A few days ago, I had the chance to participate briefly in a discussion held on Twitter around the topic of WordPress news centric sites seemingly disappearing off the face of the earth after a certain period of time. The question which started this conversation by Doug Stewart is as follows: “A question for which I have no answer: why do all WordPress news sites seem to come with an expiration date?“.
When I first started writing about WordPress back in 2007, there were a couple of news sites I relied on for WordPress news on a regular basis. While Weblogtoolscollection.com is still chugging along, sites such as WPHacks and WPCandy fell by the wayside a year or two after I got involved with the community. Since 2007, I’ve been able to witness multiple sites sprout up like seedlings only to die off before their first bloom. I tried to not let that happen to WPTavern and for long time readers, I think that was obvious but in the end, life became too much.
In its heyday, WPTavern was filled with success and the forums were a wonderful place to be. I was hanging out on the website multiple hours of every day and night chatting it up on the forum, Twitter, and posting articles on the site. I was sitting in my room, living with my parents in their apartment for hours during the day and night, at the PC just typing away. This is the reason WPTavern was able to grow at a steady pace over the course of 2009-2011. Over the course of those two years, I tried to find a way to make the site sustainable and to help me pay the bills every month. I thoroughly enjoyed just sitting at the PC all day typing articles and sharing my thoughts on what was buzzing around the WordPress community. Unfortunately, not being able to get a paycheck every week for doing it caught up with me. I tried display advertising, some affiliate marketing, and sponsorships, but at the end of the day, I was no salesman or marketer and I probably shortchanged myself numerous times. While I was working full time at the grocery store at night, I really thought WPTavern would be my way out of that hell hole which is why I decreased the hours I worked their during the week to concentrate on really making WPTavern be my main source of income. It didn’t work and within a month or two, I was back to working my 36 hour shift at the store. What would have been ideal is for someone like the grocery store to just give me a paycheck every week for sitting on my ass and writing about WordPress.
I’m glad I found a buyer for the site when I did and the price they paid me was far superior to my asking price. I have a terrible habit of selling myself short. However, if I were to start a WordPress news centric site today, this is how I’d do it.
First, I would find a team of people that had some expertise in a couple of different areas such as themes, plugins and WordPress hacks. I’d also hire a guy to write about the various services Automattic offers. I’d also try and find a guy that could write about the various projects such as BuddyPress and bbPress. A kick ass WordPress news centric site would need a smart, dedicated team of people to write about all those subjects. I think they would have a hard time not ever having anything to write about. While I tried to do this with WPTavern, I simply couldn’t bring myself to ask people to work for free. I did ask for guest posts but those were rarely delivered upon. So the question you’ll need to ask yourself is where do you get the funding for such a team?
The fact of the matter is, unless you’re some super salesman or having a big company backing you, WordPress News Centric sites don’t make squat for cash. At least that’s my experience. Nothing that would pay my $700.00 mortgage every month and give me money for food. The money that I earned for affiliates and display advertising was unpredictable which was a giant hassle on me financially.
Personally, I don’t think people need WordPress news centric sites anymore. Based on my experience, if you follow the right 100 people or so on Twitter, they provide you with most of what you’ll need to know within the WordPress community. Between Twitter the mailing lists (WPMail.me) and the various RSS feeds for the WP community Make websites, that’s enough to keep you in the know. However, there is one facet to all of this that I think could be explored a little deeper and that is the idea of Curation. I believe that WPTavern did a great job in curating content and publishing links to things that you needed to know about or be aware of. Considering all of the different pipes of information both official and unofficial regarding the WordPress project, there is still a need for an excellent curator or a team of curators. However, the best curation I have seen over the past year or so has been from the WPMail.me newsletter. It’s free and they have done a great job of giving people links of information they should be aware of. I find that between Twitter and this newsletter, I’m generally in the loop of what is going on within the community.
My advice to anyone wanting to start a WordPress news centric website, especially if you think it’s going to make you some money is to stop immediately. Focus your efforts on where the real cash is. Commercial plugins, themes, and services. A news centric website takes so much time and energy to maintain and keep fresh, it’s not worth it in the long run unless you have a company backing you and providing you a steady stream of cash that pays the bills and puts food on the table at the same time. Every time I thought about it, I couldn’t come up with a reason that I could use to convince someone else to pay me to sit on my ass and write about WordPress all day. The value and worth comes from writing code, not text. At least that’s my conclusion.