When I saw the announcement last night about Flickr now offering one terabyte of storage for their free accounts, I wondered just what it was that they would offer for those of us with Pro accounts to continue paying. It turns out, they aren’t offering much. The existing Pro accounts stay the same, but appear to be going away come August, or at least that’s my reading of the announcement and the FAQ, but I may be wrong about that.). Then you’ll have the option to downgrade to a free account, or upgrade to an “Ad-Free” account, for $49.99 per year. The Ad-Free option only shows two extra features over the free accounts, no ads, and the availability of stats. That’s it. You don’t get more storage options or anything else, just the pleasure of not seeing ads and being able to see stats of your photo views.
That doesn’t seem like a whole lot, especially given the higher price when compared to the old Pro accounts, which gave you unlimited storage. (I’ve yet been able to determine whether the new free accounts have the same limits to the number of sets/collections that the old free accounts had, if anyone from Yahoo! wants to comment and let me know, I’d appreciate it!) The small advantages being given for No-Ads accounts make me wonder. There’s also a Doublr account, which offers you 2TB of storage for almost $500 per year, which is straight out of the question for an amateur like me. So are they trying to encourage Pro users to pay the extra, or to actually downgrade to see advertising again? It almost seems that way, doesn’t it?
Obviously, I don’t believe a service like Yahoo! is going to simply decide one day that they should really be offering more free services, and encourage paying customers to move to free accounts, just because. They have a reason, and I truly believe the reason for this is that they either make more money from advertising than they do from the Pro accounts, or they want to leverage Flickr user’s information across their entire network, and strengthen the targeted advertising they can sell, much in the way Google already does, and continues to push by forcing Plus on all of their users across all of their tools. More on that some other time.
Given where they hired their new CEO from, I would not be surprised that this is the strategy here. Yahoo! knows that Flickr Pro account holders have gotten used to not seeing ads, and using stats, so they are still offering it, but they are making it harder to justify continuing to pay for the ad-free account, by raising the price, and limiting the advantages. That tells me they want us to see ads, not to pay for the service. How that sort of marketing plan affects the idea of using web services going forward will remain to be seen, but it’s become clear that the real money is in information gathering and targeted advertising, not in offering a paid service. We can see this playing out on social networks already, it will be interesting to see how it evolves going forward.
Update 5/23/2013: Apparently the FAQ has been updated and the Pro accounts will remain the same so long as they are recurring payments. You won’t be able to get a new Pro account, but you can keep the one you already have.