Pondering Prosumer Photo Services

What does it mean to be a Flickr in this day and age?

I read this post by Doc Searls: “Dear Adobe, Please buy Flickr.” The title sucked me in, and I wanted to read the argument for it. Searls makes some good points and posits his lament well.

To my own dismay — I have well over a decade’s worth of photos there — the service is stagnant. Flickr is a prosumer service. I’m going to borrow that term, as it was popularized greatly by the camera industry. Prosumer describes those who sit between professional photographers and those who are enthusiastic hobbyists. When digital cameras were in their infancy and the first DSLRs came along, these services flourished. SmugMug, 500px, and many more catered well to these people.

My public Flickr photostream, circa May 2016.

I believe it’s not as much Flickr’s fault, nor any other prosumer photo service’s. It’s just that, like the camera industry, these people are becoming a smaller minority. They used to be the majority. These people had the exposure and means to showcase digital photography online. They represented digital photography. I would argue that the iPhone, and smartphones and tablets, have changed that. Apps and tools like Instagram and VSCO, alongside social networks like Facebook and Snapchat, have whittled that down even further. As more people discovered that they could take great photos from their smart devices and share them instantly in places that catered for it, the prosumer services fell behind. The majority has become, well, everyone. The barrier to entry is one smart device.

It’s not that prosumer services don’t have a place but perhaps they need a better direction for what their core competency is. Are you a storage service for photos? (Dropbox/Google Photos). Do you control both storage and presentation? (Flickr/500px/SmugMug). Do you also allow special ways of sharing and the ability to create editorial or content? (Exposure/Storehouse). Perhaps, you take on the juggernaut task of being all of the above. One prosumer service to rule them all?