I attended my first WordCamp in Leiden (Netherlands) with Max for SkyVerge / Sell with WP and spent some time reflecting on our experiences. After spending a weekend at the conference, I think my favorite talk was delivered by Vitaly Friedman of Smashing Mag. He delivered a brief history of the magazine’s development, and provided some poignant tips for developing a business using WordPress.
First, Vitaly talked about Smashing Mag’s beginnings as a resource for developers rather than necessarily being launched as a magazine. The goal was essentially to provide high quality content that he himself would be able to use for future projects, and to share these resources with readers. As a result, Smashing Mag grew to the point where it was profitable within its first year. To make a long story short, there were points in the magazine’s history where this wasn’t the main goal, and traffic ballooned, but was not quality traffic.
The best part about this talk for me was that it focused on how to develop an online resource, which is my goal for Sell with WP. The main lessons I learned from his experiences: Traffic is not just traffic; the goal of the site should be quality traffic. Determine who you want to share your message with, and make sure your site meets their needs. If you have a small, engaged following, this will be infinitely better than a huge following that’s not engaged in your community. Second, do not compromise. If you have an editorial policy, and articles do not meet that policy, get rid of them. Don’t change your values in order to get more authors, or get engagement. Third, make sure everyone gets paid. Quality content is expensive, and ensuring that authors, proofreaders, and editors get paid ensures that your quality standards are maintained.
This was a great talk on growing a WordPress business, and making sure that your product meets the needs of the community, but also your personal standards. It forced me to think about what I want for Sell with WP (quality traffic that provides good resources and information for the eCommerce space in WordPress) and to focus on content that specifically meets those goals without sacrificing quality. My long term goal is to monetize the site, so while I know I can’t meet the “everybody gets paid” mantra yet, I’m looking to find other ways to thank guest posters and then meet this goal in the future.