Why I use WordPress.com not WordPress.org

Pieter Breugel - Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

Pieter Breugel – Landscape with the Fall of Icarus

WordPress is the top name for online publishing software. It comes in two similar, yet distinct, flavours. Both are free.

  • WordPress.com is the hosted version, the software is so simple you can have a basic site online within minutes of signing-up. Anyone can use WordPress.com, it requires little technical knowledge. Although WordPress.com offers thousands of design choices, there are restrictions. 
  • The software at WordPress.org is much the same. There are minor differences, but you have to find your own host which usually will cost you money. This gives you far more flexibility over the look of your site and the way it functions. There are thousands of plug-ins and themes – some free, some paid-for, to spruce-up your site.

The price you pay for more flexibility is complexity. While WordPress.org can be straightforward, it can quickly get technical. If you like, you can dig around in the code to your heart’s content.

My WordPress journey started with the free .com version. After a year I wanted more flexibility and moved to .org. I still run a few .org site, but this site has been back with .com for a little over a year.

WordPress.com is a better choice for my needs because it allows me to focus on what I’m writing and not the mechanics of running a website. 

What I gained moving back to WordPress.com

Time. Self-hosted WordPress gives you many opportunities to tinker with site design and functionality. I would spend hours each month tweaking – trying to make the site look better or work better.

That was great for learning more about WordPress. It wasn’t great for productivity. Now I spend that time on other matters, including writing more posts. That has paid off with higher traffic.

Reliable. WordPress.com hardly ever goes offline. In the past year I’ve seen just 85 minutes of downtime – some of that was scheduled. During my time with two New Zealand-based hosts I could see that amount of downtime in a single month.


Uptime measured over one year with WordPress.com

Compare those figures with those from the last twelve months of my self-hosted site.

Uptime measured over one year with a New Zealand web host

Uptime measured over one year with a New Zealand web host

Performance. WordPress.com is faster than any New Zealand web host I’ve used as this graph from Google Webmaster Tools shows:

Time spent downloading a page

Time spent downloading a page

Switching from self-hosted to WordPress.com saw the average page download speed drop from 2200 milliseconds to 400 milliseconds. I posted about this shortly after moving a year ago. Since then the average page speed has crept up to 600 milliseconds, some of that is because I now post more images. 

Money: Cost wasn’t my reason for switching back from self-hosting to WordPress.com. I paid around $160 a year for local hosting on a shared server, WordPress.com is free. You can’t argue with the price – the downside is WordPress sometimes inserts ads on my site. I expect to pay US$30 a year for the no-ads option in the next few months.

Last year I paid US$30 for the custom design add-on. This allows me to tweak designs and use different fonts. I played with it for a while, but decided not to use it because I was in danger of being dragged back into the WordPress tinkering black hole that sucks all life out of the universe.

I paid my NZ host around $30 a year for my domain name – I now pay US$13 to WordPress. Again my choice is about convenience not saving pennies.

Conclusion: Overall moving back to WordPress.com worked well for me. I may change back if circumstances change, but for now this is the best option: Faster, more reliable, less distracting and cheaper.


Leanpub – a wonderful eBook publishing model

Leanpub ebook publishing

Leanpub send me a mail saying an updated version of Paul Bradshaw’s book Scraping for Journalists is available. The mail includes links to download the book in PDF, EPUB or Mobi formats – or perhaps all three if I want, there’s no digital rights management to worry about.

Because I already purchased the book, the updates are free.

Leanpub is a great way of selling ebooks: buy one, all future updates are free.

Royalties are generous for writers, around 90% less a 50 cents per book fee. If I ever get around to writing another book, this is where I’ll go first.

Another great thing about Leanpub, is the books are reasonably priced. Scraping for Journalists doesn’t include as much information as you might get from an everyday paperback, but the price is about half what you’d pay for a printed book. There’s also a money-back guarantee.

Oh, and it case you’re wondering the Scraping for Journalists book is good too.

Digital magazine sales tiny, titles like Reader’s Digest see huge growth

Bill Bennett:

Readers like magazine web sites or even magazine apps on tablets and smartphones. I’ve never understood the attraction of what PaidContent describes as ‘replica editions’ that is the same editorial as the print magazine wrapped in a digital format.

