Para Added 20 Dec: thank you for comments and 429 visits yesterday. As a number of people pointed out the Christmas spending period is a big factor in our bank balances. Pledges are not the same as money being drawn from accounts. You will be informed before any money leaves your account and can cancel your pledge at that time. Far from spreading doom and gloom my purpose in this blog was to try to galvanise support for the buyout.
I wanted to put up another blog but my time is very limited. So here are some comments on the recent figures released on the crowdfunding campaign so far, Blipfoto users and the wider community. This blog is not as polished (!) or thought through (!) as some of my efforts. But it felt important to write something. My thanks to fellow Blipper akkuv for his input and insights.
I've reverted to the old comment system.
Where are we up to with the Blipfuture campaign?
As of the morning of 18th December 2014 the investment pledged for the community buyout and startup of Blipfuture was £43,615. The target of the campaign is a minimum of £180,000. Without reaching that total Blipfuture will not go forward and chances are that will be the end of Blipfoto.
The funding raised is up £8,170 on the pledges announced by the Blipfuture team on 9th December.
So in the first phase of the campaign (4th Dec to 9 Dec) £35,445 was pledged. In the second longer phase (10th Dec to 18th) much, much less was raised (£8,170). (These ‘phases’ are ones I’ve defined arbitrarily).
The pledging figures released on 9th Dec showed that the total sum raised had been done through 296 pledges averaging £119.75. Using that average pledge figure on the pledges since 9th Dec (til 18th Dec) would give another 68 pledges and a total of 364 pledges since 4th December.
I am surprised at these figures.
The total raised so far (£43,615) is about 24% of the total needed. And ‘only’ 364 people (give or take for double pledges from individuals) have pledged.
Given the apparent and much lauded strength of the Blipfoto community this low total of pledgers is really puzzling.
I know (see previous blogs) that there are issues with non-EU Blippers in terms of them not being yet able to make donations and not being able to buy shares. But even taking this into account I find it amazing that only approximately 364 people have felt inclined or able to make a pledge.
Blipfoto User Numbers
For the first time we have some hard, if imprecise data. The revised Financial Plan published on 16 Dec on the Blipfuture investment page gives the following figures
Date Member: Members:
Logins At least one blip
Nov 2014 6,424
Dec 2014 6,300
Jan 2015 7,337
Nov 2015 6,400 3,698
At the end of 2014 there appear to have been 6,400 users logging in (November) and 6,300 users who blipped at least once in December 2014. The number posting blips rose in Jan 2015 – after the Polaroid branded relaunch – to 7,337 (although the footnote that gives this figure ends in a mysterious ‘but’).
Although this figure rose it clearly did not rise fast enough and Blip went into voluntary liquidation in March 2015.
By November 2015 the number of users posting at least one blip in that month (3,698) had fallen by a staggering 41.3% (2,602 members) on the number blipping one year earlier before the Polaroid branded relaunch.
As Akkuv (a Blipper and statistician) has calculated, many of this number of 3,698 do not blip every day. He estimates this is more likely closer to 1,500. ‘He says, ‘My guess still is that there will be about 1,000, maximum ,1500, who will invest’.
This is a pretty calamitous fall in Blip user numbers in terms of the core community of people actually Blipping. Unfortunately we don’t know when the greatest fall took place but it would probably be fair to surmise that it happened when the liquidation of Blipfoto was announced. Since then there has been scant communication from the new owners and little or nothing in the way of marketing or incentives – with the exception of the ‘Extra photo’ feature in April 2015 - put in place to tempt old Blippers back.
It is also interesting to compare the logins versus people posting Blips. In Nov/Dec 2014 these figures more or less matched – a login seems to have meant a Blip in effect. But by November 2015 although the login figure had held up at over 6,400 many fewer (41.3%) people were Blipping (3,698).
Without more detail it is guess work but my hunch is that a lot of old Blippers still login to comment on photos and journals posted on Blipfoto even though they are not posting. (After all you don’t need to log in to view Blip or Blip Central journals and Blipfoto quickly unlogs users – in less than half an hour in my experience).
The figures above suggest that there is a core community of Blippers of below 3,698 as this figure will include occasional blippers and new members trying out the site’s offer. I suggested in a previous blog a figure of 2,500 before I revised this upwards using ‘view’ data on Blip Central posts. But I suspect the core community fluctuates somewhere around this figure. AkkuV above reckons there is a core of 1000-1,500 max who will feel committed enough to invest.
So to recap the number of people posting on Blipfoto appears to have fallen dramatically in the last year by 41.3% to 3,698. The number currently blipping on a daily basis is probably somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500.
New Users and the Wider Community
Blipfoto continues to attract new users – (487 signed up in November 2015) but only 37.6% went on to post a blip in that month.
