Shutterfly fights the photo recession

October 7, 2009: 7:07 AM ET
Picture 20

Photo books are replacing 4x6 prints as the most important products in the printing business. Photo: Shutterfly.

Photo site offers lens into the post-print world.

At lunch on a recent afternoon in Silicon Valley, Shutterfly CEO Jeffrey Housenbold is remarkably upbeat, considering the miserable year the overall photo business is having.

Almost any way you slice it, people are making fewer glossy prints in a rough economy. The numbers are off for at-home printing (down 2%), photo-counter printing (down 6%) and kiosk printing (down 12%), according to the Photo Marketing Association. The only big growth category? The under-the-table printing that people do for free at work. (That's up 42%.)

Fortunately for Housenbold the photo recession hasn't hit online photo finishers like Shutterfly (SFLY) as hard as some other parts of the industry. In fact, Shutterfly and rivals like Eastman Kodak's (EK) Kodak Gallery and Hewlett-Packard's (HPQ) Snapfish are still growing – partly because they've embraced ideas like photo books, social networks and smartphones to push their business beyond the old-fashioned glossy print. More

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