What If…?

2011 Blog AvatarAs part of producing a scrapbooking app, I have been thinking about scrapbooking business models and how to make money in this business. There are currently two main models for digital scrapbooking:

  • The first is to use an all-purpose graphics app like Adobe Photoshop, where you buy collections of design elements, or “kits”, from independent designers and incorporate them into your digital scrapbook “pages”. (To get a feel for kit designers and their work, take a look at Snickerdoodle Designs or Just So Scrappy.) For people who are technically savvy and want to invest the time to learn a complex program like Photoshop, this is a satisfying way to produce scrapbook pages. In this business model, the software costs (expensive, in the case of Photoshop CS) and you pay for the kits (though once purchased, the digital elements are reusable).
  • The second model is a dedicated scrapbook app, like iScrapbook or MyMemories Suite. In this model, you may or may not pay for the application, but kits cost and there’s no possibility of shopping around for kits from alternative sources, since kits sold through the app are in a proprietary format. These apps are generally a little easier to use for scrapbooking, since they are designed especially for that purpose, but they may not be as flexible as Photoshop. Once you start with one of these apps, you’re “locked in”, because kits you buy do not work outside of the app.

There are a few variations on these themes depending on the app, but the basic idea of buying kits for scrapbooking remains constant. It’s probably a holdover from paper scrapbooking, where you can buy packaged kits of scrapbooking elements in a wide variety of themes, for weddings, baby showers, or what-have-you.

But what if you re-thought scrapbooking? The creative combination of digital paper, photos, text, and elements could be much the same, but what if you decided to “Think Different” on how it was packaged and sold? Is there a way to have all the creative choices currently available, but to do it differently? Not just for the sake of doing it differently, but to improve the experience? What would that model of scrapbooking look like?

I set myself to trying to rethink the model for scrapbooking, to see what I could come up with. From the point of view of the user, what if…

..you had not not just a scrapbooking store, but a storeroom of supplies? all the supplies you would ever need or want?

..you didn’t have to buy a whole kit if all you want is one element?

..you could access all your scrapbook pages from any device you wanted?

..you never had to think about purchasing supplies; no matter of, “I’ve spent too much today already on scrapbooking”?

..you had your choice of many different designers?

..there was an “iTunes of Scrapbooking”?

..you could get books, cards, calendars, and prints of your creations?

..the hipster and the spinster alike found something they wanted from the app? the sophisticated and the unsophisticated?

..it were easy to find what you want when you want it?

..you didn’t need to download anything to do digital scrapbooking?

..you didn’t need to upload anything to do digital scrapbooking?

..could use any paper shape or size you liked?

..there was a built-in social aspect to digital scrapbooking?

..scrapbooking were free?

Then, from the point of view of the app producer (that’s me), what if..

..there was a guaranteed stable revenue stream?

..the app was easily scalable from few to many users?

..advertising revenue was also possible?

..there were guaranteed users?

..you could rapidly and easily test new features in small markets before general release?

..the idea was patentable?

..you were known as the “iTunes of Scrapbooking”?

..kit designers made more money from your site than from any other?

..kit designers preferred to work for you over any other site?

..your platform could be used in other situations, for markets other than your primary market? you had different versions of the app under different names for different markets?

As you can see, these are some ambitious ideas and several of them seem to be contradictory. For example, “scrapbooking for free” and “guaranteed stable revenue stream” appear to be completely incompatible. However, it is in the contradictions that some of real innovations may lie. You always hear about how “Free” is the new internet economy; how could it be implemented here? Is there a way to combine these “What-ifs” into a single app?

To use rethinking as a way to resolve this contradiction, maybe basic scrapbooking really would be free. That is, it might cost nothing to add decorative elements and arrange photographs and elements on a digital page, while other aspects of the process, such as social sharing, downloading, storing photos, or printing would cost. Or perhaps scrapbooking could be free, but all scrapbook pages are watermarked with a Limulus Systems mark only removed by subscription. You see? Selling kits may be the simplest economic model for scrapbooking, but it is by no means the only model and maybe not even be the model best suited for the digital age. In my next post, I’ll talk about my synthesis of the best of these ideas.

Postscript, 8 December 2012: It was recently pointed out to me in a personal communication that my characterization of MyMemories is not entirely correct. The real story is,

What you said about the [MyMemories] kits being proprietary is partially true.  They are. However, MM also offers, with the purchase of a kit, a “traditional” download as well. So the customer can download the MM software version as well as the “normal” version that they may use in any software program that they wish.

Thank you to Karen Schulz of Snickerdoodle Designs for that correction.

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