David Pogue of the NY times tackled a subject near and dear to my heart recently: Why do we shoot photos and videos. I come out approximately where he did. That you do it for yourself, and the hope that maybe somebody might be interested in seeing the media in the future.
And it is because that inevitably the media is most valuable to the shooter that it makes sense that if you want to preserve it, you will have to pay. Personal photos and videos have a small audience, and hence advertising can not monetize their storage. To make money on advertising, people need to look at the media. If the media is only interesting to the author and a small group of friends and family, it has little advertising value.
This is something that Shutterfly, Snapfish and Kodak Easyshare Gallery know all too well. They store your media for free, depending on the purchase of prints and gifts to amortize the cost of storage of that media for perpetuity. But since most purchases of prints and gifts come right after the shooting, in the long term, they are left with this huge liability of photos and videos with no clear revenue stream associated with them.
Snapfish and Kodak both impose the rule that you must make at least one purchase per year for them to continue to store your stuff. I know the economics of this industry well enough to tell you that one purchase won’t pay for the average users’s lifetime of photos and videos.
I predict that longterm, the big 3 “print to share” sites will all impose fees on users or delete all their stuff; that is if they don’t go out of business all together. Long term, it is likely that prints and gifts will be a declining business with the electronic display and presentation of media being the area of greater interest. Hence, their primary business will be cannibalized by technology; fairly ironic given that those companies were founded to capitalize on the explosion of digital photography, which replaced analog photography.