If you have ever wondering what it is like moving from one of the other open source platforms to WordPress, Steve Burge and Victor Drover have you covered. And there is a lot more than just the technical differences. The entire ecosystem and community can be similar in ways, but in other instances, it's like comparing apples with oranges.
Highlights of the chat with Victor and Steve
- Their journeys in open source [01:59]
- The similarities across open-source projects [06:25]
- Getting hooked deeply into the platform [08:41]
- The comfort level [10:40]
- WordPress events and networking and breaking into that market [12:35]
- The different platforms attempts at going online [17:35]
- The money, the scale and the opportunities [20:51]
- Moving to WordPress and selling your products to a new community [28:50]
- Switching or offering a platform [34:35]
- The platforms and their trademarks [39:16]
- WordPress as a bigger ecosystem and the differences in sponsorship opportunities [40:00]
- A core ecosystem difference between a WordPress versus Joomla [45:25]
- Switching a CMS or platform is like a new startup [51:10]
The kinds of things you're seeing are more from the big brands, the big names that you hear GE, Apple, all those things. WordPress is definitely up there. Joomla is not there anymore, that's for sure. It's an Internet thing in general, right that the winners tend to win massively. There tends to be one winner in each category. In e-commerce, online shopping, it was Amazon, in CMSs it was WordPress.
BobWP: Hey, BobWP here and welcome to Do the Woo, the WooCommerce builder podcast, episode 167.. This show is brought to you by IconicWP and their new restaurant plugin, Orderable and Mindsize, for the perfomance boost on your clients site. So let's join co-hosts Robbie Adair and Robert Jacobi as they dive into another WooBizChat."
Robbie: I'm Robbie Adair your host. Today, we're going to talk about an interesting topic we've think and that is moving from one open-source world and coming into the WordPress world as a business person. Some of the challenges, some of the successes. And my cohost Robert is going to introduce our guests today.
Robert: Thank you, Robbie. We are today, and I'm quite thrilled because I haven't seen or heard from these folks in a while. Victor Drover from Watchful, and Steve Burge from PublishPress. So welcome to the show, folks.
Steve: Hey, Robbie, Robert.
Victor: Hey, guys. Thanks for having us.
Robbie: Yeah, absolutely. So we're going to kick off here. And first of all, just kind of let our audience know your background. And we'll start with Steve like what open-source products did you work in? And when did you decide to start venturing over into the WordPress world?
Their journeys in open source [01:59]
Steve: Well, my story is pretty closely connected to yours, Robbie, and also to Robert and Vic, as well. We've known each of us in this room for 15, 16 years or so. And I started the business which you now run over when I was training. I was a middle school teacher for several years, before realizing I couldn't make enough money as a middle school teacher. And I started a training business called OSTraining. And we focused on teaching people how to use open source because it wasn't that easy to use. It's not that easy to use now quite often, but back in 2006 2007, some of the products like WordPress and Joomla, and Drupal were really pretty complex and difficult to use. So we wrote books and did videos. And full disclosure, we ended up handing the business over to you a couple years ago.
Robbie: Yeah, thank you. That's great. But then you went into the extension world, right, both Joomla and WordPress.
Steve: Yeah, we did over the years, we've dabbled in doing themes and templates. We've dabbled in doing training. We've dabbled in SaaS services. But we've found that for the open-source market, the extensions in Joomla and the plugins in WordPress are a sweet spot of sorts. People find them easy to find because they're on the WordPress repo, easy to install, easy to set up. And they're much better when it comes to recurring revenue, too. So over the years, we've drifted in that direction towards more plugins, more software.
Robbie: Awesome. And, Victor, give us a little background on yourself.
Victor: Yeah, not surprisingly, we've got lots of interconnections. But my start was kind of like Steven in education and research. So I did, jeez, a lot of training in the field of biochemistry and was a professor in that field when I moved from Canada to the US back in 2002. But during all that long training, and hours in graduate school and stuff, I was barely scratching my own itch, we needed a website for our sports team decided to try out a few platforms, and eventually settled on Joomla at the time, it was a lot more feature-rich than many of the other solutions. And of course, for sports team, you need a calendar. So this is where Steve will come into this angle pretty quick.
Steve: You've sold a business to me and I sold a business to Robbie. Robert, are you in here somewhere? Have sold a business to one of the others in the room?
Victor: Rob sent me a pizza once because he lost a bet on the Packers versus the Bears.
Victor: That's maybe the only thing we've exchanged.
Robert: Sent you all a lot of love throughout the years.
Victor: Oh, of course, of course. So we were using this open-source calendar, no one was maintaining it, a bunch of security issues happened. And I have my own private little personal repo using Notepad+ or something, whatever it was back in the day, where I would just keep the bug fixes in it. And eventually, people needed it because the developer had gone away. We turned it into an extension for the Joomla site that I was building.
