The Value of FontZone

Stephen Coles's picture

A question for FontZone subscribers: Is it worth the GBP20?

hrant's picture

> I think the best judge of that is yourself

Only if he were a subscriber - which he's obviously not. It's not the titles (and certainly not the number of titles) of the articles that matters - it's what's inside. And although I agree that FontZone doesn't have a free (or really any other single) equivalent online, it can be argued that the combination of things like Typographica and the MS news site is plenty (and possibly richer and more objective). Personally, if I were in a position to gain anything (like business insight) from FontZone, I would subscribe.

So does anybody besides Neil (who hasn't really been subscribed long enough) have any opinions?


BTW, Stephen, how do you know it's Clive? What if somebody logged on as ChampagneBrut and started saying things like "screw you if you don't subscribe to FontZone - I don't need you anyway"?


hrant's picture

> you can remember that far back, right?

Easily, and honestly I was hoping/assuming it's [even] better now, considering it's no longer free.

> you're not going to get more timely feedback.

Granted, but if I wait a week or two I can get the same info (from multiple angles) elsewhere. It's not like the font business is the stock market - good fonts take months/years.

> There are certainly some strong opinions expressed

Strength is welcome. But private_agendas/coping_mechanisms are not. For example, I have noted the blind faith towards Apple; and the berserker rage against Bitstream (don't ask me to dig it up - you'd be wasting time). So in this case for example how can we expect you to treat Vera fairly? Case in point: no coverage on FontZone. You've said (at least twice in public) that you're not a journalist - and that's fine, nobody can force you to be one - but you must face the fact that objectivity and the intrinsic usefulness of information (from an apparent news site, no less) are necessarily proportional.

> micro-payment

That sounds like a great idea.

Another great idea would be qualified public endorsements from big names.


hrant's picture

> they voted with their wallets

But we don't know who/how_many "they" are... So what must be your
primary target -potential subscribers- has less motivation than otherwise.


tsprowl's picture

"Right now there's well over 1,000 pages of content online - where can you buya 1,000 book, that's constantly updated, for 20 quid a year?"

Its called the web and your local library and its all free already.

Luc Devroye's pages?! hello...he links the world of typography. the man's got everything - and if its not on there I say it hasn't happened yet hence I review typophile and typographica.

sides - gathering everything up is fine but I'd rather take it from the real links provided so as to not mark up a monoplay of information that may one day dissapear.

I noticed that the day Craig Butterworth posted his Kinky Kowgirls for review it was listed on Luc's pages.

another portal is great but I won't be paying for something I can't see.

hrant's picture

> Luc Devroye

Ah, you see Tanya, Luc happens to be on CB's blacklist...
If FZ had a crest, it would have a personal agenda rampant gules, pomme titanium sinister.


bieler's picture

I went to the FontZone site. Might be something I'd like to look at, uncertain though what the selling point it here.

I got three calls from Sears today trying to sell me term life and two from AT&T trying to sell me local phone service. Neither would send me print info on what they were actually offering. The AT&T guy even suggested, why would I lie to you about this, while refusing to fax me the info.

So, what's up with this. Send in the money and we will show you what we can offer? Bullshit. This is the web.


rcapeto's picture

I used to visit the Fontzone site once in a while before it
closed down, and it seemed nice. But there was less
competition back then.

Clive, how many contributors are responsible for providing
these "1000 pages" of content? Also, is there a list of
contributors somewhere? (I haven't visited FZ to check.)
And, are contributors also subscribers? Or do they get
a free subscription? ;)

hrant's picture

> if they want to do that, that's up to them.

Sure, but why don't they? Have you asked them? Wouldn't that help you out?

> a voucher that was in the goodie-bag.

Actually, I'm not sure, but I don't think I got that.

> And Luc is not on any "blacklist" that I run or know of

So who else is not? :-)

> I'm not trying to sell anything to you

Sure you are - you put an entry on Typophile.
And it would be crazy for you not to try - that's not anybody's complaint. The problem (well, one problem) is your method.

> to pay the authors of that content.

