Yet Another Business Plan
Posted Jul 27, 2002 17:55 UTC (Sat) by GreyWizard
Parent article: On the future of LWN
Everyone is an armchair entrepreneur, it seems. I'm not about to miss out on all the fun, so here are my thoughts:
- A subscription service is a must. Most people are happy to donate, but too lazy to do it regularly enough. Perks for subscribers are necessary if LWN is to get enough subscriptions to be profitable in the long run.
- This cannot rely on added services in the short run. The LWN staff is nearly burned out already. A few months of reasonable income are required before we can expect them to expand their service offerings. So please people, stop with the PDF and newsprint stuff.
- At this moment many people would subscribe out of good will and a desire to keep the site going. Combined with donations in the short term this might give LWN enough time to build up subscriptions.
- Fund raising works best when it's a game. Many people have suggested (or re-suggested) a dynamic display meter that indicates the amount of money LWN has and needs to keep going for the next few months. This is an excellent idea for the short run.
- LWN is part of the free software community. They cannot maintain credibility if they permanently fence off "content" in some way. Delayed access to weekly columns like Kernel for non-subscribers is reasonable, however.
- Delaying the weekly editorial risks making LWN less relevant, I think. The benefit that comes from provoking responses from important community figures is worth the cost of giving away that section.
- Some have suggested delaying news instead. I'm conflicted on that because news isn't what makes LWN unique. While the selection of news is unusually good here, it can be had elsewhere. On the other hand, I don't see how exposing the news to non-subscribers will encourage them to subscribe, unlike the editorial page.
- An idea I've not seen floated is allowing only paid subscribers to post comments. I expect that to be controvertial, but I think it's quite reasonable. People who have paid are those who care about this site and the community it represents. They will have the most interesting things to say.
- A less radical alternative is to identify comments from subscribers with a star (or some other distinctive mark). Perhaps this could even be optional so that subscribers could avoid distinguishing themselves in this way if that suits them.
So there you have it: my plan to save LWN. Implement a subscriber system that doesn't compromise the core values of the free software community and focus on collecting enough in donations to survive long enough to make it profitable. Work smarter not harder. Buy low sell high. And so on.
I hope that helps. Whether or not it does, allow me to add my voice to the chorus that chants, "thank you for all of the hard work and insightful commentary over the years."
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