Monday, January 7, 2008

The Future of Publishing with Linux Magazines

Not too long ago, I subscribed to a Linux magazine for beginners called Tux. Fantastic magazine, but the last I heard they were "headed out," so to speak, due largely to a lack of funding. However, unlike bigger publishers, which include Linux Magazine, Tux was special because they were giving away the magazine in the PDF format. That's right, they provided a free copy of their magazine in hopes of generating enough revenue in ad sales alone. Unfortunately, it did not work out so well for them to that degree.

Today, I stopped by only to discover that they are still around and kicking, but only with old reposted content setup as PDF attachments. It's sad to see this once great magazine fall on hard times. This got me thinking, though - could it be that their advertising model was flawed? Who knows, it's merely a speculation anyway you look at it.

Out With the Old, In With the New. Today, there is a new magazine on the PDF publishing block titled Full Circle. Wisely picking the most widely used distribution method and sticking to it, Full Circle really impressed me with their content. I believe the two most entertaining pieces that I have read include Ubuntu for grandma and the illustration of just how simple is was to get a Mac Mini running Ubuntu using BootCamp - very well done.

Now we are presented with the question: will Full Circle Magazine fall victim to the same fate as the once beloved Tux Magazine? Not likely. Why? For two basic reasons:

1. The online magazine is specifically targeted at a single distribution.
2. Full Circle is not in this to turn a profit. Actually, there is not an ad to be seen anyplace.

And that is why the life of Full Circle could potentially be a lot longer than many skeptics have given it thus far. It's a fairly solid argument, although I'm certainly open to debating it to some some extent if for nothing but to defend the fantastic job they have done putting this together.

The Future of Online Publishing: Pushing PDF Documents? At first, this sounds like a novel idea. After all, it is really simple to get various podcast-ready software, such as iTunes, to pickup PDF documents as podcasts and deliver them directly to users. However, RSS without the enclosures already does this, so this defeats the purpose aiming PDF files at users in a podcast enclosure.

I would also suggest this to be the problem with Tux Magazine, since it limited their ability to properly advertise, and why it will not be a problem for Full Circle as they appear to be a nonprofit institution. Of course the hindsight is 20/20, but it still doesn't do a lot for those who enjoyed Tux's content.

At the end of the day, the future is not in publishing PDF magazines unless they are merely created for community benefit. There are some exceptions out there, since a print Linux magazine could easily offer PDF editions, while remaining well monetized from their print edition. Until magazines featuring operating systems can get a better handle on generating a viable advertising scheme from within the PDF format that allows for dynamic options to utilize pay-per-click options, taking the Tux approach again would be too risky. All the more reason why Full Circle came at the first time for the entry level Ubuntu user.