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I had the chance to sit down with Amber Hinds of Equalize Digtial to discuss her role as a Contributor at the WP Minute.

Some of the questions we covered:

  • What is real WordPress journalism?
  • How can business owners contribute without burning bridges?
  • How does this get funded?

I hope you enjoy this lengthier WP Minute discussion. If you do, please share it on social media!

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Episode transcript

[00:00:00] Matt: Welcome back to the WP minutes. Special episode today, Amber Hinds, Amber. Welcome. 

[00:00:06] Amber: Hi, thanks for having me.

[00:00:08] Matt: I do this thing. It’s called the WP minute. That’s what you’re listening to now. A listener, and there’s a discord channel. When you become a slash Matt report for $79 a year, you get access to the discord server. The idea is that you want to be involved in the WordPress. By sharing links, having discussions sharing things in WordPress, getting involved.

[00:00:32] And I knocked on Ambrose door and I said, I’d love for you to contribute to this WordPress news thing. And at first, Andrew was like, Yeah, this is, sounds like a great idea, Matt. And then Amber got in and she was like, man, what the heck am I supposed to do? What do you want me to do? What do you want me to contribute?

[00:00:50] What do you want me to say? And I say anything, please help me spread this community journalism around. And you, maybe you said some things like, wow, I like, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what I should say. What I shouldn’t say. And boy, the community is a pretty tight knit place. If you start saying one thing, it might lead to a domino effect of other things. 

[00:01:13] Amber: Yeah, I think, I think the interesting thing, like going back to that message I wrote in discord, right. Is. I’m not a journalist, I’m an entrepreneur. I run an agency. I’m trying to figure out how to create a product and shift fully into the product space. Right. I, 100% think that there is a need for journalism in the WordPress space.

[00:01:36] Thinking about this part, what 43% of the internet, how is it like, I don’t know, an every once in a while there might be an article related to WordPress on tech crunch maybe once a year, twice a year. Like, I don’t even know, which is crazy. If you think about it, it’s like this whole part of tech that’s being ignored by what we think of as more like standard, I read AP news, I see stuff about social media.

[00:02:04] I don’t see anything about the software that powers this huge percent of the web. Right. And so obviously I feel like there’s a need for us to. Have journalism around it because it does impact so many of our businesses, not just those of us that are like running WordPress based businesses like mine, but all of the businesses that are not WordPress businesses, but they’re powered by WordPress.

[00:02:29] Like every e-commerce store that runs on WordPress, every small business website, every, huge enterprise membership thing. Right. And like they all run on WordPress and there there’s not much. But then there’s this question of, and you came to me and you asked me, will you contribute about accessibility?

[00:02:49] Which I love to do because it’s my passion and I want to promote it. And I, and originally I was like, yes, this would be great. And then I, and then I get this weird, like, [00:03:00] where’s my conflict of interest. I’m not a journalist, I’m an entrepreneur. And at what point am I. Sharing news that maybe I know about because somebody privately came to me, right?

[00:03:16] Like, like there’s this, this whole thing. And like, how do I balance that? And I don’t know, this was a very long rambling answer to your question, but I think we need journalists. We probably need actual journalists who are committed to investigative reporting and can put out the information that we need.

[00:03:35] Those of us that are running WordPress businesses or have a WordPress website, what are the important things they need to know? What do they need to know about the community, but that are maybe less worried about like they just, every time they talk to someone they’re like, this is on the record, this is on the record, right?

[00:03:50] In a way that maybe those of us volunteer contributing, it’s more challenging. Because then we have to weigh, like, what is the impact of this on my business? If I say X, Y, Z, right?

[00:04:02] Matt: It probably relates one back to my poor packaging of what I call produce distributors and producers in the WP minute. And getting folks to contribute really, to me, it’s about building out a platform for folks to share their. For a variety of reasons, either one is because I just, Hey, I’ve got things to say, and I don’t even. Take the time to build my own platform, nor do I want to support a long-term platform. I E a podcast, a newsletter, a YouTube channel. So you could turn to the WP minute to use it as that outlet to get your thing out.

