My Last Post on the Economics of Flickr

Fractals of Change: Bubble 2.0 – Who Owns My Content? I’ve been writing a lot about the economics of Flickr the past few days and I’m going to stop talking about it after this post. Anil Dash’s post on the economics of Flickr has generated quite a bit of interest out in the blogosphere. Fractals of Change is out today with yet another post on the fairness of Flickr using their users’ content for ads. Tom Evslin suggests that while community based 2.0 efforts are fine for non profit efforts like wikipedia, that when companies like Flickr make actual money and profit it is somehow less ok.

I thought I’d repost something I added as a comment on Tom’s blog today as I think it further clarifies, at least in my case and opinion, the value proposition from Flickr:

As a Flickr user I’m getting ever bit of a fair deal. They pay for the bandwidth of my high resolution bandwidth intensive images. They provide my photographs visibility which might result in outside monetization. You never know, Flickr just MIGHT be creating other ways down the road for their users to monetize their portfolios.

Plus, by offering my photos, I in turn get to view EVERYONE else’s. It’s called sharing — hence photo sharing.
At present I’ve got over 11,000 photos marked favorites at Flickr 9seriously, click on the link, you will see some amazing photography). Some of the most brilliant and creative work I’ve ever seen done with photography. If I had to pay to see all these photos I never would have. But that’s the deal. It’s a community of people sharing. I get to post my art and I get to see others great art in return (ad free as a Pro User I might add).

People are getting too worked up about this. It’s not the users at Flickr who are complaining but all of the outside people who haven’t really felt the richness of a full immersion into the flickr community.

Flickr represents not only an online community, but a way to unite photographers in cities across the U.S. who never would have met each other otherwise. I’ve gone on photo shoots with these people, gotten tips from them, shared stories with them. You can’t put a price on the ability to create this kind of rich beautiful community.

Not only have I been able to view the best photography of my life on Flickr — rivaling even what I’ve seen in fine art museums, I have also met so many fantastic artists and friends in person through flickr. Aqui Ali, Sam Bloomberg-Rissman, cate, SFbuckaroo, Rita, Caitlin Burke, John Curley, Deborah Lattimore, the list goes on and on — and sorry for not mentioning so many other of you who have been equally inspirational for me. I have seen the work of and met brilliant photo artists through Flickr. Without Flickr I never would have met some of these friends and photographers, learned from them, been inspired by them.

And I can assure you that they feel as strongly about Flickr as I do.

Heck I got to spend an evening with none other than Mr. Chalk himself. I don’t expect anyone to understand this without the context of the community that it’s taken from but it was a great time.

And I’ve met so many other people just online — people who are now equally close friends. I’d name them all but I don’t think I could get through the entire deleteme uncensored roster and I’d be afraid of leaving someone out. People from all over the U.S. and even internationally — some great photographers, some just seriously funny people. Participating in deleteme uncensored is truly a fun thing for me and it’s also a heck of a lot cheaper than therapy.

Nobody’s forcing anyone to put their photos on Flickr. It’s voluntary. And even though my photos are used by Flickr, and they may profit, I in the end am enriched much more than they are in a much more meaningful and sustentative way.

For those of you that think that Flickr users don’t get something out of it, I’d challenge you to spend a month immersed in the community and see how you feel then.

Will there be an economic model for artists to sell photos through places like Flickr in the future? Probably. But please, dont’ tell me I’m getting ripped off. Caterina Fake is right in her response post to Anil. Some things are just so much more important than money.

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  1. Tom Evslin says:

    Tom:

    Thanks for this impassioned response. It’s important that there be views from users and just theorists.

    Only one quibble: I didn’t mean to say that I feel it that for-profits have any special obligation to provide cash compensation; only that it is more controversial when they don’t. My view is that content providers like you decide whether what they get from the service provider is a good deal and either do or don’t provide their content.

  2. Tim says:

    You have “over 11,000 photos” marked as favorites?

    Are you sure you’re using that word correctly? 🙂

  3. Thomas Hawk says:

    Yep, over 11,000 and I can’t help it if they are all great. I tend to get obsessive about things from time to time. Check them out for yourself to see some really fantastic photography. http://www.flickr.com/photos/51035555243@N01/favorites/