I’m a bit overdue in my review of Digital Railroad and PhotoShelter… so overdue in fact my review will cover how each of these services died rather than what they offered photographers.
Both PhotoShelter Collection and Digital Railroad aimed at bucking the trends of the traditional photo stock market giving more to photographers on each sale. Unfortunately for both of these companies they were not positioned to weather a fast declining economy and shrinking credit market.
In the case of the PhotoShelter Collection near the 1 year mark of the service most members were surprised to learn that PhotoShelter would be abandoning Collection. As to the reasons why it was later clarified in the comments of John Harrington’s post Digital Railroad – 24 Hours, and Counting to Shutdown by PhotoShelter’s Grover Sanschagrin:
We raised $4 million is a series A round and were planning to raise more with a series B at the end of ’08. Well, the economy changed and funds that were earmarked for startups like ours were suddenly unavailable.
So we did what we thought was the most responsible thing — protect the Personal Archive by eliminating the burn rate that the PSC put on the company.
The closure of PhotoShelter Collection left a bad taste in a lot of photographers mouths as a lot of effort was put in to the submission and keywording of photographs. Several photographers I know went so far as to drop what they were doing focus on this and/or hire temps to help with the submission/keywording process. A lot of effort and in some cases money that was felt to be wasted. As frustrated as photographers have been about the closure of PS Collection it was wound down in an orderly fashion.
Digital Railroad on the other hand went down in a blaze of glory so quickly that it has caught many photographers and boutique stock agencies using their services by surprise. In fact the process has been nothing short of chaotic. Many boutique stock agencies are soon to be offline with no online presence, many photographers are scrambling to get their work off DRR & online elsewhere (including PhotoShelter Archive), photographers are scrambling to collect payment on outstanding sales through DRR, and in some cases fighting to get back recent renewals for the DRR service.
On October 15th an email was sent out to Digital Railroad subscribers that informed members of a staff cut and a pursuit of additional funding. John Harrington’s Photo Business Forum was on top of the announcement with detailed background explaining the dire situation “Digital Railroad likely being Liquidated“. I caught this while in Switzerland and knew bad news was on the horizon. Unfortunately for me I was traveling light with out a laptop. I just went with the flow and by the time I returned on the 28th it was announced that Digital Railroad has shutdown. Mind you not that it was shutting down… it had shut down. At this point members were scrambling to get contact information, image license details and images removed from their service. The massive influx of activity brougth DRR to its knees and image transfers have been spotty at best making retrieval of an absolute mess. Initial word was that DRR would be closing its doors permanently to everyone with in 24 hours. Today word comes that the service will shut down in entirety by the end of October 31st “PhotoShelter say DRR Site Shuts Down Tomorrow”
What’s It All Mean?
The closure of PhotoShelter Collection and the implosion of Digital Railroad is proof that times are only going to get more difficult for photographers. Clearly as aggrevating as it turned out to be the closure of PhotoShelter Collection was orderly and with purpose even if not fully obvious to those taking part. The manner in which Digital Railroad has shut down on the other hand has pissed off thousands of photographers and left them temporarily vulnerable as they attempt to do business this fall and winter. In addition photographers who actually were conducting business successfully at DRR are now going to have to burn time writing Diablo Management Group (the agency liquidating the company) and fight for payment on licensed work. As solid as PhotoShelter Archive is with 35,000 archives photographers should closely examine if they’re putting all their eggs in one basket by employing one service with out a backup. The implosion of Digital Railroad should be a wake up call to photographers whether they were members of DRR or not.Â How sound is your online business strategy and what is your backup in the event of a catastrophic service failure?
Epithaph For Digital Railroad – State of the Art
An interesting perspective on the close of Digital Railroad from DRR founder Evan Nisselson
Digital Railroad Special Offer – Photoshelter Blog
Details on how to transfer content from DRR to Photoshelter… if you still can.
[tags]PhotoShelter, Digital Railroad, archive, photography, business, Diablo Management Group, PSA, PSC, DRR[/tags]