Linux Journal Goes 100% Digital
Introducing Linux Journal 2.0
We're going all-digital. That's the news. Starting with our next issue, #209, we're going off-rack and off-mailbox, but staying on-email and on-Web, where we can grow and improve. It's the only path open to us, but it's also a good one. Hang with me as I explain why. (See also Experience the New Linux Journal for details about the new format.)
Linux Journal was the brainchild of Phil Hughes in 1993. That's when he got it in his head that a free software magazine would be a good idea, and pulled together an email list of friends—including me—to talk about it. Then one day, out of the blue, Phil halted the proceedings and announced that he now saw The Future, and it was Linux.
At the time, Linux was invisible in the trade press. None of the magazines put out by the big three computer-industry publishers--Ziff-Davis, IDG and CMP--paid any attention to it. All their eyes were on name-brand computer and network companies, plus startups in spaces those companies (all of which were advertisers) defined. UNIX was still a war between variants sold by Novell, Silicon Graphics, IBM, Sun and others, plus the BSDs. Linux was at version 0.x, and of relatively little interest outside the kernel mailing list.
Phil saw UNIX for the mess it was, and he knew how Linux was going to solve it. So, when Linux 1.0 was released in March 1994, Linux Journal promptly followed. During the 17+ years since, Linux has proven Phil right, and it is now the standard operating system for everything from picture frames to set-top boxes, plus most of the Web. (Fun fact: even Microsoft's Bing search engine is mostly hosted on Linux, through Akamai.)
But while Linux continues to win at operating systems, print magazines are losing to other media—especially digital—and have been for a long time. In fact, lately it's been getting worse.
Just this month, ABC reported that newsstand magazine sales fell 9% in the first six months of this year. The Wall Street Journal reported a drop of 9.2% for consumer magazines, with double-digit drops for celebrity weeklies like People and Star. Women's Wear Daily reported similar drops for all but one fashion magazine: Vogue, thanks to one Lady Gaga cover.
The big computer-industry trade magazines from the '90s have either disappeared or gone digital. Of the big three publishers, only IDG is still intact, and still putting out most of its original magazines in print.
We survived while others failed by getting lean and staying focused. But the costs of printing and distributing continue to go up. We could keep publishing in print if we could raise the number of advertiser pages, but we don't see that happening.
What we do see is a core readership that has stuck with us, along with Linux, for a generation. You, our readers, are at the heart of Linux, and always have been. We want to keep that heart beating.
That heart will beat with much more strength if the blood flows entirely through bits and pixels. It also will be better aligned with the world we helped create. (We were online and helping ISPs grow even before the first graphical browsers showed up.) The opportunities online are as wide as the digital horizons. And we won't be confined by the physical and cost limits of paper and ink.
Those limits include space. We can name many examples of articles, columns and regular features that have been cut to fit the limited spaces of our print pages. We also can name many examples of digital pieces that have been very successful, outside the confines of print. Working in two media has always pulled us in different directions. Now we can move forward in the winning direction, without the drag.
But we can't do it if you're not with us. For that we need two things.
The first is for you to keep subscribing. Our first all-digital edition of Linux Journal--#209--will go out on schedule, directly to all print subscribers. It will be the same magazine it always has been. It also will be searchable, interactive, printable and, therefore, also green (a small bonus, but one we do care about).
The second is to get your input and participation in making Linux Journal the magazine you want it to be. We are setting a forum for conversation with subscribers, plus a forum for conversation with non-paying readers. I also invite you to write us directly at email@example.com. For more help, visit our FAQ.
Linux Journal is your magazine. You're the ones who pay for it, and you're the ones whose help we need and appreciate the most. Linux always has been a construction project, and the same is true for this magazine. Please help us keep building it in ways that work best for you—and for everybody out in user space too.
Doc Searls is Senior Editor of Linux Journal