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Where WordPress is headed: Longform content, curation and maybe even native ads

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WordPress is a content company, CEO Matt Mullenweg stressed in a panel Saturday at SXSW Interactive — and longform content is an area that the company is especially interested in. That could include native ads.

“All the stuff that’s done really well on mobile has been incredibly short form and easily scannable,” Mullenweg told AllThingsD’s Kara Swisher. “I think there’s a space … to sit down and read something longer than a couple of seconds. Rather than the coffee line experience, what’s the sitting-down-in-the-back experience? We’re going to keep experimenting.”

Mullenweg said that the average post on WordPress is 280 words long, and that’s remained “relatively constant” over the past few years. “Certain ideas need to be expressed and they just need more than 140 characters,” he said.

WordPress is taking steps to surface more of its users’ content. “We’ve been working a lot on to create an interesting reading experience,” he said. The site’s “Freshly Pressed” feed surfaces content from across users’ blogs. “You’ll see a lot more longform content and a lot more galleries [on the feed],” Mullenweg said, and traffic to that feed has grown by double digits in the past couple of months.

When Swisher noted that WordPress doesn’t link its users’ blogs together — suggesting what else to read if you liked a certain post, say — Mullenweg answered that “we’re really excited about starting to do that.”

And while Mullenweg criticized many forms of digital advertising — “print ads are still infinitely better” — he suggested that WordPress might look at offering more native advertising options. WordPress would consider a partnership with a company offering native ad units, he said, if it’s “something really compelling that doesn’t make readers block it…Native advertising is the most interesting thing I’ve seen. At the point where advertising becomes as good as the content that surrounds it, I will applaud it.”

Disclosure: Automattic, maker of, is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, GigaOm. Om Malik, founder of GigaOm, is also a venture partner at True.

11 Responses to “Where WordPress is headed: Longform content, curation and maybe even native ads”

  1. Interesting, but I was a little surprised to learn the average WP post is only 280 words. Mine tend to be 600-900. I’m a huge fan of WordPress – it’s always maintained integrity.

  2. As most of my blog posts are 300 words, I find encouragement that the average length is 280 words on WordPress. Many syndicated columns are 600-800 words, and I’ve thought about trying to write longer, but then I feel like I’m trying to fill up space. 300 words has been a magic spot for me.

  3. Rich Ullman

    @mimof I think there are plenty of web-based services executives who believe this. The user experience of full page print advertising in a long form magazine (Vanity Fair, The Atlantic etc) still provides much more impact without being annoying than the traditional banner unit… and many more examples that clutter the screens we look at all day long.

    We could likely parse his comment and over-analyze examples of better/worse, but this is what’s driving so much innovation and experimentation in “native” and other examples. The banner was a nice standard for Netscape 1.0, but that was a long time ago. :)

  4. @mimof I think that Mullenweg just doesn’t see advertising as a big part of WordPress’s mission. When Swisher asked him if he thinks the company will innovate in the digital advertising space, he said, “It’s not core to our DNA. We’re not an advertising company, we’re a publishing company.”

  5. Maybe I’ve mis-read this…..

    “And while Mullenweg criticized many forms of digital advertising — “print ads are still infinitely better” — he suggested that WordPress might look”

    …. But how it is possible to have a CEO of a web-based service company who thinks print ads are still better???!!

    • Thing is, digital advertising has never been as successful as print advertising. Thing is we are going about the whole thing wrong. Recommend you watch a video of David Sleight from Rebuild Conf in 2011. There’s still a WHOLE LOT more potential for advertising on the web. We are just not going about it right and the future holds the key.

  6. People still want to read good writing by people who have something to say. We don’t want everything bite-sized like the commercial news services which are so common now.
    The wordpress community is not just keen to write but keen to read and ‘curating’ posts and other material is certainly something you see bloggers doing to enrich their material.
    I don’t know whether wordpress develops any physical publications – but some curation of – ‘a year on the press’ or similar could also be a great read / visual document.

  7. WordPress is awesome, their site is great and they’re a free/open source software company. I’m really impressed that they’re staying true to their values and not worrying about the fact that their software isn’t proprietary but instead delivering a better experience.

    Can’t wait to start reading it instead of facebook/twitter/g+ feeds.