Nov 21, 2023

I wish I could take over WP Tavern

A lifetime ago, I was the editor of blogging news outlets the Blog Herald and Devlounge, among others. It was during the blog boom, when the big blog networks were known as Weblogs Inc., and Gawker. The Blog Herald covered the launch of the Huffington Post, saw the rise of Buzzfeed and the Daily Beast, we were that early. It wasn’t my site, I just took over when the editor-in-chief decided to move on. It was a gig, just like the more development focused Devlounge blog was, and the interview site BloggerTalks (which I did found). Blogging literally paid the bills, although I did do some WordPress work on the side.

Covering the blogosphere, and tech reporting in general (including breaking a story or two), obviously meant that I wrote quite a bit about WordPress. It was rapidly overtaking all other blogging platforms, and would soon take a step further, to become the world’s most used CMS. That’s what it is today, powering over 40% of the web (that uses a CMS). It’s a lot, and it’s open source. I like it, we use it for almost all client sites at Hedengren Agency. In fact, most clients request it.

I wrote the Smashing WordPress book series at the end of my blogging stint. It was published by John Wiley & Sons, and sold hundreds of thousands of copies in several languages. That led to the founding of the Odd Alice agency, and the rest is, shall we say, history, at least for me. Freelance blogging wasn’t in the cards anymore.

Somewhere down the line, a WordPress blog called WP Tavern launched. It ran for a long time, then the owner decided to call it quits. That’s when Matt Mullenweg, of WordPress fame, decided to step in and fund it, through his investment company, Audrey. Since then, and we’re talking over a decade here, WP Tavern has covered WordPress without having to worry about paying the bills, all on Matt’s investment firm’s dime. Matt is obviously also running Automattic, known for, owner of Tumblr, along with a bunch of other things. It could be a conflict of interest, and some people do indeed tend to point that out, but overall, I think most readers of WP Tavern will find it a fair and balanced source of international WordPress news. There aren’t many WordPress news blogs left, just affiliate-ridden reviews and tutorials, or SEO bait aiming to sell premium themes or plugins. Nothing wrong with that, it just has very little to do with journalism, and covering WordPress in a reasonable and investigative manner.

(As a side-note, I run a Swedish newsletter and blog about WordPress, called WPSE. It has no connection to any of the companies here, other than my own various outlets, and the sponsors that has made it possible to publish some 277 weekly newsletters over the years. It’s hard work, this sort of thing.)

The last WP Tavern writer, the excellent Sarah Gooding whom I’ve had the pleasure of talking to online on a numerous occasions, left the tavern on November 17, after ten years. There seems to be no ill will, it was just time, and I applaud her work. She’s been great, carrying WP Tavern on her own after Justin Tadlock (who happened to be technical editor on one of my books) left in May 2022. This leaves WP Tavern, the de-facto default non-official news source for all things WordPress, without any writers.

Matt wants to change that, so he’s asking for applications in a post on WP Tavern. The idea is to find some freelance writers to get us into 2024, after which he hopes to hire two people full time.

I must admit, I was tempted to apply. It’d be a bit like coming full circle for me, covering WordPress. I started out in the tech blogosphere blogging about WordPress, which landed me my first gig at the Blog Herald, and it all spiraled from there. Not only that, it’d be interesting to dive deep into more investigative writing, rather than just news reporting around WordPress, and making this available without any strings attached, on WP Tavern, and in every stand-alone WordPress dashboard out there. Because, you know, WP Tavern is right there with links when you log-in to wp-admin. Crazy, huh?

Alas, it’s not meant to be, and I won’t be applying. Not only do I have my hands full with my agency, my writing, and other side-projects, the pay just wouldn’t cut it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s generous, but I live in Sweden with our rules and taxes, which is … a thing. Even compared to the rest of Europe, it’s hard to work abroad and get paid comparable hourly wages when you’re based in Sweden. It’s just the way it is, and it’s no surprise that most of the international clients that have been able to afford Hedengren Agency over the years have been either really big ones, or based in Switzerland… We’re not even that expensive, it’s annoying.

I digress.

I really do wish I was in a position to take over WP Tavern, should the opportunity present itself. WordPress is in such a different place today, compared to just five years ago, and it’s not just about the block editing experience. When you’re the content operating system of the web, you tend to be too big to be niche, and that requires a different point of view. I’d love to explore that, at some point.

Until then, I wish Sarah all the best, and hope that Matt will find the people who can keep WP Tavern going. It is, after all, the last of a dying blogging breed.