easy to figure out what needs to be done regarding newly uploaded images, if the photographers are willing to spend a few additional minutes to fill out a prepared model release statement, etc.
Flickr might also decide to find a way to sell editorial images. Sounds weird? Together with John Schott (Carleton College; producer of "American Photography: A Century of Images") of the Camera Iraq blog I had been writing in 2004 about US soldiers in combat taking photos of the daily war in Iraq and uploading the pictures to Flickr (all stories here in the category Iraq|War|Photography: The Meta Level). Some of those images were sold to newspapers and magazines, according to the emails of some soldiers later.
Despite of all present problems, I stand by my prediction that Flickr one day will go commercial with selected images, if they had been tagged properly (and probably tagged more in depth than today) and if Flickr develops a licensing system, a quality selection system, a payment solution and solves the legal issues. Micropayment sites are mostly for talented amateur photographers, but if Flickr will ever start the new service, it will probably be able to generate more suitable RF stock photos with sufficient quality in less time.
- Flickr Founders Fake And Butterfield Named Among 100 Most Influential People In The World (May 06, 2006)
- Dutch Court Upholds Creative Commons License For Images Published On Flickr (Mar. 16, 2005)
- The Flickrs Of Video: Who Will Be Doing The Footage Retrieval? (Nov. 10, 2005)
- Getty Images, Flickr And The Reinvention Of Outdoor Advertising (Sept. 29, 2005)
- Flickr: How To Displace Getty Images and Corbis (Aug. 18, 2005)
- The Next Step For Flickr, Stock Photography (Thomas Hawk, Aug. 17, 2005)
- An Interview with Flickr's Eric Costello (adaptive path, Aug. 04, 2005)
- How Google, Yahoo and Microsoft Will Change the Business of Stock Photography (Thomas Hawk, July 06, 2005)
(Thx to Chicago based pro photog Russ McClintock for the hint regarding the vacancies. Note that his website shows only his more "casual" look images and not his complete work)