It’s not news to anyone that reads my personal blog that I run Post Status, a “WordPress news” website. It’s essentially your typical trade news publication. It’s my baby though.
One of the things I’ve struggled with over the last year and a half running Post Status is balancing information.
I’m both an “insider” and a news provider. Though I’m not a traditional “journalist”, I do have a responsibility to my readers to share what I know. Simultaneously, in order to sustain my ability to get inside information about the WordPress industry, I also need to maintain good relationships with business owners and influential community members.
WordPress is a huge software application that powers 22% (ish) of the web. But the business economy around it is still small. Most of the people I interact with are the direct business owners I’m writing about. This is different than the larger tech arena, where sources are often insiders, but not primary stakeholders, within organizations.
If I gain exclusive information about a company, I have to decide what degree of information I learn is the right amount of information to publish.
If I know how much the company is sold for, do I share that? If I know there are deeper reasons for a business move than what’s publicly stated, do I share that? What if the news is quite negative for an influential organization, do I share that?
These questions are hard to answer. And as I’ve gotten more and more involved with the community, and as the community matures, I encounter these questions more often. I want to be the news provider that gives all relevant information. I don’t just want to publish puff pieces about products I like; nor do I want to be a constant skeptic.
In the end, I have to trust my gut. I also have to be straightforward with both my audience and the people I’m writing about.
A real world example
A classic example of this struggle occurred recently. A company I respect a tremendous amount, WooThemes, got hit by a serious breach of their website, and they’ve been dealing with it ever since. As soon as I learned about the story, I knew it was my responsibility to inquire with the owners of WooThemes and publish what I knew about the breach.
To say it was a difficult conversation is putting it lightly. After all, this is the same company that I spent a week with in Cape Town, South Africa just six months ago. I also use their products, recommend their eCommerce solution, and consider many of them friends. And here I am, telling my audience about something that is quite damaging to their business.
At the time I was writing the story, Woo had yet to publicly state the situation at hand. They were still trying to get their hands around exactly what the situation was. Yet I pony up to their emails telling them I’m about to publish this breach and am seeking answers.
While the conversation with Mark and Magnus wasn’t easy, and I was even upset for a bit about how things unfolded, I think it turned out well in the end. I held my story for about an hour (this was already the middle of the night) while they finalized their own announcement, and then I published a complete “tick tock”, or summary of events up to that point, at the same time as they made a public statement about the situation on their blog.
I could’ve published an hour earlier. I could’ve not included insight from the company owners before I put my story out there. But that wouldn’t serve my readers or my relationship with WooThemes very well. Instead, I was able to put out an honest and complete summary of what I knew, without ruining my relationship with WooThemes, a company that is going to continue to be a big part of the WordPress ecosystem for a long time to come.
News is hard
I use the WooThemes story as an example, but variations of that situation have occurred dozens of times. What I’ve discovered is that writing trade news is really freaking hard.
It’s not exactly a well-paying hobby, it includes a decent amount of stress to always stay on top of the news, and balancing relationships with readers and newsmakers is always a bit tricky.
But man do I love it.
I find these challenges to be worthwhile, and I really enjoy the industry I’m in. I’ve gained just as much (or more) experience by writing about the industry I’m in than practicing the trade itself.
Sure, I still have to make websites to improve my skill set. But my big picture viewpoint of the “state of WordPress” is so drastically improved by running my little blog that I can’t help but feel how it also plays well into my ability to consult as a WordPress professional.
Have you considered blogging your trade?
A lot of people view blogging as a thing they need to do for their business’ SEO or some other less delightful metric. But I’d like to encourage you to just do it because it can be so rewarding.
By being truly invested in my trade, I enjoy it more, and find more fulfillment in my career than if I were just working in my field but not paying attention to its ebb and flow.
If you often think about blogging, but don’t know if you can keep it up or whether it’s worth it, I hope you’ll consider my story, and be encouraged to blog.
If you’re in the WordPress world, I’d love for you to write with me at Post Status. I’m happy to accept guest posts or even regular contributors.
And finally, if you’re a Post Status reader (and hopefully fan!), I hope that this helps give insight to the type of effort that goes in to its publication. Later this summer, I’m going to have ways for you to both be a bigger part of Post Status, as well as get more out of it. When that time comes, I hope you’ll go all in with me.