Woke up this morning to yet another ho-hum peek at BPL during my usual run of regular sites that I visit. It's been more than a month since the last discussion entry about where BPL is headed and since that time only one, relatively unremarkable article other than a gear review has been published. I don't remember the last time I read with interest any article in BPL other than the discussion forum postings.
For some time now I have been seriously debating whether to continue with BPL or not. It was a difficult decision because for two and a half years now I really enjoyed stopping by here daily and learning from interesting articles and communicating with some very interesting and knowledgeable members on the forum. I don't really want to give up the community I've found here.
But I'm paying for this publication and as such expect the goods to be delivered. If my former Backpacking Magazine subscription issues had failed to arrived on the monthly schedule (and even more so if the issues had only contained gear reviews and nothing else) I would have complained and demanded my money back. For some reason members here are expected to wait for months on end while BPL staff members go out and have fun with the gear they are testing or prepare for a trip-of-a-lifetime to the Arctic (all the while getting paid advice on how to prepare for that trip) while giving excuses such as "it takes time to research and write articles" or "we are reevaluating the publication's priorities". Naturally what staff members do in their private time is completely their business, but when they show up here touting their adventures to the people who help pay them to enjoy those adventures and don't do much to earn the money, I wonder what exactly they expect of their customers.
I am a professional writer and illustrator. I do the same thing for a living as the BPL staff members, most probably part-time, do here. If I failed to live up to my reponsibilities to my editors and clients as seems to be happening here I would be out of a job in an instant. I find the excuses that the BPL staff have given here on the forums unprofessional. When you have paying customers (and the "members" here are paying customers, not just participants in some club) you have an obligation to fill what the clients have paid for. It is not the responsibility or concern of the customers if the staff members are having a bad day or can't come up with ideas or are busy with "real life things". BPL asked people to pay for the publication. Therefore they ought to deliver what was promised.
I know I'm being harsh and the community here is quite close-knit and friendly. I like the people here. Yet, if the roles were reversed and a member somehow managed to get a subscription to BPL without paying for it I'm sure the BPL staff would howl bloody murder. I'm also concerned about some kind of Ryan Jordan cult developing with no one stopping to think what their money is going toward. BPL has become like an online catalogue, like Amazon or the iTunes Music Store, with registered members leaving comments to help promote gear, only this catalogue you've got to pay for. Why? What exactly are we paying for? For the privilege of staff members going out and enjoying trying out new gear? Or the privilege of members talking to one another in the forums? You can get all that in any free outdoor discussion group, including talk about ultralight gear and methods,
As others have similarly asked for, BPL needs to get more articles out. Scheduled deadlines need to be established and adhered to. Focus on other things besides gear reviews needs to start showing fruition. If these things cannot be met on a regular, perhaps monthly or bi-monthly basis, then the publication should only be offered as a free online magazine. The British online site Outdoors Magic, as well as the British version of BPL, BackpackingLight UK are both free and yet offer much, if not more (in the case of Outdoors Magic) of what BPL offers. What exactly, recently at least, does BPL offer that warrants members paying for it?
I was hoping to be much more involved with BPL, but since things haven't even begun to improve and almost no real public announcement of what is happening has been posted on the main page, it's time to sign off. My money can be better spent elsewhere. I'll be stopping by daily still until my subscription runs out next month. It's a bittersweet parting.