Sunday, May 31, 2009

CafePress - Sign of the Times

I've known about CafePress for years. I think it's a genius way of running a "user generated content" business. They handle all of the logistics, manufacturing, customer relations and finance. You provide the content. I think it's a model of how to leverage a core competency of manufacturing, and I'd love to see similar businesses in other areas.

To try it out, I took a quote from a great artist and photographer friend of mine, Rob Shaer, and turned it into a collection of stuff. The quote, which I thought was a brilliant summation of how much things have changed in the past three years is:

"Is it possible to have work-life balance without the work?"

Overall the process is pretty smooth, although it was several hours of work to come up with a design, do all the Photoshop fiddling, make two version (depending on landscape or portrait mode), and then create the right sizes for each of the scores of items offered.

I thought about taking silly things down (like the intimate underwear), but it was going to be more work to filter everything, and besides, maybe someone will want them.

Overall, I was impressed with the process and big thumbs up to the CafePress team for putting together a great site. I'll track the performance over the next few months, but if you are interested, or know of some soul run over by the train wreck of this economy who might be cheered up, be sure to purchase something and I'll let people know how it turned out.


Linkin said...

Recently CafePress began competing with the artists for whom it acts as printer and shipper.

CafePress rents web shops to its artists. The artist creates a website page and manually loads the desired blank products. The artist imports his image onto each product, arranges the products on the page, describes the products, titles the products and tags the images.

Initially, the artist would set a markup and received the markup for each product sold.

However, recently CafePress began competing with its artists, using the artists' own images. CafePress created a marketplace where a customer can search a keyword. That search brings up artist products. When the customer buys from the marketplace CafePress pays the artist 10% of the price CafePress set. Both the customer and the artist lose money. If the artist's shop sells a t-shirt for $21, the artist makes $3.01. If the marketplace sells the same shirt for $25, the artist gets $2.50. The customer pays $4 more, and the artist gets $0.51 less.

CafePress tells artists to "promote your own shop," but CafePress buys Google adwords using the very image tags the artist provided.

CafePress justifies this bait and switch of service terms by telling artists they can opt out if they don't like the new terms; however, many have spent as much as 7 or 8 years creating as much as 88000 images.

In spite of their sweat-equity, many shopkeepers (content providers) are building shops at other print-on-demand companies and then closing their CafePress shops due to the broken faith and trust, the financial hardship CafePress has delivered into so many lives, and the huge amount of time and dedicated effort all lost in the momentum of their own businesses. Would you keep your AMOCO station franchise if AMOCO built a company store across the street from you?

Aaron Fyke said...

Really? Can you provide links showing that? I'd love to see CafePress's shop alongside the original one...