ManageWP joins the WordPress news fray with a Digg-like web app

managewp-orgManageWP has been teasing for what must be a few months by now. I received an email invite yesterday to see what the wait was all about. Based on the teasers, the new service seemed to be some sort of aggregated WordPress news source, and that appears to be accurate.

I played with it for about half an hour, and my main takeaway was that it felt like a Digg style resource geared around WordPress. The user experience is pretty good and the web technology appears quite advanced. Interestingly, the app isn’t built on WordPress; or at least the display portion of the site isn’t WordPress. It appears they’ve invested a significant amount of energy, and potentially money, into the project.

In it’s Digg-like manner, the site requests users to submit links, which get delivered to a “latest” feed. Then, based on popularity, articles are featured. Logged in users can upvote items. When submitting an article, users are asked to provide a title and description, with an option to include an image.

managewporg-layout two column archive screenshot

Honestly, the site functionality is very familiar to my original ideas for what Post Status would be. However, I iterated toward a more traditional blog with links that are more editor-curated and less user-filtered. I think ManageWP could succeed with the user-filtering method as long as the audience is large enough to actually vote on items with enough relevance to know what to feature. It’ll also require that submission levels are high enough to justify variations between “latest” posts and “top stories”.

The “member” section also has a gamification aspect to it. Users receive rankings based on their number of submissions, the comments on their submissions, and the upvotes on their submissions.

I’m not sure when exactly will launch in full to the public. At this time, you get directed to the landing page still unless you have the link from their early-access email.

Can succeed? sharing buttons sharing buttons

I have no desire to predict whether or not will succeed. What I can say, is they’ve invested quite a bit on the model. I would not call what I’ve seen in my preview a minimum viable product. It’s a fully fledged web app. I mean, they even built their own sharing buttons for blog owners to include on their websites. They’ve built pretty much exactly what I envisioned (and then some) early on, from a functionality perspective, for the ideal curated resource — so I’m glad they built it.

However, I’ve since changed my mind on what I think my readers value, so I would no longer do it like they have. Fortunately for me, I did create the absolute MVP for the first Post Status.

I know the ManageWP site management product has a large audience, and they already invest significantly in their WordPress blog. So this is complementary to things they are already doing. And I look forward to seeing how it goes. I think they’ll need to utilize their large existing network as much as possible to get the community going quickly.

The name is confusing

My biggest beef with this service is probably the name. Even in this blog post, I don’t know what to call the thing. Should I say “Manage WP Dot Org” every time? That’s the way, I guess. I just think perhaps they should have learned a lesson from WordPress’ branding struggles between .com and .org versions.

If I were ManageWP, I’d want the brand recognition, but I think calling it essentially the same thing as your bread and butter product isn’t the wisest move.

Is it getting crowded in here?

The other obvious point worth noting is that it’s yet another entry to the WordPress news fray, and it’s starting to feel pretty crowded in here.

There are probably a dozen websites vying for your attention, some old and some new. Not to mention all theΒ WordPress podcasts. Some of these sites have caught your attention and others have a hard time getting off the ground. Some fizzle out quickly, others fizzle slowly. The common thread is that almost all WordPress news sites have, at some point, fizzled.

From a monetary aspect, it seems that companies bankrolling WordPress news sources is the hot new thing. That’s howΒ WP TavernΒ is funded (Matt Mullenweg), as well asΒ TorqueΒ (WP Engine) andΒ WPMU.orgΒ (WPMUDev). Now ManageWP. And there’s merit to that. It’s a calculated investment by these companies. Only time will tell whether readers care who’s funding these blogs, or if they view it any different that the way I monetize, or even those that monetize with things like affiliate links.

Long term success

I think that the keys for WordPress news site(s) to succeed long term are consistency, trustworthiness, authority, and monetary sustainability. Those are my goals every day, even though I’m not always successful. The first three can presumably lead to long-term traffic, and the fourth should help prevent burnout.

I encourage other bloggers (not just WordPress-oriented ones) to consider these same goals. If all of the sites that are in this space strive for these four qualities, then I honestly don’t care how many of us there are, I’ll read them all.

What are your thoughts?

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  1. I had a look at earlier when I got an email with a link. Had a bit of a look around, gave some feedback on initial impressions.

    I’ll reserve my judgment mostly until I see how much take up it gets. Without much take up, it just won’t be valuable.

    Hopefully it does though, as it would be interesting to see how an effectively user-curated Digg-like site works and what different content rises to the top.

  2. I was not invited to look but, based on your description, I would agree that the main question is whether they can engage and maintain an audience large enough to create a balanced voting pool and lessen the impact of organized manipulation. As we saw with Digg, that is a tough and ever-evolving problem.

    I am not sure that the WordPress niche is big enough to require such a complex filtration mechanism – Hackers News is addictive because their pool of content is large and varied enough to guarantee that I will always find tasty tidbits on the main page, even if I visit every day – and that daily habit is important for Hacker News because their model is not a good fit for RSS. In the case of WordPress, there simply isn’t enough content to make daily visits worthwhile and, regardless of voting, I’m going to see everything, anyway, if I visit with any sort of regularity.

    To get the ball rolling, will obviously have to make editorial decisions to simulate the submissions and quality selection that they hope users will eventually supply but I suspect those training wheels may have to remain in place for a lot longer than they think. There is a chance that user voting will become mere window dressing, a differentiation gimmick that requires a lot of editorial effort behind the scenes.

