They say content is king, but are today’s blogging platforms designed to improve the quality of content? Even if quality was not a priority, are they designed so that we can find content we are interested in? Let´s take a quick look at WordPress, Tumblr and Medium.
The 1-9-90 rule states that in a collaborative website, 90% of the participants of a community only view content, 9% of the participants edit content, and 1% of the participants actively create new content.
Following the 1-9-90 rule, WordPress seems to be the most popular blogging tool for the 1% given its flexible customization and branding features. However, the fact that 19% of the world´s websites are on WordPress explains a few things about the type of business it is interested in, which has little to do with helping you get heard. If you lack the brand and followers elsewhere, you are pretty lonely using WordPress — does the world even need more standalone website domains?
English: The logo of the blogging software WordPress. Deutsch: WordPress Logo 中文: WordPress Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Regardless, WordPress utterly fails at blog discovery mainly because the way it makes money does not rely on helping you find content, but rather, helping you build custom websites. If the world´s 1% needs to spend time re-distributing content around Twitter and Tumblr to get heard, rather than creating, we are in trouble.
No doubt, Tumblr is the place for the 90%. It makes it easy to share content, but even easier to re-blog it. It also offers a wide range of customization features. While re-blogging and content curation are helpful, it also challenges ownership attribution, and turns Tumblr into the place where to build your “content identity”, rather than the place where original content is created. Regarding content discovery, Tumblr´s active community does the job for you when it comes to organize and curate posts.
tumblr blog (Photo credit: Zadi Diaz)
However, as information overload makes it increasingly harder to find original content, Tumblr needs to shed more light on its authentic creators. However, Tumblr closed down its Storyboard project, which was an editorial attempt to storify the work from a selection of creators, or Tumblr’s 1%. “If we do too much storytelling ourselves, the fear is that we’re going to take it away from our community of storytellers,” Karp said. With the company reporting massive losses in 2012, it looks like sooner or later Tumblr will need to figure out a sustainable revenue stream that is aligned with its unique content creators, since this is ultimately what moves the 90%.
While you follow users on Tumblr, Medium was built since day 1 to let you subscribe for content, instead of follow people. Medium covers the 9% — people who do not carry a daily or weekly blog, but still have relevant things to say and report from time to time.
People like it because they see it as a stress-free place, without WordPress’ bulky features and Tumblr’s infinite information. On the other hand, the minimal customization options make some users feel like Medium steals their content away while trying to figure out a monetization plan nobody knows about yet. This a reason why Medium may never attract the 1%, at least as their primary source of blogging. In addition, the fact that some writers get paid confuses people, who wonder if this is the next Huffington Post, or a hippy blogging platform.
Image by The Economist via CrunchBase
Regarding content discovery, thank you Ev Williams for the introduction of “collections” — it is great news for bloggers who want to grow an audience according to specific interests. Finally, a social blogging platform that puts discovery and readers first!
In conclusion, two companies surprisingly lead the blogging space: WordPress — a website business— and Tumblr— a micro-blogging network. Long-form blogging is the new trend and Medium leads it, but people get confused about its monetization plans and the publisher-platform dilemma.
Until now, the ability to subscribe to collections was something mostly offered by content aggregators like Flipboard. By nature, these are able to grab content from a bunch of sources and slice it to the reader in very specific ways. However, content needs to be originally published somewhere for aggregators to work, and with newspapers and magazines fading away, the vision of turning Medium’s collections into the magazines of the future seems promising.
While today’s information systems generally reward people over content, Medium’s schema breaks the rules in many ways, as it is all about maximizing the number of readers for the right content. This model may appeal to a large group of people who have never blogged before, but who are interested in conveying ideas to the right audience. Many of the most brilliant stories and ideas are not getting heard because information systems are just not designed for them.
New blogging will most likely be about well documented stories from industry insiders, rather than journalists per se. This shall be the future of journalism. Medium might just have hinted a breakthrough blog discovery plan for it,but for now, it is yet another blogging platform without a business plan in place .
Matt Mullenweg, American entrepreneur and founding developer of the popular open-source blogging software WordPress. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)