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Jetpack: WordPress Wants to Bring the Best of WordPress.com to Self-Hosted Blogs

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WordPress professionals want to bring the worlds of WordPress.com and WordPress.org closer together. Automattic’s WordPress.com, the popular blog hosting service, is also the company behind the open-source WordPress software for hosting blogs on your own server. While most of the features Automattic introduces to WordPress.com eventually make it to the self-hosted version, some rely on being hosted on the WordPress.com servers and are never released as plugins and don’t make it into the WordPress.org distribution.

Today, however, Automattic founder Matt Mullenweg announced Jetpack, a new plugin for self-hosted WordPress blog that brings features like WordPress stats, Twitter widgets, support for shortcodes and \LaTeX, Automattic’s own Sharedaddy sharing buttons and wp.me shortlinks to self-hosted blogs with just one click.

Currently, all of Jetpack’s plugins are available for free, though Automattic notes that some future features “may require payment.”

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WordPress has partnered with a number of popular hosting companies, including Bluehost, DreamHost, Go Daddy, HostGator, Media Temple and Network Solutions, to bring Jetpack to their one-click WordPress installs.

As of now, the choice of services included in Jetpack is not that exciting. Virtually all serious bloggers already use a third-party stats package and sharing buttons, for example. None of the current features really seem that exciting and worth installing Jetpack for if you already have a blog up and running. To get started, though, Jetpack looks like a great way to get access to these features quickly.



11:13 am


Adventures in Solo Blogging: The First 100,000 Pageviews

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Going from writing for one of the biggest tech blogs in the world to writing my own blog again is obviously quite a change. Not only do I have to manage all the gritty details of my server setup, but not having a few extra sets of eyes around to find interesting stories makes finding breaking news items a bit harder. That said, there is something exhilarating about being your own boss, having full control over what you want to write about and not having to fulfill a certain quota of posts every day.

From the beginning, my plan was to write a few words about my progress here whenever the site hit worthwhile milestones. While I’m still a few hundred pageviews short, chances are the server will push out its 100,000th page later this weekend, so today feels like a good time for a short recap.

Starting from (Close to) Zero

I did, of course, not start this blog from zero. One advantage of having written for a larger organization before is that I was able to get quite a few followers on Twitter – which is key to getting any kind of exposure these days. I was never very active on Facebook and while I did get quite a few visitors thanks to people who shared my stories there, very little of that is due to my presence there. Having an active group of followers on Twitter, though, as well as a bit of a reputation in the business, surely helped get this blog off to a good start in its first few weeks.

One place where NewsGrange had absolutely no presence to start out with, though, was Google’s search index. It took until the end of January before I saw any search referrals from Google at all. My story about Qwiki/Fwiki got quite a few links from sites large and small around this time. Chances are that this was what finally put the blog on Google’s map.

Top Stories

#1 – Qwiki Clone in 321 Lines of HTML: The Qwiki/Fwiki story also remains my biggest hit here so far, with just under 25,000 pageviews. The majority of those readers came from Hacker News (where it was actually submitted twice and got 49 upvotes and 114 upvotes respectively). This story also did quite well on Reddit and was shared more than 200 times on Twitter. The funny thing about this post is that I actually found out about Fwiki on Hacker News on a Saturday night, thought it would be fun to write a few sentences about it and then mostly forgot about it until I noticed a huge spike in traffic to the site when I checked up on the server on Sunday afternoon.

#2 – Why One Egyptian ISP is Still Online: As Egypt went offline, all the news reports mentioned that one ISP was still online. Usually, this was mentioned in passing, but I thought it would make for an interesting story to break this out and look at why this one ISP, Noor Group’s DSL service, was still hanging in there. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one interested in this. The story got just under 10,000 pageviews, was shared on Twitter 137 times, hit the frontpage of Hacker News and climbed to the #1 spot on Techmeme for a while.

#3 – Is Apple Getting Too Greedy? 4,000 pageviews, 148 Twitter shares and over 30 comments. Apple’s in-app subscription program clearly stirred up quite a few emotions. My own feeling was that Apple was simply going to far by taking a 30% cut from all subscriptions and I’m guessing that putting this into the headline really helped the post do well. It also helped that it was the #1 sub-headline for the main story about the in-app subscriptions on Techmeme.