[00:04:37] And then there’s people who just, want to leverage it. Maybe like you, or, Hey, I’m a product builder. I have a business. And if I’m involved over here just like one might, and I hate that. Compare myself to this, but one might join a chamber of commerce to kind of network and get to meet people.

[00:04:53] Ah, you might do the same thing over here at the WP minute. And then, so there’s a few different camps and there’s people who just like, generally just want to creatively get something out. Michelle Shelby comes to mind as a perfect example cause she does a one minute clip on mind and body on the, on the podcast that goes out.

[00:05:09] Or she does it once a month. So it goes out every Wednesday. So there’s just. I look at it as, Hey, they want to explore these things, not realizing the weight of the word journalism. When I ask people to do this, right?

[00:05:22] This is my own, 

[00:05:24] Amber: Yeah, I heard that word and I just like thought all kinds of crazy things. 

[00:05:28] Matt: Am I supposed to have a license for this before I do this? 

[00:05:31] Amber: What is my ethical obligation to contribute toward present journalism or not 

[00:05:37] Matt: Yeah. And there’s. 

[00:05:38] Amber: checking? Right.

[00:05:39] So do you know, and I have no idea. I’m asking this question. I feel like I see in that actual news, not the years is a national news, but I don’t know. I don’t know how to say this. Like big news, right. When we think about like major news outlets, I see stuff about [00:06:00] Shopify more frequently or probably Shopify is the one that I feel like I’ve seen the most news about.

[00:06:10] Maybe sooner Squarespace or Wix here and there maybe Shopify the most. But I feel like I have seen that more than things related to either WordPress or automatic. And I don’t know if that’s an impression that you have had and if so, why do you think that is? What, what do you think is driving that? Is it that automatic is not trying to get news.

[00:06:33] They’re trying to kind of fly under the radar and WordPress, the open source. It doesn’t have any sort of effort for PR.

[00:06:42] Matt: Yeah.

[00:06:42] I would say that number one, Shopify is a publicly traded company. So they are going to get, you’re just going to get far, far more exposure. You’re going to have more people writing about you and let’s face it. Shopify is from a 50,000 foot view, a place to go and sell products. That’s an e-commerce online e-commerce store.

[00:07:06] And when you zoom out to the public. People could just look at that and they go, oh, I can sell stuff with Shopify. It’s kind of a competitor to E-bay. It definitely competes against Amazon if I want it to sell my own stuff on Amazon. So people can largely look, I almost, I don’t want to say the phrase, but it’s almost a home.

[00:07:25] It’s a brand name that you kind of recognize if you’re in this space to be like, oh, that’s the thing it does automatically. Is is what a lot of us suffer from is what the hell do you do? You have Tumblr, you have You do this open source thing that we largely hear about, but you don’t really run that.

[00:07:42] Huh. And then you have simple node. You have Jetpack, you have all of these businesses and plus it’s a private company, so 

[00:07:51] Amber: so it’s automatically off the radar because they don’t have to publish any 

[00:07:55] Matt: yeah. Automatically off the radar. I

[00:07:57] Amber: Reports 

[00:07:58] Matt: Right. And then you get, but you know, when, when you have like a Salesforce come in and, add to your, your cap table, then of course those things start to make a splash. Matt’s been surprisingly showing up on MSNBC a lot lately, which I find really intriguing.

[00:08:12] Like, is he going to run for president? You’ve heard it here first. Like, is there going to Mullin wag 20, 36? I can’t do the math of when the next thing is, but. Yeah.

[00:08:23] So I think like Shopify is just a big target and it does one thing,

[00:08:28] Amber: Yeah.

[00:08:29] Matt: real, realistically speaking And I, I don’t know what does, what does the WP minute do right now?

[00:08:35] It’s attempting what it does really well is report the big headlines in five minutes or less every Wednesday. And the second.

[00:08:44] thing it does really well is. It’s attempting to get a lot of contributors, get their thoughts out in more long form stuff like Spencer foreman, doing a lot with the future of WordPress and where he sees that going, Eric, Carl Kovak who writes for us.

