Blog publishing software as a service

The popular publishing platform, Medium announced last week that it was laying off one third of its employees and closing two if its three offices.

As expected, the news has generated a lot of discussion. Particularly interesting for LexBlog and I is the discussion of the need for an eloquent and easy to use blog publishing platform.

Frederic Filloux (@filloux), veteran journalist and Knight Journalism fellow at Stanford, wrote yesterday of the need for a Medium-like platform because of the complexities of WordPress.

For elegant text-based publishing, there is a need for a simple, easy-to-use, well-designed platform such as Medium. WordPress was supposed to deliver just that, but it took a geeky turn, saturating its ecosystem with scores of third-party plugins — more than 48,000 at last count — whose quality can charitably be called uneven. Most WordPress sites end up using dozens of plugins, each one bound to create its own set of problems: slow page-loads, crashes, random behaviors or update cycles that don’t match WP’s platform agenda. Unless you have sizable tech resources at your disposal, WordPress is a nightmare. Switching to Medium gives you the impression of going from MS-DOS to iOS.

Veteran blogger and technologist, Dave Winer (@davewineragreed in part.

I think it is fair to say WordPress is to Medium as MS-DOS is to iOS, but for different reasons. To be fair you have to compare Medium to the hosted version of WordPress. There are no plugins there and none of the complications or management hassles he describes.

However the user interface of WordPress is large and spread out, the commands you need are organized in a way that makes them hard to find. A lot of the problems I have with WP could be solved by reorganizing its command structure.

Rather than a ‘Medium-like’ alternative to WordPress, why not a managed publishing platform based on WordPress coupled with a sound business model? One that offers more than WordPress.com, the hosted version of WordPress software.

WordPress has any number of advantages over starting from scratch or building on top of other systems. It’s open source software, customizable and offers a “community” of API’s and plugins making it integration friendly with other solutions and services.

LexBlog, perhaps not the answer for all publishers, is proving that offering publishing software as a service can deliver an eloquent and easy to use blog publishing platform so long as it’s founded on a sound business model.

We’re providing a fully managed publishing platform based on WordPress where a subscription provides one a license to our software as well as services including design, ongoing hosting, updates, features, email notifications, SEO, support and network.

When you assemble the software and services we provide (such as hosting, email service providers, premium plugins, site update services) from leaders in the marketplace the cost can be quite significant, not counting one’s time in managing and connecting those services. Pricing becomes attractive when selling publishing software as a service.

Rather than a free service relying on advertising like Medium, we’ve found blog publishers will pay for the value of a comprehensive publishing platform. A platform where the publisher has an independent branded site and domain, obviously owns their content and feels comfortable that their content is safe in the hands of a profitable SaaS provider.

The cost of the LexBlog solution, though relatively inexpensive, could be a factor to some publishers. The onus is then on us to bring greater efficiencies to the delivery of our software, something we’ve been able to do over the last year — enough so to start offering our solution at no cost to academia and librarians.

To justify charging a subscription Filloux believes a platform must include things a newsletter system such as good as MailChimp, good analytics, a “commercial cluster” aggregating around topics, SEO tools, and various layouts. LexBlog is offering such items or working on them.

LexBlog is just one example and our offering is not perfect. But with funding from our subscription revenue, we’re constantly working to make our publishing platform more eloquent and easier to use. The publisher’s content is safe as well.

Perhaps publishing software as a service is a good model for others.