What have you been up to lately?
I assume by “lately” you mean since leaving b5media a couple of years ago? If so, I’ve spent the last few years figuring out what I love, simplifying my life and balancing my career between agency life (PR/Marketing), startup life and book writing/speaking. These days that means I’m VP, Digital at OSL Marketing (a large agency in Toronto), as well as CEO at 23press and working on a book (Networking for Introverts). I’ve also recently become a big biker, my baby is a Yamaha FJR-1300 and she’s so pretty!
What is 23Press? What’s with the name?
Well in case it wasn’t clear from b5media and 76design, I have a minor thing for numbers in names. In the case of 23press, we’re focusing on blogging (press) for humans. And since humans have 23 chromosomes we thought it was a fun way to keep the name short while also making sure we stay focused on the people behind our products.
You said that 23Press makes blogging easier for regular humans. Any plans on taking in corporate accounts?
All of our products start off as consumer accounts. Once we’ve worked out the bugs, we extend them into our sales channels (partners, affiliates, etc). Eventually they all become enterprise/corporate tools. For example, Move That Blog allows you to move from one WordPress host to another; an activity that used to take 10 hours turns it into 10 minutes – kind of like photocopying your blog instead of worrying about exporting/importing content, moving/tweaking themes, reinstalling plugins, etc.
The enterprise version of that is a larger tool for hosts to allow them to allow new customers to move blogs over with one click – thus freeing people to move from bad hosts to great hosts without any pain at all!
So yes, we firmly believe if we’re making it easier and easier for people to do all the hard crap around blogging, part of that needs to be enterprises, partner accounts, and overall building an ecosystem to solve the problem permanently.
Why focus on WordPress? Any plans of expanding to other blogging platforms?
We absolutely plan on expanding all of our products to all platforms. There is no reason, for example, that Move That Blog couldn’t take your WordPress.com blog and move it to Tumblr or Posterous! We start with WordPress because we know it so well (myself and Terry Smith, the other cofounder, both have deep experience in the WordPress community from our b5media days) but also because there are so many active blogs out there.
But just because something is focused on WordPress, that doesn’t mean we are focused just on the WordPress world. As an example, Blog Liberator is our next product (you’re hearing it here first!) and the first version will allow you to take a MovableType or TypePad blog and move it to WordPress, complete with theme setup, plugin setup, etc so you can have a functioning blog in 10 minutes. Currently people are having to pay developers to do this, spend hours finding themes and plugins, etc. We figure if we can turn a 10 hour chore into a 10 minute tool, that we can help a lot of people make their blog completely portable.
Who is (are) your main competititors at 23Press?
We have three suites of tools. One dedicated to blog portability, setup and customization. One for performance, security and maintenance. And a third for tool/service recommendations and ensuring you don’t need to worry about any of the day to day management of your blog (unless you want to). Obviously some pieces of these have competitors. BackupPress, our backup product, has BackupBuddy and VaultPress as competitors. BackupBuddy is more expensive, slower and has serious security issues. VaultPress is awesome but is a bit too expensive for the average blogger (why pay more for backups each month than you’re paying for hosting?).
But when you look at the entire path from moving from another platform, through blog setup and customization to backups and integrating with external tools like SVN or analytics, there simply isn’t anything out there.
The biggest reason for that is that these are actually quite complex technical issues that we are working hard to wrap into a very simple user experience. Time will tell if we succeed, but we really do believe that you should be able to only ever worry about the Write screen in WordPress, never worry about security or performance and spend only a few minutes setting up or maintaining your blog. And everytime we save a new user time, another unicorn sheds a happy tear!
The issue on ‘blogging is dead’ is back. Is blogging dead?
Fundamentally, people will always create content, and other people will always curate content. We don’t really care, long term, whether you’re creating or curating, on WordPress or Tumblr, a professional blogger or a hobbyist. We simply want to make it as easy as possible so you can focus just on what you love instead of worrying about all the crap behind the scenes.
If not, when is it going to die?
I’m pretty sure there’s a William Wallace / Gandalf / Jean-Luc Picard moment in here somewhere, but I personally believe that having opened Pandora’s box in terms of letting anyone publish, curate or comment on anything that we aren’t going to be able to put that drive back in the box. It is simply in the human psyche to want to create and create again. We are simply hoping it is also in the human psyche to be a little bit lazy and want to avoid doing stuff that nobody actually enjoys.
Consider us the butler, maid, chef and groundskeeper for your content creation or curation. Doing the stuff you don’t want to do, so you can enjoy the stuff you love.
Do you miss running a blog network?
Hah, well I miss the people. That was really what made b5 so much fun. And the fun is what drove our success. As an outsider looking in (I no longer have any shares or any involvement in b5 at all), it seems like that fun has been lost; which really is such a shame.
Do I miss having to worry about 200 people’s individual egos, motivating them to write, measuring how much “value” they were creating, convincing advertisers to sell, and trying to keep investors away from the day to day of the company? No. But I absolutely miss the people, the problem solving and the sheer challenge of taking something that is just an idea and turning it into reality.
By the way, is blog network dead?
Gawd I hope not! I mean if it is, somebody forgot to tell AOL, SB Nation, Gawker, etc. I do believe, as I used to believe when I was at b5, that content must be focused on a goal, an audience and must be high quality. Because low quality content is simply too plentiful these days to build a business based on 50 word republished nonsense.
Should stupid people blog?
Well… They still let me, so…