After 25 years, it’s studio-lights-out for DPReview.com.
The venerable photography site (DP stands for Digital Photography) announced it will close on 10 April 2023, at which point its content will be “available in read-only mode for a limited period afterwards.” That content includes deep-dive reviews of camera bodies and lenses, plus articles covering all aspects of the field of photography. It’s an unmatched resource of photo information.
Why now? Unlike most sites, DPReview didn’t rely on scores of ads to survive. Amazon acquired DPReview in 2007 and largely left it as an independent outfit, to the point where many people weren’t aware of its corporate ownership. In addition to a few ads, DPReview received affiliate income when someone purchased products (even though DPReview and Amazon were under the same umbrella), and the site also occasionally featured sponsored content, such as videos about new cameras. Bucking trends, all third-party content was always clearly marked and above-board.
Unfortunately, being owned by Amazon is what ultimately killed DPReview. The day before the announcement, Amazon revealed it was laying off 9,000 employees on top of the 18,000 let go since November 2022. The retailer is also shedding other services to cut expenses, such as its Kindle Newsstand online and print magazine subscription service. DPReview wrote, “This difficult decision is part of the annual operating plan review that our parent company shared earlier this year.”
DPReview also boasts an enormous discussion forum where readers have formed a thriving community with over 47 million posts in upwards of 4 million threads. Forum members can request to download any photos or text they’ve uploaded, but only until 6 April 2023, which is fast approaching.
The wording of the announcement suggests that the site’s content and forums will be deleted at some point after the “limited period” following the April 10th shutdown; when I reached out to verify that interpretation, a source I spoke with at the company didn’t know what would happen. A separate source told me that the site’s engineers have been working to make the site exportable and coordinating with the Internet Archive to preserve the content. According to a post on Reddit, the Internet Archive’s Archive team is actively working on archiving the site. We hope they succeed in capturing everything.
Another casualty of the shutdown is the popular DPReview TV YouTube channel featuring Chris Niccolls and Jordan Drake. However, a few hours after the DPR news dropped, PetaPixel announced that it would serve as the new home for the duo beginning in May.
This is all disappointing news for many reasons, not just because I’ve been a contributor since 2017. My most recent piece, Pete Souza: In the West Wing and Beyond, was an interview with noted White House photographer Pete Souza when he was on a book tour.
DPReview was one of the Web’s few definitive resources. If you were in the market for a new camera or lens, or were looking to buy an older model, you could find exhaustive, objective, well-tested information about it. Online retailers (particularly parent company Amazon) include scores of reviews of dubious accuracy and provenance, and search engines are next to useless for trying to find reliable information. DPReview has been so good on this front that many photo sites opted not to publish in-depth gear reviews because they knew DPReview would have it covered.
I honestly can’t suggest an alternative site that even approaches DPReview’s level of detail about photography. It’s a loss for consumers and for the communities that spring up around photography. It’s also a stark reminder that corporate ownership, far from being a safe haven, may increase the likelihood of a popular site disappearing. As longtime online publisher Derek Powazek wrote on Mastodon, “Moral of the story: don’t sell your site to a tech behemoth that will only ever see you as an annoying line item.”