This episode of The WP Minute+ podcast features host Matt Medeiros in conversation with guest Marc Benzakein.

Marc is currently involved with two WordPress-related businesses – MainWP, a self-hosted WordPress site management plugin, and Site District, a managed WordPress hosting company.

Matt opens the show recapping his previous interview with Marc on The Matt Report podcast, where they discussed Marc’s former business ServerPress which has now shut down. Marc shares what he has been up to since closing ServerPress, including taking a 6 month sabbatical away from WordPress, before getting involved again working with smaller bootstrapped companies in the WordPress space.

Topics Discussed:

  • The high sponsorship costs for events like WordCamp make things difficult for small companies in the WordPress ecosystem. Marc and Matt debate whether the platform can sustain if sponsors pull out.
  • They discuss the necessary move towards block editors and full site editing for WordPress to stay competitive, even though some developers dislike it. The focus needs to be ease of use over speed.
  • Marc highlights the existential threat of keeping websites relevant when social platforms like Facebook offer quicker user engagement. All of WordPress needs to address this issue.
  • The dominance of big tech platforms and algorithms threatens the open web, as most content is now filtered through them rather than accessed directly. Podcasting faces similar challenges.

Key Takeaways:

  • Opportunities for WordPress pros with strong personal brands to work with multiple niche companies rather than one big corporate role
  • Need to make WordPress site building competitive with social platforms for ease of use
  • All of WordPress needs to band together to demonstrate the benefits of owning your data with a website

Marc Benzakein

[00:00:00] Matt: It’s the WP Minute Plus, your home for long form discussions with WordPress professionals and industry experts covering our favorite topic, WordPress. Be sure to follow us. Search for WP Minute in your favorite podcast app. Follow this podcast and our five minute weekly edition. Or head to thewpminute.

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[00:00:38] Matt: This episode of the WP Minute Plus is brought to you by our friends at OmniSend, the top rated email and SMS marketing platform for WordPress stores. With OmniSend, you’ll be launching pre built e commerce automations in no time, as well as intuitively segmenting customers based on their shopping behavior and Even trying out SMS or push notifications all from the same [00:01:00] platform.

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[00:01:18] Matt: com. That’s OmniSend. com. O M N I S E N D. com. OmniSend. com. And give your brand the boost it deserves.

[00:01:39] Marc: Hey Mark, welcome to the program. Hey Matt, how are ya?

[00:01:42] Matt: I’m doing well. The last time you and I chatted, well, technically the last time you and I chatted was only a few weeks ago on the first WP Minute Roundtable, but the last time you and I had a therapy session like this was back on the Matt Report when we talked about a very popular app, [00:02:00] ServerPress at the time.

[00:02:01] Matt: Recovering well. I take it.

[00:02:03] Marc: Yeah. Um, and, and, uh, had I known we would describe it as a therapy session, I would have taken the room here at the co work that had a sofa in it and, uh, and told you about my mother, but, um, who, by the way, is a fantastic woman and just in case she’s listening. Yeah. She, well, even if she’s not, she is a fantastic woman.

[00:02:23] Marc: And I actually won the parent lottery. There’s no doubt about that. So, um, Yeah. Nice.

[00:02:29] Matt: Uh, so where is Mark these days? What are you doing? What’s your

[00:02:32] Marc: roles? So these days I’m wearing a couple of hats. I am handling marketing and also sales and marketing for, uh, sales and marketing for a web hosting managed WordPress host, uh, called Site District, which is out here on the West Coast.

[00:02:49] Marc: And then I am, uh, the marketing lead for main WP, which is a. Uh, WordPress dashboard management, um, kind of [00:03:00] ecosystem plugin. Yeah. So when you, when you,

[00:03:04] Matt: when I get a whole like host of ideas that I want to talk about, you are trying to get them out of me in the green room before we hit record. But that’s not the kind of podcast host I am, Mark.

[00:03:14] Marc: No, I’m just kidding. I like to be prepared before I wing everything and sound like an idiot. So, you know.

[00:03:21] Matt: How did you approach? Did you approach these brands as like a, cause I’ve seen this around and I’m just curious, uh, I’ve seen the title fractional CMO or, you know, fractional marketing person, fractional, this being used a lot these days.

[00:03:35] Matt: And, and I really think about that. Phrase and I really think about like the future of human labor This is gonna get deep like I think about the the the future of human labor and artificial intelligence I hear a lot of people saying things like well AI is not gonna lose make you lose jobs But you’re gonna be elevated and like the things you’re really really good at that’s what people are gonna hire you for And then I wonder, well, is that 40 hours a week of my really, really goodness?

[00:03:59] Matt: [00:04:00] Or can I bring 10 hours a week to four different brands of my really goodness? Right. And my, my big vocabulary there. So we’re not going to talk about AI yet, but tell me how you approach these two roles and have like these split, these split minds. Well,

[00:04:14] Marc: um, first we have to go back a little bit, um, I’ll give you a little bit of backstory.