And we sold extensions for many years. I partnered with lots of people in the Joomla world doing that. But I always had a few WordPress sites because I like using WordPress, but I didn't have a business in that area. Sold that calendar solution to Steve few years, many years back, now, Steve, I'm losing track, and moved into the services world with site management. And that's what the Watchful is, it's a site management tool. And it was strictly Joomla for the first four years.
And because I had these other WordPress sites, I'd started building some more sites with WordPress, the power of WordPress and the flexibility have really increased over the years and so. I wanted to personally use it, the market was growing. So we started supporting WordPress for that remote management tool alongside Joomla sites. And so that's kind of the short way in which kind of I found myself in the Joomla world. For work, I left my professorship started doing websites, website management full time. And, yeah, and here we are today, I guess, what, 15 years later, like Steve said.
The similarities across open-source projects [06:25]
Robert: There's so many things. And I think we should start with, what are the similarities across open-source projects that make it easy to either be multi-project focused or multi-project ability versus single-project focused? I'm going to pick on Vic for this one because Watchful, as Sass product, is compatible with multiple platforms. So how do you... Where are the similarities? So if people are looking to expand their businesses into another open-source project into WordPress and WooCommerce, that they can actually be like, "Okay, this stuff is kind of already... I don't have to stress out as much about it."
Victor: Yeah, I think people who build websites for a living, not developers, necessarily, but also some developers, I think they get stuck on what things are called. And they think that things are incredibly different. So they offered Joomla people say, "Oh, you can't easily do overrides in WordPress." And that's obviously not true. And then I've heard people in Joomla, say, "Where am I going to put these modules?" And these are just widgets in WordPress.
There's so many similarities in how these sites are built and put together. It was maybe some slightly different approaches and different frameworks, obviously, different design patterns in coding standards. But I actually see many of the themes. I see more similarities. When I'm trying to talk to somebody in one CMS about another one, I say, "Oh, you're familiar with this? Oh, yeah. It's just like doing that, but it's in a different menu place, perhaps." I see many, many similarities in the technology, and how these sites are built, and how they're maintained.
And I see tons and tons and tons of similarity in the people. There's a lot of overlap in that open-source sharing, there's a free side to it, there's a cost-consciousness to it. So if you ask me about similarities, I think there are many, many more similarities and differences. But in general, if people have a system, they'd like to stick with their system, they know their system, getting their mind to expand and try something different tends to be the bigger challenge than actually teaching them the differences, which I think are more smaller than the similarities.
Getting hooked deeply into the platform [08:41]
Steve: Yeah, there's a flip side to what you said there, Vic. Although the platforms themselves are very similar, and maybe just have tiny terminology changes, people seem to be deeply hooked into one or the other. It's like, we have a group that loves bananas, and another group that loves apples, and another group that loves oranges, and really, they're fruits and they're full of vitamins, and they're good for you. But try and persuade someone to move from eating bananas to eating apples. And they're like, "No, I've been eating bananas for 17 years, I'm not going to change." And despite all the similarities, we've found very little overlap between the actual people that use the platforms unless it's at the agency level. I think agencies really quite comfortable flipping between different technologies in most cases, but the end-users, and a lot of the product people very stuck in their ways, often in. They chose a platform back in 2006 or 2007, and they're still writing it now 14, 15 years later.
Robbie: I totally agree with that, Steve.
Robert: Is that just because of workflows or that are somehow wedded beyond just the tools they're using, they want to only use a chef's knife versus, a Santoku just because that's all they've ever used?
Steve: These communities are so much more than just the technology. We can say that the technologies that underlie them are similar. They use the GPL, their PHP, their MySQL, perhaps very similar standards. But once someone has been in one of the platforms for a couple of years, they make friends, they know where to go for the news, they know where to find things. They make these deeper connections. And particularly, if you're a professional, once you've been in it for a few years, you have an entire network of friends on a particular platform, and that becomes very difficult to leave.
The comfort level [10:40]
Robert: But for the end-user, that community is going to matter significantly less if at all. I mean, think of the fact that half the Internet, plus or minus is being run by WordPress. Trust me, even at the biggest WordCamp, you don't see 100 million people show up. So does that even really matter?
Steve: Maybe a little bit less but at the same time they get comfortable with things they have a certain workflow when the end-user, it's about productivity. And the sheer loss of productivity that comes from moving platform is enough of an obstacle to stop people moving.
Victor: Yeah, I just kind of build on that a little. I mean, if you look at just even within WordPress, I know we've got a couple topics we want to chat about. But getting people to migrate to Gutenberg, and users, that's going to be a problem still, WordPress. We know it's a problem. We know that migration is extremely slow. We've had a couple other large influencers in the WordPress community, kind of publicly make the migration and said, "Oh, I hate it at first and now I love it." And you see that. But by and large, the end-users really love the classic editor, and they're not migrating very quickly. So I think it's a similar kind of analogy. If you like calling your software add-on, for your CMS, a plugin, don't you dare call it an extension because it's a plugin. And that's the only thing I want to call it.
