I had never heard of Gear Patrol before, so I had to look them up. Even though DPReview’s traffic has been shrinking (well before the announcement from Amazon, but especially after), they still have more visitors—and those visitors view more pages and stay longer—than Gear Patrol. Obviously they hope that this acquisition expands both audiences with crossover between the two websites.
When I was on the Central Coast of California tour two weeks ago, DPReview was brought up several times. There were a few interesting points made and insights that were discussed. I don’t have any inside information into the business dealings of any of these companies, but I do know a little about the industry in general, so I thought it would be worthwhile to talk about it here on Fuji X Weekly. It’s a hot topic, so perhaps you’re interested in my opinions—if not, that’s ok, just ignore this article.
Amazon conducted a financial audit of their company, as they routinely do, and some alarming statistics were discovered. In response, Amazon looked closely at their divisions that were not profitable (or were perhaps trending towards and forecasted to be not profitable), and made determinations on layoffs, selling “assets” that were no longer so, and shuttering departments. DPReview, which was owned by Amazon, was chosen to close.
Two points that I believe are important, but I think were overlooked in the emotion of the closing news, are: 1) DPReview was either not profitable or was trending in that direction and forecasted to be that soon, and 2) Amazon did make some effort to sell it before deciding to close it. I don’t have any personal information on either of those two points, but it only makes sense, and thinking otherwise doesn’t make any sense. No matter how “evil” or “heartless” you think Amazon is, they wouldn’t close a profitable division—they are much more business savvy than you or I, and profits are profits, and an “asset” that’s losing money isn’t one. I doubt Amazon put much effort into selling DPReview, but they probably sent out a handful of inquiries to some companies within their circle to see if any would take the bait, and apparently none bit, so they decided instead to turn out the lights. They must have thought that there wouldn’t be much interest in it.
But then there was a huge outcry from the photo community. I believe that some offers to buy DPReview began to come in, including from Gear Patrol, so Amazon decided to keep it running for a couple months longer as they worked out the details. For Amazon, it makes a lot more sense to sell than to close, so they were quite happy to have a buyer, and probably sold DPReview at a discount.
So why would DPReview, which has a very large and devoted audience, have trouble turning a profit? The answer is simple: cost. The biggest expense for every company is almost always employees. I don’t know how many work for DPReview, but Google says that it’s at least 11 (I have no idea if that’s accurate). Ken Rockwell, for example, only employs himself, so even though he has a significantly smaller audience than DPReview, he’s able to turn a profit. Another big expense for DPReview is data storage and hosting. Now obviously they use Amazon Web Services (AWS) for this, which means they’ve either received this service for free or at a significant discount as a perk of being owned by Amazon. I use AWS for a couple of really small things, and I pay monthly for it. I can only imagine how expensive it would be for something as huge as DPReview! Not to mention that it’s constantly expanding daily (particularly thanks to the forums). Finally, DPReview is headquartered in an high-cost city, which in prosperous times is no big deal, but in lean times might make a significant difference.
I imagine that Gear Patrol negotiated (as a part of the sale) the inclusion of AWS for DPReview, and probably for a specific time. It could be three months, it could be six, but more likely it’s at least 12, if not up to 36. That gives Gear Patrol time to figure out how to run DPReview leaner before having to absorb that big expense.
What’s in it for Amazon? Well, first, there’s however much money Gear Patrol is paying them to buy DPReview. All of those affiliate links are still there, too, bringing customers to Amazon. And if DPReview can stay afloat, there will be the AWS money, too. Even if Amazon practically gave away DPReview (which they might have), it’s still better for them than to just close it down.
What’s in it for Gear Patrol? Suddenly their audience has more than doubled. If they can incorporate some crossover, there’s a real opportunity. However, they have to be careful, and it’s possible they’ve bit off more than they can chew. The challenge will be running DPReview leaner while not degrading the experience, and not making the crossover off-putting to visitors.
What’s in it for DPReview? The people who work there don’t get a pink slip—at least not everyone, and not right away. People who have worked hard for years to build the website and brand will be able to keep doing so. For those at DPReview (and their families), this must feel like a huge relief, although I’m sure there will still be a lot of stress with the transition.
What’s in it for the photography community? DPReview has been around for a really long time, and there are so many resources on their website, which almost completely disappeared. Now—and at least for now—those resources will still be available to the photography community for some time to come.
So it seems like a win-win-win-win-win situation. Amazon won. Gear Patrol won. DPReview won. PetaPixel won. The photography community won. Amazing!
I doubt that Gear Patrol reads this website, but just in case, the advice that I’d offer them is this: in 2023, people are a little less interested in the fine details of the specs of camera gear than they used to be, and are more interested in how to use their gear to achieve what they want to achieve. We’ve reached a point (really, surpassed it) of diminishing returns, and the small differences between makes and models matter much less than they used to. Nowadays, anyone can achieve what they want to achieve with whatever gear they have, if only they knew how. There are people who either don’t know this, or who ignore it because it’s easier and more convenient to blame their gear than themselves, so they still get worked up over the insignificant differences, but most people are beginning to realize that the gear they own (or are about to own) is actually much more capable than they are. What they want to know is how to use their gear. They want to know how to achieve what they desire either the simplest way or the best way. If you focus more on that, you’ll find tons of success moving forward in this changing environment.