[00:04:18] Marc: So when we shut down ServerPress, uh, you know, as one might imagine, uh, this is the therapy part of it, um, I, I kind of had to do a lot of self reflection and decide what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be. And the conclusion I had come to, uh, interestingly enough was I wanted to step away from WordPress altogether.

[00:04:37] Marc: I had actually felt that WordPress had grown, had evolved to this point that I didn’t feel that there was like a real place in it for me. And what I mean by that is I like to, I like to get my hands dirty. I like to get into the nitty gritty and understand things and be part of the creative process and be able to make suggestions that actually [00:05:00] don’t go through, you know, 500 levels of approval and discussion and then end up falling on somebody’s desk that just sits there forever and nothing ever happens.

[00:05:10] Marc: I am, of course, talking about the, the corporate, you know, kind of, uh, world. And that never appealed to me. And I kind of had felt, I think, At that point that, that there wasn’t really much of that out there. I was wrong. And part of it was I was probably, you know, making a bit of an emotional decision. So I took about six months off.

[00:05:30] Marc: I took about six months away from WordPress. And if I’m being honest, I think, uh, Jonathan Wold over at, uh, he’s working on Guildenberg. He and I talked early on about Guildenberg. And I thought, hey, this sounds really cool. You know, maybe I’ll keep an eye on what’s going on. And, um. And he talked me into attending WordCamp U.

[00:05:50] Marc: S. last year in San Diego, which was the first WordCamp, you know, big WordCamp after, after COVID. And I was approached [00:06:00] by Matt over at Site District, and he came to me and said, Have you ever thought about getting into WordPress hosting? And I said, Yes, I have, and no, I’m not interested. And he said, Why not?

[00:06:10] Marc: And he said, Because nobody does WordPress hosting right. And I went on this whole litany of You know, things that I hated about WordPress hosting, all these things. And, and there might’ve been a little bit of, you know, once again, I just kind of felt like there was no place for me there yet. And, uh, and he had me look at his dashboard.

[00:06:29] Marc: He had me look at what he had been building over the last 10 years. And I thought, Hmm, this is really fascinating what he’s built. And he said, would you like to, you know, help me market this? I’ve been doing it for. Nine years we’re growing, you know on word of mouth and I’d like to do a little bit more than that and I said sure and so I got involved in that and Then I started becoming more and more active again and saying hey there are other things here that I can do It has not outgrown me and my and my skill set yet [00:07:00] but I don’t know that I can do any one thing, I would rather just find companies that I really like that are kind of engineered extremely well and they just need a little bit of help here and there.

[00:07:17] Marc: And so that, you know, uh, it started with there and it just kind of evolved into, you know, I’ve known Dennis over at MainWP since they had just started. Um, at ServerPress, we used to, uh, Sponsor WordCamps, uh, as you probably remember. And, uh, I met Dennis at MainWP back at WordCamp Orlando. I don’t know, 2014 or 2015 or something like that.

[00:07:42] Marc: They were just getting going. And, uh, we had our tables next to each other. Seemed like, I don’t know if it was coincidence or by design after the first year. And we got to form this, this friendship. And, uh, then Dennis and I started talking and I said, Hey! You know, actually [00:08:00] he said to me, Hey, you know, we could use some help in marketing.

[00:08:02] Marc: Would you be interested? And I was, once again, it was like, I really like this company. I really like the people here and I like what it represents, my core values. And so I got into doing that too. And it’s, you know, for me, one of my biggest core values is, is this a company that focuses on customer first?

[00:08:23] Marc: Kind of mentality, you know, and and rather than money first or or, you know, what’s our ROI or that? I mean, we always look at ROI. Don’t get me wrong, you know, anybody tells you they don’t is lying But how do we get there? And if the first tenant of of that philosophy is Customer service then I’m kind of right there and then if their product is rock solid Then I’m really right there.

[00:08:47] Marc: And so I feel very fortunate To be involved with these, you know, with these situations and I’m and I’m, you know, kind of over my My licking my wounds of of server press at this [00:09:00] point and and seeing that there are actually a lot of opportunities out there for people who may be more like me not interested in getting Out there into the corporate world and having to, to deal with that and want to just get their hands dirty and, and be part of the creative process where their opinion holds a little bit more weight than it might in a big machine with a lot of cogs and, and, uh, and

[00:09:23] Matt: gears.

[00:09:24] Matt: There’s a lot of value in, of course. Obviously your back catalog of, you know, successes and failures in the WordPress space, running a business, building a product, knowing all sort of end to end of that, you know, I’ve never built a product as widely used as let’s say server press, uh, or had that kind of, you know, momentum, but I think that.

