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Mum’s the Word at “Linux Today”

There seems to be trouble in the works over at Linux Today, and everybody’s keeping damn quiet about it.

The first hint that something was wrong came on Saturday when the site posted no new content. This seemed odd, but not too unusual since weekend postings are often slim on the site. But when usually busy Monday came and went with still no new posts, the “what’s-up-with-that” factor was raised. Things started to get back to normal on Tuesday, however, when new posts began showing-up on the site again, though the pickings were slim, only six posts on a day when normally there would be four times as many.

I figured that the folks at Linux Today had just experienced some kind of hiccup in their operations or that maybe everyone took the weekend off to celebrate some sort of open source spring break. Then, yesterday at about 1 pm EDT, the site posted a rather cryptic article, Picking Ourselves Up, Dusting Ourselves Off, by Michael Hall, a former managing editor at both Linux Today and Linux Planet who’s been spending the last several years working “on other sites in Linux Today’s parent company.” He’s back as managing editor, it would seem:

“A lot of regular readers in the Linux Today community have noticed we’ve been through a rough spot in the last few days: Posting stopped for several days and only began to pick back up yesterday. In talkbacks on a few articles, some of you noted that LT’s managing editor, Carla Schroder, is no longer with the site, but that no comment about the matter was forthcoming from any of us still involved in keeping it running.”

Carla Schroder had been Senior Managing Editor since 2008, and seemed to be doing a bang-up job. Hall gave no reason for her exit, only lamenting the fact that she wasn’t given the opportunity to say her farewells properly on Linux Today, and offered a link to a page on LXer where Ms Schroder addresses the issue herself. He then goes on to imply that all is not well at both Linux Today and Linux Planet, without supplying more than a hint of details:

“Right now, I can’t say much more than ‘we’re still going.’ We have someone working on the site, and we’re trying to figure out how to best use the resources we’ve got to keep Linux Today running. We don’t have any plans to shut the site down, and we’re having a lot of internal conversations about the ways we can dust ourselves off and move ahead.

“At the same time, we’re stretched pretty thin, and we’re more dependent than ever on your contributions to our news feed. Though Linux Today is managed by an editor, its real power source has always been its community. I looked in on the reader contribution queue this morning and recognized the names of people who were sharing links when I was a brand new editor on the site 10 years ago. I think those people are as important to Linux Today as any editor, and I hope they’ll stay with us while we work out how to keep the site going.”

Over at LXer, former editor Schroder didn’t do much to bring clarity to the situation:

“This week I was laid off, along with a number of my co-workers. Save your sympathy because while it sucks to be given the boot, it’s all good. I can’t say a whole lot without incurring the wrath of lawyers, so use your imagination to fill in the gaps. You’ll probably be close to the truth.”

Linux Today has been owned by QuinStreet, Inc. since 2009 when they acquired the division of WebMediaBrands Inc. for $18 million. Although Hall’s post indicates some financial difficulties, QuinStreet would seem to be healthy, with 2010 earnings of $334.8 million, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. The company went public in February 2010 with an initial public offering of $250 million. The stock trades on NASDAQ as QNST and at the time of this writing is valued at $22.87 per share.

Interestingly, founder and CEO Douglas Valenti and CFO Kenneth R. Hahn seem to be in the process of cashing-in their chips. According to GuruFocus, Valenti, who owns 10% of the company, unloaded 38,900 shares at an average price of $20.46 per share on December 21st. Between September 20, 2010 and December 7, 2010, Valenti sold a total of 210,090 shares. He is reported to currently hold just under 6 million shares. In November and December, CFO Hahn sold 55 thousand shares.

My guess is that Linux Today and Linux Planet aren’t generating enough revenue to keep the suits at QuinStreet happy. If that’s the case, we can expect to see these two sites suffer a slow death, or be acquired by someone else, hopefully an open source company. However, there could be a whole boatload of other things going on at QuinStreet, perhaps connected with the stock sell-off by Valenti and Hahn.

Only time will tell. In the meantime, we’ll be keeping an eye on this.


  1. Areader Areader March 26, 2011

    Did you try contacting any of the people involved and asking them? You’ve done some interesting research on the company, and yet missed the most important and obvious step, and taken the liberty of drawing conclusions based on no real information. I’m a nobody, and I go right to the source when I’m wondering. Many times I get an answer.

  2. ned flanders ned flanders March 30, 2011

    My morning reading routine is LT, Groklaw and Techrights (which has THE best FLOSS links anywhere…thats how I discovered this story and this site BTW) so Im very interested in this.
    I always enjoyed Carla’s writing and her principled stands when it comes to free software.
    I will happily follow her elsewhere but it wont be the same…

    I hope things get resolved at LT, its still a great site even though the participation has dropped somewhat in the comments.
    The regulars like Reiner W., Brandioch, GreyGeek and a few others are some of the most astute FLOSS commenters around and some of their well written comments were often of better quality than the post itself.

    I think the problem there runs deeper than being simply layed off. When you are just layed off, there rarely is a gag order involved like this.

    …or maybe it IS about lack of revenue.
    I guess those countless ads Microsoft buys at LT arent enough.

    Ive just taken a quick look at your main page and the articles look interesting: Linus and (my hero) J. Allison at the zoo, Ellison and the GPL, OO, feds and Crackberries, etc…
    Did notice that huge break after october.

    So if the quality of the writing keeps up in the other articles, I will be back.



  3. Christine Hall Christine Hall Post author | April 2, 2011

    Ned, I think you’ve got a pretty good handle on what might or might not be going on over at Linux Today. I agree, a simple layoff shouldn’t involve lawyers or gag orders – although my personal experience with publishers is that they sometimes overreact when it comes to the wholesale laying-off of staff. I also agree that LT is a great site – and a very important part of our community. I’d hate to see a time when I couldn’t start my day with my LT fix.

    And thanks for the kind words about FOSS Force. You’re correct – we’ve had to take a little time off to regroup, but were about to get going again in earnest, so keep us bookmarked!

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