Two months ago, I purchased a Canon R5. The only resource I used to decide whether or not to purchase said camera was DPReview or Digital Photography Review, a site that has been in existence since 1998. DPReview is a stalwart among the Internet. It wasn’t really a dinosaur when Amazon purchased it in 2007 but it is now. Thought another way, DPReview was around before and after MySpace and it would have also outlived Twitter if given just a few more months. According to Crunchbase, the site had around 7 million monthly unique viewers per month…we’d call them MAUs now. According to this site, it’s still at around 7.1 million visitors per month or a near flat growth over 16 years. I don’t think DPReview failed to have a compelling newsroom and review-staff that attracted the right folks. It was a highly-respected site with a lot of integrity and industry power but I think there are two reasons for its near-flat-growth over this timeframe:
- Amazon purchased the property and them seemingly did nothing with it. DPReview doesn’t function like an internet property owned by Amazon. Their only collaboration with the giant was DPReview showing up in audio / video listings on Amazon and DPReview only linking to Amazon if you want to purchase something.
- Second, there’s that whole smartphone thing. How many consumers are clamoring to read a review about the latest FujiFilm interchangeable lens camera in 2023? People like me are and there are about 7 million folks globally who check DPReview once a month but at Amazon’s scale, this is like operating a lemonade stand Sundays from 8AM to 8:01AM. Someone on HackerNews mentioned that it’s something like 15 minutes of Amazon’s operating revenue per year to fund DPReview’s operations (including staff). Like a lemonade stand, DPReview is peanuts to operate but on an Excel spreadsheet in Seattle, it just doesn’t make sense to even do that. It’s a distraction.
- Note, I don’t believe DPReview was flat since 2007. I’m sure it was up for some time but has slowly gone back to 2007 user numbers due to the industry at large constricting the last decade.
There is an alternative reality where Amazon never purchased DPReview but the founder was obviously looking to sell 12-18 months after iPhone came out, the writing was on the wall. Flickr’s stats at the time were clear. iPhone was taking over every camera except full-frame SLRs, Leica Rangefinders and a few medium formats. Selling DPReview was going to happen and, at that time (2007), it’d be CBS Interactive (CNET), Condé Nast or a larger media conglomerate and all of them probably would have done the same thing that Amazon did today. DPReview was at least a revenue driver for Amazon among folks who were going to buy a physical camera which is to say, very few.
I want to commend the DPReview team though. They added “Film Friday” a few years back and 5 years ago, they started a YouTube channel which is informative and entertaining and their consistently polished, thorough and professional reviews of cameras and lenses continued. They set the bar and published reviews only doable online as in a photography magazine wouldn’t publish a 5,000 word review with hundreds of sample photos and accompanying videos. DPReview could because digital ink is nearly free.
I actually applied to be an editor at DPReview about 6 months ago. It would be a part-time gig and I’d get to try out new gear and provide reviews or other thoughts and I never heard back but for a site on its way out, Amazon was regularly hiring up until the end which is just so amazon to do. “We have openings until we don’t”. I’m sure everyone there will find their voice elsewhere but it is a tragic ending for all.
The real kicker to all of this is instead of Amazon spending $500 a month of their own money to keep the editorial content (25 years of camera reviews) online, it’s just going to disappear. I can understand the legal liabilities of keeping the forum open or just locked despite the massive value it’ll add to the world of folks looking for answers to camera issues but to throw away 25 years of camera reviews, it’s heart-breaking. This is 25 years of photography history we’ll be losing and Archive.org our only hope.
Not a single soul at Amazon, of over 1 million employees was willing to stick their neck out and find the cash under a mattress to float DPReview’s CMS in a bare-bones plain text mode for the next few decades? Think about that. Amazon isn’t a charity but the web was built on empathy and love for creativity. I was there when folks who would pass away would have their spouse hop in an IRC and ask if anyone was willing to host their partner’s blog posts or photos and people would line up by the dozens to help out. The web was about humanity and preservation. It’s just not anymore.
DPReview’s archive is something I believe worthy of Flickr.org (the non-profit foundation of Flickr.com). SmugMug, PetaPixel, Flickr can get together and save the content. They can buy it off Amazon for $1. C’mon folks. We have to save this content.