[00:09:49] Matt: You know, and I’ll, I’ll put ourselves a little bit on a pedestal here because I think it’s important that other folks listening to this recognize that they have the same abilities or close to [00:10:00] that, that you and I both share, which is again, running a business, building a product, knowing the marketing, knowing what the customer needs in a product and being able to articulate that in your marketing and your sales process, but now doing it for another brand, you know, largely, I guess this is why.

[00:10:16] Matt: Gravity Forms hired me, right? I’ve been doing it forever, ran a business, ran an agency, built products, marketed, right? So they look at that and go, Oh, you can relate the things that our engineering team and our product teams and our customer support teams need to communicate with our end users. Um, and I think that obviously that’s the advantage and the flexibility.

[00:10:39] Matt: That that you have and I think that this is where I was going with the crazy AI hypothesis before was there are a lot of people out there that that have these. I don’t know, pocketed skill sets that don’t demand a 40 hour a week job. I mean, they could or whatever, but I think there’s flexibility, particularly in the WordPress space [00:11:00] for good people to represent brands, not, not like influencers, you know, like Instagram influencers, but like people that are people that are.

[00:11:12] Matt: Understand the WordPress space, which is not easy because you had to be around for literally 20 years to know like where it’s, where it started and where it’s at today. I don’t have a direct question there, but I’m curious if you feel the same way. And if you feel the same, maybe positivity for somebody listening to this and say, yeah, you can do this too with these skillsets.

[00:11:32] Matt: Yeah, I,

[00:11:33] Marc: I agree. Um, and I think a large part of that and one of the things that I don’t know that I, I probably did, uh, at a subconscious level, but then, then actively, you know, kept an eye on it, but managing your personal brand is really huge, especially in the WordPress community. So part of that is, you know, being obviously community oriented, which if you’re personal, you know, when I say [00:12:00] managing, that really has to be a part of who you are.

[00:12:02] Marc: Right? You, you can’t fake that you are community oriented if you’re not. You can fake it for a little while, but you can’t do it forever. You, you know, you have to, you know, in the WordPress community, actually caring about your fellow WordPresser matters. Knowing what is important to them and knowing your demographic is important.

[00:12:25] Marc: But if you don’t have a personal brand that you’ve built up over the years, it does become more difficult for me. Um, I was fortunate that people came to me, but that was because I had, you know, in a way curated. the part of my personality that fit, that fit the WordPress community. They are, they are a very big part of me, but there are a lot of parts of me that are not relevant to the WordPress community that I don’t bring to the WordPress community.

[00:12:51] Marc: And, and kind of being able to tap into that, I think to a degree can make you desirable. And I think that there are a lot of people [00:13:00] out there, you are a perfect example that, you know, uh, I, I don’t know how you came to be with Gravity Forms, but I’m sure that if you offered your services, they snatched you up in a second.

[00:13:11] Marc: If you didn’t offer your services and they came to you, it’s because, you know, you’re Matt Medeiros, right? So, um. Either way, uh, you know, you’ve done the same thing. You’ve curated your personal brand and that has what has helped you to accomplish what you have and be where you’re

[00:13:29] Matt: at. I’ve seen a lot of founders try to fake, like just to interject on what you were saying before.

[00:13:35] Matt: There’s a lot of folks that That forced themselves into being like, can you like, Hey, I’m a founder. People told me I have to do this social media thing. I have to talk about it. And I’ve seen this and experienced it with, with founders that I’ve worked with who are, you know, they, it’s just like, it’s just like, here comes January.

[00:13:55] Matt: Everyone’s going to get back to the gym. And then by like March, they’re like, ah, this sucks. [00:14:00] Where’s that pizza? I’m going back to that pizza, you know? And I see the same thing happen over and over again with founders. I call it like founder marketing, like hire somebody like myself or like Mark to fill that gap for you.

[00:14:14] Matt: Because you’re not going to be good at it and you don’t even need to focus on it. Right. Get somebody in the place that understands both ends and don’t force it because forcing it just is then just the worst thing to do. Yeah.

[00:14:27] Marc: Yeah. I agree. And I mean, back in the day, I kind of think that this is, um, I, I remember back in the nineties when I was running a internet service provider and, and the Cisco people sent someone out.

[00:14:39] Marc: And, you know, because we were, you know, looking at routers and things like that. And they sent out a team of people. They sent out, you know, a sales manager and a sales engineer. I loved the sales engineer because this was the guy who could speak the language of the engineers and he could speak the language of the marketers and the salespeople and, [00:15:00] and bring it to a level that those of us who were just starting to learn what routing was and all that could understand at a rudimentary level.

[00:15:08] Marc: And I always was fascinated with that position because I felt like that’s what bridges that gap between the, the genius of an engineer who speaks engineering and, you know, everything is a 10 page document on how something works. And, and the person who doesn’t understand that 10 page document, there’s that guy who bullet points it, right?

[00:15:31] Marc: And, and says, this is what it’ll do for you. And this is how it will benefit you, et cetera. And I’ve always, I’ve always been fascinated with that position. And I’ve always felt like that’s kind of one of the roles that I kind of fall into is, you know, I, I would never be able to engineer a platform. Like Site District, I would never be able to engineer a, a, uh, plug in like, uh, main WP or desktop server.

