Phew! 2020 is over. That was intense.
2020 was a difficult personal year for many of our team, with family members passing away, losing jobs, and enduring hard times.
Fortunately, the PublishPress business was a bright spot this year. Our team (Anderson, Kevin, Valentin, and myself) rallied together. And our customers were great – I feel like I should be adding many of your names here also.
Our goal is to help WordPress publishers succeed.
“Publishers” means anyone who is not a blogger. Publishers work in teams and carefully plan their content. This includes newspapers, magazines, universities and large companies.
Here are five steps we made to try and help WordPress publishers in 2020:
#1. Completed a new product lineup
Back in 2018, we made an acquisition that has taken us some time to absorb. We standardized the way all the plugins were structured (moving from Add-ons to Pro versions) and many of the plugins got new names.
We finished those changes in early 2020, with three new plugin launches:
The end result was six plugins, each with a Free and a Pro version. Every Free version is on WordPress.org and every Pro version is behind the paywall for PublishPress members. This image shows those six plugins:
#2. Acquired PublishPress Blocks and launched a theme
OK, so maybe our product line-up wasn't 100% complete 🙂
In the middle of 2020, we acquired a plugin called “Advanced Gutenberg”. It's a plugin that adds over 20 extra blocks to the Gutenberg interface, along with custom layouts, CSS styles, and permissions for blocks.
We renamed the plugin to “PublishPress Blocks”.
Until now, PublishPress has focused on the admin area of WordPress.
With PublishPress Blocks and a new PublishPress theme, we're also going to focus on the front-end. We'll keep improving PublishPress Blocks with a strong focus on publishers. So we'll add blocks that focus on content.
The blocks will also be closely integrated with a new PublishPress theme. That theme is now available in a beta version for members. It focuses on the needs of publishers and is optimized for sites that publish a lot of content.
#3. Moved to Github and started adding tests
Free versions of PublishPress plugins are now available on Github. PublishPress members can also get access to the repos for Pro versions of the plugins.
Anderson, one of our lead developers, has been working hard to improve test coverage to make our plugins more reliable. This has been possible thanks to wp-browser, which is a very helpful testing tool for WordPress.
Github Actions have been very helpful for setting up the tests, plus other checks such as for code style. Click here to see some example actions.
#4. Created a lot of tutorials
Some businesses are selling luxury or an attitude. If you sell high-end cars or clothes, your customers are buying how the product makes them feel.
PublishPress products are the opposite. Our customers are 100% here for practical reasons. Here are some typical examples:
- “I don't approve content updates from staff members.”
- “We want to make sure users can only edit one post each.”
- “We have multiple people as authors for each post, but WordPress only allows us to choose one.”
So we spent a lot of time this year working on the PublishPress documentation, including lots of how-to guides. Most of the guides are step-by-step tutorials with lots of screenshots.
The downside to this approach is that it can be a challenge to keep 100's of detailed articles up-to-date. One small UI change inside a plugin can require updates to dozens of docs.
The documentation is largely driven by you. Customer user questions are definitely the most common source of new ideas.
#5. Interviews and publisher reviews
In addition to the practical, how-to guides, we wrote about publishing in general.
We all know that local newspapers are in trouble. But there are also positive signs: if you look carefully, we're seeing many fresh, independent media projects. And most of them are using WordPress. It provides a reliable publishing platform at an affordable price.
Here some example articles from this year:
- In Canada, their new journalism also runs on WordPress.
- In the USA, WordPress is powering a renaissance in local news. The Knight Foundation is paying 24 newsrooms to upgrade their websites and 20 choose WordPress.
We featured some specific publishers:
We also ran some interviews on environmental issues, including Yanir from Automattic talking about how they are reducing carbon emissions from their thousands of servers.
I'll be honest: none of these topics really resonated with people. We did manage to get a good number of retweets from Matt Mullenweg, but apart from that, the posts didn't drive traffic, let alone increase sales. Is it still worth covering these topics and trying to build an audience? We'll have to think about that for 2021.
So did all that hard work lead to more revenue?
Yes: almost all the key metrics at PublishPress grew by 100% this year.
Traffic to PublishPress.com doubled, rising from 102,750 sessions in 2019 to 201,192 sessions this year.
Our revenue doubled from around $60,000 in 2019 to $125,000 in 2020. This chart below shows our revenue growth year-on-year. So if the growth in September is 100%, that means our revenue in September 2020 was double our revenue in 2019.
COVID-19 definitely had an impact – we saw a big slowdown in growth during March and April.
Even though revenue grew much faster in some months than others, customer growth was very steady. This chart below shows customer growth since early 2019. We almost exactly doubled our customer base this year, starting with 742 customers and ending with 1492.
Realistically, although our metrics doubled, none of these numbers are big yet. Only 18 months ago, PublishPress was just a side-project, and we still have a lot of work ahead of us.
Roadmap for 2021
PublishPress users will soon be able to download everything they need for a powerful publishing setup:
- Plugins to manage your publishing workflow in the WordPress admin.
- Gutenberg blocks to make your content look great.
- A theme that is designed for publishers and comes with excellent support for Gutenberg and the PublishPress plugins.
We really believe that Phase 3 of the Gutenberg project is going to bring awesome benefits for WordPress publishers. Phase 3 is due to start in 2022 and may bring collaborative editing, dynamic comments on posts, and more.
Gutenberg fits in with our vision of making WordPress the best choice for publishers. For that reason, we're building the future of PublishPress around Gutenberg and the PublishPress Blocks plugin.
Thanks so much for using the PublishPress plugins. We'd love to hear your ideas for how to make WordPress publishing better.