Duotrope Digest Moving to Paid Model

“D” is for Duotrope. Starting January 1, you’ll pay $5/month to see it.

Woke up this morning to find that Duotrope Digest, a site offering listings for fiction and poetry markets, is moving to a paid model after being free for 7 years.

According to their post, subscribers will have access to:

  • Its search engine, which puts it above Ralan in my opinion
  • The ability to track one’s submissions
  • Statistics on reply times from markets
  • RSS feeds

Those who use the site for free will only be able to see limited details on markets. The subscription cost is $5/month or $50/year. This new model goes into effect January 1, 2013. The folks at Duotrope are also promising new features, but have not said what they are.

My opinion (since I know you are all dying to hear it)

While I understand the need to make a venture like Duotrope, which is likely a side-project by a few dedicated people, sustainable, I do think giving a month’s notice is not fair. A month may seem like a long time on one side of the glass, but consider it’s the holiday season and a lot of writers are dealing with NaNoWriMo hang-overs. And most part-time writers know a month can sometimes slip by without ever thinking about your writing.

December 1: Thanks God. I can post my final word count and get some sleep.

December 1: Thanks God. I can post my final word count and get some sleep.

Also, writers are generally not the types who have money to spare. While it can be a hobby that some will put more money into than they get out, I try to keep my writing revenue neutral. Unless someone is cracking pro markets every time, a $50 investment might not make returns.

There is also the reality of the Internet. No one likes to pay for stuff they think they are used to getting—or think they deserve to get—for free. Ralan.com lacks the search and tracking features of Duotrope, but with some patience and a spreadsheet one can accomplish the same thing.

Some advice for Duotrope

While I support the freemium model, a paywall might be too much. Perhaps:

  • Allow current users a few months’ grace period with icons indicating what services will be cut off, but new users must subscribe.
  • A scaling model to allow access to different features for different prices. For example, I would gladly pay $10/year to retain access to Duotrope’s search engine. But $50 all-or-almost-nothing gives me pause. (And, full disclosure, I have contributed to Duotrope in the past.)
  • Depending on what number of subscribers is needed to be profitable, reward the first X subscribers with premium content. Perhaps announcements of new markets a day or two in advance on them going live.
  • The announcements says “As Duotrope adds and improves features — and we do have plans!” Tell us what these new features are. I think this is their biggest mistake in the change. Don’t tease us with vague promises. Telling user what is coming might make them more inclined to pay. For example:
    • Tying into the submissions tools some sites have so submission details are automatically tracked in my profile.
    • The ability to be notified when new markets are entered into the system based on my preferences. (For example, I want to know about new horror or science fiction markets paying semi-pro rates or better.)
    • Tell me when markets I have submitted to in the past, or have submissions into currently, close to submissions.

(Caveat: I’ve worked in Web development and know all of these suggestions can represent anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks worth of work.)

Wishing Duotrope a lot of luck

I hope this does not sound overly critical of Duotrope. I use their site and appreciate what they are offering to writers. What’s more, I appreciate the difficulty in running an online business, especially after seven years. What began as a “Wouldn’t it be cool if…” can become a sisyphean chore that one comes to resent as life changes and new demands arise. No doubt server costs are all borne by a small group of people, who might be simmering with resentment at a bunch of freeloaders.

I hope they make it, are able to make a small profit on their efforts, and are around for a good long time.

So what do you think? Is $50 too much or will you sign-up?


21 Responses to “Duotrope Digest Moving to Paid Model”

  1. 1 Kimber Vale December 1, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    I just saw this this morning as well. Such a bummer. I, too, have contributed in the past because it is valuable to me. Fifty bucks a year valuable? I don’t think I can justify that. I’d do maybe twenty, kinda like a magazine subscription. Come on Duotrope! Come up with some options, or I think you’ll be done!

  2. 4 James Bambury (@JamesBambury) December 2, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    I think you’ve got a good handle on this situation, Matt. Duotrope’s decision has me shaking my head at their ham-handed PR but they’ve provided a very good service for free and I don’t feel any sense of entitlement to their directories and databases if they choose to put them behind a paywall.

    As of this moment, the cost is just a bit too high given how it ranks against a) the comparative cost of looking up journal submission guidelines on other directories or search engines (free) and b) how much money is coming in from writing and what percentage of this would be going to Duotrope? It starts to feel (right or wrong) like a kind of indenture and that makes writing start to seem less than the tenuous fun it already is.