[00:15:56] Marc: I was never, I would not be able to engineer that, but I could tell you what it [00:16:00] does. I could tell you how it works. I could tell you how it benefits you. I could tell you why it works and all of that. And I think that’s a really important role. And I think once again, there are a lot of people out there that, that maybe don’t realize that that’s, that may be their forte.

[00:16:14] Marc: And that’s really an, it’s like a translator. Essentially.

[00:16:18] Matt: Yeah. Yeah. I think about, uh, I have three young kids, young boys, and I think about that same scenario of like the sales engineer and just like my, okay, back to the therapy session. Just like my, my life of growing up, it was like, Computers like consumer desktops were just coming in to play, right?

[00:16:40] Matt: Like I had to, to play a game on my dad’s computer, I had to run DOS prompts and put in a disc, right? And get that thing going. So as a kid, when, you know, parents weren’t looking like, you didn’t just turn on your PlayStation. No, you had to run a command to get this thing going. And what the hell, I didn’t know what I was doing.

[00:16:59] Matt: So [00:17:00] I’m like reading a manual. Trying all these things and all of a sudden the game comes on. I’m like, Oh my God, I, I figured out this computer thing. Fast forward. I mean, building computers, uh, working at circuit city, which really started to fuse the gap of I’m a sales guy and I’m helping people buy their, again, first computers back then when each computer was like 4, 000 and you were just making tons of money as a salesperson and like showing people, here’s how you set this up, here’s how you set up a home network.

[00:17:31] Matt: Here’s how you do all this stuff. Then I worked at an ISP, blah, blah, blah, blah, like, and I start to wonder, Am I gonna be able to get my kids to, like, know the fundamentals of computing and understanding, because now, oh my god, I just start to think about, like, ChatGPT. I’m letting my, my kids draw with ChatGPT, and I’m like, holy shit, I’m skipping a massive amount of, like, Microsoft Paint, you know, move the [00:18:00] mouse and draw it yourself.

[00:18:01] Matt: And now my kids are just making chat GPT, make these crazy images. And I’m wondering like, wow, how do I get them rooted in the hands on fundamentals of computing? So that they don’t skip all that because that was what was super valuable to me anyway, and I assume to you is as well Yeah,

[00:18:19] Marc: yeah, and did did I know that you worked at circuit city because you and I share that in our history?

[00:18:24] Marc: I think maybe we probably talked about it. We may have talked about it and and uh, man Of course, I worked at circuit city before they had personal computers for sale at circuit city. So, um, Uh, so I was I was in the audio visual, uh, department. But, you know, I, the way that I break it down for things like that, um, and, and this may be a little bit off topic of what you just stated, but I break everything down to mechanics.

[00:18:50] Marc: So, whether it’s electronic or whatever, there’s this logical progression, right? And so, if you teach your kids mechanics, how to do [00:19:00] mechanical things, fix a motor, or, or whatever it might be, you know, and understanding what those parts are, or you teach them biology, because the body is a human machine, right?

[00:19:10] Marc: If you teach people how machines work, at a mechanical level, which is a little bit easier to understand because you’re looking and seeing things and you’re touching things and you’re putting things together and making them work and seeing how they interact. And, you know, for me, I’m a big clock guy. I have about 30, uh, mechanical clocks that I’ve collected over the years and my watches are all mechanical watches and, you know, and, and I, I I, you know, gears fascinate me, but if you can look at things, it’s a lot easier to visualize things, and if you can understand how those work, then it makes it easy to translate to computers and things like that, because it’s still just a logical progression and how parts interact with each other, and while you may not see [00:20:00] mechanical things work within each other, there’s still something going on there.

[00:20:04] Marc: And, and I guess in a way that that’s what goes into critical thinking that goes into a lot of things that are important. And so going back to your showing your kids chat GPT and skipping Microsoft paint and all that stuff, if you’ve taught them how mechanics work, if you’ve taught them, How to build things with Legos.

[00:20:22] Marc: If you’ve taught them how to, you know, when I was a kid, we had Legos and erector sets and, you know, and, and all of that. And I worked on engines with my dad constantly. And if you can understand that, then the rest of it just is just another way to apply that knowledge and that, and that experience. And once you see that it makes things click a lot easier.

[00:20:45] Marc: Yeah.

[00:20:46] Matt: I think I want to go back to. Uh, the feeling of, of the feeling of maybe WordPress isn’t for me anymore. I mean, you sort of coming off of, you know, your sabbatical or going into the sabbatical of [00:21:00] six months or whatever, you’re taking time off, you’re done with this stuff. What, what was it about WordPress that you’re, you know, obviously besides the, the stresses of our last interview, but what was it about WordPress?

