Why We Shouldn’t Fear Flickr the Stock Site

About The Image recently ran an article that would have sent chills down the spines of anyone afraid of Flickr going commercial. The article looked at the fate of an API that would have enabled Flickr Pro members to move their images onto the 123RF.com stock site.

Within 24 hours of 123RF announcing that the plugin was available, Flickr pulled the plug. The article didn’t mention whether Flickr had offered a reason, but it did suggest one itself: “One can only surmise that Flickr will, eventually, enter the micro-stock business, but will do so on its own terms,” the piece said.

That’s a reasonable conclusion. With so many images on Flickr, the temptation to make them available for sale must be huge.

But that doesn’t mean such a move would be successful.

Flickr’s advantage is its inventory. But the challenge for stock sites isn’t the size of their image banks. Everyone and their uncle owns a digital camera these days, and those who have the skill, talent and the time to take pictures are already filling terabytes of disc space with potentially sellable pictures.

As long as it costs nothing to submit images, any stock site will find itself overwhelmed with photos in no time at all.

And that’s where the problem begins.

Those photographs have to be selected and sorted. Bad shots and duplicate shots have to be weeded out. But the real difficulty is helping buyers find the images they want.

No buyer wants to spend hours testing different search terms and waiting for images to download in order to track down the one picture they need. The photo might only cost a dollar, but if it takes them an hour or two to find it, the buyer might as well have called a traditional agency and bought an RM image.

Flickr is built for uploading and showing, not for searching and finding. Its search box is limited, its tags unhelpful and communities are no replacement for categories.

Flickr might be hoping to grow into a stock site one day, but unless it reinvents itself and creates a new categorization system, I’d be surprised to see many stock buyers rushing to it.

Read Jim Pickerell’s perspective here.

[tags]Flickr, stock photography, microstock, 123RF.com[/tags]

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