As I’m sure many of you have already learned, online writer’s resource Duotrope is switching to a subscription-based service as of January 1. The website’s managing staff has been warning about this step for a while, since not enough users were donating funds for the site to continue to operate. According to the announcement on their home page, only about 10% of users also donate to the site – I have no idea where they got that number from or how accurate it is, but it probably isn’t too far off the mark.
While I’m not surprised by this change – I will admit to never donating to Duotrope – it does worry me a little. This is the second web service that I frequent that has converted to a subscription format, the other being The Globe and Mail, which recently limited access to its online content. The reason I’m worried is that I know it won’t be the last. I feel like this is the start of a trend on the Internet toward limiting access to the majority of professional online content. The Internet used to be championed as a (largely) free global collective for sharing information and ideas. Now, much like the rest of society, it’s becoming divided: for people with money the Internet is an open market, while people without money are losing out.
This worries me as a writer because many emerging writers, like me, are also struggling writers, like me, who thrive on free or affordable services in order to develop and promote our craft. Duotrope is the foremost resource for writers to find places to submit their work. For a writer just making ends’ meet, that resource will soon be taken away. $5 per month to subscribe to the site may not seem like a lot of money, but for someone just scraping by, it is. I know I can’t afford it right now, and I’m employed.
I suppose my point here is just to lament the advantages that certain people have over others. If resources like Duotrope are suddenly closed off, how difficult will it be for new writers to get their voices heard?