[00:21:11] Matt: You were like, yeah, this is not for me. Was it, was it the software? Like, man, this thing is moving in a weird direction, or was it something else? I,

[00:21:19] Marc: I, well, you know, I think that part of it was there was a little bit of disconnect. Understand that we, that we had been dealing with two years of COVID, and there was that disconnect of no events, no real interactions with people.

[00:21:35] Marc: You kind of felt Or I, I shouldn’t say you, I should say I felt, let’s go to therapy once again, I feel as though I felt disconnected and like I was an island unto myself. And while I did interact with the people that I had established contacts with, a lot of those people had moved on to other things.

[00:21:55] Marc: There are some people that I know that are still running agencies, but they’re not necessarily working with WordPress. [00:22:00] Um, and, and it just felt far more fragmented to me. Add. On top of that, the fact that it did feel like everything was, had kind of evolved to this corporate, not a lot of room for startups, not a lot of room for people who are bootstrapping it, kind of feeling, which once again is, is because we’re operating in a vacuum, because we’re disconnected from everything, it just, you know, it felt Like things were going in a direction that that it’s not that I didn’t think that that’s the direction they should go Necessarily it was more that I didn’t feel like there was a place for me in That particular the particular phase of evolution that WordPress was was in and going towards I mean the reality is those of us who have been around since 2013 or 2010 like I have or whatever.

[00:22:59] Marc: I think [00:23:00] most of us We knew where WordPress was going, we’ve had conversations ad nauseum about, you know, the fact that it was getting bigger and bigger and was going more and more towards, you know, catering to the big corporate interests because it had to, because we have these events that cost money and these big corporate entities can afford to pay for them.

[00:23:24] Marc: And that’s just natural progression. You can’t fault. anything for that. So for me, it wasn’t that I had any resentment or any hatred or any, or any disappointment. It was, this is how things go and this is not where I feel comfortable or where I thrive. So, um, so it was more a matter of that, you know, I, I have.

[00:23:49] Marc: been, you know, made of enough, you know, enough trips around the sun to kind of know where my strengths are, where my weaknesses are. And I’m, I, I’m also at this point in my [00:24:00] life where I’m not going to spend a lot of time trying to make up for my weaknesses. I’m just going to focus on my strengths because, you know, Reality is, I’m on kind of the last half of my life, so, you know, I’m not going to spend a lot of time on, on that kind of thing.

[00:24:16] Marc: Yeah,

[00:24:16] Matt: having critical focus on, on areas that are really going to, whatever, resonate you or, or make you feel satisfied. I mean, I, I’m sort of in the same boat. This is my first, uh, just under a year at Gravity Forms and went to WordCamp US in DC this, this past summer. And it was the first time that I’ve seen WordCamp from the, the sponsorship side, right?

[00:24:40] Matt: I never did it with my, with my small agency. And when I was at Pagely for three years, we never did it except for Pressnomics, which was a whole event that they ran. But I agree, man, the I’m curious, curious isn’t even the right word. Like I am bearish on [00:25:00] where word camps are going in the future because the costs are insane.

[00:25:05] Matt: And the return on investment, like you said earlier, whew, boy, like if I was a smaller shop, like a, a, a barn tube plugins or, uh, paid memberships, pro Lyft or LMS, like these folks that are out there that you have great businesses, solid businesses for many years. To get into like a WordCamp US, you’re talking 30, 40, 000 minimum to sponsor, to be there, to have like a few members of your team there.

[00:25:37] Matt: Insanity, right? You’ll never get that money back from, from that three day event. And that’s just, that’s like nothing. They have the bigger, I mean, hosting or. Uh, foundation plus sponsor of the WP minute. Like their booth was massive, right? And I told them, hey, guys, the for the TV that you all rented for that booth in D.

[00:25:59] Matt: C., you [00:26:00] could sponsor the WP minute for an entire year at my highest level for the money that you spend at these events.

[00:26:07] Marc: And that’s evergreen. And that’s evergreen content that they’re investing in with

[00:26:11] Matt: you. Yeah, 100%. And it makes me wonder, like, you know. You know, sometimes people get into the theory crafting of, of automatic and it’s, uh, you know, uh, uh, overlordness of, of the space, but I don’t even think automatic would do it if all of these events, if all of these sponsors pulled out of the events.

[00:26:30] Matt: I mean, how much Could they afford to run a 3, 000 person, you know, event like this with, with these, with these events coming, it’d be like a hundred K minimum for these big brands. It’s, it’s, it’s insanity spinning back to, let’s talk about the software, uh, of WordPress. I have been at 20. We talked about this on the, on the round table.

[00:26:53] Matt: I think we touched upon it anyway. I think 2024, which is the most recent WordPress default theme is one of the most [00:27:00] important themes, um, that the. That the core of WordPress has released in in quite some time because I think it’s going to allow. Users to get into the site building experience using blocks using the site editor, et cetera.

