If I were in charge of Flickr, I would create an eBay-like marketplace for stock photography. Stock photography is a $2B+ industry. About half of that revenue is controlled by a handful of big companies like Getty Images and Corbis. The rest is highly fragmented across smaller stock agencies, photographers selling direct, and a bunch of other sources. Flickr has the opportunity to disrupt the industry, steal share from the other players in this space, and increase the overall size of the stock photo market.
Imagine if every time you uploaded a photo to Flickr, you had the option to offer those images for sale. The site could offer sellers a few simple selections in terms of pricing (auction, fixed price, etc) and copyright permissions (print or online only distribution, can the image be cropped or re-purposed, etc). Buyers could search Flickr’s vast collection of photos by tag, geo-location, date, and interestingness using powerful tools already available on the site today. Additionally, they could filter those results based on which images are for sale or fall within a certain price range.
Flickr already has a critical mass of potential buyers and sellers. They have over 2.5 billion photos and tens of millions of visitors per month. Many of the photos are professional quality or have other characteristics that would be of interest to publishers such as timely photos taken during a newsworthy event like a earthquake or major accident. Flickr also has the tools and technology to sort through billions of photos to find images of pretty much anything. Yahoo!, Flickr’s parent company, even has the infrastructure to handle auction transactions through Yahoo! Auctions, which was shut down last year. Professional & semi-pro photographers could probably make a living just by selling direct through Flickr. Non-professionals might even find a market for the few great shots they happen to capture.
What do you think? Should Flickr become the eBay of stock photography? Why haven’t they?
Note: Even though I used to work at Yahoo!, I have no insider information on this subject… this is just an idea I’ve been thinking about.