Felt it was fitting to share in a blog post why I think this episode is important and why I think you should listen to a recent episode titled Never Underestimate Your First Idea of the popular Masters of Scale podcast hosted by LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman. In the interview seat was Ev Williams, who had his had in starting and growing platforms like Blogger.com/Odeo/Twitter/Medium.com.
When two “masters of social networks” sit down to talk about scale and viability, I want to listen. I was maybe meant to listen to this episode because it sort of validates a few ideas that I have regarding online publishing and blogging and I hope to share with you these ideas in the near future. ;)
Here are some important reasons why WordPress visionaries should consider listening to this podcast episode:
- The origins of blogging and publishing content to the web including the backstory of blogger.com which essentially paved the way for modern social networks today including WordPress.
- Why being distracted in the business model that is en vogue that year is not always the best path
- How a hackathon turned Odeo into Twitter
- The original value proposition of LinkedIn
- Why feedback is really important part of the startup process
- Why publishing by yourself on a website will make less and less sense in the years to come.
Ok, by now hopefully you’ve listened to the podcast yourself because I don’t want the rest to be a spoiler alert.
What I took away that was really really profound and makes me question the future of WordPress and independent online publishing
I sort of understand there’s two types of internet users, ones who have a growth mindset who leverage the internet as a read and write (consume and publish) experience. That’s probably you and me if you’re reading this post. I also know there are many others who just want to passively consume content for entertainment. Those who stick with sites like Facebook, Buzzfeed, and Snapchat that require a very little barrier to entry just load, signup and consume.
In the podcast episode, Hoffman explains that social networks work for most internet users because they provide the likes, comments, pokes and shares the deliver a dopamine hit to keep users engaged. Which I think most users of social networks like Facebook and Twitter can immediately understand this analogy as when a friend responds positively it’s very much the same feeling of community as when you’re physically with them. It’s a basic human nature to seek positive interactions so we keep coming back to social networks for more. Even if we have to sometimes take the negative.
Social networks use these psychological interactions to amass large user bases to help maintain and stabilize their “sense of community” and keep users engaged by having other users on their platforms.
We saw first hand how a social platform can quickly lose their community and usefulness with the fall of MySpace. It wasn’t like the physical codebase platform of myspace was broken or the company went out of business first, it was because the users of MySpace left creating sort of an accelerated domino effect that succumb it from a popular social network.
For independent bloggers and content creators, maybe it’s less important because we start blogging alone and we might end up alone at the very end. Nothing gained, nothing lost.
What happens to the future of independent blogging on platforms like a self-hosted WordPress blog when users just don’t want to come because there’s no community, it doesn’t feel familiar and there are better and easier ways to find content elsewhere? It sort of begs the question:
Does it even make sense to publish a blog on independent platforms like WordPress anymore?
I feel the answer is “Maybe” but the truth is independent bloggers are going to have to up their game to stay relevant and survive in an increasingly “walled garden” platform based world.
Driving visibility to your blog no doubt will become more costly and near impossible to a point where it just doesn’t make sense to try to pull users away from established networks. Even today, Facebook has deployed advertising products that aim to keep their users on Facebook. Which are sometimes cheaper to the advertiser (by design) and provide better results (by design).
Do I want to give up and move to a platform like Medium? Not really, but there might come a time where it just doesn’t make sense to keep up an independent personal blog. Unless there’s a person in the garage somewhere in the WordPress community that has an idea that can completely change everything for indies.
No matter what happens, the inevitable exists:
A new wave of content creators are coming and these “young millennials”, Gen Zers and beyond only know the web as a two-way platform for both creating and consuming. Reports indicate that younger generations chase platforms far more often than “older generations” and are willing to go where they will be heard and “liked”.
Can WordPress (.org) as a democratized publishing platform retain relevance in a world where social networks and websites are only based on how easy it is to get likes, comments, and pokes?
In my frank opinion, WordPress can’t even provide a clear message between the difference between WordPress.com and WordPress.org, how will we explain that WordPress is really a tool for publishing? Or should we just assume that WordPress.com for community-based publishing and WordPress.org really only for website content management…
Guess only time will tell.
Be sure to read the following related post: On open letter to the WordPress community