[00:27:14] Matt: It’s fairly good looking It’s got a lot of options a lot of rough edges still I see people still like pushing against blocks and site editing and Block based themes where you land on that spectrum. It’s gonna lead into another part of the discussion But where do you lean in to the discussion of block based themes in the future of site editing with WordPress?

[00:27:37] Marc: I think it’s the way that it has to go, whether we like it or not. I, you know, I think that, uh, you know, look, you brought up DOS. I’m an old DOS guy. You know, I like command line. I like text. If you ask me what the ideal website is, it’s something that’s like Craigslist, only more organized. I mean, you know, so like, I don’t want graphics.

[00:27:56] Marc: I can design that. I, yeah, I just want the information. Right. But [00:28:00] that’s me. I think we have a few issues here, and, and one is, first of all, you know, uh, Matt Mullenweg, uh, several years ago, you know, and, and once in a while it comes up again as a, as a theme, which is, you know, the Wix and Squarespace thing, right?

[00:28:16] Marc: And, and, you know, we have to compete with that. Now, WordPress is 43 percent of, or 42%, or however you want to look at it, it’s still the majority of, a huge market share with the next person, the next competitor being way behind that. Um,

[00:28:35] Matt: and also being Shopify, which is not even a pure publishing platform.

[00:28:40] Marc: I don’t even know what to call Shopify other than just e commerce.

[00:28:43] Marc: Right. And, and, and so you’ve got that to compete with. And the only way that you’re going to get. New people interested is if they can drag and drop. I brought up the experience that I had. I had the experience [00:29:00] with, on the elevator with that, that woman who just attacked us in, in Phoenix because we worked for WordPress and she tried to use it and absolutely hated it.

[00:29:09] Marc: And I cannot tell you the vitriol that came out of her mouth. I mean, it, it is not safe for people of my age to hear. And so it was kind of an insane sort of experience. But I, but I think that the thing, I think one of the things is though we are asking the wrong question. And I think that Dragon, I remember when we went from DOS to Windows and everyone was like, Oh, I hate Windows.

[00:29:35] Marc: I hate this and that. And you know, I hate the graphic interface and blah, blah, blah. But look at what’s become the market share. Okay. You have Mac and you have Windows, you know, you have a smaller, uh, group of people who like Linux, but. Ask how many people who use Linux are running command line all the time.

[00:29:51] Marc: They’re using a graphical interface drag and drop too. So it’s just the way, it’s just the way that things are going to go. The [00:30:00] question is how do we really compete to where it’s super easy? To get to that drag and drop interface, because the thing with Wix and the thing with, with Squarespace is you sign up and you’re dragging and dropping immediately with WordPress, you have to go to a backend and it kind of reminds me of the, the analogy I like to use is, is that of.

[00:30:22] Marc: an iPhone versus an Android. It’s not super well known, but some people know this. iPhone, when they created their phones, it was designed with touch in mind from the get go. So it processes touch first, whereas Android was designed first, then they found out about Apple’s designs, and so then they added touch and all of that.

[00:30:47] Marc: as a secondary process. So if you, even today, if you sit with an Android, and I’m an Android user, but if you have an Android next to an iPhone, and you drag, and you do all this stuff, you’ll find that the touch response on [00:31:00] an Apple, on an iPhone, is faster than on an Android. Android makes up for that in, you know, code enhancements, but of course processing enhancements and things like that.

[00:31:10] Marc: I think that that’s the issue that we run into with WordPress. WordPress is that cool. Block editor and everything is designed in the back end as a secondary process Whereas Wix and Squarespace they were designed with that drag and drop as the primary process first So it will always be faster now speed is important But if it’s also more complicated, that’s where you run into problems And that’s what we have to do with WordPress is we have to accept that Graphical editing is here, you know Like it or not, we have to make it so that it’s easy first, and speed will come.

[00:31:56] Marc: Ease of use has to be like at the forefront, and right now [00:32:00] there’s still a little brain damage that you have to go through in order to get to that point, whereas these other quote unquote competitors are far easier. You, you log in, you sign up, and you’re ready to go. Now the bigger question to me, and I, I, I know I’m going on here, the bigger question to me though is, and this is a question that I think web hosting companies need to ask, is how do we continue to make websites relevant?

[00:32:27] Marc: And the reason I say that is because you look at something like Facebook. I can set up a Facebook business page and have engagement in less than an hour. How do you compete with that, even if it doesn’t look great, right? A website takes a little bit of work, and then you have to drive traffic to it, and you have to do all these things, and you have to, you know, even if you have the best SEO on planet Earth, and every page scores 100, and all these things, you’re still going to build up to getting traffic, whereas with [00:33:00] something like a Facebook or some other social media, it’s very easy to get engagement very quickly.

[00:33:05] Marc: And when we look at You know, how do we get more users to our platform? We tend to go on this feeding frenzy of people that are already, you know, having websites or, or things like that. But how long is it going to be before people change their thinking to, I don’t need a website anymore, I can just put up a Facebook business page.

