Wednesday, October 29, 2008

End of the line for Digital Railroad

Earlier this year, I got a telephone call from a very "enthusiastic marketing executive" representing the photo-hosting website Digital Railroad, who was offering me an online image archive and marketplace, and a photographic agency service. He asked if I would like to avail of a trial membership - at a reduced start-up fee of $195 and a monthly subscription of $45 - but I said no thank you.

He asked me again, in another call the following week and in four emails in subsequent weeks. I still said no, because I couldn't see why I needed a photo-archiving and marketing service (I have my own website, and all my work is archived on my own external hard drives and CD disks) and I already have two photography agents neither of whom charge a fee for their services. But, by the time I'd received the fourth email, I was also saying no because the words "enthusiastic marketing executive" had morphed into "pushy salesman", in my head - and I was beginning to wonder just why I was being pushed so hard.

Yesterday (Tuesday 28th October 2008) the management of Digital Railroad issued the following press statement:

To our valued Members and Partners:

We deeply regret to inform you that Digital Railroad (DRR) has shut down.

On October 15th we reported that the company had reduced its staff and was aggressively pursuing additional financing and/or a strategic partner. Unfortunately, those efforts were unsuccessful. Therefore Digital Railroad has been forced to close all operations.

Digital Railroad has attracted a loyal set of customers and partners, and we regret this unfortunate outcome. Without sufficient long-term financial support, the business had become unsustainable.

Thank you for allowing us to serve the photographic community these past few years...

It's still not clear if subscribers will be reimbursed the fees that have been paid in advance or whether fees accrued from sales of photographs via the agency side of the business will be passed on to the photographers concerned.

There is a lot of gossip and speculation, on the internet, about why DRR has gone bust. But for me, it's a fairly simple puzzle to solve.

I learned, many years ago, that there is only so much sugar that you can put in a cup of coffee. After a certain number of spoonfuls, it reaches the "saturation point" and stops tasting any sweeter.

The online photography archiving market is far too overcrowded already (Photobucket, Flickr, Photoshelter, ad naseum) and the prices that many giants in the stock agency world (Getty, Corbis, Alamy) are being lowered on an almost daily basis to meet the competiton from the "micro-stock" agencies who can sell your best shot for99 cents a time.

I think that the photo archiving/agency market may be getting dangerously close to its saturation point.

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