Robbie: Some people do get upset about their terminology. It is true. And I slip up all the time because I'm cross-platform. So you just forget and say the wrong word. And you're like, "Oh, I meant plugin or, oops, I meant extension. Yeah." So I'm glad that Vicky first brought up the communities. Communities, obviously, are the backbones in these open-source product, as far as, I'll call it, for your marketing and your network, the communities are extremely important.
WordPress events and networking and breaking into that market [12:35]
And I think we could dig a little bit deeper into marketing after this. But let's first talk about networking. Because there are, again, similarities, right? I mean, there are conferences, and then local meetings and things like that. Because Robert and I know, that's how we all met is all of the in-person meetings for Joomla over the years. And then we again saw each other at WordPress events. And so did you find that the WordPress events were key for you breaking over into that market?
Steve: Yeah, 100%, they helped me meet people, understand the terminology, get more comfortable with things. I'm done in Florida. And so there was a time back when WordCamps pre-COVID were more popular when you could easily hit five or six pretty big WordCamps from down here in Florida, maybe three in Florida, there was, I think, one in Tampa, Orlando, there'd be one in Jacksonville, a huge one in Miami. And then within a few hours, you could be in Atlanta or maybe at Birmingham, the sheer scale and popularity of the WordCamp events pre-COVID suddenly made it a lot easier to get into the WordPress community.
Victor: Having come a little later than Steve, while COVID kind of hit kind of as we were about a year after we kind of started breaking in. But just from a personal experience, I would say that I felt a little intimidated to go to... And we haven't started talking about challenges yet. But to go to a new community and try and break, not break in but kind of break the ice, I found myself a little out of practice because you go to a Joomla conference or as Steven I go, we know probably half the people there, if not more, most of the speakers, probably were speaking, probably were sponsoring, we're more well-known there. And you go to another space where you're not as well known. And I actually just want to share that. I don't mind telling you as I just felt kind of intimidating.
So I think it's slowed my approach. I've had better success, I think... Not success. Since COVID struck and I've been more comfortable going one-on-one with developers or other people that I want to connect within the community to make those relationships and relied on people like yourselves in this room and my other friends and colleagues, Mike Demo, for example, folks who can kind of make that initial introduction. And so I think I've done more of that, especially in the last 18 months because of COVID on video calls. So I'm kind of looking forward. Now that I have a few folks that I can stop and have a coffee with and I know their name and they know who I am. I feel that, not nearly as intimidated, if you will, to go to those conferences and try and make your mark or become a little more well-known or just network a little better.
Robbie: That's funny, Vic,.At the Joomla events, we all knew each other and so it made it very comfortable. But I do remember one time I had a client who came and they felt intimidated because they didn't know everybody. So they came into one of those of it. So I think it's the exact same experience that you had. Maybe we didn't notice it whenever they were coming in, you know what I'm saying? But the WordPress events are definitely there's a lot more of them, a lot more attendance like Steve was talking about. And so they're typically bigger as well and that is a little more intimidating when you don't know anyone to even shake hands with it. It does make it a little more difficult but all of the communities, I mean, all of the open-source communities I've been to, even though it's a little intimidating, I've never not felt welcome, as it were. And I think that's more an open-source feel to me.
Victor: I agree 100%. Yeah.
Steve: If we're guessing how many WordCamps there are going to be next year, there maybe half a dozen in the US total, WordCamp Europe seems to be on. No word about WordCamp US but it probably going to be on, that's going to be a lot less opportunities to meet people in person. If someone is listening to this and is looking to move over from another community, then things like Slack, Facebook group, I know a few companies, like Post Status are experimenting with Twitter spaces, those kinds of things or they might actually be more effective in terms of meeting people. Because they tend to lean towards smaller groups, I think.
You join in someone's Twitter space or someone's Zoom, Hangout, you're looking at 15, 20 people max. It might actually be more effective than trying to hit up a big WordCamp back in the day when there were 500 people who all knew each other and wanted to catch up with their old friends. I think most of the advice that we had from several years ago is probably redundant now. I know, Robbie, you've done a pretty good job as a relatively new to WordPress to get invited to conferences and to become a podcast host here to focus on a lot of these online interactions.
The different platforms attempts at going online [17:35]
Robbie: But, Steve, I'm really glad that you did bring up. During COVID, all of these online events started happening. And, yes, we probably next year we're not going to be full force back in person, whether they're offered or whether people are comfortable either direction, I just think we're not going to be full force that is for sure. As well as there are actually where we had to look for silver linings, right? There were some good things that came out of these online events, like you said, it did make for some smaller events. I met a lot of people that I've never met in person that I have met in the WordPress world in the last COVID year and a half, or whatever it is. I keep saying they just meld it into one year to me and my brain. But, yeah, I've met a lot of people this way. And now I'm looking forward to the day I actually get to go and shake hands with them at an in-person event.