[00:33:24] Marc: It’s already happening. And, and that’s what we need to do, I think. Personally, that we need to focus on how do we keep websites relevant? What can we do? That’s unique. You know, there’s of course e commerce and things like that, but, but I think that that’s actually the next biggest threat to our ecosystem and it’s, it’s from outside of the WordPress world and outside of website development and web hosting.

[00:33:51] Matt: Yeah. And when you put a, there was just the crazy thread, um, I’ll try to remember to put it in the show notes. I don’t know if you caught it. It was of course, like kind of. [00:34:00] Propaganda ish from a, uh, AI writing tool. Uh, I don’t know if you saw it on Twitter, Matt Mullenweg, Mullenweg actually retweeted somebody else’s response to it, but the guy pretty much came out, you know, he owns the AI writing tool and he’s like, look what I did, we stole millions of dollars worth of traffic from our competitors, you know, and he just.

[00:34:19] Matt: You read the thread and it’s just like, all we, all we did air quotes was, you know, take the site map, break it down into HRFs to see what the top content was, feed it into our machine. And it created a bunch of content. And over the course of a year, we started outranking our competitors, yada, yada, yada.

[00:34:36] Matt: And it blew up because of like, you know, it was fanfare and it was millions of dollars worth of traffic allegedly, you know, and, and somebody else cited, well, you know, really what the, the real issue here is, is Google allowing this. You know to happen and in stating in us that the only way to get traffic to our website is Search right and then they’re gonna tax you on it by [00:35:00] putting ads in place and you have to buy ads to get that traffic And then it just flips around in like this crazy New York Stock Exchange type of fashion and whoever’s paying more is gonna get it yada yada yada, right?

[00:35:11] Matt: And that’s the real impact on the open web and You know, if you threw search out the window, you know, this is, this is a lot harder, right? It’s the same, your example of Facebook page is like the same stance, you know, web users or web agencies or web professionals tried to reinforce with our customers.

[00:35:37] Matt: That is rented land. You don’t want that because the algorithm can change at any time. You don’t own it, et cetera, et cetera. That’s like the same flag we’re going to be trying to fly for websites, you know, in the future and there’s a big, this happened, this is happening across the board on all areas of, of, of content.

[00:35:58] Matt: I mean, look at news, [00:36:00] most people are going to get it in a filtered fashion coming out of, let’s say Google news or yahoo news or facebook news or facebook algorithm or twitter algorithm, right? So it’s already like. What is the open web to an average user, right? Like when they’re reading and consuming content, it’s already coming out of another algorithm.

[00:36:20] Matt: It’s not, but even to you and me, it’s happening because it’s not like you and I are searching, let’s find a new website about, you know, this news source. We don’t do that. We just let the algorithm tell us. Um, and this is also happening in, because I live in two worlds, WordPress and podcasting, because they’re both open source.

[00:36:40] Matt: Publishing, you know, one’s written, one’s audio, but YouTube is finally like or Google is finally reinvesting back into into podcasting and now they’re allowing folks to have their YouTube channels will just consume an RSS feed. I don’t want to get like super technical into this, but just like you would go and give your [00:37:00] RSS.

[00:37:00] Matt: Podcasts, RSS feed to Apple or Spotify. Now you’re going to do that in YouTube. If you have a YouTube account and it’s just going to scoop up the RSS feed. The issue is, is, you know, you have all of these hosting platforms that for podcasting that have, let’s say dynamic ad insertion or like other ad mechanisms for the creator to make money, YouTube is saying.

[00:37:21] Matt: That is not allowed. We’re going to strip that out. Uh, you’re not, and even if it gets in there and we find out probably from the algorithm, it gets demonetized, right? And they’re only going to want their ad platform in. And then you have all these podcasters who are like, Oh, great. Now I can have a video podcast.

[00:37:37] Matt: Well, no, you don’t, don’t want for that. Like, don’t let that be your goal because the only place it’ll be available. is YouTube, right? And people just don’t get it that when you feed the machine, we’re losing the opportunity for open publishing. I mean, at the end of the day, I think the one, can you imagine, can you [00:38:00] imagine 20, 30 years ago, if RSS, the technology was allowed to flourish, if like everyone just had an RSS feed and technology was built on top of RSS feed, like follower count feeds and.

[00:38:15] Matt: It would be amazing, but what the, what the big tech companies that would say, no, no, no, get that the hell out of here. We don’t want anybody to see this RSS thing, right? Cause now that, that means people could talk to each other and they could share data. We don’t want that. We want it all plumbed through our, uh, algorithm.

[00:38:31] Matt: And it’s, um, It’s it’s crazy. There’s no question there either. It’s just like I started to think about what the heck’s happening to the web

[00:38:39] Marc: Yeah, but that’s a hard sales pitch, isn’t it? Yeah, because here’s here’s the reality the reality of things is that you can’t empathize or feel something till you’ve been through it Mm hmm, you can fake empathize it But until you’ve been through it, right?