Digital replicas have clumsy user interfaces – sometimes its a proprietary piece of nonsense requiring a download. Others are effectively PDFs on something similar. Many have relatively low resolution and just don’t look good on-screen, Hell, some even mangle the text making it hard to read.

Either way, it seems there is a market for them.

Originally posted on paidContent (old):

Nearly 65 percent of U.S. magazines now have a digital replica edition, but those editions make up just under three percent of overall circulation: That’s the latest news from the Alliance for Audited Media (formerly the Audit Bureau of Circulations), which on Thursday released its report on U.S. magazine circulation in the second half of 2012. For some individual titles, digital growth was a lot more impressive — though in some cases that’s because they’re giving away the digital edition free.

289 U.S. magazines reported that they’d sold 7.9 million digital replica editions in the last six months of 2012. That’s 2.4 percent of total circulation — up from less than 1 percent in the second half of 2011, and up from 1.7 percent in the first six months of this year. (AAM’s definition of a digital replica is that it contains “the same editorial and photojournalism as the national…

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Kindle Paperwhite pushes ads, still best e-ink Kindle to own

Bill Bennett:

Amazon’s “Ad-supported” approach would quickly wear thin with me. Mind you paying US$20 to remove advertising seems reasonable – a 15% premium over the free version.

It brings up an interesting point. If the lifetime value of ads on a reading device is worth just US$20 to Amazon, which is in the business of flogging stuff online, it says a lot about the what’s going on in the world of advertising supported online newspapers and magazines.

Originally posted on Martinborough Musings:

When I got my new Kindle Paperwhite a couple of days ago, I couldn’t understand why Amazon had made it so that every time, after I switched the unit on, I had to ‘activate’ it by swiping up the screen with my fingertip. Why not have it start up immediately I pressed the on/off switch like other Kindles, and appliances generally?

I saw the point (at least Amazon’s point) last night when I went online to look for a protective case. At eBay, most cases had automatic magnetic start/stop switches that operated when you opened/closed the case. This system has been around for a year or two in Apple and Google tablets, and now Amazon has added it to its new top of the line Paperwhite e-ink reader.

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Why printed books will never die


The undead

Josh Catone is largely right when he writes Why Printed Books Will Never Die. Although the pedant in me has an issue with the word “never” given that one day the universe will degrade into a particle stew. For now I’ll give Catone poetic license.

He writes:

Ebooks are not simply a better format replacing an inferior one; they offer a wholly different experience.

A good point. I’d read an ebook on a plane. I read work documents on a tablet or ebook. When reading for pleasure I still want to see print and feel paper.

Whenever I hear people predicting the death of printed books I think back to the Roman, Greek and even earlier texts which can still be read today, then remember early electronic texts stored on 8-inch floppies or using now dead digital formats. Some of these are already lost forever.

The great ebook price swindle only scratches the surface

A year ago Dan Gilmor complained about greedy US publishers forcing ebook prices to climb by between 30 and 50%.

In the US electronic books are now priced at the same, sometimes higher, than the hardback version of the same book. As Gilmore points out, this is a terrible deal because unlike physical books, you can’t resell, trade or give away your finished ebook.

The same dumb thinking is at work in the music and movie industries where digital media costs as much as physical media.

I’ve made this argument before, I’ll make it again. Printers use raw materials and machines to make physical books, CDs or DVDs. They package and ship them to warehouses before shipping again to stores.

Factories, packaging companies, shipping firms, wholesalers and retailers all clip the ticket. These are input costs and they’re not cheap, they can account for over half the retail cost.

While we can understand publishers wanting to recoup some of the cost-cutting benefit from digital media, they can’t expect to have it all. Doing so has three direct consequences:

  • Consumers see high prices as a rip-off. This has the knock-on effect of undermining otherwise valid moral arguments against copyright piracy.
  • It slows migration from the old low margin physical model to the new higher margin model. Why would consumers choose what is still an inferior experience when the cost of hardware plus higher cost of media makes it more expensive?
  • Reduced sales mean set-up costs of a book, CD or DVD are spread over fewer purchases. Surely this is a time when publishers need to seed the market.

At the start of 2013 we’re at a point where the decline in printed book sales has stabilized while the hitherto triple-digit growth in ebook sales has fallen to a still impressive 34%. And sales of ebook readers plunged 36% in 2012.

So where do we go from here? Will publishers cut ebook prices sharing some of the extra margin with their customers or will they paint themselves into a corner?