But, yeah, it has been very interesting. And it has been very active in the WordPress world, which I think is one of the reasons why, Steve, it was easy for me to hop in and just start participating. Because it's a really active community, even online, even in COVID. It's still very active. I do think that the influencers became more important, like you mentioned, Post Status, do the word podcast, things like this, the influencers became much more important to help get the word out there during this online crazy COVID time. And so I think that has been a good thing. And there was already an infrastructure there in this WordPress world that helped. Whereas I feel like some of the other open-source projects, it was a little harder hit on them trying to go into online events.
Victor: Robbie, your comment reminded me of a difference, Rob, you asked me about similarities earlier. One of the differences I noticed, especially in the last two years related to your influencer comment is that it seems to be a number of kind of the original WordPress OG's, I guess you call it, who either really have a very influential flip their early experience in WordPress in there, maybe that a popular extension or a popular blog or something like that or popular service, turn that into a really a career with a loud megaphone or a large audience or turned into some kind of continuing, ongoing paid consulting type situation. Or maybe just the paid influence online, I'm not sure.
I think that feels like there's a career in the WordPress world of influencing. And you can make a living doing that. I don't think that exists in Joomla that I know of, unless I just was not aware of these things. I would have never once said to myself, "Which influencer can I hire to help me promote my content?" That's never a thought that I've ever had in my life in Joomla, even when it was the second most or one of the most popular platforms online. Is that because of social media has changed? I'm not sure. But I mean, do you guys feel that's, right?
Robbie: Yeah. And it's not just Joomla, I think that is lacking in there. I think WordPress is actually open-source that it is kind of the leader in that space. I think it was there before COVID that's why it only strengthened during there. That's what I think. Robert, what do you think?
The money, the scale and the opportunities [20:51]
Robert: Do you think it's the scale of the community or the amount of money already sort of percolating through the community. I mean, because the WordPress community have Automattic, you have WP Engine you have a number of firms that are very, very WordPress-focused that are valued in the hundreds of millions to billions of dollars. And does that in and of itself create a totally different world for communication, for starting up a business in a specific platform? Is that one of the reasons you guys look to expand to another platform? I mean, both having started out in Joomla. So I guess there's a bunch of questions in there. But that my thinking around it is that there's just so much money involved that people will gravitate to it to figure out how to create new businesses and methods of marketing and communication.
Victor: The opportunities are massive.
Robbie: With that being said, though, the competition is harder. And I think this was Steve and I've had some conversations about that, too. You go in with a calendar plugin or calendar extension in Joomla world, you have less competition if you go in with a calendar plugin in WordPress, right? And so that kind of leads us into also how you marketed differently for this. And, Steve, like I said, we've talked about this in the past. Can you share with us your experiences with that?
Steve: Let me put some numbers on this specifically in the Joomla world. I counted them up the other day, there's probably 30 to 35 viable businesses still in the space, still making money. And one of the most successful ones with our Joomla. And if we end this year, growing 4% or 5%, year on year, I'd be happy. Because I know quite a few of those other businesses still in the space will shrink year on year. Whereas, we're growing probably our fastest-growing WordPress arm is PublishPress, which is a series of publishing plugins. And if we don't grow 100%, I'd be unhappy this year.
Robbie: Holy mackerel.
Steve: We're looking between a success in the Joomla world is being flat or up just a tiny minuscule year on year. Whereas success in the WordPress world, at the moment, as things are on a bull run, there's a lot of money floating around, as Robert says. The scale, the possibilities, the growth trajectories that you can be on in WordPress are just vastly greater at the moment.
Robbie: Victor, what about you? What are you seeing?
Victor: I mean, like Robert said, there was the amount of money has created all kinds of opportunities that are quite a bit different to Steve's numbers are on track. In terms of the competition, he's exactly right. And let's put some other numbers on it, right? How many backup extensions are there for Joomla? One. There are probably 30 for WordPress that everyone has heard of, and there may be another 30 or 40 besides that no one's ever heard of. I mean, there's just the scale is so much larger. And Steve mentioned earlier, they had now drifted kind of in a certain direction because that's where kind of their success had taken them. And they follow that which is smart.
Of course, we're following, our users are Watchful, who are updating their sites in Watchful that's their main thing. Their customers come in asking for WordPress, I was going to make this reply to Robert, earlier, when you mentioned that end users don't care necessarily what is powering their site as long as it's productive for them. Our customers, meaning we started out with a ton of Joomla users, their customers come to them, people want websites built and say, "I need a website built in WordPress, please call me for a WordPress website." And they either build it and then need a solution to help manage it with all their other websites. Or they convince them to use their preferred choice, which does happen. But no one's asking, a very few people are asking for Joomla by name, I think certainly in the US, perhaps in the Netherlands, Germany, France, Australia, but definitely not very common in the US.
