500px is making changes to its product structure and users aren’t happy

by Jaron Schneider

posted Thursday, April 6, 2017 at 4:00 PM EDT

 
 

Thanks to a series of dubious business decisions, for photographers, 500px is no longer the household name it once was. From their failed attempts at a mobile app, to this weird thing, to their extremely unpopular moves in China, 500px has been doing their best to monetize their service in ways that have not "jived" well with their user base. The closure of their San Francisco office, which was primarily focused on their blog, offers some proof that public opinion is affecting their bottom line. Their latest effort at monetization comes in the form of the shadiest strategy yet: a misleading, SEO-rich blog that looks like it should contain useful information but instead is simply a sales pitch.

 
 

Before I get into that, I wanted to first cover what 500px is saying with this blog, because the business decisions found therein are absolutely important to anyone who still uses the platform.

To start with, today 500px members received an email from CEO Andy Yang which detailed 500px's business moves, which he says are designed to increase the options for members. It includes things like enhanced stats, pro, profiles, a new partnership with Format, priority listing in Directory and a more straightforward payout system. Along with these enhancements, 500px will be updating the 500px membership structure starting Monday, April 10. This is what that looks like:

As far as pricing, this is how that breaks down:

500px informed me that the key points about the subscriptions are that the free membership remains, and 500px reduced the price of the "Awesome" subscription. You'll notice that two more tiers of membership have been created, and at both of the highest levels of membership, photographers will get priority ranking in the Directory search results. 500px assured me that it is important to note that all photographers, including free members, are still listed in the Directory, however it is clear that the paid members will get priority. 

500px also said that anyone who has a current paid membership is automatically upgraded to the next level until their current subscription expires. If a category has gone away, (as in the case of their $2.99 offering), members are upgraded to the Awesome membership, or whatever is the next level until their subscription expires. At that point, the new pricing takes effect and members will have to decide what they want to spend their money on. 

For current users, the new system does incur more costs for those who have been using the highest tier. If you didn't already know, 500px has a partnership with Adobe that was included with original highest-tier membership, but that is changing with the new one, with the Adobe memberships requiring an additional fee on top of whatever plan is purchased. To get all the features of the previous "Awesome" tier and Adobe, members will have to upgrade to the "Pro+" plan and add on Adobe. The looming question here is, what is happening to the current Portfolios? Kelly Thompson, 500px General Manager of Product, Technology, and Design answered that for us:

"Everyone's 500px Portfolio will continue to be available until their next expiry date. 500px will not be offering new Portfolios starting April 10. At that time, the new Format-based Portfolios will be the standard, available with a Pro+ plan. We will be ensuring all current Portfolio users will be able to test and migrate to the Format offering before their current plans expire to make sure it’s right for them. We think they’ll be incredibly excited with the features it offers."

This basically confirms the fear that they are disappearing. Though the rug won't be pulled out from under current users, they should begin to prepare for the eventual extinction of the service. Now, users who used to pay $13.75 a month for photo classes, priority listing in the Directory, personalized portfolios and access to the Adobe photography plan will now have to shell out $27 a month for the same general services, double their current investment.

As you might imagine, the vocal users in the comments section of the blog are not pleased with this.

 
 

As far as I am concerned, I don't have any problem with a business adjusting its services. That's their right, and in that regard, they can do whatever they like. What I see above actually looks like it might be a good decision for 500px in the business sense, with their partnership with Format and increased pricing (which is really the takeaway here), 500px looks like they want to be one stop for as many services that apply to the industry as possible while also remaining profitable. It may come at a higher cost, but there are those who will see the benefit. 

What I do have a problem with is how 500px announced this on their blog. "5 Great Ways to Grow as a Photographer," if it were filled with actual information, would be an example of a popular list-style post, sure to grab eyes and warrant sharing... likely exactly what 500px wanted. Except, in this case, the actual content of the blog is just one big let down, with none of the "great ways" being anything more than a product feature. This sales pitch masquerading as education reeks of desperation, and is as disingenuous as something possibly can be, and starts 500px off on the wrong foot with their current user base. It feels like deception, and that will put users in a negative frame of mind before they even finish reading about the new services offered by 500px. As I mentioned, the comments on the blog are overwhelmingly negative, which is likely due to the increase in costs, but can't possibly be helped by the shady way 500px published the changes. 

Perhaps the title of their blog post should be, "5 ways to hand 500px more money."