AOL Revamps Picture Service For Holiday Season

America Online launches an overhaul of its picture service in preparation for the holiday season.
America Online Inc. on Thursday launched an overhaul of its picture service in preparation for the holiday season, when millions of Americans share pictures with family and friends.

AOL Pictures, formerly You've Got Pictures, is tightly integrated with ad-supported social-networking services on AOL, such as instant messaging and blogging. Picture services also build loyalty and keep visitors on a site longer.

As a promotion, AOL is offering to print at no charge 100 pictures in 4" by 6" glossy or matte format. The promotion applies to all users of the service, which is also free. In addition, AOL, a division of Time Warner Inc., provides unlimited storage and tools for editing and for making online photo albums. Pictures are accessible through an Internet-connected computer or mobile phone.

The photo-printing business has grown steadily with the increasing popularity of digital cameras. In 2003, 2004 and 2005, the number of digital photos printed were 7 billion, 13.5 billion and 18.3 billion, respectively, according to International Data Corp.

The online services, however, have the smallest slice of the market. This year, IDC expects 65 percent of digital photos to be printed in the home, 25 percent at a store or kiosk and the rest via the Internet.

Nevertheless, Web portals generate most of their revenues from online advertising, and photo services help build better ad networks. Among AOL's rivals, Yahoo Inc. offers some of the stiffest competition with its Flickr service, which the portal bought this year.

AOL, based in Dulles, Va., says its picture service has more than 6 million monthly visitors and stores nearly 300 million photos.

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Brian T. Horowitz, Contributing Reporter
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