You previously said they get royalties. How much of the remaining revenue goes to keeping the site up, versus to you? I don't necessarily expect an answer, but -if the content of the site is essentially at the same level as it was when it was free, as you in fact say- there must be some "justification" for the charge besides paying other people...

> I'd be surprised if we disagreee by much.

You must disagree to a fair extent, because this site is free. As for what you get for a Typophile membership, that's of a totally different nature (which includes helping out something you value/believe_in) than getting access to non-journalistic news and overly subjective opinions.


bieler's picture

There's no list of contributors, perhaps I'll do something about that.

I think this is quite needed and would be useful, and an obvious incentive to subscribe for those who are curious. Also, the contributors would probably appreciate it.

hrant's picture

> this thread is for people who are subscribers.

Yes, which is exactly why I refrained from saying anything at all at first.

But then:
1) After Neil nobody came forward.
2) CB wrote things that I feel needed replies.

> Are you asserting that it's inappropriate for FontZone to promote itself?

Not at all, and I clarified that already. But what I do have a problem with is the implication that starting to charge for it has nothing to do with making a profit:

"So why now make a charge? Because we want to encourage fresh writing and publishing projects - and reward the contributors of that content."


hrant's picture

> There are many easier ways to make a profit.

But of course any normal human being bases his money-making on a number of factors, not just net profits; this includes interests (like type, in your case?), and social acceptance (like not getting into prostitution). Otherwise culture would be dying even faster than it is now.

> in anticipation for the launch of your own online venture.

For more than three years now there's been no decent way to make money on-line (at least not directly) for individuals like you and me. As I'm sure you're realizing...

BTW, my site generates a lot of traffic, even though it changes very slowly: I get about twice as many visits as JPF's site, it seems - and his site is full of nice things. I guess now I just need a good library a Latin fonts... :-)

> they may be embarrassed by a negative comment.

That would only make sense if they were inarticulate - which I doubt.

Anyway, I still don't understand why they don't put any endorsements on your site (where people like me can't even reply). But thanks for the contributors' list - I assume you'll put that on your site too, right?


hrant's picture

> author profiles

What's the reason these are accessible only to subscribers?


johnbutler's picture

I am a subscriber to Fontzone, and it is easily worth the 20 pounds. There are a number of important articles there... especially some material about the more obscure CJK technologies and products. FontZone also gets news of certain font releases well before the public and the rest of the online type community. I will definitely continue my subscription (...which I believe may be running out soon... Clive?)

Hrant has antagonized Clive for as long as I can remember. I'm not sure why, other than perhaps that Clive has little patience for pirates, which is fine by me. He's a good writer, he has lots of well-informed opinions, and I'm glad to know him.

hrant's picture

> Hrant has antagonized Clive for as long as I can remember.

Actually, I make constant efforts to mend the relationship, but I suspect that doesn't serve his agenda. I just can't stand bullshit, especially in public. So I think it's the other way around, especially when you take into account all the anonymous attacks launched against me here. Are you looking the other way, perhaps?

It all started maybe 4 years ago, on the OpenType list: I got tired of his rabid fanaticism, and stated that FontZone suffered from a lack of journalistic integrity. Instead of taking good advice, he promptly closed FontZone and dug a deeper trench. I just hope he's washing his hair every day.

> Clive has little patience for pirates

There's a difference between having little patience and suffering from Downer Syndrome. Lumping me with people like Apostrophe can only come back to bite you. Please don't tell me you need treatment as well - I hope you simply don't know the real story.

I fight piracy -not least in public- more than any of you. Just yesterday I alerted Emigre about a font way too close to one of theirs, from a major reputable font house.


> it's inappropriate.

I fail to see how. I mean, at least *one* of them should be willing, right? Like what about one of the three Johns? This one here is willing to do it on Typophile, so he must be willing to put something on the FZ site as well. Come on, get to it! If I were a contributor* I would complain that you're not doing enough for my 25%.

