The State of DoBlu

At its peak, DoBlu reached 60,000-80,000 people per month. When DoBlu posted the first review (anywhere!) of Avatar’s Blu-ray, wide interest had 100+ people on the site simultaneously for eight hours, our best numbers ever.

A week ago, we had the lowest one day traffic totals since the site’s inception – less than 400 people. For April, reaching 7,000 total hits would be a miracle. As I’m writing this, no one is actually viewing the site according to our analytics. Zero.

DoBlu used to keep up with the big boys – not bad for a small WordPress blogging project. Our first crowdfunding drive, allowing for a 3D-based equipment upgrade, kept us up in line (seriously, thank you all once again). Plus, in terms of traffic consistency, our 3D reviews remain the best performing. I have no doubt 4K UHD Blu-ray reviews would do the same and we have multiple offers to review discs on the new format.

But we’re not covering 4K Blu-ray. An upgrade to 4K equipment would cost thousands and there is no current justification to do so given the traffic.

Last year, as traffic began to evaporate, I set up a Patreon. DoBlu didn’t set out to be a high dollar business or really a business at all; that would be foolish given the current status of ‘net publishing. Ads don’t offset cost. The Amazon referrals, the box at the top of every review? Earning $5 a month from those is on the high side. Patreon seemed like a reasonable offset.

Blu-ray reviews are far too niche though. I was hoping to at least cover the site’s monetary cost (around $800 per year between hosting, shipping, and rentals) and maybe earn a little extra to put away for future needs. The Patreon earned a few thousand clicks over time, but no one donated.

Chris has done amazing work since I brought him on, well beyond anything I expected. He carries the load in weeks where I’m too busy and then some. It would have been nice to offer compensation, something to offset the time required – we’ve been doing five reviews per week minimum for over two years without missing a single week, barring major holidays – but we both seem happy people enjoyed and relied on the site.

Now no one seems to rely on the site anymore.

As noted in our Patreon, interest in Blu-ray reviews is nill. Streaming video won over the mass public. I’ll give some unique perspective: I’ve been pitching a story to a dozen mainstream tech sites about the launch and viability of 4K Blu-ray. I had full interview access to the UHD Alliance. Only one site showed interest and they wanted the story to lean negative. Not even those who cover tech full time seem to care.

That’s not to say Blu-ray doesn’t sell or have an audience, but interest in technical reviews collapsed. While I appreciate every one of the 400 or so people who consistently revisit the site, comment, and share our reviews on social media, it’s not enough to justify the time spent. Screen captures draw more traffic than text, and my laptop’s BD-ROM drive is starting to strain itself from overuse again. That will need to be another $75 or so invested.

I still love doing this. Criticism is something I hold dear. Doing so on a technical level? It’s an outlet for me, certainly. However, due to other writing commitments, these past two weeks I’ve done all of two Blu-ray reviews. Each can take four to five hours to complete. Finding that time is becoming harder. My Tuesdays – which have been dedicated to DoBlu since 2008 – are ever more crowded.

Every weekday, I wake up, open my laptop, and publish another review. That’s the first thing I do. Usually I’ll spend another hour editing, in addition to putting the review on blast via Twitter, Facebook, and elsewhere.

Chris and I do so much, we’re sometimes two weeks ahead. That means a dozen reviews are sitting there, waiting to be published, to ensure we have fresh content every day. As I write this, we’re a week ahead. After that, I cannot see keeping up that pace considering the current level of (non) interest.

I am keeping the Patreon page up. Anything helps, and I’m throwing in a bonus – exclusive first access to our screen shots in .png format. For clarity, I’m not considering killing DoBlu. There’s far too much content here to wipe it from the internet – 2,500+ reviews, 26,000 screen shots.

What is this all leading to then? A far reduced publishing schedule unless the Patreon suddenly floods with donors. Once we catch up, we will have reviews, but not with any consistency. They’ll be posted as they’re done, which means as I have time. There may be gaps of a week or more between new content. The only deadlines will be those from studios who send us review copies – also a shrinking selection as majors like Fox drift toward all digital platforms. I can’t blame a billion dollar company for pulling support from a site with >400 eyes in a day.

So thank you for the support through the years. I hope you’ll stick around as we make our changes and consider the Patreon (linked in the below image) to keep us going. If you have questions about Patreon, how it works, or anything of the sort, let me know in the comments. If you have a more private inquiry, my inbox is open: matt[at]doblu[dot]com.

patreon

  • I think you laid out the state of DoBlu for its readers quite well with honesty and integrity, Matt. Bleeding edge tech adopters have already moved on towards UHD, while the lower-end segment of the market has drifted towards streaming services. Blu-ray sales were actually up for the year in 2015 and look to do well in 2016 with a slew of big blockbusters, but secular trends don’t paint a rosy picture for physical media formats.

    The traffic problem is shared by most Blu-ray-centric sites as the format’s popularity settles into a steady but flat rate of growth. I think the format still has several viable years left as DVD is finally abandoned by the larger studios in terms of marketing and support. Their eye is now on digital services, but won’t refuse the steady revenue provided by Blu-ray sales.

    I am glad that DoBlu has been around to provide independent Blu-ray reviews largely free of studio pandering. All too often BD reviews seen on the bigger review sites are little more than puff pieces that gloss over technical details, fearful of slamming errors and mistakes made by the studios.