Last week, we stated that, due to lack of anything even close to the amount
of money needed to pay the LWN staff, the publication of the LWN.net Weekly
Edition would end on August 1. Since then, quite a few things have
These developments have caused us to rethink our plans in a way we honestly
had not expected. Here is a summary of where we are at.
$25,000 is a nice pile of cash for a little company to have in the bank,
but it is important to keep in mind that it is not enough to keep us going
for all that long. Running LWN currently involves five people (Jonathan
Corbet: front and Kernel pages, site code, "executive editor"; Forrest
Cook: Development and Press pages, system administration; Rebecca Sobol:
Distributions and Commerce pages; Dennis Tenney: Security page and
corporate bureaucracy; Dave Whitinger: business development, ad sales and
delivery), all of whom are experienced software engineers. These people
have children and mortgages, and most work full time producing LWN. They
can not be expected to do it for free, even though that is exactly
what they have been doing for some months now.
So the LWN staff needs things like salaries and health insurance. A
minimal amount of money to provide these for the current staff is about
$15,000 per month - and that level will still likely lead to loss of staff
eventually. But it is a starting figure to aim for.
All of our estimates on possible subscription revenue fell far below that
amount. The numbers came out of gnumeric, after all, they had to be
true... and besides, none of our projected numbers have ever turned out to
be too conservative in the past. It was on this basis that we decided it
was time to pull the plug.
From the donations and feedback we have gotten, we have concluded that
maybe our numbers were a little too conservative, that maybe
subscriptions could bring in more than we thought. As a result, we are now
thinking through plans for the implementation of a subscription-based LWN.
Here, in bullet form, is the core of what we are thinking:
- Initially, the Weekly Edition would be the content that lives behind
the subscription gate. Subscribers would have immediate access to the
Weekly Edition when it comes out Wednesday evening; free access would
be opened up later, perhaps the following Monday. We would, however,
immediately start work on expanding the content available to
subscribers; we have a lot of fun ideas for things we could do.
- The rest of our current content, including the "daily updates" which
now make up the front page, would remain free.
- Certain other new features would be available to subscribers only. At
the top of the list is the long-requested email delivery option for
the Weekly Edition. Content in PDF format and perhaps even an option
for delivery of a print version, are on the list, though they would
have to come later. We are also considering setting aside a
percentage of our text ad exposures for subscribers who have something
- We are still working on pricing. People who have donated to LWN would
be able to use their donation to obtain a subscription.
The decision to go to subscriptions is hard; restricted content is a
difficult fit in the world of free software. We will certainly lose a
great many readers by imposing subscriptions. But...if we go off the air,
we lose all of our readers. It is also still not clear to us that
subscriptions are sufficient to cover our costs. The thinking at the
moment is that some sort of stable base of (presumably corporate)
sponsorship will be required, along with whatever advertising revenue we
can come up with. Without that base, it will be hard for us to proceed.
The end result is that we are going to take next week away from the
production of LWN to think long and hard about what we are going to do, to
pursue sponsorship contacts, and to hack madly on the site code to actually
implement a subscription scheme. The LWN Weekly Edition will not be
published next week, though a subset may be available. At the end of the
week, we hope to have a plan in place that will let us move forward, and
which will stop trying the patience of our many loyal readers who have been
waiting for us to get our act together.
Thank you all for your overwhelming support.
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