After nearly 25 years of operation, DPReview will be closing in the near future. This difficult decision is part of the annual operating plan review that our parent company shared earlier this year. The site will remain active until April 10.DPReview.com
DPRreview, a camera review and photography enthusiast community website owned and operated by Amazon, is shutting down, no thanks in part to a large-scale corporate readjustment — the company is laying off another 9000 employees. What an ironic twist of fate — getting shuttered in their twenty-fifth year.
The news shocked the entire photography ecosystem, but I had heard rumblings of its demise over the past few months. It still doesn’t prepare you for loss, especially if a community and a website have been part of your cultural and professional evolution. The sadness expressed on social media only bellies the special place DPReview has enjoyed in the photographic community.
All of us have spent countless hours on its forums. Once its crown jewel, DPReview’s forums lost their luster, and many of the new converts to photography found more modern social spaces. With Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Reddit, and other social platforms becoming the primary place for photography-related discourse, photography communities have become a smaller, niche corner of the internet. Even as a long-time visitor, lately, I have preferred to go to Reddit for my photography discourse. Facebook Groups, in particular, have been a big hit with the photography community. I suppose nostalgia can keep you around for so long.
On TechCrunch, writer Devin Coldewey wrote:
The team’s knowledge, acumen and extensive objective testing contributed to reviews that famously reached near-comical lengths at times, but that was because shortcuts simply were not taken: You could be sure that even minor models were getting not just a fair shake, but the same treatment a flagship model received. Its back catalog of camera reviews and specs is an incredible resource that I have consulted hundreds of times…..There’s never been a better time to buy a camera — and there has never been, nor do I imagine there will ever be, a better site to help you choose one than DPReview.
I am not so sure if I see the world like Devin. First of all, the camera industry is not healthy. Here are some sales numbers of digital cameras from CIPA:
- 2020: 5.308 million bodies, 9 million lenses
- 2021: 5.348 million bodies, 9.55 million lenses.
- 2022: 5.927 million (+10.8%) bodies, 9.7 million lenses.
- 2023: (Projected) 5.72 million and 9.39 million lenses.
That isn’t a very healthy image for an industry — as a comparison, a decade ago, camera makers sold 63 million units.
After I got my sadness under control, I decided to look into the traffic patterns at DPReview, and what I found wasn’t that good. According to a tool I used, DPReview’s organic monthly viewers in January 2023 were around 1.9 million, nearly half of what it had in March 2021. (To be clear, I have no idea how many registered users the site had, so this is just the publicly available data. )
In comparison, Petapixel, another photography website that aggregates and publishes more “photography” related click-friendly content, has seen its traffic surge from around a million organic visitors in March 2021 to about 2.2 million in January 2023.
There is no doubt the internet is changing. And so is photography. We have already seen
We have too many distractions on the internet to siphon off our attention. The web has gone from being textual to more visual, and many of us have moved away from the written word to the world of video reviews. Even DPReview’s YouTube channel has grown enormously — nearly 400,000 subscribers. In addition, the camera industry has been shrinking thanks to the growth of camera phones and computational photography, a trend unlikely to change anytime soon. (See above.)
I have keenly followed the site since its earliest days. When Amazon bought the site in 2007, it was an early example of a symbiosis of commerce and editorial — what we now know as the referral economy.
A few years back, I met Jeff Bezos and asked him why he was buying up content sites. I suspected the Amazon founder wanted to eliminate the “advertising” between commerce and content. If you remember, in 2007, Amazon bought DPreview, a digital camera community, and later acquired IMDB, a movie database. As always, Bezos was a little ahead of the curve. In the post-Facebook, post-Groupon world, one can see a new kind of symbiotic relationship emerge between the interest graph and the “sellers.”
Amazon has always been the harbinger of the internet (trends), especially regarding commerce, content, and the cloud. (The funny thing is that because of that blog post, I spent time with Chris Dixon, then the co-founder of Hunch, a company trying to figure out the future after social commerce — aka Interest graph commerce.)
We see a turbocharged version of that Interest graph commerce all around us — Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Snap are good examples. They have better tools to understand you and serve up enticing ads to match your interests (of the moment.) It is hard for a standalone website that has yet to evolve much over the years to compete in a rapidly changing internet landscape.
The saddest part of the shutdown is Amazon’s decision to keep the site in “read-only mode for a limited period” after the shutdown on April 10th. That is a shame considering how valuable a resource has been for the internet from the beginning. It is even more disappointing because Amazon is the largest cloud provider in the world, and letting this live on wouldn’t even cost them a damn thing.
No matter what happens in the future, I will always be grateful for the past. Thanks, DPReview, for your reviews and memories.
March 21, 2023. San Francisco
3 thoughts on “Amazon shuts down DPReview”
As a devout follower of DPReview’s Youtube channel and their website, I’m sad to see them going out on such a whimper. At least Chris and Jordan are still going to continue with their show – their camera reviews are always superb fun.
Tough market, tough times. Let’s hope they bounce back, somehow 🙂
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