    My hunch is that the approach that best fits the WordPress news niche is the Gruber-style editorial, where a single trusted voice cherry-picks the most interesting tidbits surfaced by the Twitterati and, occasionally, throws some in-depth analysis into the mix; in its current formulation, seems to be doing that.

    For companies using WordPress news as a form of marketing, however, the multi-contributor model of is best, because you need a heavier- and, therefore, less discerning – flow of content in order to balance out the self-promotional posts. Unfortunately, the written quality and sincerity of multi-contributor sites tends to be pretty low. I wonder if, perhaps, ManageWP might have been better off investing their effort into solving that problem.

  3. Based on your early access, could you tell if the submission categories were specifically WordPress only or did it allow for some leeway into other categories? WPVote tried to maintain a strict policy of WordPress stuff only. As Japh and Donnacha already mentioned, everything becomes a moot point if does not get the nucleus of regular submitters it needs to sustain itself. It seems that a Digg like site just for WordPress stuff is too limited of an audience to be successful. However, if you look at the WordPress section for Reddit, that is somewhat popular with regular submissions on a regular basis but it’s only one section of a much larger site.

    I think Brian and I are onto the right model. Gruber style curation with an authoritative voice and analysis mixed in.

  4. Hi guys

    Brian thanks for this review. I agree with your analysis.

    I’d like to disagree with donnacha – there is tremendous amount of daily WordPress related content to be found on the Internet. I am not talking just about the news sites but single authors, developers, small blogs etc. is conceived with the idea to really push the highest quality content to the casual reader.

    The form of reddit/digg meets zite/flipboard is a concept that I thought was really exciting.

    Whether the site will succeed (by that I mean news sites and authors will submit their own content or someone will submit it for them) is still to be seen. We are aware that it might not pick up momentum. And that’s fine. At least I will know we gave our best to make it happen.

    1. This response to Vladimir is somewhat late because, although he made his comment a week ago, I only received the notification a few minutes ago.

      If I understand you correctly, then, what you are suggesting is that will put some serious editorial effort into searching out and putting before your audience a far wider array of daily content, much of it from smaller sources that often slip under the radar. Then, the voting mechanism will allow the best of this content to achieve the attention it deserves.

      Okay, I can see how that effort, of gathering the content together in the first place, would create a unique resource, which will attract a large audience, which will make voting more meaningful and less easy to game. Further, I can see that such a resource could very well enable the return to fundamentals that Christiana suggests would be healthy for WordPress.

      So, if the plan is to invest that level of editorial effort – continuously monitoring an extremely broad spread of WordPress sources – yeah, that would be a game-changer and, now, with that final piece of the jigsaw in place, the naming makes more sense: helps you to manage your WordPress sites, helps you to manage your learning and engagement with the output of the WordPress community as a whole.

      Yeah, that could work, I very much look forward to it.

  5. At this point I feel ‘meh’ about it. I don’t know (or don’t realize I know) anyone behind ManageWP so I don’t really plan on following it.

    That’s sort of how I feel about Torque as well. Yes people I know write on it, but I haven’t enjoyed their content as much on Torque as I have on their own sites.

    I love Post Status because you (Brian) have my trust first and then continue to keep it with awesome content.

  6. I like the idea of aggregation but I’m with you that the voting aspect only matters if you get critical mass, which I kinda don’t expect to see with stuff like this.

    I’m interested to see what sources they aggregate from, however. I think pulling in stuff from Stack Exchange and Twitter — even forum posts — could be useful.

    I like your approach of a more hand-curated approach to news. Still, something that is basically just an OPML resource of stuff has potential too.

    By potential, I don’t mean “get rich” but it could be a nice alternative to Planet WordPress.

    I’m with Jeff, I hope it can include more general web dev news. That stuff I think is often completely applicable to WP users, it doesn’t have to pre-wrapped in a plugin.

    When I primarily wrote and was obsessed with web design and development, I often followed people from a bunch of different “platforms” because that was the easiest way identify trends and stuff that was hot.

    Even now, I would be actual money that I could predict the next massive WP design or development trend just by looking at the larger web industry. It used to take about 6-8 months to trickle into WP, now it’s much faster — but I often see a cool site design or technique and go “yah, that’ll be all over ThemeForrest in 3-4 months, max).

    For me, that’s the real challenge you guys doing WP “news” must face because a lot of general techniques individual devs and designers already do with WP, right, but the way it becomes a bug trend and is widely adopted is once that technique becomes a commodity of sorts — once you can buy a slider or responsive site or ecommerce plugin or special photo widget or whatever. That’s the real magic of WordPress. It’s not any better of a platform for a hardcore developer (in fact, it might be worse in some ways), but it’s the only platform that can make those sort of advanced techniques and features user accessible and controllable.

    So while writing this, I got long winded and just had an epiphany: the community needs to return to tutorials. Start showing how to implement stuff in your site before a million plugins come out. Stop treating everything as a pre-sold commodity and show up and comers how to develop and work with WP as a platform. Focusing on the commodity is great but you lose the audience that wants to learn.

    How many of us learned theming from Tung’s WPDesigner site or Alex King? I’d love to see aggregators and news sites return to actual tutorials for aspiring developers — not just those that buy and assemble plugins.

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