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Picapp asks: would you be willing to pay? Parallels with Delicious?

At the end of 2010 I noted the demise of Picapp image search and photo licensing. But less than a week into 2011 and Picapp are repentent, emailing publishers once again (see below).

Their email asks if publishers would be willing to pay for the service if they brought it back, and to let them know via a survey. Why they’d not thought of surveying users prior to making their decision to close the service last year is anyone’s guess, but if you’d like to see it’s return and would be willing to pay do let them know.

The situation has parallels with Yahoo’s Delicious, which was also seemed to be threatened with closure just before Christmas via a review of Yahoo services. Users were up in arms and a Save Delicious website quickly launched. Many users jumped ship to other similar (but not quite the same) services, others stating that they’d be willing to pay for this useful bookmarking service, of which I am one.

Yahoo! realising the error of their PR and propensity for internal email leaking responded with a a statement stating that Delicious was not being shut-down but merely up for sale and waiting for a new owner to take it on who could care for it properly.

This didn’t really satisfy many folk and from a business point of view sounds a little on the crazy side, considering it’s fairly low running costs and how it should (but never has) integrate in with Yahoo’s search business. However, Delicious is still with us until the next Yahoo! email leak tells us otherwise.

What’s interesting is that both these stories of Picapp and Delicious tell us two things:

  • Don’t presume you know your customers. Whilst they might mostly be quiet and unassuming this doesn’t mean they do not appreciate a service you provide.
  • Don’t presume that people aren’t willing to pay for services they value and that are useful to them on an everyday basis.

Pinboard, a rival bookmarking service to Delicious who scooped up dis-satisfied Delicious users in December, charges a one time fee of $9.17. Pinboard explain that the fee ‘helps discourage spammers and defrays some of the costs of running the site’ and that the fee is ‘based on the formula (number of users * $0.001), so the earlier you join, the less you pay’.

Oh, and here’s the Picapp email in full for those interested:

Greetings!

Hello loyal picapp users,

Ever since we announced the termination of the picapp image search for blogs , we were overwhelmed by the amount of requests we got from you guys to keep the service up and running.

We always knew that the service in important , as a way for providing affordable and legal access to top content , but it was not cost effective for us to keep running in on a free\ads-based model.

Due to the much interest you guys showed in our support forums and email , we would like to give it a chance and figure out in an effective way , whether you will indeed be willing to pay for such a service.

If enough publishers will show interest , we will then see if we can indeed restructure the business model for the content licensing. Don’t just hit the “yes, I want to pay”button if you don’t mean to put your credit card right after!

So here we go , please provide an honest answer to indicate your willingness (if any) to pay;

And in any case , thank you again for being such a loyal user of the picapp image search for blogs.
The picapp team.

Take this survey

Thank you for your involvement with Picapp and your participation in the Survey.

The Picapp Team

Picapp says goodbye to image search

In 2009 we cheered when Picapp announced a relationship with WordPress to enable the free embedding of news and stock photographs, including images from Getty, into blog posts.

The glee was two fold. Picapp was a source for high quality news images to illustrate blog posts easily (a simple matter of copying and pasting the embed code and selecting which size and position you wished your image to be) and secondly that this would ensure that copyright would not be accidentally breached, as all the images were licensed.

About a month or so ago they sadly announced the end of this nifty and useful service for WordPress.com but it remained for those using WordPress installations on their own servers and to other web publishers. Although existing embedded photographs on WordPress.com would continue to be supported, licensed and maintained. Two days before Christmas Picapp announced the end of this and their image search service – which enabled the selection of images for use – full-stop, via an email to publishers. Here’s how they explain it:

Dear publisher,
Couple weeks ago we shared with you news related to launching the Picapp Widget, our newest app.
With that we embarked on a new journey as a company.

As in with every new journey some things, some say “older” things, change, this is a true statement here as well.

During the past two years Picapp became a source for millions of premium, legal and free images, you have all enjoyed using our images along your posts and we enjoyed reading those posts and seeing the value our images add. Unfortunately despite the increase in usage, the demand was not sufficient to commercially justify this as our core business model, which is why we have decided to terminate the Picapp images search. Picapp will now be focusing only on distributing image-related engagement and monetization tools to publishers.

We realize that for the those of you who love using picapp solely for image licensing, these are not ‘fun’ news to hear and therefore wanted to address some of the questions you probably have reading this text:

What will happen to my already-published picapp images?
As we have committed to you before–all previously published images will remain live on your sites. Picapp plans to continue to bear the cost of content delivery and stream the images so they will appear on your site.
We are making this very clear: all previously published picapp images remain up.

