In light of the demise of Digital Railroad, a few readers have written expressing concern about the future of PhotoShelter, and what their
closing of the PhotoShelter Collection means. So, we thought we'd ask them how things are going, and we turned to Grover Sanschagrin for answers.
1) Some readers were concerned about the closing of the PhotoShelter Collection and seem to be confusing that with the entire PhotoShelter service. Can you shed some light on this?
We closed down the PhotoShelter Collection because it wasn't cost-effective to keep it running considering the current economic climate. The last thing we wanted to do was put the PhotoShelter Personal Archive in jeopardy. This is the product we started with over 3 years ago, with over 35,000 photographers subscribing to it. It was a difficult decision at the time, but it was the right decision. Doing so allowed us to cut the burn rate - and "cutting the burn" is the key to survival right now.
Exactly. A global search across all archives has always been possible with PhotoShelter. But the Collection added photo editors, a sales staff, research people, and a beefed-up marketing department. It was free for photographers to participate, and when sales were made, PhotoShelter's take was 30%.3) When Digital Railroad was in its' final death throws, PhotoShelter was very active behind the scenes trying to figure out a way to help stranded photographers rescue their images. Do you feel that most photographers were able to get their images off the DRR servers in time?
Unfortunately, most people didn't get their images off in time. The longer someone waited to get their images, the less likely they were to experience successful transfers. The people who jumped on it the moment you started writing about it on your blog were able to get their entire archives safely ported over to PhotoShelter.4) Of the reportedly 1,400 or so active DRR photographers, about how many are now PhotoShelter customers?
This may sound like a non-answer, but we really don't know for sure which of our newest customers are from DRR. I can tell you, however, that signups have *definitely* increased. If I were to make a rough estimate, I'd say that somewhere around 35% of the total DRR population have signed up with PhotoShelter since the news first broke.5) Prior to the demise of DRR, it was said that PhotoShelter (as separate from the PhotoShelter Collection) was a cash-flow positive business, so it would stand to reason that the addition of that 35% who migrated from DRR would make PhotoShelter even more stable moving forward. Can you expand on this?
I can't really expand on that at all, at least not with the kind of specific details that I know you want. But I will say that I am proud of our management team, and that the decisions made were difficult but right, and the company, and product, has never looked better as a result. As a company that takes its archiving responsibilities very seriously, we're not interested in taking chances. We're interested in long-term survival, and putting the company in a position it can happen -- even during an economic downturn.6) What growth areas do you see for PhotoShelter in the future?
Now that the Collection isn't such a large focus anymore, we've turned our full attention to the Personal Archive. We plan to continue with our aggressive development calendar, and respond to the ideas and suggestions of our customers. Making the product stronger is our main focus.7) We've previously highlighted the new embed-able galleries features, as well as the incredible shoot-to-live-online capabilities. Are there any exciting new features you can tip us off to in the near future?
Are there exciting new features coming? Yes. Will I tell you what they are? Not exactly. I'm not sure if people realize just how amazing our engineers are, and how fast they can turn an idea into a reality. With their full attention on the Personal Archive, my job has never been more exciting.8) What can the average photographer be expecting to spend each month on your service?
We've got several different price points, starting with a Free account (with only 150mb of storage) to allow people to get in there and check it out for as long as they'd like. We've got accounts at $9.99/mo (10GB), $29.99/mo (35GB) and $49.99/mo (100GB). Adding more storage can be done on-the-fly and at extremely affordable rates.9) Shouldn't that nominal amount either be an easily absorbable figure into a small businesses' overhead, or billable out as "online image delivery" to a client when an assignment is delivered that way? (in other words, are other photographers doing it that way?)
Considering what you're getting for your monthly subscription, it's an absolute bargain. A serious photographer using PhotoShelter to drive their business has no problem covering these costs. Wedding photographers can charge a bride/groom for an online digital archive; Retouchers can avoid the costs of DVDs by selling archiving space to their customers; Photographers of all kinds can open up brand new revenue streams with print sales or by making personal-use downloads available, etc.10) What seems to be the one stumbling block that a potential user is not surpassing that is precluding them from signing up, and what would you tell them if you were talking to them one-on-one?
Many photographers think that in order to make use of PhotoShelter, they'd first have to spend hours and hours uploading their entire archive, and this is time they do not have. I regularly tell photographers to just get started today, and worry about the past later. Tomorrow will eventually be yesterday, so the longer you wait to get started, the more of a chore it will be when you finally get around to it.
I also think that many photographers look at PhotoShelter and ask themselves if it can do everything they need it to do in terms of how they are running their business, instead of how PhotoShelter can, through innovation, actually improve HOW the are running their business.
My favorite PhotoShelter user is anyone who is curious, willing to experiment and try new things, sees the Internet as an opportunity, and is innovative in their business strategy. This kind of attitude and outlook is critical to success and long-term stability - something we should all be thinking about.
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