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 wordpress.com 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 WordPress.com, 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.

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