SXSW: A home on the web: the state of blogging in 2013

(This is the second in a series of posts I’m doing to recap the SXSW sessions I attended in return for the free ride from my agency.)

One of the off the beaten track sessions that I saw this week was this conversation with Matt Mullenwig, who invented the open source blogging software that this blog uses before founding a company called Automattic to bring a commercial version to market at WordPress.com.

Given everything that’s gone on in the world of social media, from giant companies launching blogging platforms to the explosion of other ways for people to share online, it was interesting to hear his thoughts on where good old fashioned blogging stands these days.

Especially since I write on one every once in a while.

What I liked about him was that he came across as almost folksy when it comes to Internet start up people. He started making the software because he liked blogging and wanted a better way to do it. I’m not sure how many startups are founded out of love these days. It seems quaint. But it apparently worked, as WordPress is now used by over 14.7% of Alexa Internet’s “top 1 million” websites.

He maintains that their growth still mostly comes from word of mouth. People start sharing stuff on Twitter or Tumblr, then decide they want to get serious about it, and they ask a friend what to use.

What I really wanted to here his take on was how blogging fits into this new fangled micro-blogging pin-a-matic world. He actually thinks that social media is giving blogging new life, with most referrals to WordPress blogs now coming from social media. He believes that people want a home base that isn’t cookie cutter. They want their online expression of themselves to look different from everyone else’s. Which is why I have grossly neglected my blog theme. Also, because I mostly don’t know what I’m doing.

He believes Tumblr and WordPress are actually going in different directions. Tumblr is much more about curation while WordPress is about creation. And because of that Tumblr is actually interesting as a distribution mechanism. He see’s them as the start of the funnel…people will move from Tumblr to WordPress while still maintaining a tumblr to post links and photos but still create.

He’s not into advertising, and doesn’t think of WordPress as an ad platform. He thinks that’s what is behind experiences being ruined on other sites. Facebook is now doing everything they can to keep people on the page. WordPress doesn’t have to do that, and because of that, they don’t get in fights with other companies the way that places like Twitter and Facebook do. WordPress is Switzerland. It connects everything.

Moving forward, he mentioned a few tweaks to things like the reading experience and some regrets over the wysiwyg interface not being what it should be. But the biggest thing that he wants to change (and one of his biggest regrets) was making things about numbers. In his mind, a comment from someone you know is worth more than a hundred anonomous likes.

It’ll be interesting to see what that looks like.

Also, it’ll be interesting to see if WordPress swallows any more of my posts. He’s lucky that happened after his panel. It would’ve been a shame for him to have gotten the shoe to forehead treatment.

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SXSW 2013 Session Recaps:

1. The Next Frontier of Interactive: Smart Fashion
2. A Home on the Web: The State of Blogging in 2013

3. What’s So Funny About Innovation
4. Shut Up and Take My Money: Lego Does Crowd Sourcing
5. The Future of Porn (Cindy Gallup)6. Mashable Variety Show
7. The Future of Work8. Miku: The Open-Source Girl Who Conquered the World
9. Angry Nerds: Being Human in the Digital Age
10. Matthew Inman Keynote (The Oatmeal)
11. The Unexpected Truth Behind Earning Trust (Rohit Bhargava)
12. Live WTF with Marc Maron