In the Spotlight: – WordPress Community Magazine, the English language premium magazine for WordPress is the brainchild of Pascal Birchler. We spoke to him about the magazine’s approach, paid content, and the future of the community.

Pascal, a lot of people would call it brave to start with a paid content concept – especially in the WordPress environment. What made you decide on that approach?

I often see topics repeated again and again in WordPress blogs. And still – the content only barely scratches the surface. SpinPress offers high quality content about WordPress, and also offers some “out of the box” thinking. This kind of content takes a lot more time and effort to create. I have had some previous experience and gotten myself a readership with the Swiss WordPress Magazine, it was time to take the logical next step.
Some experts have been clamoring for paid content for some time now, because the “free” content tends to become more and more interchangeable, or based on direct or indirect advertising interests. How did the community react to your project?

I have had a lot of positive feedback to date, because people notice very quickly that SpinPress offers the exact opposite of interchangeable content. As a newcomer in the English-speaking market, it is, however, not easy to get a foot in the door and get the value proposition out there. That is why I have been trying to generate some buzz with other projects, for example getting involved with WordCamps, the community project WP Talents, and collaborating on various WordPress plugins.
What will it need for you to be successful? How many regular content purchases and/or subscriptions are needed to make the concept a success?

Of course I have done some calculations and formulated some hypotheses before I got started – but in the end things never go exactly as planned. Several hundred paying readers would be needed to cover all the outlay. But, depending on how the business model is adapted – if we can call it that – things can look quite differently. I am doing my best to implement all the feedback I get from my readers, and redirect SpinPress accordingly. Right now I feel like it is all a great success if someone learns something new, develops a great new product, or optimizes his website on the basis of one of my articles.

 In his magazine, Pascal takes on some controversial topics as well.
In his magazine, Pascal takes on some controversial topics as well.

Projects like Krautreporter have to put up with sometimes quite unrealistic reader expectations. How do you handle that kind of thing? Do you feel that readers are a lot more critical because they have to pay for the content?

The current edition has one or two articles, which had previously been published free of charge in the blog in a similar format. Plenty of people picked up on that and didn’t like it, forgetting about the twenty other completely exclusive articles. Beyond that, there was hardly any negative feedback. It is, of course, understandable that people become a little more critical, I would react the same way. But when it comes down to it, I prefer focusing on the majority of readers, who are satisfied and show a little more appreciation.
There are currently plenty of projects out there focusing on creating more awareness for the necessity of paid content, for example Laterpay. What do you think: How can a breakthrough be achieved in view of the enormous volume of free content out there?

When I look at online newspapers, most of the content I can find free elsewhere is hidden behind a paywall. That is why I feel that it is so important to publish truly unique and profound content. Readers will be more inclined to pay for that than for mass produced stuff. There is plenty of opportunity to do just that in the WordPress community.
Among other topics, your first edition has a closer look at the changes in the German-speaking community. How much feedback are you getting in the vein of “I’d like to read that too – but in English…”? Are people reluctant? And why did you – as a member of the German-Austrian-Swiss community – decide on an international approach?

At the very start of the project, some concerns were voiced here and there, but there was no negative feedback after the launch. Of course some people would like to see a German version (and maybe one day there will be one), but the texts really are very easy to read.

The German community is of course great, but it is simply too small for the project I have in my head. I want to make SpinPress available to as many people as possible, and that is why this approach makes more sense. It also reflects my commitment to the international community – plus I get to brush up on my English language skills ;-).

Pascal Birchler
Pascal Birchler
SpinPress is a mix of WordPress news, associated business topics, and articles on design and development. How do you see your ideal target group? How do you decide the direction in which you will take your magazine?

I see SpinPress as the perfect read for anyone, who works with WordPress professionally – be it as a designer, user, or developer. In terms of topics, I will try to create a focus for every issue, so people can say after a few months “Hey, if you want to know more about topic XY, I can recommend this particular SpinPress issue!”
How do you feel about the professionalization, which WordPress and also the blogsphere is currently experiencing? What opportunities and risks do you see?

WordPress continues to gain market shares, but the active basis, the developers collaborating on WordPress seems to remain constant. I think it is very important to promote the WordPress community, as we will reach a point at which we won’t be able to keep up with demand anymore.
From your international point of view: What would you like for the German community to happen?

I think it is great that the German community remains critical about their own contributors and WordPress itself. That should never change. And I am optimistic about the current growth of the community, as we saw at the 1st WordCamp Vienna in early April. Cross-border exchange is hugely important for global projects like WordPress, and should definitely be supported.
Let’s talk a bit about you personally, and your objectives for SpinPress?

As a student and WordPress developer, I sacrifice a lot of my free time for projects like SpinPress, WP Talents, and collaborating on WordPress. Since I am a pretty helpful guy, my main objective for these projects is to help others. And if I can get anything back out of that, I won’t say no. It would be a real shame to have to give it all up again after having invested a whole year. Right then: you out there – read my magazine! 🙂

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Editor at MarketPress. Passionate blogger, corporate blog expert and book author (e.g. "Blog Boosting"). Co-organizer of WP Camp Berlin.

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