And so WordPress, it is so popular or it has this brand name that other platforms don't have. I mean, people also ask I guess for Wix and Squarespace because those are brand names they see in the Superbowl ads. So I hear WordPress ads on NPR when I'm in my car. It's a whole different scale, as Robert said, the money's there and everything has kind of come up into this. The kinds of things you're seeing are more from the big brands, the big names that you hear GE, Apple, all those things. WordPress is definitely up there. Joomla is not there anymore, that's for sure.
Steve: It's an Internet thing in general, right that the winners tend to win massively. There tends to be one winner in each category. In e-commerce, online shopping, it was Amazon, in CMSs it was WordPress. In each category, you tend to get one runaway winner and all the gains. I think Apple maybe has 98% of the profit in the cell phone market, they tends to be enormous winners. And WordPress is that in the CMS space. At some point sooner, probably past 50% of the CMS market. I think the flipside of these economics may actually hurt it in one particular instance. I think Shopify maybe that winner in the kind of the online personal store space, and may make WooCommerce a distant second place with time. WordPress is gaining all of those advantages from being in first place, and they compound and they compound, they compound. And any other platform wanting to compete with it is going to have to feast on the leftovers.
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And now back to the show.
Moving to WordPress and selling your products to a new community [28:50]
Robbie: So I want to talk about other people out there they're listening, maybe they're wanting to crossover in the WordPress world, maybe that's why they're listening. Maybe they have been building something in another platform, and they want to now come over into this WordPress world. And I think it's interesting because we have two different scenarios that I want to talk about because, Vic, you're Sass product, so you could just add it in and people can manage multiple things in one account. Steve, you came from with your extensions.
And this is a big thing for a lot of extension or template people out there. Their businesses were named after their product. You got Joomlashack, right? I mean, other people might have something had a Drupal name on it, it was in their business name. So now how do you go over into to WordPress and sell? You have to come up with a new brand, correct? I mean, there was a little bit more challenge is there. So I think you have to... There's different approaches. And I think you two kind of represent the different approaches going into a new market into the WordPress world.
Steve: We had zero carryover of our customers. I've been in the WordPress space heavily now for about five years. And about a month ago, for the very first time, someone brought one of our WordPress products. And they said, "Oh, I saw your name on it. I've used your Joomla products. And I brought it because I trust you from the Joomla space." First time in five years. No one gives a rats about... I think we touched on this before. I think Vic said when you go to conferences, no one cares about what you did before. For us, we saw zero carryover between any kind of a reputation or a brand name in another platform trying to move it over to WordPress. That may be different in some cases though. I think I mentioned agencies before as something that's easier to move across platforms with and in some cases Sass services I think too, Vic.
Victor: Yeah, but I was actually going to give, I think, a really interesting perspective on this. So we have a lot of Joomla users who are migrating. So that's a lot of our business currently. Every week, every month, it's a smaller portion because we're finally reaching out to WordPress people at WordPress places. But what's interesting is we're happy that a lot of folks are still using Joomla and still managing their sites, they're still building sites that's the bulk of our business we're happy about that. Provides us a base to build WordPress business on because it's recurring revenue, all those things. But when you have to thread a needle on the languages, we talked earlier about people being very specific about the words they use, when you have to call something an extension update versus a plugin update. And by the way, Joomla also has plugins. So that's a little source of confusion. What language do you use? Is it a trigger for someone? Maybe trigger is not the right word.
Is it like a signal to a WordPress user, if they see a Joomla term? And they go, "Oh, I don't really like that. I actually want something that's dedicated to WordPress because maybe I'll trust it more. Or maybe they're more invested in what I want to do, or maybe they understand me better." It's a messaging problem for us. So we've thought about just having a separate dedicated WordPress service so that we can kind of clear that confusion. And although Steve didn't get to bring over those Joomla users, he could focus like a laser with PublishPress on the WordPress community and not have to worry about this legacy language or norms or expectations that his prior audience had come to expect. So we're happy, but it caused also a lot of long-term work for us to try and thread that needle. Steve, start.
Steve: There's an end game that we've kept in mind as well. Having always kind of designed up or tried to design products ready to sell or at least move on to another company at the end. If you're thinking ahead two or three years, and you're trying to sell a business, which has maybe 70% WordPress users, and then 30% legacy people from other platforms. If anyone's actually looking around and looking to acquire your business, that 30% is going to be a dead, annoying, in fact, even probably a detrimental part of the business. And so for that reason, and quite a few others, all of the WordPress stuff that we've done has been entirely separate from the Joomla stuff, entirely separate mailing lists, customer bases, separate LLCs for each line on the business. We try not to tangle them up at all.
Robert: I really like that idea. I think you kind of hit the nail on the head with what's the exit for some of this kind of stuff. And having a clear focus really just makes the entire acquisition process a lot easier. Or the sales process depending which end of it you are, so you can be like, "Okay, this is a WordPress product." If you want to take it and run with it in some greater fashion, then that's great. But you're not getting confused with especially that kind of support debt that the acquirer is WordPress focused, they will have no idea how to manage Joomla support, and that would become a much greater expense than just the WordPress support that they would already have to do.
