Podcast Series: Exploring Commercial WordPress Models

Throughout the month of April, I had the pleasure of co-hosting the WordPress Weekly podcast with regular host Jeff Chandler. The April episodes comprised a mini-series focused on commercial WordPress business models, not including consulting. Our primary goal was to provide insight and wisdom to those considering a commercial software or SaaS model built on an open source project (WordPress, specifically) from those who had been there and done that.

The origin of the series actually dated back to January’s WordCamp Boston, where Jeff moderated a panel I organized called “Monetization in a Free World”, intended to help the audience understand the commercial WordPress themes, plug-ins, and SaaS businesses. Jeff ended up being in an impossible position, with 40 minutes to cover all 3 models and incorporate Automattic’s perspective, visa vi Jane Wells. Jeff and I decided it was worth doing justice to the idea; and so the April series of podcast episodes came to life.

The first episode (WordPress Weekly #94) was focused on commercial themes, and was a great kick off. Over 2 hours long, we interviewed Brian Gardner, founder of StudioPress, Cory Miller of iThemes (who had a newer commercial theme developer in the room with him), and Jason Schuller of Press75. All three had strong opinions, clear passion, and a memorable fondness for one another. WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg made a surprise appearance late in the show with a few questions of his own. The feedback was terrific, which really inspired us going into the following episodes.

The second episode (WP Weekly #95) explored commercial plug-ins. The panel featured the outspoken Carl Hancock of GravityForms, the articulate and passionate Jonathan Davis of Shopp, and Ronald Huereca of AJAX Edit Comments. This one lasted nearly 2 1/2 hours, and felt a bit more rounded out, in part due to Ronald’s candor about his challenges.

Part three (WP Weekly #96) turned to Software as a Service (or SaaS) business models, and was a little over 2 hours. I found myself challenged to weave the narrative of the three very different businesses together, and I think the episode felt a little less cohesive as a result. On the positive side, I think there was some good give and take with Automattic’s Raanan Bar-Cohen about the nature of Automattic’s position in the community.

WP Weekly episode #97 wrapped up the series with a “short” 1 hour wrap up and reflection episode. Jeff and I reviewed feedback from the earlier episodes, shared what we learned and what surprised us during during the series, and analyzed how two big pieces of news in the open platform (but not open source!) world influenced our reactions. Despite my concerns, I think there was a lot of meat in the latter half of the wrap episode, including a “meta-discussion” about the consulting model, and some words about the “meaning” of Automattic’s and WordPress’ unique position in the community.

  1. You guys did a great job on the shows and I look forward to hearing you as a co-host in the future.

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