[00:08:58] Is it doing any [00:09:00] investigative journalism? No. Is it, creating news Or, highlighting news articles that other people aren’t talking about? Maybe 1%. But a lot of this other stuff takes money. And I’ve talked about this on other shows is where does the money come from in order to do this?

[00:09:15] Like what would it take for an investigative journalist to do a story on the percentage of core contributors to WordPress core are largely automatic versus I don’t know, GoDaddy, right? An another billion multi-billion dollar company.

[00:09:35] Amber: Or, Following. So I recently set up a Google alert for WordPress and accessibility because I wanted to see whenever, cause this is my space. I wanted to know whenever anybody’s writing about accessibility, as it relates to WordPress. And there are a fair number of press releases that are being put out that include those two terms.

[00:09:59] And it’s interesting. I came across one recently, like WP engine added audio wise to their to their partnership or solutions gallery. And I only knew about that because I’m have the Google alert set up and I having to get the press release that audio I put out on PR Newswire right.

[00:10:17] But those kinds of things, and there’s other, I’m sure like press releases that are going out that mentioned WordPress, that probably. Traditional news outlets just are like, whatever this doesn’t matter. But, but there are really interesting implications to things like that. Or, other situations where it seems like somebody who was really focused or understood the space could really dive into that and like, let’s have a whole conversation about it or, Talk about what does it mean for any organization to be part of a hosting company solution gallery, and what is the impact on the larger ecosystem?

[00:10:53] Right. And I think that’s something that would be of interest to at least those of us who have businesses in the space and would be helpful. But the, yeah, the question is like, who does that and who funds that? And where is that published? I think is challenging. When you bring sponsors on, then you have to wonder, you have to disclose every time, right? Every time you do an article that’s related to them. I guess I hear that on NPR, by the way, Facebook pays us money. Every time they talk about Facebook. But yeah, I feel like it’s a challenge. I feel like there’s a hole here that could be filled.

[00:11:26] Matt: So it’s an eight, it’s an age old struggle. Like who’s publishing the news and who’s behind it. Right. One could zoom out and say, how many times has Washington post criticized Amazon since Jeff Bezos bought them. Right. And, and do like a whole report on that. God, big media, big tech, like that’s just a whole, just like black hole of like things that you could, you could go down.

[00:11:53] Number one to. To solve the issue that you brought up of like, Hey, saw this Google alert. I think this is [00:12:00] important. What you gotta do is go into the discord server, go into the links channel that drop that link in and say hashtag link squad, because that’s how we curate this news to get it out in front of other folks.

[00:12:10] Right. That’s a little like sending up a flare to say, Hey, there’s this thing over here. And I think this is very important. 

[00:12:15] Amber: See, now this goes back to my personal, like what if I’m trying to build a relationship with them and I don’t want to seem critical of them or any company, right? Like that’s where I think it gets challenging when you. Also approaching it from like your bottom line is as a business owner, not a journalist.

[00:12:34] Like when do you highlight that? And when do you not, and that’s, that’s kind of a challenging thing that I’ve been thinking about.

[00:12:41] Matt: yeah.

[00:12:41] Listen, these are the things that I, when I talk about this concept I saw somebody the other day say reference something like the top two WordPress news outlets, not referring to me. And I’m not mad about that, but what I was, I can’t remember what the context was, but when you look at one, I only see that there’s one, there’s only one staffed.

[00:13:04] WordPress news website that I know of and that’s WP Tavern and it’s funded by Audrey capital, which is Matt’s investment company. And I’m not even saying that there’s any kind of bias there because I feel like at least from what I’ve seen, Sarah Gooding has done a lot of great, true journalistic pieces, right?

[00:13:22] Like when I say that, I’m not even like, don’t even look at. In that light. She does just an amazing job, but when I look at it from the formality of what a WordPress news journalism site looks like, that’s the only one. It’s the only one that I know don’t even 

[00:13:37] Amber: else is much more like a blog 

[00:13:39] Matt: everything is as much more like a blog or you’re doing what 

[00:13:42] Amber: magazine style. 