#4 – Why Your Next Car Will Have an IP Address: This story came just a few days after I officially started this site and got just over 3,100 pageviews. Interestingly, a lot of these came from auto enthusiast and non-tech sites. The story was shared 272 times on Twitter. It probably helped that I had already seen the Ford Focus electric during a press event in Detroit earlier in December and was able to fill the story out with a bit more detail than those who just had to work from press releases and Ford’s announcement at CES.

#5 – Google’s Logo Dives 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (with Accelerometer Support): This story didn’t get a lot of shares on Twitter but it did well on Techmeme. Most of the traffic, though (close to 2,500 pageviews) came from Google searches.

Challenges

#1- Depending on Hits: As of now, the blog is still too dependent on hits and few readers come in through the homepage. Part of this, of course, has to do with the fact that it’s hard to keep a magazine-like frontpage updated often enough to make coming to the blog directly worthwhile. Hopefully, as I pick up my pace, that will change.

#2 – Need Advertisers: With traffic picking up, now is the time to start looking for advertisers. I’m just running some Google ads and cheap CPM ads here right now. While they pay enough to keep the servers on, the only way to make real money from the blog here is to sell ads directly, I think. Interested? Drop me a note at [email protected] and we can work something out.

I should note that keeping the server running has thankfully not been a challenge. I’m hosting this blog on a very basic Linode virtual private server. So far, my current setup, with the Cloudflare CDN as my first line of defense, has held up extremely well and coped with all traffic spikes without a hitch.



11:18 am


What Should the Next Generation of Tech Blogs Look (and Feel) Like?

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As I’m thinking about the sale of TechCrunch to AOL and Jason Calacanis’s ideas for how to take tech reporting to the next level (in the form of an email newsletter), I can’t help but think about what the next generation of tech blogs will look like. Since the early days of tech blogging, the field has become more professionalized and the major blogs now have plenty of full- and half-time staffers who ensure that no nuance of the tech world goes uncovered. While Twitter and Facebook have changed the way these publications find readers for their stories (in the early days, RSS feeds used to be a huge source of traffic), the blogs themselves all still look pretty much the same (one exception – at least with regards to their homepage – is the rapidly expanding The Next Web).  (more…)



6:26 pm


Calacanis to Challenge TechCrunch: "The World Really Wants Deeper Stuff Right Now"

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According to the Guardian, serial entrepreneur Jason Calacanis plans to launch a new tech blog in early 2011. With this project, Calacanis plans to challenge TechCrunch, the influential Silicon Valley-based blog run by his old nemesis Mike Arrington. According to the report, Calacanis plans to hire a small number of editors. These writers will have the freedom to do in-depth research and will only have to file one story per week.

While Calacanis says that these stories will go out over email and won’t run on a dedicated blog, chances are that he will do both in the long run in order to profit from the valuable ad sales for the email newsletter and the online ad sales that are keeping the current generation of tech blogs afloat. Calacanis will also host a new startup conference early next year that will challenge TechCrunch’s highly successful Disrupt conference.

“The Tech Blogging Scene is in a Race to the Bottom”

In his interview with the Guardian, Calacanis claims that he is not trying to challenge the existing tech blogs on their own field, but that he is “going for something that doesn’t exist in the market – not a blogger writing the story in two hours. The world really wants deeper stuff right now.” He also notes that “the tech blogging scene is in a race to the bottom and is dragging mainstream media down with it.”

Those are fighting words. Blogs like TechCrunch and others have made their name by rushing stories to their readers as fast as possible – sometimes at the expense of depth and analysis. Indeed, the reality of tech blogging is that very few authors actually have the time to spend two hours on a story. Breaking news stories often take less than 15 minutes before they appear on TechCrunch, the Next Web or ReadWriteWeb. Clearly, there is an audience for these stories, but Calacanis is betting that the market also wants more depth, knowledge and thoroughness (a mix we strive for over on ReadWriteWeb).

It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the marketplace. Starting a new tech publication is not easy, given how many players there already are today. With his successful e-mail list and high name recognition, Calacanis clearly has an advantage over smaller editorial startups and his best work has always been in developing editorial concepts. Even Calacanis’s biggest detractors have to admit that he has created a number of successful startups in the past and should not be underestimated, especially now that his motivation is to challenge his old arch-nemesis Arrington. We have not seen a lots of newcomers on the tech blogging scene in the last two years (let alone in the tech mailing list scene), but if anybody has a chance to make a difference in this business it is likely Calacanis.

Image Credit: Joi Ito



10:51 am