The thought occurred to me the other day that the "Business Growth" in subscribers that has been referred to by support and in the Town Hall meeting may be coming from one subscription level. I obviously have no way of verifying this, but consider the following:
Let's assume that you are simply looking for a Low Cost solution for storing your photos and videos and simply want to share them with you family and friends. You want large file uploading as well as unlimited storage and bandwidth.
If you look across the universe of options, two solutions stick out like a sore thumb. Smug Mug and Zenfolio. Both have low cost plans priced at $60.00 per year including:
Unlimited Storage Unlimited Bandwidth Large File Image Uploads (36MB Zen / 150MB SMP) Video Upload (2GB Zen / 3GB SMP)
Now, Compare this cost with other hosting sites that offer these same four requirements:
Photoshelter $540 per year Shotproof $720 per year Exposure Manager $180 year (future is uncertain)
Compare this to other highly rated hosting services without unlimited storage and bandwidth:
PhotoBucket Pro - Storage capped at 500GB for $480.00 year SlickPic - Storage capped at 500GB for $300.00 per year
And finally, how about Cloud Storage:
Itunes Cloud Storage - 1TB $120.00 year Drop Box - 1TB $120.00 year
Anyone looking for price and value to store their large file images and videos with unlimited storage and bandwidth needs to look no further than SmugMug Pro or Zenfolio. $60.00 per year is a great deal for people that don't need e-commerce.
I have spent the past couple of months talking to photographers that use SmugMug Pro and Zenfolio Pro/Advanced to run their businesses. The overall consensus and feeling is:
1. The increased cost of doing business isn't coming from the ecommerce accounts...it's coming from non-ecommerce accounts and the amateur photographer community that sells their prints at cost.
2. Professionals have experienced large increases in subscription costs, commission costs, and print costs to subsidize this high cost of doing business.
3. Professionals suffer with slower performance due to the stress on infrastructure that they are not responsible for. They feel that a $60 dollar a year account is more important to SM/Zen than premium accounts that also drive thousands of dollars in commission and print revenue.
If there is any truth to all this then I guess it all boils down to how Zenfolio and Smug Mug want to grow their business and who they want their future competitors to be. They may very well be on the track to becoming a cloud storage solution if all of the professional photographers with ecommerce accounts find a better place to run their businesses more profitably. We simply don't want to subsidize subscription growth for those that are only looking for a low cost storage solution. We obviously don't want to suffer performance issues related to this growth either.