[00:13:43] Matt: right, or you’re doing, what I’m doing, which is I’m going to take the best headlines, give you some, some opinion and some commentary around it.

[00:13:51] And get it to you just in a different format, quick five minutes, but also trying to monetize that concept so that in the backend, as that wheel spins, I can fund somebody to write something really good. And what I’m getting at here is the same thing you’re getting as, how do you do this in such a massive market, but in such a close knit market, it might not work like I am the first person to say this. 

[00:14:18] Amber: it to work.

[00:14:18] Matt: Might not work. It might have to only be WP Tavern. 

[00:14:22] Amber: I think it depends on who your contributors are, so I have my, what I’ve shared my like possible concerns and the things I have to weigh every time I read an article. But I think, for somebody who may be their primary income stream is content creation. Whether they’re a podcast or, or a blogger maybe a course creator.

[00:14:45] Rather than an agency or a product based business. That’s more interested in like having partnerships with other organizations. I, it’s hard cause sometimes the content creators have affiliate relationships and that’s where [00:15:00] a huge amount of their income comes from. But I feel like maybe.

[00:15:05] They’re they’re more willing to like, just say what they want to think in the same way. So maybe it’s about who you approach as contributors for some of those larger pieces, right? Like finding people that are less concerned about the. Optics, not that I’m like, this is going to make me sick. All I care about is hiding the truth.

[00:15:31] And that’s not, that’s not at all what I’m trying to say, but, I just feel like there’s, there’s something there

[00:15:37] Matt: It’s funny. When I was first getting this off the ground. One of The first things I do is I can see if I can try to find folks to, contribute in. So again, if you’re listening to this and you say, yes, I have a story to tell, I want to have a platform.

[00:15:47] Please just reach and let me know. If you want to write a piece, you want to do a minute podcast. You want to do a 10 minute podcast, whatever, just pitch me, please, God pitch me. And we can get you onto the platform. But when I interviewed some writers, And I totally get it. A few of them were saying things like, Hey, how much can you pay?

[00:16:07] It’s like, how can I do this in business sense where I’m making money and I can reinvest them. Like I had a few hundred dollars and they were like, yeah. And I’m not a charity. And I’m like, well, listen, I can’t, you can’t come in saying you super care about WordPress new. And then get, expect to get paid thousands of dollars per article, because it just doesn’t make business sense.

[00:16:31] I can’t afford it. Number one and advertise. There’s not enough advertisers, not enough traffic, a little chicken and the egg kind of thing with, with a media site. So I think you’re right, I guess basically is what I’m getting at is, is maybe it’s the mindset of going after people who are already content creators and those.

[00:16:50] I’m not saying you’re afraid, but those who don’t mind, who don’t mind, saying things that might impact their business. It’s not a great, I didn’t say that the right way, but you get, my point is, is like, maybe people just don’t want to contribute because they’re afraid of that. And I totally get it.

[00:17:07] Like I totally get, not saying something because you don’t want to affect a future partnership or with another developer or agency hosting company. 

[00:17:16] Amber: yeah. Yeah, I think probably who your contributors are, is going to have, it’s going to evolve. Right. And so in the beginning it probably is a lot of people that care about WordPress personally, and want to contribute and are open to writing, contributing for free and understand like the reality of a new podcast and a new cause I know you also have written content, right?

[00:17:43] A new website that doesn’t have traffic and then over time, With the quality bringing in more traffic, then maybe the answer is this could turn into [00:18:00] another like WP Tavern. Right? I think the biggest challenge or competition for WB Tavern is that w he’s hammering is in everyone’s WordPress dashboard.

[00:18:13] Matt: Oh, So so you want to talk about unfair, competitive 

[00:18:16] Amber: yes. Like, like it is 100%. They, all of their content is in front of however many millions of sites in the world without even doing anything. And, and so like, like that’s going to be the biggest challenge there, right? Like how do you take that on. I maybe you got to go write a proposal about how there should also be the WP minute podcast episodes listed in there.

