Photo sharing is one of the top segments and in the US the top 10 photo sharing sites draws around 50 million visitors each month. In this series, we will evaluate the category against the web 3.0 framework.
Photo sharing is gaining in popularity fueled by its online community features, which allow millions of users around the world to share their photos and stay connected. These sites have become very popular and have been experiencing significant rise in traffic levels. According to Hitwise, 4.9% of all Internet visits in September 2006 went to the top 20 social networking sites like MySpace, YouTube, Photobucket, Flickr and Facebook. Photo sharing is also responsible for the rising demand for image hosting services and photo blogs.
Photo sharing sites by nature are very sticky and users spend a lot of time uploading, organizing their album and viewing photographs. From March 2006 to March 2007, Photobucket’s market share of US visits increased by 113%. Flickr grew by 68% from March 2006 to March 2007 and traffic to Slide has grown by more than 2000% in the same period.
Photo sharing includes online uploading, publishing and sharing of one’s digital photos with other users, mainly through websites, photo blogs and galleries. Photobucket with an Alexa ranking of 47 is the largest photo sharing site with 3 billion online images and videos, 41 million members and over 80,000 new members sign up every day. According to Hitwise, Photobucket has a market share of over 41% in March 2007.
Other popular photo sites are Shutterfly, WebShots, SmugMug, Snapfish, and Picasa. The main categories in these photo sharing sites are photo searching, uploading, photo editing and creating of photo e-cards, calendars, photo sharing, social networking and online printing, including photo books. This apart, photo sharing sites enable users to categorize and sort images, attach appropriate keyword tags, deliver images in diverse sizes, render creative treatment of images and sharing images on their websites or blogs.
Today photo sharing is also possible with portable gadgets like camera phones and one can automatically transfer photos to photo sites or blogs, directly by MMS. Some cameras even come with wireless networking features that allow sharing photos from anywhere.
One must take note of the fact that sites like, Photobucket, Slide and Imageshack are more of image hosting sites and consumers use them to upload and link their photos to other social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook, etc. whereas Flickr, is a true social space and is used more for sharing one’s photographs than just uploading them and this is the reason why sites like Photobucket and Slide receive a large portion of their traffic from other social networking sites like MySpace, Xanga, Facebook, etc.
In March 2007, more than 56% of Photobucket’s traffic and 70% of Slide’s traffic came from MySpace, whereas Flickr’s upstream traffic from MySpace was below 3%. This explains the huge amount of photo and images on Photobucket and its high traffic levels. Flickr on the other hand is a destination site with socializing, sharing and tagging features and is far ahead of Photobucket in the social space.
Photo sharing sites go a step further than photo blogs by allowing multiple views (such as thumbnails, and slideshows) so as to classify photos into albums, instead of a mere chronological display of posted images. Photo sharing sites like Shutterfly also have full-fledged online organization tools equivalent to desktop photo-management applications. Users can also gauge the performance of their photos from the comments and ratings given by viewers.
These sites earn revenues from subscription fees for uploading and sharing of photos and advertisements. Some of these sites like Shutterfly, Kodak Gallery, etc. provide digital printing services. Photobucket earned revenues of $9.34 million in 2006 and Shutterfly earned revenues of $123.3 million in 2006. Sites like Fotki, PBase, and SmugMug also sell a host of products like t-shirts, caps, and mugs.
Increased photo sharing has also led to a number of take over and acquisition deals. Yahoo acquired Flickr, a photo-sharing site with 4.5 million registered members and over 500 million photos for $30 million in 2005. The site had a growth of 346% in the following year. Google entered the fray by taking over Picasa, (photo management software, formerly owned by Neven Vision) in August 2006 to rev up its photo sharing and management tools. HP acquired Snapfish, a photo sharing site with 13 million registered members in 2005. According to Reuters, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. (MySpace) is acquiring Photobucket for $250 million in cash.
Today online photo sharing is clearly a social phenomena and the industry is expected to experience rapid growth due its stickiness and social networking capability. This growth opportunity has resulted the entry of a number of new players in the industry like Pikeo and the emergence of photo search engines like Ditto and the growing interest among entrepreneurs and venture capital funds in this business.