Are the images I already published still validly licensed?
Beyond the technical aspect of having images continue and appear on our sites we also wanted to re-assure, as in with all picapp images, all previously published images have been fully licensed to Picapp and sub-licensed to you as our users so as long that images are used according to our terms these images can remain up.

How can I get new images?
As far as coming to Picapp to grab new images, this service will no longer be available via the site nor via the various plug ins, we have been fortunate to work with wonderful content providers, names such Zuma Press, Pacific coast News and Newscom are just a few, you can reach out to these agencies for direct licensing of images; other resources we recommend are: fotoglif, fotolia, istockphoto.

This change will take effect on December 31st, from that point on there will be no images available to publish thru picapp.com.

As a company we’ll continue to focus our resources and efforts on further developing and promoting the Picapp Widget, as an image engagement and monetization app for publishers, many of you have been using this Widget since we launched it and based on the feedback we got from you so far you are very excited about it!

Thank you for being a loyal user and for being part of our community, we are sad to let this valuable feature go and at the same time we are excited to continue and provide a better, more engaging, image experience to our publishers, building upon what we have learned and what you have been telling us.

Yours,
The Picapp Team

Those wishing to see an example of the new Picapp widget, can look no further than our original blog post, where the embedded photographs have been automatically updated with the new widget. Which as you’ll see is rather unsightly.

Online journalism and the law

I’m currently preparing for a course I’m teaching in December entitled ‘Legal issues and social media‘. Today I came across this excellent presentation by Paul Bradshaw, senior lecturer in online journalism at Birmingham City University, that he gave earlier this week to his MA Online Journalism students.

The slides go through the main areas of law affecting publishing on the web as well as giving defences for each section of the law. All of which are relevant to anyone who is publishing regular content or encouraging user generated content on their website or a site which is under their jurisdiction – not just journalists and bloggers.

Beta testing: Flavors.me

This afternoon I’ve been playing with and testing Flavors.me, which was pointed out to me by designer Simon Ianson.

The service is currently in private beta but once launched aims to help you create “an elegant website using personal content from around the internet”, ie. help you bring a selection of your social media presences under one roof and for it to look nice. The latter I think is the point as much as the former. The company are citing possible uses as:

  • personal home pages
  • life streaming
  • splash and microsites
  • celebrity fan pages
  • commercial promotion
  • brand marketing

From what I understand the service is being built by Jack Zerby, designer director at Vimeo and his partner in crime Jonathan Marcus, but I should emphasise that the project is not affiliated with Vimeo.

Pages on the site aren’t yet public and unfortunately the demo video (also see it here) isn’t shareable, not sure if that’s purposeful, but I can share this video made by someone else who has tested things out:

And here’s a pic of my test, which took me about 30 minutes to put together – but only because I decided to play with the font colours and background design, and was enjoying things a bit too much. In reality you could get something functional up in about 2 minutes and something more to your tastes up in about 5-10 minutes.

My Flavor.me page

During my experimentation I came across a few minor bugs and the team were impressively quick to respond. From Simon’s experience as well, they seem very keen to get the service right, which is fantastic.

What I like is that it’s simple, brings things together, and does what-it-says-on-the-tin as the results generally look good (although some of the pre-selected colour schemes don’t work for all content). I can see how it could be popular as a personal webpage or the starting point for a celebrity fan site, gathering all the pieces of social media presence together.

However, at the moment there are only six social media services that can be added to your Flavor.me site – Twitter, Flickr, Vimeo, Tumblr, Facebook and Last.fm. Whilst these do cover a wide variety of possible intents and users, it will be interesting to see how the team balance the design of Flavor.me with the desire of users to have more services included.

Simon also pointed out, and I agree, that being able to add your own domain to the service would add great value to the proposition (although, noted, this does add technical complexity). So instead of the URL http://flavor.me/user/kcorrick it could resolve to kathryncorrick.co.uk (or whatever).

I’m not also not sure that as the service currently stands would be something that could withstand the rigours of brand management and marketing: the fonts – whilst funky – are still fairly limited, and only one image can be uploaded, which for a brand would introduce interesting questions regarding logos (it still always comes down to logos, unfortunately).

But I’m sure there is much to come, given that the service I tried is in beta and de-bug mode put together with the obvious keenness by the team to get things right.

UPDATE 19/10/2009: Jack from Flavors.me has been in touch and responded to some of my queries above. Watch this space.