When I first started using WordPress, the news websites covering the community development and growth of WordPress were all independent, meaning that companies didn’t set them up nor were they focused on lead generation for a ton of secondary products or services created by the news site owner. I would get details from BloggingPro, The Blog Herald, and the long-dead Weblogtools Collection. Today, there are almost no independent WordPress news sites.
Sure, there are a ton of sites with lists of the top plugins and themes, but they don’t really add much value to the WordPress community, and they are really just focused on converting affiliate sales.
Originally created as an independent news source from a WordPress fan, Jeff Chandler, in 2013 the site was sold to Audrey Capital, Matt Mullenweg’s personal research and investment company. Jeff stayed on and focuses more on the weekly podcast series and Sarah Gooding was added to the publishing mix.
Jeff has focused on making sure that he was seen as above reproach and not just an avenue for Automattic or Matt Mullenweg to voice their opinions and steer the community, but there have been times, however rare, where issues in the WordPress community that would have previously been reported on have been overlooked.
Also, as much as Jeff has stated his feelings about being as independent as ever, can we say the same thing for Sarah Gooding, who is publishing the majority of the content on the site these days?
TorqueMag, as I’ve long called it since that’s its domain, was never independent, but people often forget as the quality of the reporting is typically fairly high, but if you didn’t notice, it is a WPEngine publication.
They do state that clearly in both the header and footer of their site, but I often run into people that don’t know about that connection and what that means for their reporting.
Can a hosting company be fair and balanced about competing services?
Oliver Dale, the owner of WPLift is also the founder of Kooc Media which owns AlienWP, ThemeFurnace, Parameter, Blockonomi, Money Check, Assured Mind and Beanstalk. While most of these other brands don’t take away from what Oliver is doing with WPLift, I think a combination of the affiliate heavy posts, plus his own business interests in the WordPress theme space make it difficult to ascertain how unbiased his articles are.
An example of a popular WordPress site that isn’t really focused on community news or betterment would be WPEka. They have great articles that are a mix of affiliate laden posts and guides on how to do something that might sometimes, but not always, lead to an affiliate product or service. From what I’ve noticed, when they don’t have affiliate links in the article, they instead link heavily to other parts of their site, often to posts that do include affiliate links.
Also, like WPLift, Hummingbird Web Solutions, the owners of WPEka, have a ton of other sites focused on providing plugins and themes for WordPress. Would you know if they promoted their own plugin or theme in their post? Would a typical Google search visitor know?
Why Does This Issue Exist?
There are two main reasons why I think this issue exists today in the WordPress community: lack of revenue opportunities and an expectation of quality.
Jeff Chandler, for example, doesn’t consider himself a journalist. He has been trying to learn from Sarah, but this creates a barrier for him in communicating his thoughts, ideas and concerns with the wider WordPress community. It closes the door on an open dialogue in part because he perceives an expectation that the community expects him to meet or exceed the best reporting being done by any other publication. In many ways, I think that expectation is a perceived one rather than a real one.
As for revenue building, I completely get it. To spend a bunch of time on a project these days, there typically has to be some kind of return on investment. Selling ads on blogs, or using Google AdSense doesn’t typically cut it anymore. Also, building a content focused brand is difficult, especially when you have to compete with organizations with deep pockets like WPEngine.
What is the Solution?
I have seen more than a few people comment on how there are no long any good sources of WordPress community news, and I have to agree. I wonder, due to the financial issue listed above, if we will ever see reasonably independent WordPress news again?
I think the true solution would require a resurgence in advertisement value outside of the affiliate space so that the authors of the news sites would be free to call out missteps by the community, bad actors, and companies not playing by the rules. I don’t know that this can or will happen, only that I miss the days of independent WordPress journalism that created conversations, put a spotlight on issues, and highlighted hard working community members and their projects. We’ve lost that and the WordPress community is worse off because of it.
What do you think? Know of any independent WordPress community news sources that you feel are trustworthy? Let me know in the comments.