There is an important wider Blipfoto community of people who do not have accounts but who view the site. In November 2015 116,349 unique users visited the Blipfoto site. We don’t know for how long or how regularly but that seems like a fair flow of website traffic. If we ignore the members visiting the site who are part of this number that would equate to 31.5 unique visitors per Blipping member in November 2015.
So when people have rightly said that the number of Blippers probably is too low to appeal to advertisers – even specialist photographic ones – there may be a bigger traffic flow that could appeal to advertisers.
Where did the Blip community leavers go?
We know little about this. There was a rush to join Project 365 but a rough count on the ‘Blipfoto refugees’ page of the site shows in the region of 380 Blipfoto members who opened accounts – either in parallel or as a replacement to their Blipfoto account. That’s not to say that more blippers didn’t open Project 365 accounts. If they did they just did not announce themselves on the ‘refugees’ page.
Having said all this, the thing that really puzzles me at this stage of the campaign is the low number of members of the Blipfoto community who have pledged as future investors in the company (by my reckoning less than 400).
Why aren’t you investing?
We can guess at some of the reasons for this low number through comments on the Facebook and Blipcentral pages:
- People who paid for services not received – books, life memberships – under the previous company, Blipfoto Ltd;
- People who think they are throwing good money after bad or who think the community buyout is doomed;
- People who would invest but can only donate (ie those outside the EU/EEA/CH);
- People who cannot yet donate (ie those outside the EU/EEA/CH);
- People who simply do not have the funds to invest or who are worried that if they invest they will not be able to afford the membership fee;
- People who will not invest until they see more convincing projections of future business (see the revised figures on the Blipfuture home page in Financial Projections);
- People who are unsure of the involvement of the founders of Blipfoto in the new venture and who have developed a distrust or dislike for them;
- People who will only invest when membership fees are decided;
- People who hated the link with Polaroid and are unsure if these ties have been severed;
- People who like Blipfoto but are just not that fussed one way or the other;
- People who are facing the financial demands of Christmas and simply see no way to finance Blipfuture at the same time;
- People who think they see cheaper and sustainable alternatives to Blipfuture;
- People who think that if we wait the owners will lower the asset price;
- People who think we can just 'start again' and somehow not lose the community and archive in the process;
- People who think, 'I told you all along it would fail and it has. That's why I didn't invest in it's future in the first place.'
Momentum is key
The trouble is that those who are waiting or hesitating add to the loss of momentum in the campaign. And the more the campaign losses momentum the more hesitant will be many people to make a commitment to it. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If pledges dry up or slow down with the total at less than a quarter of the target it is hard to see how momentum can be gained again.
If we as a community cannot generate some momentum come the New Year I suspect that we as a community are doomed.
As AkkuV above says, and I am paraphrasing, ‘Paying for Blipfoto as investors and users is pretty cheap as hobbies go. The sums involved are often dwarfed by the amounts people pay for their photographic kit.’
Alternative provision and sustainability?
For those who have already left Blipfoto or are looking at alternatives I’d say this: is the alternative you are looking at any more secure in the medium to long-term future than Blipfuture? Do you know what business plan they operate and do you know if they are sustainable? Do you turn the criticism you level at Blipfuture (or have levelled at Blipfoto in the past) on your current or preferred future provider?
I don’t know the detail of the Project 365 finances but it seems to be a one-man operation without a formal community involvement structure. The Project 365 FAQs page states quite openly that the site,
‘is lovingly made by Ross Scrivener … He makes this site as a part-time hobby whilst working on web development projects for clients’.
I'm not saying he will, but what if Ross falls out of love with Project 365? Or his work commitments prevent him pursuing his hobby?
‘To date we have been absorbing all of the running costs. The costs are continuously rising as the site grows bigger and bigger so we are always very grateful to receive a donation.’
It seems to me that we either pay up and work out how to ensure a high level of community involvement and ownership in Blipfuture or we go somewhere else and sooner or later stumble across the same old problems of sustainability and accountability. Blipfuture is about building a long-term future of stability and real ownership.
Yes, there if Flickr and Twitter and Facebook and all sorts of photography sites. But do they do what Blipfoto does? And do you have any say whatsoever in how they do what they do?
Another point to bear in mind: Blipfoto has had significant investment over the years – both private and public. The current platform works exceptionally well – I’m aware of one outage over my 365 blips and I’m amazed at the upload speeds at peak periods.
I have no experience of other platforms but if Blipfoto goes it will go for good. And that is without talking about its community.
So I say:
If you can, invest or donate now. Don’t wait.
A community owned social media platform is not just for Christmas. But it will be if we don’t stump up.
And while it may not literally save your life how lessened would our lives be without this fantastic beast that links us from Iceland to Oman and the four corners of the earth?