[00:38:53] Marc: You, you can’t really, you can’t really feel it. People make decisions based on what they feel. [00:39:00] So unless you’ve been screwed by a Google algorithm or a Facebook algorithm, or somebody’s algorithm, or a Gutenberg block, or a Gutenberg block or, you know, or, or, or something like that, it’s, it’s a hard sales pitch.

[00:39:13] Marc: And, and, and. I mean, this is something, when it comes to me marketing, this is something that I struggle with every day. How do, for instance, and, and, you know, this is not necessarily, you know, I, I don’t want to like, hey, this is our product and you want to buy it. But a struggle that I have, for instance, with mainwp is mainwp is kind of, I think, the only plugin that is, you own it, you own the data, you own, Everything about it.

[00:39:42] Marc: It’s not a SaaS, it’s not hosted on a cloud or anything like that. You have everything. Right. How do you pitch that so it’s meaningful to somebody? Well, it’s not meaningful to them until they’ve lost their data or until to, to, or, or the, or, uh, a cloud service hikes up their prices or, [00:40:00] you know, or a SaaS model hikes up their prices or something like that.

[00:40:03] Marc: Then all of a sudden it becomes meaningful because you felt it. Right? We vote for whoever we want as a, you know, in a political party because we felt something that burned us in a certain way and that becomes our one issue that we vote on or vote against. And, and so that’s a tough pitch when you say, look, yeah, you can set up your Facebook page in an hour and have engagement in an hour, but you don’t own any of that data and they’re collecting all kinds of stuff.

[00:40:36] Marc: And you never know when they’re going to suddenly start charging for that and you don’t know this and you don’t know that Because you’re on their platform and until we’ve all experienced a certain amount of that It’s it’s very difficult to sell people and when you Bring up the average user, you know, the average user, they just want to get on their computer, go to the web, find what they want to find and get [00:41:00] what they want to get.

[00:41:01] Marc: And, and that’s it.

[00:41:03] Matt: Let me wrap it up with the two call to actions. Then we didn’t, we didn’t really talk too much about, about your businesses, but I, but I want to give you. I do want to give you some air time. It’s fantastic conversation. I mean, it went by in seconds. Mainwp, mainwp. com, sitedistrict. com.

[00:41:19] Matt: Mainwp, I’m just looking at the functionality. You can start for free and then going pro is starting at monthly 29 bucks a month, manager sites, 32 extensions, site district, sitedistrict. com, WordPress hosting. You are the sales guy there. If somebody reaches out, they can, they can chat with you.

[00:41:40] Marc: Yeah, they can chat with me.

[00:41:41] Marc: Um, what I really like to do with Site District because it is a unique platform is I like to set up one on one demos with, with them, like in a Zoom session. So we’re not interested in super fast growth. We’re interested, we fancy ourselves as a collaborative host. So we’re not just a utility that’s just there to host your space.

[00:41:59] Marc: We’re [00:42:00] there to help you get your online presence working as efficiently and as securely as possible. And we have a ton of tools in the dashboard that. Nobody else has, and you can get started for free and, and build a whole site and use 100 percent of our functionality for free with, with really pretty much no restrictions.

[00:42:21] Marc: But, um, but I do prefer to sit down and get to know our customers kind of one on one with that. So, yeah,

[00:42:28] Matt: I did the same thing at Pagely. If you go to the pricing page at Site District, you can play with some sliders. Uh, websites start for 25 bucks a month. Uh, I brought it all the way to the end. 7, 144, which is, uh, in enterprise world, not that bad

[00:42:45] Marc: because

[00:42:48] Matt: I’ve seen some bills before at Pagely for some big brands and seven grand isn’t that bad.

[00:42:53] Marc: Uh, yeah, but I will also, I will also say not that I feel that that we’re limited, but I would say that we [00:43:00] really cater to, I’d say we’re a good host for about 90 percent of the people out there. But there are some instances where we might say. We’re not the host for you. And we’re happy to say that too.

[00:43:10] Marc: We, you know, we really are interested in customer retention and slow, steady growth. And, and, um, and so, uh, we’re very frank with our customers. They know exactly where we stand and, and, uh, we’re, we’re happy to help them with their online presence if, if we’re a good fit,

[00:43:29] Matt: cool. mainwp. com site, district. com mark.

[00:43:32] Matt: Thanks for hanging out today.

[00:43:33] Marc: All right. Thanks, Matt.

[00:43:37] Matt: That’s it for today’s episode. Get the weekly newsletter at TheWPMinute. com Slash subscribe. Want to support the show and join a Slack group filled with WordPress professionals like you? Talk about the news, share your WordPress business content, and network with others. Head to TheWPMinute. com and get access to our group, Support the Show, for as little as [00:44:00] 5 or more if you feel we provided more value.

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