Why Webshots is Losing Traffic

Disclaimer, I am the Evangelist and CEO for the company Zooomr. Zooomr would be seen as a competitor to Webshots in the photo sharing space.

Techcrunch — CNET Is Bleeding Traffic Mike Arrington is out with a post on CNET and notes that CNET has had a rough go of it lately. Noteably CEO Shelby Bonnie resigned earlier this week when the company was hit with more controversy surrounding an option repricing scandle.

Unfortunately worse than their CEO’s resignation it would appear that CNET’s traffic has been taking quite a hit. Arrington says that the Comscore data on CNET shows September 2006 traffic at 616 million page views vs. 1.37 billion pages from September 2005.

Certainly there is some debate as to whether or not page views should be the be all end all of measurement and metrics. A poorly designed page, as has been pointed out in the past, can produce significantly more page views than a well designed page.

Still, for the time being we still live in a world where internet properties are largely judged successes or failures based on the page view metric. Bolded by Arrington, one of the largest drops in traffic has been with CNET’s Webshots property, which Arrington says has dropped 69% year over year in traffic. Back in November of 2005 I wrote an article called Flickr and Webshots, A Classic Web 2.0 Case, when Flickr first passed Webshots on the Alexa charts.

A few months back Webshots unveileved a new redesigned site — I suspect in hopes of somehow turning around their lagging traffic. While I will say that the site feels much better than it did before — I think fundamentally Webshots still has a long way to go and has not gotten Web 2.0. The biggest thing still missing at Webshots is the power of a social network. Tagging, notes, people notes, groups, communities, social networks, friends of friends, etc. are all largely missing or not positioned in a way to build the social interaction necessary to make their property become viral and truly succeed.

It’s tough for Webshots of course because with almost 500 million photos now they have become like a giant oil tanker that just can’t be moved overnight. Feature decisions must be made more deliberately and scale must be considered in everything that they do. Still, unless they turn on the social networking side of things they risk losing even more traffic in the future.

I believe that the future of the “photo site as a playground” is deeply rooted in the social side of things and this is what I think it would take to turn Webshots around.

Webshots does do a lot of things right. I particularly like the fact that they have built a revenue share program where top photographers can offer up their stuff for sale and they can share in revenue created from their work. I think their channels approach is also interesting. But at the same time, without the social networking tools more prominently built into their site, a visit just lacks the sort of excitement and compelling feel that it should.

On the plus side I do think consumating.com (another CNET property) is doing a lot of things right on the social networking side of things. I think Yelp is also an interesting property of theirs. Hopefully a lot of what they are doing will rub off on Webshots in the future.

At Zooomr of course are looking at implementing many of these social features aggresively into Zooomr within the next 6 to 12 months. We do of course have an advantage in being considerably smaller than a site like Webshots, not having scale issues yet today, and having a developer who likes to crank out cool new features at the pace of about one a week and has the energy of an 18 year old to stay up all night doing it.

Update: Grrrrr. Veronica just reminded me that I mentioned Yelp in the above article as a CNET property (which they are not). I meant to say Chowhound which is a CNET property doing interesting things in the social networking space. Yelp of course is pretty cool too.