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Flickr cash shortage leads to plea for more paying members

Flickr is still losing money and needs more people to sign up to its Pro tier to have a chance of survival. That’s according to Don MacAskill, CEO of SmugMug, which bought the photo site in 2018.

At that time, Flickr was losing “tens of millions of dollars a year,” MacAskill wrote in a message emailed to Flickr users on Thursday. But he added that although it’s losing a lot less money than it was, it needs more people to fork out for Pro membership “if we want to keep the Flickr dream alive.”

In the lengthy, 850-word post, the SmugMug CEO promised that funds from Pro subscriptions go directly to keeping Flickr up and running. At the current time, regular pricing for Flickr Pro starts at the equivalent of $4.99 a month if you pay annually, or $6.99 payable monthly, though a “small” price increase is expected in early 2020.

As an incentive to sign up for Pro, MacAskill announced a campaign starting on December 26 offering photographers 25% off the annual fee, as well as a coupon code for existing Pro members that they can share with friends and family, or other photography enthusiasts.

Pro members get unlimited, full-quality storage for their images, and ad-free browsing for themselves and visitors to their page. Advanced stats on the performance of your Flickr page are also made available.

In a heartfelt pitch, MacAskill sought to compare a Flickr subscription with those offered by other online outfits: “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.”

The SmugMug boss said that after taking control of Flickr in 2018, it has carried out work on the site to make its pages load 20% more quickly and photos 30% more quickly. There are fewer outages, too, and new features are being developed and added over time.

SmugMug began efforts to nudge people toward the Pro tier at the start of 2019 when it introduced a 1,000-photo limit to its free tier. This left users who had more than 1,000 photos on the site the choice of either signing up to Pro or having their Flickr collection automatically reduced to 1,000 images, with the oldest uploads deleted first.

Ramming home the fact that Flickr continues to have money troubles, MacAskill wrote: “We cannot continue to operate it at a loss as we’ve been doing.” Whether his impassioned plea for more members bears fruit remains to be seen, but for the sake of those who do sign up, let’s hope Flickr sticks around for some time to come.

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Trevor Mogg
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