[00:18:47] Right. And try and convince people that that makes sense. But I think like at that point, if it can grow and there’s enough traffic, then maybe the answer is, is like hiring a staff writer or a staff podcaster that has zero connection to work. But as good at what they do as a journalist or a podcaster, and is willing to come in and learn it and write these more like impactful pieces of investigative, right.

[00:19:19] Journalism, that kind of dives into things and things critically about things. And I think from a. Like thinking high level. I think it would be helpful for our community to have that outside of Tavern and outside of something that is owned by automatic.

[00:19:40] Matt: Audrey capital. Let’s just let the, I let the facts be the facts. 

[00:19:43] Amber: Yeah. This is not exactly automatic.

[00:19:45] Matt: Yeah. Yeah. I tons of thoughts I do want to wrap up because what you’ve done here today is you’ve contributed you’ve contributed your, your, your voice, your opinions to the airwaves of, of the WP minute.

[00:19:56] Yeah. There’s 

[00:19:56] Amber: figure out how to, how to do it on my own in 60 seconds and send you over a minute on accessibility.

[00:20:02] Matt: Or you can listen, you can have a 10 minute show just like Spencer and Dave Rodenbach. I Too, dear listener. And Amber can have your, this public radio station that we’re doing here. You can have some airtime. 

[00:20:14] Amber: So I think the biggest takeaway I’m taking from this, though, this little conversation we’ve had is I shouldn’t take the word journalism so seriously. It’s okay to have like you have op-ed podcasts there’s too. 

[00:20:29] Matt: yes, yes. 

[00:20:30] Amber: that that’s okay. It doesn’t all have to be 100% straight forward, hard hitting WordPress 

[00:20:38] Matt: no, no. A hundred percent not. Right. Cause there’s just, there’s, there’s not enough of it in this space. And going way back to what you said about Shopify is like, Hey, people, these are all private companies anyway. All of us, when I did the interview with when Pippin sold Sandhills.

[00:20:55] To SIADH at awesome motive, the DMS and the comments that I got were, you [00:21:00] didn’t ask how much they sold for you. Didn’t ask like what they were going to do in upsells. And if they were going to change the price, all of these things that, yeah. I What do you want me to do?

[00:21:10] They’re privately held companies like there’s no, don’t have to talk about this stuff. Like, everyone thinks like they’re going after Amazon or Microsoft or Facebook when they listened to a WordPress podcast. We’re not, there’s nothing, I 

[00:21:24] Amber: Half that stuff, they might not even legally, like they probably have contracts in place that say they can’t, like, I listened to all kinds of podcasts about selling your business. And literally everyone is like, they dance around and give some vague answer because they can’t tell you the specifics of their deal and why.

[00:21:41] Why would any business owner get on here and be like, oh yeah. And in a month we’re going to double the prizes and 

[00:21:47] Matt: Yeah, 

[00:21:48] Amber: nobody’s going to answer that. So it seems silly to even ask the question. 

[00:21:51] Matt: Yeah,

[00:21:51] it’s just like, you can make your own assessments what’s going to happen, roughly what everyone’s doing. So, Amber, thanks for hanging out today. Therapy session, it’s a WordPress news therapy session for me. Where can folks find you to say thanks. 

[00:22:04] Amber: You can find me or I’m on Twitter. And it’s very hard to spell. So if you search Amber Heinz on Twitter, you’ll find my handle or I’ll give it to Matt and he can throw a link in the.

[00:22:21] Matt: I will throw it in the.

[00:22:22] show notes. Amber behinds also sponsoring Maryport as of this morning, I saw. Thank you. 

[00:22:27] Amber: I saw your tweet and I was like, oh my gosh, I got to get it before anybody else does. 

[00:22:33] Matt: Scoop that right up. Thank you very much for supporting independent WordPress content. Like the Maryport and like the WP minute, dear listener, you can go to buy me a report. Get your membership for $79 a year. Join us in the private discord and get involved with the WordPress news every week, every Wednesday.

[00:22:53] Thanks for listening. We’ll see you in the next episode.

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