PublishPress 2021 Review and Thank You
In 2018, we launched PublishPress.com as a side-project. In 2019, PublishPress was growing quickly and we began to see it as a project with real potential. So at the end of that year, we started to write year-end reviews. You can read previous reviews for 2019 and 2020.
- These reviews are for our customers. Thank you for all your investment in our work. I hope the reviews help you get a better understanding of our vision for these plugins.
- The reviews are for business owners. We try to be honest about the ups-and-downs in the hope that you can avoid some of the mistakes we've made!
- And finally, the reviews are for us. We pour many hours of our lives into building these plugins. It's easy to forget key incidents as you do the daily work. And as the years go by, it's great to look back on these reviews and remember the rollercoaster ride.
Here's our recap of key events for PublishPress in 2021.
We Acquired Two More Plugins: Future and Series
PublishPress Future: In May, we acquired the Post Expirator plugin which allows you to choose an “expire” date for WordPress content. In November, the plugin got a new name: PublishPress Future. We took a long time to make changes with this plugin, moving slowly to develop a relationship with the 100,000 users and listen to their requests. It took six months before we changed the name, and it may take a while longer before we release a Pro version. Anderson on our team has been working hard to update some of the older code in Future and prepare it for major improvements in 2022.
PublishPress Series: In July, we “donacquired” the Organize Series plugin. This plugin helps you collect WordPress content together into a series. This is ideal for magazines, newspapers, short-story writers, teachers, comic artists, or anyone who writes multiple posts on the same topic. Yes, “donacquired” sounds like a strange word to use, and it reflects the unusual acquisition process. Darren Ethier had maintained the plugin for 14 years, but was looking for a new owner after he joined Automattic. Darren put out a call for interested parties in the Post Status Slack channel. We talked with Darren, and realized that his goals for the plugin aligned well with ours at PublishPress. Darren asked us to make a charitable donation as part of the handover. We chose the American Journalism Project (TheAJP.org). Over 2,100 communities in the U.S. have lost their local newspaper since 2004. The AJP is trying to reverse that trend.
This image shows our current product line-up with 9 plugins. All of them have both a Free and Pro version, with the exception of Future.
Many New Features in PublishPress Capabilities
With over 100,000 installs, PublishPress Capabilities is our most popular plugin. During 2021, due to the wonderful work of Olawale and Kevin on our team, we added six major new screens to the plugin:
- Roles: One location to manage all the roles on your site. Read more.
- Editor Features: You can hide elements on the post editing screen. Read more.
- Admin Features: This enables you to hide anything in the admin area. Read more.
- Admin Menus: You can remove any menu link from the WordPress admin menu. Read more.
- Nav Menus: This feature can control access to frontend menus. Read more.
- Backup: The plugin will automatically save a backup whenever you make changes. Read more.
There was also a major redesign of the main “Capabilities” screen. In previous versions, the number of options was overwhelming on busy websites. The “Capabilities” screen now has a new vertical tabs design thanks to Valentin and Olawale. We've added the tabs, plus also filters and search boxes. We hope this makes it easier to find the settings you need to change.
PublishPress Capabilities is our flagship plugin. Even after a busy 2021, we have an even more expansive roadmap for 2022. I hope we'll be able write our next year-end review and report that PublishPress Capabilities has enjoyed another major overhaul.
A Major Rewrite for PublishPress Revisions
PublishPress Revisions is the plugin that allows you to safely make changes to WordPress posts. You can edit a post and submit those changes for feedback and approval, before it goes live on your site. It's also possible to schedule those changes to go live on a future date.
However, early in 2021, we found ourselves running into a lot of roadblocks, particularly with page-builders. We realized that PublishPress Revisions needed substantial changes.
Version 3 of PublishPress Revisions took months of work and produced a complete overhaul of how the plugin works. It provides an excellent basis for improvements in 2022. Click here for a full overview of Revisions 3. Kudos to Kevin for leading these updates to Revisions.
PublishPress Revenue Grew by 78%
In 2020, almost all the key metrics at PublishPress grew by 100%. This year, our growth was higher when you look at the actual numbers, but it was lower in percentage terms.
- Revenue grew from $125,000 to $223,000 in 2021. That's an increase of 78%.
- Customers grew from 1,492 to 2,225 at the end of 2021. That's an increase of 49%.
- Free plugin installs grew from 136,000 to 260,000. That's an increase of 90%.
This chart below shows our monthly revenue since we launched the first plugin as a side-project in 2018. This summer, PublishPress officially graduated from being a side-project and is now its own company (PublishPress LLC) incorporated in Florida. Our small side-project is now all grown-up, with it's own bank accounts, taxes, and payroll.
Areas That Need Improvement
If you sat me down with a coffee or beer, I could probably bend your ear for hours about all the things I could do better as the CEO of PublishPress. Here are three key areas I'm focused on improving next year:
#1. Security: In early December, there was a security issue found in PublishPress Capabilities. This was the first serious issue we've had, and it revealed some weaknesses in our processes. So we've spent a lot of time working out how to get better with regular releases and security releases. Over the last few weeks, we've also been doing complete audits on all our plugins. In January, there have been updates to almost all our plugins. These don't have new features, but do have a lot of code clean-up.
#2. Tutorials: Much of the early growth at PublishPress was driven by SEO. I wrote tutorials for almost every customer request and they soon become our #1 source of new purchases. I also made a lot of YouTube videos. But early in 2021, I burned out and stopped creating new content. As a result, our traffic actually dropped a little. I need to either start writing how-to guides again, or find someone to do it for us.
#3. More staff: When you're a small company growing quickly, it can be hard to add the right staff at the right time. As the CEO, I messed this up in 2021. We added one new developer (welcome, Olawale!) but it should have been more. Our team supports nine plugins now and were stretched too thin at the end of the year. My priority is to expand our team early in 2022. If you want to work with us, in development, support, or content, send me an email.
Thanks so much for using the PublishPress plugins, whether you are one of the 2,200 paying customers, or one of the 260,000 users of the free plugins.
It's a pleasure to see the work that so many of you are doing. There really is a world of strong, innovative and successful publishers using WordPress. You can follow our #wordpresspublishers hashtag on Twitter and Facebook to get daily examples.
If you have any ideas for how to improve the PublishPress plugins, let us know in the comments below, or send us an email.
I so appreciate the transparency of PublishPress 👍🏽
Thanks Joe. I hope it gives people a bit of insight into how WordPress businesses run and who is helping them. It’s often 5 or 6 people working hard.
Thanks for the rundown it’s always great to see when people are honest about their successes and struggles. One thing I would LOVE to see for 2022 is for you guys to focus on performance improvements with your plugins, we’ve had numerous issues when using your plugins because we have a huge number of writers and your plugins often bog down when trying to handle that volume.
Thanks D. Is there one or more specific plugins that you want us to target for performance improvements? And can give us an idea of how many writers you have so we can test?
Absolutely love the self-reflection, written to share with your customers. It’s been a great ride and looking forward to the future!
Thanks Kristopher. This approach was nerve-wracking (and still is) but I’ve found value in admitting mistakes. It helps attract the people and customers that are good to work with.
Christopher di Armani
Steve, thank you for your great products and your openness about the good as well as “the bad” of the past year. It’s emblematic of the integrity for which I’ve come to value about you personally and PublishPress as a company.
I hope this year is your best yet. 🙂
Christopher di Armani
Thanks for the kind words, Christopher. I hope 2022 is a success for you also.