Goodbye Digital Railroad… Hello Photoshelter

The end came quickly, but not without warning. Digital Railroad, an online image archive service that I’ve been using for the past few years, has shut down. Earlier today (4:20am, while I was still asleep), members received this message:

October 28, 2008

To our valued Members and Partners:

We deeply regret to inform you that Digital Railroad (DRR) has shut down.

On October 15th we reported that the company had reduced its staff and was aggressively pursuing additional financing and/or a strategic partner. Unfortunately, those efforts were unsuccessful. Therefore Digital Railroad has been forced to close all operations.

Digital Railroad has attracted a loyal set of customers and partners, and we regret this unfortunate outcome. Without sufficient long-term financial support, the business had become unsustainable.

Thank you for allowing us to serve the photographic community these past few years.

All questions pertaining to claims should be addressed to:

Digital Railroad, Inc
c/o Diablo Management Group
1452 N. Vasco Road, #301
Livermore, CA 94551

Luckily, and in one of my rare moments of non-procrastination, I had already migrated my entire DRR archive over to Photoshelter, a similar service, 24 hours earlier. I am an avid reader of John Harrington’s photo business blog, and John had scared me into moving my images asap. Sometimes a little scare tactic works.

A few notes about the demise of DRR. First, I loved Digital Railroad. I loved the concept and the execution, I loved the interface, useability, and the customer service was, until the last month or two when the majority of the office staff were dismissed, superb. I think a big round of applause should go out to Evan Nisselson and other members of the original team that brought DRR to life a few years back.

Unfortunately, the demise of the company was not handled well at all, certainly with regards to communication with DRR’s account holders: the photographers! We received one email dated October 15, indicating the company was in some trouble, and that was it. The writing was on the wall from then on, as the company did nothing to disuade photographers from joining up with Photoshelter, its most direct competitor. I was lucky enough to move my archive before the last-minute deluge of DRR customers tried to move their images over to PS, and now are apparently experiencing some very frustrating bandwidth issues. I wish everyone good luck and hope DRR stays open long enough to enable all its photographers to move their images. Its the least it could do, considering it remained mostly silent the last 2 weeks before its abrupt announcement above.

So, now I have to rebuild my archive, but since Photoshelter enabled me to move all my DRR images WITH metadata intact, as well maintaining the same folder structure, all i really have to do is pick a webpage template, slap in some additional info, and away we go….. Now, given that DRR just went belly-up, there’s really no certainty that PS has a rosy future, particularly given the current economic climate, but for now my business has endured only a minor hiccup rather than a minor catastrophe.

One additional note: in another uncharacteristic move of enormous foresight, I had linked my DRR archive to the domain http://www.julianwainwright.net, instead of just using the prefab DRR domain. Now I don’t have to go emailing clients that my website has changed, it will just redirect to my PS site automatically.

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~ by Julian Abram Wainwright on October 29, 2008.

2 Responses to “Goodbye Digital Railroad… Hello Photoshelter”

  1. Good move on linking it to your own url. You must be receiving website advice from a web genius. Bummer for DRR. It was a good site but very slow – even outside Vietnam. In Vietnam sometimes it was too slow to use. PS looks good, no comment on the speed of use yet. You could use some colour photos up though. Cheers,

  2. Also Photoshelter is a cooler name, by a smidgin.

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