    So, given your experience in web development, what do you think it costs them to provide the services on the site as it currently runs?

    • 5 Matt Moore December 2, 2012 at 6:39 pm

      Thanks for your comments, James.

      I’m not going to take a guess at their costs. There are too many factors to consider. I’ve seen two very similar websites (to each other, not Duotrope) that had a difference in cost at a magnitude of ten. The differences were (1) how much the programmer could charge, (2) various business decisions and (3) efficient versus process flow while building the site.

      Based on a follow up post to Facebook, my guess is that they have looked at how many people have donated, made an estimate of how many users they might lose, and come up with a round figure of remaining users that would cover their costs and provide them some profit.

      At least, I hope that is how they crunched the numbers. The interesting thing about doing something like this is where the supply-demand lines cross. If they charged $10 a month, would they lose half of their projected users at $5 per month? If they charged $1 per month, would they gain 5 times the audience?

  3. 6 Mike Rettig December 8, 2012 at 4:24 pm

    I’ve found Duotrope very valuable in a current successful short story submission campaign. We as writers say we are serious about our craft yet we can’t afford $4.17 a month? My surprise is that only 10% of users ever donated. A tool that allows me to make submissions to the right publications for my work is a tool worth paying for. And yes ,i did contribute $ on the old model.

  4. 8 Patrick Johanneson January 2, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    As soon as I heard they were going to the paid model, I signed up for the $50. (I don’t write for a living — my day job pays the bills — and as was pointed out, $4 and change a month is a pretty small price to pay.) I agree that “Hey we’ve got great things in the works but we won’t tell you what they are” is a questionable way to raise money, though.

    My figuring is that I’ll pay for it for a year, and in November or so, evaluate whether it’s been a worthwhile investment.

  5. 12 Frank Tonge January 18, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    Discovered Duotrope just two days ago and would like to understand how it works before putting money out. How about a free trial first? If I find it has a value to me then a small monthly fee, paid quarterly, would be acceptable. I would hope to make a profit from use of their services–why should I begrudge them the right to do the same?

    • 13 Matt Moore January 19, 2013 at 10:18 am

      Thanks for your comments, Frank. I think a lot of people are thinking along the same lines as you.

      From what I am seeing among my friends on Facebook, most have jumped ship and moving to sites like Ralan and Dark Markets, and tracking with a spread sheet. A few, though, are willing to pay for the convenience.

  6. 14 Datahore January 23, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    I offered my data in exchange for access in the past. Now, since they’re going to charge, I would like to be compensated for the data that I freely gave them or have my data removed from their stats (which is part of their selling point).

    • 15 Matt Moore January 23, 2013 at 5:29 pm

      You raise a good point: The quid-pro-quo of providing your data in exchange for seeing the aggregate information all user data results in.

      However, understand Duotrope’s need for revenue stream to cover the daily costs of a site. The question for you (and everyone) becomes is it still worth it. For you, it sounds like no. A lot of others are with you.

      But you also raise another very good issue. What happens to the data you provided in the past? I am not up on what laws affect this or Duotrope’s terms of use, but you might have some grounds to ask them to remove your data, which you can no longer access unless you have paid a membership.

  7. 16 Quinn Kit February 3, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    Duotrope has somewhat become a mercenary organization. I used to reap a lot of benefits from the website as I am introduced to thousands of literary magazines, making my writing endeavors efficacious. If even accessing to publishing avenues is to be defined in terms of how wealthy you are, then I think I have to quit my writing profession. It’s a tragic.

    • 17 Matt Moore February 3, 2013 at 10:42 pm

      There’s been a lot of great discussion raised on this topic, Quinn. But I have to take issue with your comment. It seems you feel you should get access to Duotrope for free. Am I wrong on that? Duotrope has a fiscal reality they have to face as well. I share the frustration of not having access to Duotrope’s great site for free anymore, but there’s Ralan and the sites’ submission guidelines one can easily access. Until every magazine starts charging for submissions, publishing avenues won’t be defined in terms of how wealthy one is.

  1. 1 A few thoughts on the Duotrope paywall | Trackback on December 3, 2012 at 6:38 am
  2. 2 Duotrope is an Expensive Drug Now? « Zigtalk Trackback on December 12, 2012 at 12:40 am
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  4. 4 Solitary Mindset » Blog Archive Why the New Duotrope Makes Me Happy » Solitary Mindset Trackback on January 1, 2013 at 5:04 pm

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