INTERVIEW – Joe Tree of Blipfoto

Joe Tree with's BAFTA

Joe Tree with's BAFTA

Given he was still reeling from winning Sunday night’s Scottish BAFTA Best Web award, we considered ourselves extremely lucky to be granted an interview with Joe Tree, co-founder of – the now award-winning ‘photo-a-day’ website.

As he was looking after his young daughter yesterday, Joe hadn’t overdone things on Sunday night, despite rubbing shoulders with Robert Carlyle, Muriel Gray, Kirsty Wark and the rest of the Scottish media great and the good at a glitzy awards ceremony held at Glasgow’s Science Centre. He was however still a little shellshocked, Blipfoto having won against some strong competition from the BBC and The Big Plus in their category.

Proudly displaying his BAFTA award (and the customised bottle of Famous Grouse…), Joe kindly took time out of his day job at Rocket Visuals – and from accepting messages of congratulations from across the globe – to speak to Edinburgh Spotlight.

Blipfoto started in 2004 as a pet project at Rocket, allowing Joe and co-founder Graham Maclachlan to work on something exciting and innovative without the constraints of any brief. Joe’s passion for his site is obvious, and he himself has been contributing a photo to it every day – with only one or two exceptions – for five years now.

Whilst the concept of taking a photograph every day is not new, Joe believes the success of Blipfoto comes from its community aspect. With members in over 118 countries, and contributors from every age range and income bracket, he cites the addictive nature of the daily photographic recording pursuit as key to its popularity; as well as the strong and friendly collaborative nature of the site, with members commenting on each others’ entries and friendships building as a result.

The pleasure gained from sharing photos and getting exposure in such a friendly online environment, together with the self-imposed ‘quality control’ of only being able to upload one shot a day, has seen Blipfoto reach vast numbers of users and site visits. Joe is understandably proud of this fact, especially when it has grown organically from word of mouth alone – when it was launched, he told around 15 people of its existence, and it has snowballed ever since without the need for any further promotion.

The Famous

The Famous

Of course, the discipline of taking and sharing a photograph every day of your life is not for everyone (I tried Blipfoto a couple of years ago, but couldn’t keep the momentum going), but Joe states the site has a remarkably high retention rate. Once the ‘magic number’ of 100 uploads is reached, it seems the addiction takes hold and people are hooked forever. This addiction is something Blipfoto seems to have tapped into uniquely, and is impressive given it is solely the work of Joe, Graham and a single developer. Equally impressive is the fact all three have ‘real’ day jobs at Rocket, with Joe spending an equal amount of time on Blipfoto; testament to his passion and vision for the site.

Blipfoto’s business model relies on premium membership, allowing subscribers access to features for a low annual fee. However, Joe is a staunch supporter of the free subscription model as well, believing it crucial to the site’s growth and success. And whilst you’ll never see a banner ad cluttering up blipfoto’s clean and minimalist interface, he was happy to reveal a forthcoming exciting joint venture with Channel 4, the National Theatre of Scotland and Scottish Screen, which will see hosting a photographic competition.

As I left him to continue celebrating Blipfoto’s deserved success, I asked Joe what advice he had for anyone else considering an internet start-up (Edinburgh Spotlight is just over a week old remember…!)

He advised two things were important: firstly, don’t underestimate the investment in time required to make something a success, even if it’s something you enjoy. And secondly, remember that even though this is the internet, don’t think that means you can ignore all the other things involved in turning an idea into a successful business.

Sound advice from anyone, but coming from a man who had just put his Scottish BAFTA back on the shelf, probably worth more than most.

So thanks again and congratulations to Joe, Graham and all at – Edinburgh Spotlight salutes you (and is even considering taking a photo-a-day again…)

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