I’m not usually one for all this Web 2.0 cheer leading nonsense so I don’t tend to catch those sorts of news and announcements, I don’t read TechCrunch or any of those other “look a new AJAX doohickey!!!11one” blogs. This news though from Zooomr about the recruitment of Thomas Hawk as “Chief Evangelist” managed to catch my interest.
Do I think the world needs another Flickr? Not really, although competition can be good for users so good luck to them and I hope they do well. It’s not the service that has me interested, it is the recruitment of a blogger as employee number two.
If you don’t know about Zooomr it is widely reported in two ways
- Flickr-beating features
- Developed by a teenage wizz-kid
The first is debatable, they don’t have any where near the traffic of Flickr yet and a lot of the features seem to be novelty rather than usability focussed, but I can forgive all that. There is no doubting that Kris Tate is a talented programmer and it is certainly good for PR that he is only 18. So they have a couple of hooks for PR. Are these two points enough to build a business around? Considering they are up against Yahoo! and Google (Picasa) … Probably not.
That is why they need Thomas Hawk.
With a big wad of VC cash a marketing agency could put together a campaign highlighting all the ways that the service is better, faster, cooler, sexier. You would see lots of slick advertisements and potentially a good number of signups. You still wouldn’t have any more a viable business than when you started.
Google with their Picasa service doesn’t need to try very hard to get publicity and even less effort is required to get people to try their service out. They are Google, that is a fact of life. Some people will use it just because it is Google, others because Google is on their radar and nobody else is. Business media will talk about it because it is Google, and they will speculate about the impact on share price. I still think Flickr will come out top.
Zooomr and Google might beat Flickr for features, although that is not certain, but Flickr have a trump card. Flickr have a community of raving fans. While Google have employees that mingle in the community their culture is apparently a fair bit more old-school relying more on PR spin than actual customer interaction (or some would argue, customer service).
You will have seen how many digital camera owning bloggers have Flickr strips right on their homepage. Whenever there is a world event now someone will have snapped it and tagged it at Flickr. It can’t be missed, can’t be avoided, and it is now wired right into the web culture. I regard my Flickr photostream as important to me as my personal blog, probably more so lately. This is all despite Flickr not particularly having the best photo-sharing features and not being first to market. Their strength is born out of their being part of the community and fostering that community.
Thomas is a good blogger, a good photographer too. He knows what he liked about Flickr and what needs to be done at Zooomr (personally dropping an ‘o’ would be a good start, hehe). Whether he succeeds or not will remain to be seen but I think the idea was a smart one and I hope other start-ups take note. It’s not all about features and benefits now, if it ever was, you have to be part of the community.
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