SmugMug Buys Flickr from the Remains of Yahoo

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Photo-sharing service SmugMug has purchased the beloved photo service Flickr from Verizon for an undisclosed sum, giving it a new lease on life.

As a long-time Flickr user, I’m cautiously optimistic. This is better news than Verizon selling Flickr to some hedge fund.

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I don’t know much about Flickr or Smugmug other than what I’ve read here, and I do always tend to root for the underdogs in the technology sector. But Smugmug is up against Facebook/Instagram, Google Photos/YouTube/Images button in search + Snapchat. There’s even iCloud Photo Sharing, and though it’s not a social network thing, it’s got privacy and security advantages. Amazon Cloud Drive has something similar, and I think Dropbox has too.

To compete with any of the above, not to mention all the advanced features in their mobile apps, Smugmug is going to have to cough up a whole lot of money and figure out a way to greatly increase whatever cash flow Flickr can generate for them. I wish them a lot of luck.


I would definitely use Smugmug if I sold more of my photos. I think the setup is pretty nice.


Smugmug doesn’t really compete with Instagram etal. Their main customers are advanced amateurs through professionals who pay for the service, from $36 through $360 per year. How they’ll deal with Flickr will be interesting to watch.

Flickr member since 2005. Anything is better than Yahoo or Verizon… cautiously optimistic. The Smugmug people seem good and they’ve survived in a tough arena. I can see the free Flickr tier continuing but I wonder if they’ll offer a transition for pro Flickr users to one of their plans.

The article said Smugmug will be keeping Flickr separate. I’m sure Smugmug is solidly positioned in among its niche and is surely profitable if they could buy Flicker. But Flicker is a different species from that of its new owners that has steadily lost a large amount of ground to its much bigger, better funded and technically more advanced and very tough, competitors. The USA Today article mentioned that Smugmug has never accepted outside funding and doesn’t intend to do so, and the point I was trying to make was that I have my doubts they have an Apple sized stash of cash they will need to restore Flicker to its former glory in a very tough market.


Yes I think any notion of restoring glory days is gone. It’s more about providing a solid future.

I can see a free Flickr continuing and becoming an entry point to paid smugmug accounts. Whether the Flickr pro option continues is my question. Given that the offering doesn’t provide a website which is what SmugMug does.

It looks like Snapchat is handing Smugmug an opportunity to acquire a LOT of new members for Flickr:

Though it’s improbable that Smugmug knew about the commercials, they most definitely knew about this when they negotiated the Flickr deal. I haven’t been paying attention to Snap lately and missed this:

“The last few months for Snapchat have been marked primarily by turmoil, with users raging against a redesign to the app. More than one million people signed a petition to make Snapchat go back to its previous interface, which forced the company to acknowledge the frustrations of users—though Snapchat ultimately said the new design is here to stay.”

While I still think Smugmug is jumping into an extremely difficult competitive environment, it looks a little less so than it did to me when it was first announced.


Do you think Snapchat and Flickr really compete, though, Marilyn? My sense is that in the photo space, Snapchat primarily appeals to younger users looking for ephemeral photo sharing, not amateur photographers wanting to create an online portfolio of their pictures.

Flickr has been deemphasizing the semipro photo market since tough competitors entered the market. A few years ago they shut down the photo licensing service (kind of a Getty Photos for amateurs), as well as the high quality photo book and wall art printing, and other services that could no longer compete with those offered Google, Amazon or Apple. They did do a lot of promoting inside Yahoo along with an effort to broaden membership and active engagement.

The youth and 18-35 segments represent the biggest slice of the photo sharing market, both in terms of membership and frequent participation. It’s a highly desirable market for advertisers of all shapes and sizes. If Smugmug wants Flickr to survive as a separate entity, it’s to have to build up audience and engagement across a bigger base.

A question I highly doubt will be answered…will Smugmug have access to data Flickr collected (and maybe will collect) from Yahoo? What about info from Verizon?


Flickr/SmugMug and SnapChat are in totally different universes. The former is all about photography, while SnapChat’s draw is disappearing messages. There is almost no overlap.

Also, as mentioned in the bit, SmugMug isn’t publicly owned, so it doesn’t feel the same pressure that a publicly traded company like SnapChat does. SmugMug has been self-funded and profitable for years.

@glennf wrote a very nice article on the acquisition for Fast Company:

“Flickr, by contrast, says on its hiring page that it has over 90 million monthly users, although there’s no detail about how many pay for the Flickr Pro upgrade, which costs $50 a year.” I don’t see how they can maintain a user base that includes a free tier with a tetrabyte of storage, which must a big majority of the 90 million, unless Smugmug goes public, gets multi millions from investors, or overhauls Flickr’s business model and recalibrate its member acquisition strategy to sell advertising in a market dominated by Instagram, Snapchat, etc. They are even competing with the free tetrabyte of storage, web hosting and design support, sales, community, marketing and support services from Adobe that comes with a $119. per year subscription to Lightroom CC.

Smugmug sounds like it’s a terrific service, and the people who own it sound great too. But if they maintain the status quo, whatever the amount of money Flickr is probably hemorrhaging will snowball. Continuing the free tetrabyte of storage, even on AWS, won’t be cheep unless they eliminate the free tier. Then Smugmug will be competing with itself for subscription sales, and they would still have to fork over bigger bucks than Verizon with its deep pockets, top tier tech and marketing resources was willing to spend to modernize Flickr.


First of all, nearly no one, even the paying members, is using a terabyte of storage. Second, a terabyte is cheap. Third, the reason that Flickr has had problems have nothing to do with the service and everything to do with the incompetence of Yahoo.


    April 28

First of all, nearly no one, even the paying members, is using a terabyte of storage. Second, a terabyte is cheap.

However much or little real estate Flickr is paying for, they are clearly having a problem with paid and free tenants. A tetrabyte of free storage space is no longer the big or unique incentive it once was to attract new users or keep longtime customers using the service. There are other and better free or cheap tetrabytes for consumer storage out there. The article the owners wouldn’t divulge the number of paying users though they bragged about the total number of registered users, which leads me to suspect there aren’t that many paying customers, and there weren’t any details about user engagement for the paid or free services.

Third, the reason that Flickr has had problems have nothing to do with the service and everything to do with the incompetence of Yahoo.

This is 100% true, but it is history. The point I have been to make is that it will cost a whole lot of money to revive Flicker from near death like Steve Jobs did for Apple. If the new owners do come up with enough bucks, which I hope they can, they still have to compete with Facebook, Instagram, etc. IMHO, their best chance is to merge, which they said they would not do.


I don’t know anyone who thinks Flickr should maintain the status quo. Clearly action needs taking. But the time to compete with FB or Instagram is long gone. No way will they consider doing that.

My bet is SmugMug’s interest is their own business as it stands. SmugMug would have evaluated the business challenges in embarking upon this. They probably see the number of users on Flickr’s free tier as an advantage, an available market for bringing a percentage to pro level use given their offering, their path to profit will lie within what they already offer, a gig they know well.

There is a better service than Flickr - an underdog startup from NY - PhotoALBM. They launched their service today and it looks like YouTube for photographers with a pretty good photographer directory.

Note that @turbospudnik is the CEO of PhotoALBM. He’s introducing the service here:

Ed, I don’t mind you talking about PhotoALBM in the context of these changes at Flickr, but let’s try to keep it from being too overtly promotional, please.

sorry… My bad… Will never happen again. I got the point.