Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Photobucket Gets New Life With Twitter Deal (Video)

Web turnaround stories and brand revivals are few and far between. But the once-forgotten Photobucket seems to have cemented itself on firm footing with a deal to host photos for Twitter’s new native photo-sharing service.

Photobucket CEO Tom Munro was in town from Denver this week, so I stopped by to discuss the deal and how it changes Photobucket’s business.

Obviously Twitter would like to avoid anything that brings back the fail whale, so I guess it makes sense that the company looked elsewhere for photo hosting. Munro says the advantages of Photobucket hosting — which is delivered from data centers in Denver — are that it’s reliable and scalable and that “our cost structure is lower than most.”

Twitter is Photobucket’s first paying image-hosting customer, but it’s a business Munro said he’s pursuing. He wouldn’t disclose terms of the Twitter deal, but said Photobucket’s standard cost will be based on the size and number of photos hosted plus the bandwidth to deliver them. Every photo uploaded through the new feature includes a postscript “powered by Photobucket.” However, the photos themselves are not available on Photobucket’s Web site, and Twitter users don’t create Photobucket accounts to upload pictures.

Photobucket hosts 8.5 billion files with an average size of 85K, and serves three to four billion photos every day. Munro said he doesn’t think adding Twitter photos will have “that big an impact immediately.”

For the moment, Twitter is in the process of rolling out native photo hosting for users of Twitter.com, but the company plans to add photo uploads to its other apps. There are currently about 2.1 million tweets created per day that include photos, according to a recent single-day analysis by Sysomos.

Photobucket’s revenue to date was 85 percent or more from advertising plus some subscription payments, according to Munro.

After spinning out from News Corp., where it had “just sat there for two years,” as Munro put it, the now venture-backed Photobucket has recently focused on mobile. (Disclosure: News Corp. owns this site.)

In May, Photobucket released a photo-filtering app (like all the cool kids are doing) called Snapbucket, which has been downloaded 350,000 times. And Photobucket also offers a photo backup app under its own brand that is especially useful on Android because it automatically sends any picture taken to the user’s Photobucket account (similar to the new Apple iCloud Photo Stream).

It strikes me that Photobucket providing image hosting to other Web start-ups brings it into the category of infrastructure services providers like Twilio for voice; SMS, SendGrid and Message Bus for email; and SimpleGeo for location awareness.

These companies, many of which are themselves based on Amazon Web Services, enable subscribing customers to add capabilities to their services rather than dedicating their own employees to things that aren’t core to the company. Then one day, if you become huge and that capability is really important, maybe you’ll bring it in-house.

As many up-and-coming services as there are around mobile messaging, there are probably far more that include photo sharing. So maybe Photobucket is onto something here.


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