The State of WordPress PublishersI had the opportunity to chat with three major WordPress publishing sites regarding their own publishing platforms as well as their thoughts on the publishing space in general.

Chatting with Marie Dodson of Torque Magazine, Brian Krogsgard of Post Status, and Nathan Weller of Elegant Themes, I was impressed with the sheer amount of dedication and expertise these folks have to pull off what they do.

Writing of any kind isn’t easy. But writing and garnering a large following of dedicated readers while continuing to generate high-quality content is not for the faint of heart. These folks are committed to their trade and do it well.

I wanted to have this conversation specifically because of the rapid growth in the area of WordPress publishing. By that, I don’t mean blogging; but rather writing about WordPress with WordPress users/developers as your primary target audience.

Occasionally though, it feels as if some websites are so formulaic in their approach to writing that the quality of the content about WordPress seems to suffer. WordPress is often compared to other big tech communities and scoffed at.

Similarly, there are large and very popular tech journals that garner hundreds of thousands of views daily (think Mashable, Gizmodo, etc). In contrast, those publications attract readers because of the heft of the articles they publish. While I’m not a listicle fan, even Mashable has good examples that are better than just listing 10 random free plugins.

So going into this conversation I wanted to get insight from these industry leaders about the challenges they face, and their take on the WordPress publishing space in general. Watch it here, and my commentary follows below.

So, besides just being a really interesting discussion overall, there were a few things that stood out to me as significant.

Content Takes a Village

Each of the publishers have a team in one form or another. Content takes time and energy and even Nathan — who has the largest team — feels like there’s not enough hours in the day.

Engaging Your Readers is a Challenge

Post Status does a really great job of creating a community around their content with their large Slack Channel. Torque focuses on reader loyalty with premium content like their REST API Book and the ongoing comedic series by Doc Pop.

Elegant Themes found that rather than casting their content net really wide, whenever they wrote more specifically on their products their readership got more engaged, not less. That’s a great tip for any product shop. It might be tempting to write “Top 10 Best Slider Plugins” yet again, but your readers signed-up for your newsletter because of your products, not your general WordPress knowledge.

What’s a Corporate Blog?

If you read a bit about content marketing for business in general, you’ll hear about exactly what you should or shouldn’t do as a Corporate Blog. I think — as with many things — WordPress businesses break those molds.

Obviously, Elegant Themes would be considered a Corporate Blog since it’s content created from a for-profit shop. Torque is a little different, as is WPTavern — for example. They are owned by larger entities but take their independence seriously. Post Status is a totally different bird. It’s obviously for-profit but the content itself is the product.

For the Good of WordPress

You’re reading this article on a site that would be considered a “Corporate Blog.” This article isn’t about any of our products, and it’s not even about WordPress specifically. We write articles like this for the good of WordPress.

Naturally, I want my kids clothed and fed and so income and sales are important to me. We know first hand that in order for us to have sales of any kind, businesses and individuals have to continue to choose WordPress as their CMS of choice.

When we engage in this space it isn’t for the warm fuzzy of likes and shares. We are advocates of WordPress. We need its success and its growth because our success and growth depends on it. So while we definitely want to highlight our products when appropriate, we see our future as a company tied with the loyalty and growth of the broader WordPress community. That is our motivation for writing, publishing, interacting on social media, and building out our products to be as useful and reliable as we can.

What are your Takeaways?

In the midst of all of that, there’s a few nuggets I think every blogger and website owner can learn from:

  • Write directly to your audience and why they signed up for your newsletter.
  • Engage your audience in focused and strategic ways outside of your website.
  • Content is hard, put real energy, time, and money into it.

Nathan Weller shared his thoughts on the discussion already on the Elegant Themes blog, make sure to give that a read.

Tell us about your struggles and successes in publishing. We’d love to hear it and Nathan, Brian, and Marie can chime in as well.

Matt is Head of Support and Community Outreach at WordImpress.com. He's the author of many free WordPress plugins, a popular blogger at his website, an admin of the Advanced WordPress Facebook group, co-organizer of the San Diego WordPress Meetup, and a frequent WordCamp speaker and attender.

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3 Responses to “The State of WordPress Publishers”

  1. John J. Locke

    There are some really great points here, Matt. Specifically, to avoid formulas that appear to be working for other people, and develop your own voice. It helps to know your audience, and why they are reading your blog. The example of Elegant Themes getting readers more engaged when they talk about their own products as opposed to being turned off is interesting and unexpected. If you have legitimate followers who are trying to learn more about your products or service, perhaps that is a good path to take.

    Reply
  2. Rob from Press Wizards

    Great content, and great tips for improving my own corporate blog, which focuses on content for website owners, including performance and design etc, more than our own WordPress development or hosting services.

    Thanks,
    Rob
    http://presswizards.com/

    Reply
  3. nathanbweller

    What a fun talk! I could have talked for hours on this stuff. We should get together every once and a while to talk blogging/publishing.

    Reply

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