* Which even in an ideal world I would avoid: I don't like writing for an audience limited by affluence. BTW, you should also consider lowering your rate for poorer world citizens, like ATypI just did.


hrant's picture

Yes, everybody should trust an anonymous lycanthrope instead.


schaffs's picture

Well, this thread has gone on for so long now,
that I have now got a more informed opinion of
Fontzone value, like someone mentioned earlier
FontZone and TypoPhile both have a place and I
for one am very grateful for their existence. But compared to Typophile's free membership I would have to say that FontZone isn't VFM,
but on the other hand I don't begrudge paying the $20 fee, it's not going to break the bank at the end of the day.

hdschellnack's picture

The thing is, imvho, that I personally am not interested in paying for forum or for articles or news, even in this specialized field. This commercial approach works against what the net was originally about, back when it still was more BBS than WWW - global communication. I think a forum such as this or many others is something that CAN work for free... Serverspace is cheap and the PHP software is available as freewarem, after all. If I had to pay 20 $ for a bulletin board and a few articles, man... the stuff had better be DAMN good, seeing that there is so many brillant free stuff on design available on the net. I wouldn't mind paying if there was the option of regular downloads of exclusive font designs - like the critique fonts we see here, only as PS or TTF for download - and stuff like that, but other than that, I doubt that it'll work long-range. I have seen similar approaches in regard to comic book boards, and they all failed, because you can get similar or even the same kind of info for free elsewhere :-).

jfp's picture

free php and cheap server never make the quality of the content.
There is room for many different kind of typographic publishing because of the web, that's it.

current subscriber of FZ, future subcriber of Typophile (after 100 post if I understood?), regular visitor of, typographer, daidala, J D Berry page, ATypI news, etc.

cph's picture

Server space is cheap; bandwidth is very expensive.

cattie's picture

I'm from "below 14,500 limit" country and I'm a fontzone subscriber. This year I extended my subscription to another year.

But some suggestions for fontzone:
- more long articles (evaluation, summarization)
- some kind of evaluation of articles and maybe discussion

anonymous's picture

Stephen, I think the best judge of that is yourself

Stephen Coles's picture

Hey Clive.

Your quantity is impressive, indeed. I'd just like to hear
from some subscribers about the quality of the content.

Jared Benson's picture

Oh, surely that would never happen here, would it?

anonymous's picture

Hrant, I think the quality is as it was when the site was free - you can remember that far back, right?

So why now make a charge? Because we want to encourage fresh writing and publishing projects - and reward the contributors of that content.

If you'll pay for industry insight - check out the article just posted from the type technology meeting in Heidelberg, you're not going to get more timely feedback.

Objectivity? In the eye of the beholder I think. There are certainly some strong opinions expressed in many of the articles on the site - everyone's going to find something to disagree with, if that' what they want.

If you visit the site check through the articles in the preview section, then you can make your own minds up.

Three things are certain:

As of today, I've never had a request yet for a refund on a subscription - but there's always a first time. Certainly many have used the free trial vouchers in circulation and then not takn out a full subscription.

We're currently working on a project to sell content through micro-payment schemes - possibly selling articles for as little as 50p/75 cents a shot. If you can't bear to be parted from 20 quid.

Fontzone is an ongoing project, it will get better as time goes on, the whole content of the site from the first day it was published back in 1996 is avaialble to all subscribers (as Neil alludes) - we have plans that are rapidly coming to fruition to add to the site from other archives - which are available no where else online.

But there's no rush - watch and wait, when you're ready get your credit card out - I don't want anyone to be disappointed with what they've bought.

anonymous's picture

OK, just to address a couple of issues.

There are Fontzone subscribers that frequent Typophile - if they want to contribute to the thread I'll leave it up to them. As far as I'm concerned they are free to say what they want, positive or negative, I'm happy to see that discussion and won't feel badly about negative comments. My aim is to make the site better and better - I won't do that without getting feedback from the users.

Endorsements? Well, I think they voted with their wallets - they're either subscribers or they aren't. Again it's up to them to say what they think rather than for me to put them on the spot. I think this is really what Stephen was looking for in the first place.

On that aspect I can say that Johannes Gutenberg told me last night that he thought Fontzone was "Simply wicked".

Private agendas. I think it's very important to remember that I'm not the only person who writes for Fontzone - off the top of my head there's something like 20 who have done so in the last year.

I think it's also important to remember that none of us are omniscient or omnipresent (though obviously some will disagree). We can't cover every single type, book and software release - there are only so many hours in a day.

