Learn from the latest WordPress side biz

3 Apr

Matt Mullenweg is at it again.

He’s the creator of WordPress, one of the free tools that’s reinventing the world of media and the very definition of what it means to be a “journalist.”

How does Mullenweg justify giving away the results of years of work? Then working more untold hours on upgrades (helllll-ooooo Version 3!)? Then giving it away, too?

Simple: He builds complementary businesses that play in the WordPress eco-system.

You can set up your blog at WordPress.com for free. Want extra features – like truly massive amounts of storage for video, or a custom domain name? Pay a few bucks a year.

His company, Automattic, does other things, too. It provides hosting services for high-volume blogs. It builds paid add-ons for sites, like poll/ratings widgets. His latest is a service that makes it easy to create backups for WordPress sites – especially people who run large blog networks – for less than $20 a month.

None of these fees are large themselves, but they add up.

There’s a lesson there for journopreneurs:  Don’t get embroiled in the endless, economically unviable wishful thinking about paid content on the web. Relent and give the content away – then figure out how to make money elsewhere in the ecosystem.

That could be slick, intuitive and innovative delivery mechanisms – especially on tablets and mobile devices.

It could be building real communities around topic pages, comments and local blog networks, and serving as a sales-and-servicing agent for them. Or banding that community together for group-buying experiences.

Or – and this is the fun, scary part – it could be an idea that no one has figured out yet. One of just might.

(This is why one of my icons at Gravatar – another of Mullenweb’s companies – is a mad scientist. A small prize, and an AARP card, to the commenter who first identifies him. ;-) ).

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