Steve: Yeah, they would probably have to kill those customers, maybe get some bad feedback, and it would be a pain. But again, we're talking in terms of products, I'm not entirely sure if the same would apply for agencies and businesses that have a slightly different focus. I know, Robbie, you do have an agency to write and you find it much easier to switch between platforms.
Switching or offering a platform [34:35]
Robbie: Yeah, and I wouldn't switch, I don't know, is the right term, Steve, I would call it an offer because Vic was saying he never gets anyone that is saying make me a Joomla site, make me a WordPress site. It's what you hear. But my agency is a little bit unique just because we have an application builder called Fabrik that is only in the Joomla world. And so we still do have that type of inquiries coming in. They're coming in asking for Joomla for that purpose. So we do still have that and it is US-based too, by the way, Vic that I'm getting those from.
So they're still out there and we also offer both. So that's why I say I like to call it offer versus a switch. And so, yes, in my agency, we do both WordPress and Joomla. So we're doing both platforms in there. We probably do get more inquiries about WordPress now. And especially because we've been concentrating with WooCommerce, and been so involved in the builder community and stuff like that. So I think that's part of what is helping with that. Steven and I talked a long time about that because he was not the only one so many, not just extension and template people but even the agencies named themselves after their product. And so if you were like, "My name is Joo web builders or something or Drupal web pros," it makes... Why would somebody come and ask me about a WordPress site? Right? And so we had a more generic agency name, which was to our favor because we do video production and such, too.
So we had a more generic name. And I think that helped. And, Vic, you had Watchful, it's a nice generic name, but it was very interesting to hear that you are, I didn't even think about the terminology issues that you would have. And I would think it would just be an understanding for the end-user to, I mean, some people will get their feathers ruffled but just understanding if a Joomla person sees, oh, the plugin updates, they're like, "Well, what about my components?" You know, I mean, so yeah.
Victor: I think it's a little more visceral than that. If you go to a website, and you're an English native speaker, and you're reading something, and you can tell that it hasn't been written by a native English speaker. I think, this is how I feel. So I won't speak for you guys. I feel like, I'm not sure if I don't know if I immediately trust what I'm reading. Because I'm not confident that the writer has full command of what they're trying to convey. And that's not a judgment, but that's how I feel right away. And if I see three or four of those instances and a couple paragraphs in, probably I go back to my browser and do a different Google search, I pick a different result. I think if you go to a site...
If you go to the WordPress repo, you find the Watchful client there, you click it, you go to our website, and now you see something about Joomla, you're like, "Oh, I thought I was going to a WordPress." I think right away the body just has a reaction even if you don't think is negative. It's didn't quite meet your expectation. So we've been working on some ways to all. If you're coming from the WordPress repo, let's focus the language on the site of WordPress and make sure it meet your expectations. If you're coming from here...
So we're kind of working on some personalization to solve that problem, which is interesting for someone who loves to build websites, which I don't get to do much anymore. I love kind of being able to dig in a little and do that. But I do think that I don't know, I just assume other people are like me, and that they, there are these little things that if they seem a little out of place, it can throw them off a little. So I don't know how much of a role that plays, but it is something on my mind.
Victor: Yeah, it's just a final example. So we're rebuilding our onboarding page, currently, you would say what platform you use, and you make a selection from a dropdown. Now we're changing it up, you're putting your domain name, we'll detect what it is, and show you the right results so that you get exactly what you expect, the software auto-installs for the right system you have, and it goes forward. And we're trying to not throw up any red flags. And we want to make it faster and easier too. And technology lets us do that. It's just we hadn't built it in the past. So one of the things we want to do while making it easier is remove any of those red flags and before they get a chance to kick the tires, might think they're not quite where they expected to be.
The platforms and their trademarks [39:16]
Steve: One of the best things that happened to I think a lot of businesses in our space is a few years ago, Drupal, Joomla, WordPress, and others got their act together with trademarks. And individually, they decided to bring down the ban hammer on using their trademarks in product names and a lot of people were complaining. But you know what, it was wonderful for them. And they really couldn't get their head around creating a unique brand for themselves. Because it forced a lot of people to take WordPress out of the name, take Joomla out of their name, take Drupal out of their name, and actually try and stand their own brand up as its own unique entity
WordPress as a bigger ecosystem and the differences in sponsorship opportunities [40:00]
Robbie: Yeah, I agree, Steve, I do think that's a good thing as well, just for the things we were talking about here. It doesn't pigeonhole them so much. We've had a little bit about the community and then the competition that's out there. One of the things, and this kind of relates to the influencer thing is sponsorship. I know in the Joomla world sponsorship is super important, right? I mean, that was always probably one of my best marketing ways through the Joomla world was sponsorship. And I've tried to carry that over into the WordPress world. I was trending where one of the pod friends for do the Woo. And we sponsored with WordPress and things like that. So we're trying to get into the sponsorship here. It's a lot bigger though. This is a lot bigger ecosystem to get into sponsoring. Have you guys started looking into that? What have you thought about it?