I also think that agendas, whether you agreee with them or not, give strength to writing - otherwise what is written is merely sterile observation.

On that point, I think that I could give good example of this at Fontzone... which even you might agree with.

As far as Apple goes, I think this is the wrong forum, try Blind faith!? Example?

The micropayments thing isn't going to happen for a couple of months, at least, so don't hold your breath.

Er, but I think we're getting way off topic as to what Stephen was asking, so I'll leave it up to subscribers to say what they want, if they want...

Stephen Coles's picture

Ouch. Didn't expect this kind of landslide. You might
silence the critics with a few sample articles, Clive.
How 'bout it?

anonymous's picture

But we don't know who/how_many "they" are... So what must be your
primary target -potential subscribers- has less motivation than otherwise.

I'm not goin to say who the users/customers are, if they want to do that, that's up to them. "They" have the same information you have right now on whether to subscribe or not. In fact, you went to Rome right? You had the opportunity to get a free trial 30 day subscription with a voucher that was in the goodie-bag. So you had the chance to see precisely what was there, given by me to you.

You chose not to take that opportunity - not my problem.

And Luc is not on any "blacklist" that I run or know of - why not ask him yourself?

Tanya/Gerald - your call, I'm not trying to sell anything to you, if you want it, there it is, if you don't then don't. But one thing I can guarantee is that there's stuff at Fontzone that isn't available anywhere else on the web - likewise there's stuff at Luc's site, MS typography and Typophile that isn't available else where.

As to seeing what you're going to get, as I pointed out before, go to the site, click on the "previews" link and there's something like 10-12 article - these are either the articles in full, or the first few hundred words.

Additionally, as also pointed out, use the search functionality at the site, browse throught the listings (tip, anything with a "folder" icon next to it you can see view, anything in the previews section you can view).

At the end of the day we charge for content - to pay the authors of that content. If you don't want to contribute to that scheme then that's your choice and I see no point in arguing against that.

Right now on the web you've got a lot of content that's free one way or the other - I don't have a problem with that either, that's the choice of the authors.

But one thing Fontzone certainly isn't is a "links" listing - the only simple link service you'll find is in the "webfeed" section, which is also "free" to use. Each and every article link on the site has a minimum 100 words behind it (the philosophy here is that if we can't write 100 words about it then it's just a "link" and we put it in the webfeed), the reality is that news articles are typically 3-400 words, and features are 500-5,000+ words.

Essentially, I don't have a problem with any criticism in this thread because the answers to that criticism is on the site right now - and have been since January 2002.

So, if I can help anyone see that better, I'm happy to do so, but I'm not going to ask people to endorse the site, nor give the names or numbers of subscribers.

Perhaps Jared would let you know what his strategy is on the same subject - I'd be surprised if we disagreee by much.

anonymous's picture

Sure, but why don't they? Have you asked them? Wouldn't that help you out?

Like I said, Johannes loves the site - what difference does it make if ... Eric Gill were alive and a subscriber?

I don't feel it's appropriate to ask people to endorse the site. It would be illegal for me to disclose names of subscribers

anonymous's picture

>Clive, how many contributors are
>responsible for providing
>these "1000 pages" of content?

Probably around 35-40, since 1996.

There's no list of contributors, perhaps I'll do something about that.

Stephen Coles's picture

CB: I'm not trying to sell anything to you
Hrant: Sure you are - you put an entry on Typophile.

Huh? I'm the one who posted the question, Hranter.

anonymous's picture

Gerard, every contributor is acknowledged at the foot of each article anyway, along with their contact details. But, as suggested, it may be an idea to put up a list.

As far as Hrant's links to Fontzone "publicity" posts on Typophile go - they're all in the "news" section by which the owners of this site invite news posts. the majority of them are merely reproductions of the mail that goes out to the Fontzone mailing list. I think's it's also worth noting that the latest of these posts was over nine months ago - we send out the Fontzone news list about twice a month.

I've never posted such material in a normal discussion thread.

As Stephen notes, he started this thread, not me - and I have not tried to sell anyone anything in this thread - just posted my opinions about a few issues and noted where to get/see more information to help him, and anyone else, make a decision about a subscription.

