We had a chance to interview Sarah Gooding from The WP Tavern to get her take on WordPress journalism, Audrey Captial‘s role with the media site, and to uncover how the community can take part in the narrative.
Note from Matt: I asked Sarah about WP Tavern changing to “WordPress Tavern” as seen in this Archive.org link back in June of 2021. Looks like that change was reverted some time after and now correctly reads “WP Tavern” as the site name.
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1. Where do you look to source your stories for the WordPress Tavern? Can you share your approach on how you evaluate a new article?
I look for stories in many different places: Twitter, support forums, Slack meetings, Facebook groups, Reddit, changelogs, newsletters, and our contact form, to name a few. I try to capture what’s bubbling up to public attention. Instinct and discretion play a major role in story selection, and there are times when I feel it’s important to introduce certain topics or stories that might otherwise not make it to the forefront.
I believe in the power of friction to refine projects, businesses, and communities. Sometimes these are uncomfortable discussions. Embracing friction as a positive force can help you successfully navigate critical feedback and make a better product.
2. Have you found a particular challenge with all of the acquisition news happening lately? Anything you’d like to see WP companies do to help get the word out?
I’m enjoying all the acquisition activity in the WordPress space. It keeps things interesting, and I think readers depend on us to keep up with it all. Most users don’t follow all their favorite plugins on Twitter and often miss the news about changes in ownership, so news articles are important here.
My advice to companies that want to get the word out: make sure your announcement addresses every possible concern your users might have. Write that announcement for them, not to pat everyone on the back. I guarantee your users are more concerned about pricing and support changes for the product you just acquired than almost anything else.
3. How heavy is the crown as WordPress’ only true journalist? (and please comment on that) 🙂
WordPress has many journalists – not all of them are reporters. Many are podcasters, video producers, photographers, newsletter curators, users who decided to research something that frustrated them and wrote up a blog post with all the data. All of these types of journalism are important contributions to the larger picture. You may not think of yourself as a journalist but you are. 🙂
4. On a serious note, The WordPress Tavern is looked at as the “leading news source” by a good portion of the community. Is that a driver for the staff or just a distraction?
The Tavern is WordPress’ newspaper of record, in part because of its longevity but also because of the contributors’ commitment to faithfully capture what is happening in the WordPress world and beyond. It’s not only for the purpose of having this historical record but also for providing a place where people can participate in meaningful discussions, through giving interviews or comments.
5. Ethics. Short of “having to prove yourself” on Twitter from time to time, can you speak to how you evaluate writing critical pieces on Automattic, .com, .org, JetPack, etc?
The evaluation process is the same as if I were writing about any other large company or product. If it’s newsworthy, we will write about it. We serve the public interest first. News that affects larger numbers of users usually gets a higher priority, regardless of what type of news it is.
6. Is there any heavy involvement from Audrey Capital or Matt Mullenweg about the direction of the WordPress Tavern?
There is no heavy involvement from Audrey Capital or Matt. We have very basic editorial guidelines, such as not overtly promoting WordPress products that are not GPL-licensed, and there’s this thing about the Oxford comma, but that’s about it. 🙂
7. When did WP Tavern become WordPress Tavern; was I just not paying attention the whole time?
Where are you seeing this? Maybe our Site Title used to say that? I don’t think it was intentional.
8. Can you talk about any opportunities available for the community to contribute or to get their stories told?
We are always open to guest post contributions on WP Tavern and we will happily work with you to develop and edit your story, even if you don’t fancy yourself a writer or don’t speak English as your first language. If you have a story that needs to be told and you want to tell it in your voice, we will help you get it ready for publication.
Another way individuals can contribute to the news is by sending us tips or by speaking anonymously about something that needs to come to light. We always protect our sources and we need your help to stay connected throughout the community.
9. What can WordPress companies do better to approach you or other news outlets to get a fair shake in the weekly news?
Companies that have something interesting they are doing or creating can contact us anytime. We cannot always respond to everyone who contacts us due to the volume of emails we get. I find it very useful when a company can succinctly summarize what differentiates them from their competitors and how that ties into larger trends where they are deep in the trenches.
The more transparent you can be about your users and roadmap, the better. Many entrepreneurs want to know what it takes to succeed in the WordPress market and transparently sharing your story can be helpful for others. We don’t always have time to beta test your product or go through a 2-hour screencast of your new dashboard, so the ability to summarize the vital information that you are wanting to communicate is key.
10. Is the WordPress Tavern looking to hire any additional staff? If so, where’s the best place to connect?
I don’t think we are hiring additional full-time writers at this time, but Audrey Capital would be the place to inquire. When we had a vacancy two years ago, I wrote this role description for what we are looking for in terms of writing style: https://wptavern.com/write-for-wp-tavern. If that describes you, then I would love to make your acquaintance and start following your work.