Victor: Yeah, it's big money. Yeah, getting the global sponsor on WordPress Live, it was like $25,000, that's a big sponsor, and maybe not a lot of money for GoDaddy but that's a lot of money for a small business trying to break into a market. So we've been changing our budgeting and saving and we'll do one big thing a year. But it's a challenge. And then let's say you do sponsor. And I know WordFest Live had tents, basically virtual tents, where you could talk to people who are interested. Guess what, the big sponsors have all the connections, they probably have hired some influencers. They have tents full of people, and they're chatting with them and interacting with them, it's hard to draw those people out. So you've spent the money to basically get a virtual tent during COVID, for example. But if you don't have a lot of good connections or you haven't offered a good schedule, things like that, it can be hard to get those folks in.
We sponsored a Joomla event, actually, it was a lot less money, which is nice. But when you're the main sponsor, it was easier to attract, folks. Actually, everyone in this room, I believe was on that event for this conversation. So we just we dialed in a one hour, we set a schedule, we worked hard to get people there. And it was a good conversation and got a lot of interest. Again, because of the scale of WordPress and the giant players that are there with a lot of resources, I found it always a struggle to make a strong, get a lot of value back. I mean, you never get direct return on investment at events. But it's been hard to see a lot of measurable impact in my experience. So that's why I've been liking the one-on-one or small group interactions, they've been more successful for us.
Steve: The sheer scale of WordPress means that those more general events are hard to sponsor I think and the more niche you can be the better. We found that taking a topic, one or two topics and really trying to hit a specific niche as hard as possible has been the way to break into WordPress. I mentioned earlier, there's probably 30 Joomla companies that are still going these days. You could probably add multiple zeros on the end of that in WordPress, the sea is so much bigger, that general things don't work. The more niche you can be, the more targeted you can be the better.
Robbie: I'd actually also like to get Robert's take on this because being with a large hosting company, that's different, like Victor was saying, some companies don't have any troubles with these sponsorships. But so you guys are in the sponsorship world in WordPress, correct?
Robert: Oh, yeah. I mean, I would say our marketing event budget for WordPress would probably power Joomla. And even that is going to be infinitely smaller than like a GoDaddy or Bluehost or WP Engine or even Automattic. The annual sponsorship for pre-COVID for all the WordCamps for the global sponsors was I'm trying to remember the exact number. It was certainly in the six figures if I recall. And so there'll be $4,000 right there, $100,000 a pop that companies have spent just to get the wrong intents and purposes, the logo up there. And that's not including sending staff but getting booths together. Yeah, the scale is easily 1000X.
Steve: Someone who used to run quite a lot of events, we used to do a lot of training events with the company that Robbie now runs. And we were quite heavily involved in things like DrupalCon and the Drupal side as well. The sponsors have ended up bearing a lot more of the costs recently because it's much harder to sell tickets, we used to sell tickets to events for hundreds or thousands of dollars for training. DrupalCon used to run close to $1,000 for the week, and now a lot of it is online. Or if you go to WordCamp US, you're expecting to pay, I think they have $50 at one point for the three-day conference. In order to make that work, you have to basically look at people like yourself, Robert, and your company, as a cash cow that is able to fund the events on the sponsorship fees have to go way up.
A core ecosystem difference between a WordPress versus Joomla [45:25]
Robert: Yeah, I don't think there's any argument there. Vic, you want to say something about sort of, I guess, a core ecosystem difference between a WordPress versus Joomla?
Victor: When you mentioned that advertising, you mentioned Automattic in there, it sparked just an idea, of course, Automattic buys every few weeks or they're acquiring another plugin or service, etcetera. Another difference or challenge coming into the WordPress space is you're not just competing with other businesses like yours, or maybe larger businesses, third-party businesses like a hosting company, but you're competing with the CMS itself. So if you're providing security service, and then Automattic buys WPScan, now you're competing with the people who have the biggest microphone or megaphone in the WordPress space directly. Again, I can't really imagine much of that happening.
The closest thing in Joomla I guess maybe the folks who are building the custom field tools back in the day, probably got some direct competition, if you will when Joomla start putting that in the core, but I guess the difference would be that's free. Whereas Jetpack is not free, WPScan that Automattic bought is going into Jetpack or any other tool you might have bought and put in there. It's having a small business competing with David and Goliath-type situation it feels new. It definitely feels new.
Robbie: Victor, that is great. I love that you brought that up because it is different. But I always say and because we're talking what the scale is here, I always say it's just if I sell books, I probably sell on Amazon. Does Amazon themselves maybe even sell my books, right? Or somebody else on there has it. So I have competition. I even have competition from where I'm going to sell them on. But because of the scale, they have the audience there too. And so I know, but it is definitely something as a business owner, you do have to think about when you're coming over into the WordPress world, for sure.