And, thanks for the useful feedback from those who contributed.

Joe Pemberton's picture

Hrant, your opinion is pretty clear from your posts. But I
have to say this thread is for people who are subscribers.
Maybe this is your chance to listen.

I really don't know where you're going with all your posts.
Are you asserting that it's inappropriate for FontZone to
promote itself? Or are you asserting that they're somehow
less trusted because they charge for their content? Maybe
those folks at Eye and CA should give away their mags for
free too.

Just like you, I'm not a subscriber to FontZone, so I'm going
to just listen to this thread and hopefully get a more
informed opinion.

anonymous's picture

It may take a while for me to get around to posting a list of contributors, but a quick one would run something like:

John Hudson
Thomas Phinney
Erik van Blokland
Jack Yan
Brian Sooy
Karen Parry
Jurgen Siebert
John Downer
Joe Gillespie
Ian Styles
Peter Bain
Joachim Muller-Lance
Joel Breckinridge

I forgot about this, but there's a couple of author profiles here:

If you look in the Features section some of the author's names are actually mentioned in the sub-heads.

Additionally within the ATypI conference coverage for Reading and Lyon there are lots of unattributed snippets/short articles by Simon Daniels, Stuart Bailey, Mark Barratt, Peter Fraterdeus and many others.

anonymous's picture

Hrant, that's a really easy one, if I understand your statement correctly:

Charging for Fontzone really does have nothing to do with making a profit. It's not quite a wholly philanthropic effort, but the underlying reason for its existance, as I think I've previously stated, is to create an archive.

There are many easier ways to make a profit. If you think otherwise I await in anticipation for the launch of your own online venture.

Stephen Coles's picture

That's a nice list of people who really know stuff. Cool.
Where are your subscribers? Would you say few of
them frequent Typophile? I'm surprised not a single
current subscriber has posted. I hope we haven't
scared them off.

anonymous's picture

Stephen, no idea why subscribers aren't posting to the thread - but I don't think badly of them for not doing so. A positive comment would be seen to be an endorsement, they may be embarrassed by a negative comment.

I think the choice is their's and I'm not going to pressurise anyone either way. Certainly some of them do post to Typophile on occasion.

The subscriber base is about 95% European Union/North America, with about a 50/50 split between the two. The remainder are in Central Europe, South America and the Middle East/Western Asia.

anonymous's picture

>For more than three years now there's been no
>decent way to make money on-line (at least not
>directly) for individuals like you and me. As I'm sure
>you're realizing...

Actually I'd disagree.

>Anyway, I still don't understand why they don't
>put any endorsements on your site (where
>people like me can't even reply).

Perhaps they, like me, think it's inappropriate. No one gets to reply to articles directly - if you want to chat about things there's plenty of opportunity at Typophile. I suppose that if I saw a need for it I would put up a reader's letters section - but so far it doesn't seem to serve any purpose.

>But thanks for
>the contributors' list - I assume you'll put that on your site too, right?

At some point, but probably not within the next couple of days.

>What's the reason these are accessible only
>to subscribers?

Hmm, actually I didn't realise that they were - I'll take a look at it... ok, that's "fixed", you may have to refresh your browser since the URLs from the profiles page have changed.

anonymous's picture

Whoops, John now I'm embarrased :-)

As to the CJK stuff John mentions, most of that's down to Joel Breckinridge who's resident in Japan, and really does know what he's talking about.

John's sub... nope, you're ok through to about the fourth week of May, you'll get an email when it gets closer to needing a renewal.

anonymous's picture

Ok, I'm out of here - just for the record pretty much anything Hrant says is contradicted by the facts. But as usual, that's never going to stop him.

anonymous's picture

> I just hope he's washing his hair every day.

Hrant, I do have a lot of time for you, but *please* cut the playground digs. It doesn't become you...

schaffs's picture

I have just joined FontZone, and yes I think it's
worth it so far, but I probably say that because haven't yet trawled the the archive features and information, haven't noticed how much the site gets updated! ask me again in 6 months?

P.S Just registered on Typophile and am very impresed, and no fee! Even better.

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