I’ve done quite a few of these things now – both in the course of the site, and in my previous capacity as editor of a photo magazine – and each time I do one, it gets just a bit more refined and hopefully, a bit more useful. But there are some practical and creative constraints to take into account, too. Let me be very straightforward upfront: I am a commercial photographer, not a career reviewer or blogger. Which means that if I review something, it takes time out of my commercial schedule, which is unbillable. It takes two to three (sometimes more, if the product is complex) days to review something properly; anything less and you’ve probably not done it justice. And in the current economics of photography, if you’re going to trade something billable for something that isn’t, you’d better really like it or use it in the course of your normal work – because it’s not as though this is a lucrative industry to begin with. Forget referral fees and free cameras – they don’t exist, or they’re so small as to be negligible. The referral fees for this site just about covers hosting, and that’s about it. It certainly doesn’t cover the average of 6-7 hours a day, every day, I spend making content or replying email. Yes, that’s on top of my normal work, and no, I don’t sleep very much.
But, I think I have a solution that will work for everybody.
There are actually a few obvious ways around this, most of which are already being employed by various other parties:
- Lower the quality of your reviews, therefore taking less time.
- Recommend everything, therefore increasing your referral fees and click throughs.
- Ally yourself with a brand, and either be paid or sponsored or get free gear.
- Charge for access.
- Any or all of the above in combination.
The problem with 1-3 is that you land up with a review that is nigh on useless. The problem with 4 is that it doesn’t really work if the majority if your content isn’t reviews, and it of course limits your potential audience, which doubly doesn’t work if you’re a professional and trying to increase the visibility of your work.
I’m proposing a hybrid of #4 and something else. Here’s how it would work:
- I will review whatever people want me to review, in addition to the cameras I would normally review. The reviews would be my usual comprehensive 4-5,000 word dissertations on practical use; I’m not going to shoot test charts, because nobody buys a camera to shoot test charts in reality.
- For cameras that are requested, I’d need to find say 100 people willing to pay for the review: it would cover the cost of the camera plus something for my time.
- Here’s the good part: if you were interested in the camera, you might well win it for very little money. After the review, I’m going to draw a random name from the 100 subscribers, and send the camera to them. This way, every purchaser has a chance to win and gets the information they need.
- I would imagine the cost would be a little more than a cup of decent coffee, a cake and a magazine – in other words, disposable. I’m certain though I can offer you a more useful opinion than your average magazine, which depends on keeping advertisers (i.e. camera companies) happy, and is never objective.
- For example, let’s take the Panasonic LX100: sticker price plus shipping to me and shipping to the end owner would be around $1,000, perhaps less. Add on $800 for my time, and that’s $18 per person. Any camera would be fair game, though it probably wouldn’t make sense for compacts or system cameras where I’d need to acquire lenses to do proper testing, for instance.
- It’s not a lot of money to spend to get some sort of confirmation or comfort around potentially a very large purchase.
- We could always increase the number of people, too – 200 people at $8 or $10 would work, too, and work a bit better for me.
I think the only way to get an accurate gauge of whether this is workable or not would be a poll. Please only answer if you’d seriously commit to the proposed scheme.
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