Steve: Oh, it certainly is possible to compete with Automattic. I mean, it's one thing to buy all these products another to give them the full force of effort that a founder or an owner can put behind. For example, some of the security products that are in Jetpack, they're okay. But there are some enormously popular security products out there. At PublishPress, we compete with a couple of Automattic plugins. But those are one tiny part of so many things that Automattic is trying to do. And they're really not the biggest company in the world. I think their headcount is, I'm going to say, less than 2,000 maybe. Maybe I'm off there. And so all in all, I think they're generally are a massive win for the ecosystem. And we recently launched a activity log product that is kind of overlapping with an activity log feature in Jetpack, but the stuff we have is more advanced. And I don't think anyone should be scared off by competition from what Automattic is doing, perhaps unless they're competing in the WooCommerce space.
Robert: There's the competition. But there's also that, both in the case of Drupal and WordPress you, the founders, for all intents and purposes of those open source projects have created exceedingly large corporations that. There's a whole bunch of pros and cons about that. But certainly one of the huge pros is being able to have a professional institution that focuses on marketing that open source project. Yes, there's the open-source political nature of it. But Automattic is promoting WordPress, Acquia is promoting Drupal. Joomla is really one of the largest exceptions to that rule. Just that tangential thought because, I mean that is, you have to kind of think of that, and how those corporations come into play when you're doing business in different platforms.
Steve: Oh, Acquia, in the Drupal world, is a billion-dollar company, which kind of puts Automattic into perspective, I can't imagine how many billions Automattic will be worth when it finally goes public?
Victor: Yeah, I was going to say, if you're coming into the space, keeping all those things in mind is really the most important thing. And I think that's the topic we're discussing, right? If you're planning a move, what are your expectations? Well, expect to pay more for sponsorship, expect to have more competition. It's not really a should you compete or not. It's just are you prepared to compete. Are you prepared to have a different approach to sponsorship, for example? Those are the things that people listening should just keep in mind, no matter what they might be coming from if they're coming into the WordPress place.
Steve: And speaking, frankly, are you prepared to lose money or just keep going on the effort of your sweat labor for the first two years, for example? We mentioned the PublishPress, for example, is growing at a good clip. Now we've been at it for years. But we lost money, the first two years. We took money from our Joomla business and invested it into PublishPress to get going to pay the developers, it was a costly endeavor to get that initial break into the WordPress space, and then the competition is stiff enough that every new product we launches requires a substantial investment as well.
Switching a CMS or platform is like a new startup [51:10]
Robert: Switching platforms or switching CMS is almost really creating a whole new startup rather than just a different product line.
Steve: Yeah, you hear some stories, I've read a few stories of WordPress companies that launched 10, 15 years ago, and a couple of them I read, we were proudly profitable from day one, not in 2021, you're not going to be, not unless you're some kind of a genius or get lucky or some other lucky break comes your way. The competition is going to be tougher, you're going to have to have more money on hand, you're going to have to be prepared to lose some money to take some risks. The rewards are there, if it works out.
Victor: I think you could look at something like Tesla, they're still not profitable, right? They decided they were going to disrupt the car market, they're breaking in as a new player, it was very expensive for them to do so. They're probably consider successful now. But I'm not sure they're still turning a profit or they are just started turning a profit maybe in the last few quarters. But it was very expensive for them to come in. And that's what's going to be like switching to any system, not just WordPress, or not just technology.
Robert: Well, Amazon didn't have a profit for what 20 years.
Robbie: And even if Tesla's not profitable, they're going to be the Kleenex of electric cars, right? I mean, seriously. So, yeah, you had to go for the long haul sometimes. I totally agree there. Well, guys, I thank you so much for coming on. I think this is an interesting topic that I think that there are a lot of business owners out there that are contemplating this, no matter what CMS they might have been in before coming into the WordPress world. And so I think it's very kind of you guys to come on and share your perspective with the audience. Hopefully, we did not scare anyone from coming into the WordPress world. Yes, it's going to be hard. But as Steve said, once you make it, it can be very, very profitable. It can be the right thing, the right move to make. And so anyway, guys, thank you so much for coming on today.
Robert: And for all the questions that are sure to come that Robbie and I don't want to answer. Where can we find you, Vic and Steve?
Victor: Find me on Twitter @VicDrover Victor on Twitter.
Robert: And, Steve?
Steve: And I'm @SteveJBurge, B-U-R-G-E on Twitter.
Robbie: Well, thank you, guys, again. I really appreciate you taking your time today and chatting with us.
Victor: Thanks, folks.
Steve: Thanks, Robby.
BobWP: Hey everyone, BobWP here, thanks again for tuning in to today's show. I would like to give one more shoutout to our two Pod friends. if your restaurant clients are looking to get online, Orderable works perfectly with Woo for just what they need at Orderable.com And If you need a real boost for your clients sites performance, consider partnering up with Mindsize and experience their Site Performance Audit. Lear more at Mindsize.com.
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