On WordPress news sites

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There has been a bit of talk about WordPress news sites recently. WPMU has done a pretty good summary of the recent DradCast podcast episode hosted by WP Tavern‘s Jeff Chandler. It tells the story of Jeff's journey running the Tavern and then selling it. I'm glad how it was sold is finally out in the open. I was knowledgable of the situation back then, and it's good that it finally became known that Matt bought it, and that parties like Joost de Valk and WPCandy's Ryan Imel were very, very close to purchasing the site. Openness is a good thing in this community.

However, I think Jeff and pretty much anyone else that says money can't be made in WordPress news sites are completely wrong.

WordPress news sites can be sustainable

The business model has lacked in multiple ways so far. For one, there are a lot of ways to monetize a website, and for a WordPress news site it doesn't have to be with affiliate links. Second, as noted in last night's DradCast, there has been an enormous lack of consistency in this market.

I was involved at WPCandy for around two years, and Ryan was closer than anyone in succeeding in this space. WP Daily also has potential for monetizing well, though I personally don't like their methods for selling tons of ad space. However, no one has shown a consistent commitment over a number of years to WordPress news, and monetizing it well (for WP Daily it may just be a matter of time). The best example of such a site succeeding thus far is actually WPMU, but I don't think they actually make money with WPMU's blog. In fact, they probably lose money. But it's a huge money maker for them, I imagine, as a sales channel to their plugins and products.

I believe that there is space to make money providing WordPress news and information without selling out. I also think that this notion that there would be a void had Matt Mullenweg not bailed out the Tavern and funded Jeff to write there is totally false.

The WordPress ecosystem is a market like any other, and holes in markets tend to be filled. What fills a hole in a particular market may take different shape over time as the solutions evolve, but people are always out there to fill voids. Especially if you can do something to fill a void that you are passionate about.

The status of Post Status

All of this said, Post Status continues to be an exciting and interesting experiment for me. In total, it has been successful so far; even if the response to Post Status has been different than I originally hoped. One thing I've learned is that getting people to share my content is a lot harder on Post Status, because I set a tone that I was linking to other people's content only. Well, I do. But I also add context. It's just hard to get that extra tidbit to be valuable enough to a read in order for them to feel compelled to share my site, versus the source itself. And don't get me wrong, getting people's eyes on the content I link to is my favorite thing. But if that's where people are going, then I need even more evangelizing and sharing of my site as a whole (versus unique links that are created here) in order for this site to grow.

That miscalculation, assuming that Post Status would grow organically by providing good information, has been costly. I have a solid number of individuals that I think enjoy and rely on Post Status and the curation that happens here. But the setup requires a bunch of grass roots promotion of the site as a whole, which honestly just hasn't happened very much. Though, when someone does share the site, I get all giddy inside. But in general, not many people see what I'm doing here, because most of the sharing goes to the sources, not the curator.

Where Post Status has done well is as a consistent and solid source of information for highly engaged WordPress professionals. In other words, I've been able to attract other influencers. Therefore, much of what I link to does end up with some good promotion, even if Post Status itself doesn't get much promotion.

That's my long way of saying that I continue to adjust how Post Status functions. I'm posting fewer links these days, and I'm not approving every submission from other authors. I'm trying to keep every link interesting to readers. And if I don't find it very interesting, how can I expect a reader to find it interesting? I'm also writing more original  long form content. The key now is to get people looking to Post Status as a source for original content in addition to linked content.

I'm working on a redesign now that should help highlight the dual purpose that Post Status embodies. I will continue to curate the best links in the WordPress community, and add context to them, and share them to my readers. I will continue to accept submissions, even if I don't approve all of them. But I'm also transitioning Post Status in the redesign to focus more on original content that I create.

I'm committed to this site, and I really love doing it. I have been blogging consistently about WordPress for three years now. I've written probably close to a thousand full length and link posts that hundreds of thousands of people have read and shared. Money can be made in this space. I intend to do so. With the redesign, I intend to integrate my own method for monetization.

I hope you'll continue to support Post Status, come here, vote on articles, participate in the comments, and share the articles. I'll be here for a long time. WordPress is my career and I love writing about it.

*photo credit

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8 Comments

  1. Hi Brian,

    I’ve been reading Post Status for a few months now, and I like the way you not only summarise third party content, but add your own spin on it.

    Can I suggest that you add a twitter sharing button to your posts though? That would make it much easier for readers like me to help share and promote your content.

    Keep up the good work!

    James

    1. Thanks, James! Yeah, a whole bunch of stuff will be simpler with the redesign 🙂 Thanks for your input.

  2. Hey Brian, thanks for the mention! Hopefully we’ll see decent news news spring up that can learn from others’ mistakes. Like you say, holes are always filled and voids don’t last for long.

  3. Good post, even thinking about my own tutorial site it’s monetized by people coming to me for consulting services and purchasing products. The site is a channel to make people aware of me.

    I think the most innovative method of monetization was the sponsorships on WPCandy. I know that there are a few authors (Shawn Blanc being one) that I support monthly. I did not support WPCandy though. Thinking about it now, I feel like I have a personal relationship with Shawn as a single author and that WPCandy felt more like some big business. I’m only guessing now at my past motivations, but maybe that was the thing that made me choose to not support WPCandy and to support Shawn.

    Few questions, you’ve been writing about WordPress on your personal site. What was/is the motivation to transfer it to Post Status instead of continuing to write on your site?

    Have you thought about allowing 1 or 2 other well known people also add to the curation?

    1. I like writing on my personal site, but I think this is a better avenue long term for reaching a broader audience, even though right now it’d be easier to bring traffic to my personal blog because of the built up RSS subscriptions. Though I do run the risk of losing personality here, as you mention you felt with WPCandy. Hopefully I can avoid that in the writing / feel of the content.

      I go back and forth on wanting help with curation. I just want it to be inline with my own process, which is mostly to maintain high value content, and hopefully add a flare of personal touch to the link. But that doesn’t mean I’m not open to it. The help curating could be a time saver, even though collaboration w/ other authors does add some time – so that can be a tradeoff. That said, you have probably been the most consistent submitter, so if you’re interested to contribute, hit me up : )

  4. I’m an avid follower of poststat.us, and I think you’re doing a great job of curating WordPress related content. I once undertook an initiative like this but couldn’t keep it up because it demanded so much time.

    One thing that might help increase engagement (maybe you have this planned for your new site): make it easy for people to sign up for email updates when you post new content. I searched all over your site for a sign up box, but to no avail. I eventually resorted to using IFTTT, but not everyone will make that effort. Just a tip.

    1. Thank you for the kind words, Miriam! I continue to make dumb decisions like assuming people wouldn’t want me to email every post to them 🙂 I’ll fix the newsletter / email options in the redesign. Thanks for that feedback!

  5. One thing I’ve learned is that getting people to share my content is a lot harder on Post Status, because I set a tone that I was linking to other people’s content only. Well, I do. But I also add context. It’s just hard to get that extra tidbit to be valuable enough to a read in order for them to feel compelled to share my site, versus the source itself.

    Keep at it! It works for Boing Boing and Kottke. 🙂

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