Open source and the shrinking waterhole

One great way many open source companies are now reaching out is by hosting demos on their sites. They should end, like the Hershey tour, with a candy bar, in the form of a free download offer in exchange for registration data.

The Water Hole, childrensÂ’ book from Amazon.com
Despite a lot of brave talk at OSBC there is little doubt that open source is heading into its first recession.

(If you want to explain a recession to your four-year old, here's one way.)

During the last bust, what I call the dot-bomb, open source was the answer to questions on how to cope. Now that flexibility is gone.

This recession starts just as many open source vendors are starting to look beyond their own forges for sales. I've heard people say they're even hiring salesmen.

One way open source saved money in the first place was by paring marketing to the bone. Another way was by making support a profit center. A third was by scaling expenses closely with revenue growth.

So the good news is you're already better-positioned than your commercial rivals to deal with this drought.

Publishing is a sort of canary in the coal mine for these things. Careful readers may have noticed a distinct lack of advertising near these pages lately. This has now been reflected in that dreaded word reorganization.

But this isn't about me. It's about you. Despite the tightness of every open source budget, you're still vendors, and you still have bills to pay, payroll to meet. (If you are familiar with the book at the top, add braces to buy.)

One way C|Net has met the possibility of another downturn is with the business model here at ZDNet. Without giving away our secret sauce, let me just say that I'm always happy to see you.

Such formulae can be adjusted in a downturn, but you're still facing what my late friend Russell Shaw called "a shrinking waterhole." Sales are harder to make, and you have to use a rifle, not birdshot, to bring home your game.

During the dot bomb Russell flew all around the country, meeting his editors, asking for references, and following up.

One great way many open source companies are now reaching out is by hosting demos on their sites. Some are quite good. They should end, like the Hershey tour, with a candy bar, in the form of a free download offer in exchange for registration data.

But how do you get people to take the time and see them?

One way is to advertise, say, here. (Or somewhere like it.) Costs a lot less than an airplane ride, a hotel room, and a trade show booth.

Finding innovative ways to reach beyond your site is just one way of staying in business. How about you share some other ideas below?

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