Photo: By poolie on Flickr
Over at Quora today somebody asked the question, How many Flickr accounts are pro accounts? Yahoo doesn’t make the number of accounts or Flickr’s financials public, but I thought I’d just do a brief bit of guessing on my own.Note that this is in no way scientific and probably somebody could use the API or a more detailed sampling to get better results.
The most recent mention of the total number of Flickr users that I’ve seen comes to us from a news release from Yahoo back in November 2009.
At that time they were announcing a Flickr/Snapfish deal and in their release they mentioned Flickr’s “more than 40 million members.” While “more than 40 million members could actually be any number greater than 40 million, if we assume that 40 million was close to the number of users at the time this gives us a starting point.
According to compete.com (and take their statistics of course with a grain of salt), since November 2009, Flickr’s traffic has dropped about 18%. So if we reduced the 40 million number by 18%, we get about 32.8 million Flickr accounts. There very well may be more or less, this is just a very rough estimate.
I did a Flickr search for the names “John” and “Jane” and sampled the first 100 accounts of each that came up. Of those accounts 7 were listed as deleted (but still seemed to be on the system), 14 were listed as paid Pro accounts and 179 were free accounts. One might guess then that 7% of Flickr accounts are paid Pro accounts based on this name query. So 7% of 32.8 million would be 2.29 million paid Pro accounts. At $25 per year that would be about $57 million per year in revenue from Pro accounts.
Of course there are other things to think about in this guesswork as well. Some people pay for 2 years of Pro account at once. For these accounts Flickr gets $24 per year not $25.
Also my sample using the names “John” and “Jane” probably have a higher percentage of Pro accounts than they should. Someone using an actual proper name is probably more likely to be a legitimate account and less a free throw away account. In looking at the first 100 profiles simply for a user search by the term “a” (which produced far fewer proper named sounding accounts) the percentage of Pro accounts was far lower.
Given the the fact that my percentages are probably high and some people pay $24 per year instead of $25, I’m going to make a ballpark guess and say that I think Flickr generates about $50 million per year from Pro account subscriptions on about 2.1 million paid Pro accounts per year. Flickr also receives advertising revenue, of course, from free accounts. They also probably get a small cut of the Flickr/Getty stock photography sales as well as minor revenue from things that they do like the Corporate account thing (for companies like Starbucks and McDonalds, Snapfish photo printing, etc.).
On the other side of the equation, Flickr currently has a (smaller recently) staff of about 51 employees according to the “About Flickr” page. They also have the expense associated with storing all of the 5.3 billion photos or so that they store and the bandwidth costs with serving them up, relatively expensive (and soon to be even nicer, with a hot tub) office space in San Francisco and other various expenses. The first time I saw Flickr mention that they were profitable publicly was in a San Francisco Magazine article in April of 2009. (At that time as an aside they quoted 35 million members).
How profitable is Flickr? Your guess is as good as mine. I suspect that after you back out all the costs on their revenue though that it’s not a meaningful or significant number for Yahoo.
Maybe I’m right, maybe I wrong, maybe I’m close, maybe I’m way off, who knows.
If anyone has any feedback or sees a way this guess might be improved, let me know in the comments.