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Tweaking LT’s Editorial Policy

By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

One of the things that people always compliment Linux Today on
is the fact that we filter the content of the Internet and provide
one-stop reading for pertinent news, features, and opinion articles
about Linux and Open Source. Recent events have prompted me to ask
the question: what does warrant a good link from Linux
Today?

As I plow through all of the potential stories to link to every
day, a mantra unashamedly ripped off from the New York Times goes
through my brain as a very basic criteria for judging an article’s
merit: “all the news that’s fit to link.” Of course, right away
there are other qualifiers: needs to be about Linux or (if not)
about open source or (if not) something that directly competes with
Linux and/or open source… and so on.

And, naturally, it can’t be all of the news. When
Distro X is released, there will be invariably 10-15 reviews posted
on the Web about the new software within a few days’ time. I try to
catch perhaps 4-6 of them, with an eye on balancing positive and
negative reviews if I can. When SCO first sued IBM, it seemed like
every other story on the Web was about that event, though at the
time, I think I posted just one or two news stories about the
incident per day, give or take a major gaffe from McBride.

The reason why this is cropping up as an issue is because of a
problem that at first blush doesn’t seem like a problem at all:
lately, there has been almost too much content on Linux Today, and
my fear is that it will eventually cause us to lose readers.

This is not just nervousness on my part: there have been studies
that show that too many entries in a blog can cause reader
fall-off. LT’s publication model, essentially, is one big blog that
runs 24/7. When there are so many stories that I have to post a
story every half-hour, the per-story read numbers show a marked
decline.

Talkbacks also drop in number, because stories are pushed down
the main news feed so fast people don’t always get a chance to
read/reply to reader responses. (The ideal rate seems to be around
one story every 45 minutes.)

Clearly, some sort of additional editorial filter has to be put
in place, to bring the quantity of the stories down a bit and bring
up the overall quality of the stories that do get posted. I can,
and ultimately will, make the final determination of what gets
posted and what doesn’t, but I wanted to put this out there and
solicit reader feedback on the types of stories would be best to
post. I understand it will be hard to publish a site that pleases
everybody, but gaging the readers’ general preferences seems like a
good idea.

To create a set of common terms for the discussion, here are the
categories for types of articles that we tend to post.

News
Business Features
Product Reviews
Software Announcements
Security Announcements
Kernel Announcements
Analysis/Roundups
Community Profiles
Opinion
Tutorials
Community-contributed Articles

Given recent feedback, it seems that blog entries should be
judged to a higher standard than they have been, and already I have
been posting less blog entries than I was last month at this time.
This does not mean I am anti-blog; to the contrary, I want to link
to any well-written article. But I will acknowledge that
linking to an article that’s arguing just for argument’s (or
traffic’s) sake is no longer part of the equation.

I am also wondering about tutorials, from sites like
developerWorks, LinuxPlanet, or HowtoForge. Are more of these types
of pieces wanted, or less? If less, would more opinion pieces or
more news articles be desired?

Based on talkbacks and direct e-mails, my sense is this: good
tutorials are still wanted, but opinion articles need to be well
thought out if they are to be posted. The same holds true for
product reviews. I have also read many requests for fewer “Company
X deployed Linux and they luv it” stories.

None of these changes would be drastic, mind you: I’m talking
about nudging the ship back on course, not coming 180 degrees
about. Here’s your chance to help steer the ship.

(Just remember, we’re talking about the editorial
policy, not the advertising policy. Comments such as “Get rid of
the [email protected]#! M$ ads” would not be germane to this particular
discussion. Not to mention, this is an obvious desire for more
readers already.)

Thanks in advance!