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WordPress Media Corps — you might even chuckle when you hear the phrase.

This experimental initiative is a team that replaced the WordPress Marketing Team. Not commercial WordPress, mind you, but the open source dot org side of the house. If you’ve been following me for any amount of time, you don’t need me to spell out how important this initiative could be.

A chance to legitimize the work only a handful of people across the entire globe have dedicated their professional careers towards — myself included.

Before we dive deeper into what the Media Corps could accomplish, lets take a look at the outgoing struggles with the Marketing team:

How could a volunteer-lead marketing team accomplish the fundamental responsibilities of marketing with no access to website traffic data, survey results, or have a stake in the product? That’s right, it’s nearly impossible.

I know some of the people that were leading the charge with that effort, and lead it with great care and intention — but they were handcuffed. Lets face it: Open source WordPress doesn’t function like a commercial product, because it isn’t, which is why it has succeeded.

Marketing has to come organically. With no budget or access, you’re basically building out tasks for a team to accomplish. Tick the box, keep moving, but don’t you dare critically think about how you can impact the brand sentiment of WordPress.

In my previous post, Who is Responsible for WordPress Marketing, I reported on the Media Corps initiative stating that I’d reserve my opinion until I saw the process mature a bit more. Consider the rest of this my reaction as the dust settles on the Media Corps contributor kickoff call.

A North Star I’ve been following is how do we keep WordPress thriving?

This was a call to action put out by Josepha Haden Chomphosy, Executive Director of WordPress in the State of the Word 2023. It’s recognized that in order for WordPress to escape a growth plateau, that the community needs to go beyond code quality and features. Humans need to recognize WordPress core worth, importance, and benefits for the greater open web. Simply put: People need to recommend WordPress more.

If you can’t do it with a volunteer marketing team, forge a bond with the people that have been the biggest cheerleaders for WordPress — WordPress Media.

But this is open source WordPress, why do we need an official team to wrangle the media? What even is WordPress Media?

I’ve been covering WordPress for well over 10 years and whenever I needed anything, I reached out to the person and asked. If dot org was releasing something new, I read about it, decided if it was newsworthy for my audience, and then reported on it or shared my opinion.

Yes, something like the WordPress Media Corps helps galvanize the work I’ve been doing here at the WP Minute and my previous podcast Matt Report, but the approach has been opaque at best.

Starting with the initial WordPress Media Kick Off Call.

Based on the call to action to comment if you want to be involved from the Initial Roadmap post, I was under the impression that the kickoff call was going to include media folk and the contributing team. I wasn’t alone on that assumption, check the comments.

The kickoff commenced in a private call with the contributing team — and Bob Dunn founder of Do the Woo, who somehow found himself with the “Media Liaison” title.

record scratches.

Where did that come from? Was it voted on? Did WordPress media folks put Bob’s name in a hat? I have nothing against Bob, everyone loves Bob, he oversees some solid content that helps WordPress thrive. That said, this was the Media Corps first shot at launching a meeting and threw transparency out of the window.

We’ll get to the Media Corps media partnership requirements in a minute, so hold that thought, but there’s another issue at hand that I’ve talked about ad nauseam: “WordPress media” is tiny, impossible to turn into a sustainable business, and largely depends on in-kind sponsorships that genuinely see value in this type of content existing.

That’s if you define WordPress media like we do at The WP Minute versus what WP Beginner would publish. Remember: The Media Corps team still hasn’t released how they will definitively define this.

One only needs to look at the lack of effort to turn around the WP Tavern to see the proverbial proof in the pudding. I do this work because I love WordPress and because I think people should be informed on certain topics on the most widely used web publishing software.

Do the Woo and WP Minute both jockey for those in-kind sponsors to keep us afloat. To help pay our writers, production teams, and other overhead. To be included in the Media Corps kickoff call is the equivalent to the Theme Team holding a private meeting to change how themes get included and only inviting Sujay Pawar to the Zoom call.

But that’s just my opinion, which is also my self-imposed job to analyze these community events. I’ll reiterate: nothing against Bob, it’s just the media business. Brand and trust are really the only things we have — and it goes both ways.

This isn’t the only time I’ve seen favoritism play out in WordPress media. I recall my team being rejected as a Media Partner for WordCamp Europe 2023, while I sat back and saw other brands have their logos added to the website with barely a peep out of them on social media or blog posts covering the event.

WordPress media is a perfect storm: There’s only 10,000 English speaking people in the world that actually care about this type of content, 8 people in the world (myself included) who actually care about covering it, and so few people that know the brands like WP Minute and The Repository who tirelessly cover it. I miss Sarah Gooding.

There’s only a handful of WP Media types, as I see it:

  • Independent WordPress news sites
  • Paper of record, The WP Tavern
  • General WordPress tutorial and information blogs, podcasts, and YouTube channels
  • People that do it for funsies
  • People that do it because their company tells them to blog about WordPress

Which brings me to the current Media Corps’ requirements on how they are evaluating us:

  • Have a focus on producing content that is at least 80% about WordPress
  • Report factual news or produce relevant educational content
  • Maintain high standards of content quality/journalism
  • Adhere to WordPress community guidelines
  • Respect information sensitivities (if any)

Have you ever come across fake WordPress news? Who decides what the standards of content quality and journalism are? I mean, I lost that WordCamp media partnership slot to a tech YouTuber and I know I barely passed high school, so maybe I won’t cut it?

There will be another debate: Report news OR relevant educational content. There’s a huge gap in scrutiny and body of work (possibly ethics) when you put tutorial brands on the same level as news sites.

Hopefully you see the tug of war here: A small group of people being held to high levels of quality & standards, serving a tiny audience, for very little income, in an oversaturated space of link sharing emails, wrapped in a big capital “M” Media blanket.

What do I want to see come from this?

Aside from feeling validated, I’m happy to have a more refined process for getting updates about WordPress releases or features.

I would like to see a more concrete definition of “WordPress journalism.”

It would be great to get recognition as WordCamp Media partners if you’re already a Media Corps Partner.

A process to be heard up channel, back to WordPress the software and leadership teams, based on what we’re seeing from our audiences.

I don’t like that the “experiment label” is being slapped on this. It’s too easily used as an “out” if this whole thing doesn’t work. It’s also a way to bulldoze some of the voices that have legitimate concerns or have unique ways of contributing to media.

Almost like an internship for volunteers to do marketing. Where have I seen this movie before?

We need more folks covering WordPress news — we need the Tavern back. We need WordPress thriving so that it continues to grow.

In the end, I’m hopeful for this team and effort to flourish, with or without the WP Minute’s involvement. We’ll see how this shapes up because I know that I would do this without an official team or badge or qualification matrix or someone saying that my work is worthy enough to be included.

Go open source and keep WordPress thriving!

Oh, and, Happy Birthday WordPress!

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