Saving Duotrope: Dumping the Unwashed Masses is NOT the Answer

Duotrope has announced plans to move to a rigid freemium model, where almost all of the functionality will be available only to subscribers at $5/month (or $50/year).

The issue, as others have pointed out, is that the submission response data that makes Duotrope valuable (even more so than the market listings, in my opinion) will be destroyed by not allowing free users access to the “Submission Tracker” tool.

I have donated in the past, and I would have donated again in the future (once I go back to using Duotrope like I have in the past). But as Duotrope has mentioned many times before, I’m in the minority. It’s clear that Duotrope’s strategy of continually displaying their funding shortage is not working.

But moving to the subscription model they’re envisioning won’t work, either.

I should qualify that. It might work for Duotrope’s owners and operators, as they are currently losing money and a subscription model may actually make them money from a hugely contracted user base. But writers will lose out, including the writers who are willing to subscribe. The Duotrope we have and love today will not exist in six months. There may be a Duotrope, and it may have many great tools for authors, but it will lose the value we currently enjoy.

So what do I think they should do?

Well, as a professional armchair quarter back who rarely watches football, I have some ideas.

  1. Funding campaign during the month of December (on-site and maybe Kickstarter) to raise enough money to pay for a year of site operation PLUS the implementation of their value-added functionality.
  2. As many of the features from their roadmap as possible should be implemented during 2013, designed for subscribers.
  3. Add subscription as part of the implementation of the new functionality, keeping the current feature set available to all users.
  4. If subscription fails to provide enough revenue at first, it’s possible to have yearly crowdfunding campaigns. I believe that it would be possible to raise the shortfall yearly until the shortfall disappears.

People love Duotrope. Despite not raising enough money, Duotrope has raised a significant amount over the years. I see no reason why a campaign couldn’t raise as much if not more money in a shorter time, because that’s why crowdfunding campaigns work.

Now… writers and Duotrope fanatics… point out the flaws in my reasoning, so we can tighten this up. I don’t want to lose the best parts of Duotrope, and finding an alternative for the site operators is likely our only hope. And we don’t have much time.

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