Oh my God! It's the end of Kuro5hin!
Ok, see that big button you still have lying around from your Infocom Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy game? The one that says "Don't Panic"? Grab hold, breathe deeply, and read as needed. This most emphatically does not mean the end of K5.
We've always run a pretty cheap operation here, and our main expense is still my salary. The hardware was all donated (thanks, you know who you are!), VHosting remains an enthusiastic bandwidth sponsor, and most importantly, you all are the ones who do the real work that makes the site what it is.
So, if the site never again had any income at all, the worst that would happen is I'd have to find a job. You probably wouldn't notice the difference. That doesn't mean I want to find another job, of course. I remember all too well the pain of trying to balance a real job and running K5 at the same time. So we have some plans in the works to help prevent that, but before I get to that...
As quoted above, OSDN believes that K5 no longer fits in with OSDN's core focus. It's arguable whether we ever really did, but in any case, Robin goes on to say that OSDN is "returning to our roots, you might say, concentrating more than
ever on Linux and Open Source. We recognize that SourceForge.net,
especially, has become a vital resource for the Open Source community,
and that we have a responsibility to make sure it survives." Robin says that "VA's corporate focus is almost entirely on SourceForge these days."
When asked whether VA's struggling stock price and apparent financial troubles played any part in the decision, OSDN had no comment.
I sincerely hope that this decision doesn't cast VA Linux or OSDN in a bad light in any of your minds. They've been great partners for us, and helped K5 overcome the tough transition from small community to medium-largish community, which I think we did with remarkable grace and aplomb. They've always gone out of their way to support us, and are giving us almost a month more than the contractually required 90 days notice to end this contract. I wish them all the best, and I'm sure the friends we have over there will remain good friends.
Yeah, ok, that sounded like marketroid bullshit, but I really mean it. They're a good company, and I hope they prosper along with the larger Free software community.
So, to quote Axel Rose...
Where do we go now?
It would be good for K5 to earn some money, because then I can pay myself, Inoshiro, and hurstdog to keep you guys, the hardware, and Scoop (respectively) cared for. Currently, we're pursuing three simultaneous avenues of development on the income front.
You've all seen them on Google, FuckedCompany, and most recently, MetaFilter. Text Ads are a new idea in web advertising, and one that I think will work really well here.
The basic idea is, instead of great obnoxious banner ads sold in huge blocks to big companies, we'll sell small, text-only ads to anyone with a credit card and ten bucks left in their account. This tends to work well on sites where reading and following links is the major reason for people being there, and doubly so on sites with a strong community focus. I'd say that fits us to a T.
The plan as of now is the banners at the top and bottom of the page will go away, and instead we'll sell two text ads, which will live over on the right side of the page, probably just below the current VHosting and VA Linux block. They'll probably cost $2.50 per thousand impressions, with a 4,000 impression (or $10.00) minimum purchase.
We may also offer a slightly larger size ad, with a static graphic and some more text, to replace the current VA Linux spot in the sponsors box. I'm undecided on that yet, so let me know if you'd buy something there, or have an opinion on it.
The cool thing about this is that anyone can buy one, for any reason at all. It'll be cheap, fast, easy, and, as I've discovered on MetaFilter, actually kind of fun. Wanna plug your weblog? Wanna get people to notice your open source software project? Wanna sell your PC case enhancement doodad? Whatever it is, it's only ten bucks. We'll obviously screen submitted ads for basic appropriateness, but it's about as wide open as you can get.
And of course, the best part of all, no more animated ads! I can't wait. :-)
We've offered subscriptions for a few months, and I'm reasonably happy with how that's going. Subscriber income has funded some cool K5 promotional stuff, like my recent trip to California to enlighten the Online News Association. Subscriptions will, after January, probably become a larger part of our overall income, and we plan to offer some more nifty incentives for people to sign up.
Just like with the current ads, subscribers will be able to turn off the text ads if they want to. We also plan to offer [yourname]@kuro5hin.org email forwarding addresses to subscribers. There have been rafts of other suggestions for extra goodies to encourage subscription, and we'll try out any that seem like a good fit. Current subscribers will, of course, get new features automatically as we introduce them.
As always, K5 will continue to be free to read and free to post to. That's our most basic reason for being, and it would be idiotic for my insatiable crack habi... ahh... need for income to get in the way of that. Extra features for subscribers will be limited to "extra services" that don't really affect the site as a whole.
For example, another thing we're considering is offering private user messaging for subscribers. The reason being that, because it's private, it doesn't add to the community as a whole, so I wouldn't feel like it was a loss to make it a premium service. It may end up that anyone can receive private messages, but only subscribers can send them. We also may offer the ability to subscribe to only specific services for a reduced rate. This is an ongoing kind of thing, that I think we'll continue to work out during the next year or so.
And last but not least...
The guys from NTK have famously claimed that selling t-shirts is the only way to make money online. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but we plan to massively revamp our merchandising efforts. I think we've grown out of the old cafepress store, which has grown stale and musty with age, and has been put on permanent furlough.
Instead, we plan to introduce Kuro5hin.com (note the TLD) as the K5 "crass merchandising branch." We're arranging for independent printing of brand new t-shirts, and we expect to bring out new designs and special items much more frequently. They will also be of much higher quality than the cafepress stuff. We have some other, rather strange ideas for merchandise, like action figures, but those are still deep in the skunkworks. We'll announce that when they stop catching fire after exactly 99 minutes in the sunlight.
We may also partner with other community-oriented sites and projects, to sell merchandise for them through k5.com. Again, this is all in development, so let me know what you want to see.
To Sum Up
We once again have a great opportunity to prove that things can be done differently, and to disprove all the net naysayers who claim that every site will inevitably collapse if it gets popular enough. You've all worked miracles daily for almost two years now, so I have no doubt you'll continue to amaze everyone, and make me look really good in the process. ;-)
As usual, your ideas are what drive this place. Let us know what you want, and what you'd do in our shoes. No idea is too crazy to be considered. We're on our own again, so go nuts.