Monday, December 03, 2012

Episode 1533: Duotrope: A Developing PR Disaster?

A final word on the Duotrope debacle (unless any striking developments occur): I don't think it's a good sign when a company's way of dealing with criticism is to post a Facebook status that basically boils down to 'We hear you, but we're not going to change our minds until we've had time to see what happens.' After a couple of days of silence, in which its Facebook page and Twitter account were used to repeatedly push the message about the paywall going up in January, Duotrope posted a status that on the surface sounded grateful for all the feedback and support, but was also couched in the sort of corporatese that has got me leaning more towards the belief that the site is just trying to make a quick buck now. I don't blame them, since the pressure to monetise the user base in order to pay employees must have been enormous, but there's still something faintly arrogant about leaping from a free, donation-supported service to what amounts to an all-or-nothing paywall. It's been clarified what is still accessible to non-subscribers come 2013, and in short, the site will be pathetically useless unless you cough up money.

Anyone with a bit of coding savvy should just throw together a website and get the word out immediately. They could even charge, but at a price that's just a fraction of what Duotrope is asking for. A breakdown of exactly how much Duotrope needs to cover the site's operating costs, i.e. hosting fees and employee salaries, would go a long way towards convincing disgruntled writers that a subscription-based model is the only way to fund the site. Still, why not advertising instead? It's not enough to say you considered it, without explaining why it was ultimately rejected, since other literary websites have no qualms about running advertisements. Frankly, this level of secrecy and caginess is something I'd expect from a big corporation like Apple. Do the Duotrope team honestly think their website is too big to fail/be replaced? Why are so many writers apparently happy to continue forking over money unquestioningly? I don't object to the paywall so much as to the manner in which its announcement and implementation are being handled. If Duotrope want to start running themselves like a profit-driven enterprise (or at least to break even), they deserve to be scrutinised like any other company.

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