There was a discussion on WPCandy a few weeks ago asking if Tumblr was the new WordPress. Many commenters on the post tout Tumblr’s features, like post formats, as the key to its success. These are only a small part of the story.
In my opinion, WordPress is a better publishing platform. But WordPress.com, the only flavour of WordPress comparable to Tumblr, is missing two of Tumblr’s winning design decisions: publishing from other apps & reading from within the app.
Sharing is Publishing too
Have you ever written a post on Tumblr.com? It sucks! The whole pop-out window – WTF? Writing is not what Tumblr publishing is about – Tumblr’s focus is on sharing.
Tumblr sharing is baked right into Instagram, Instapaper & other 3rd party iPhone applications. This ubiquitous integration makes WordPress.com’s Press This bookmarklet look like a hangover from the 90’s.
WordPress the software trumps Tumblr for writing. But for many, publishing relates more to sharing than writing.
Producers also Consume
Tumblr also recognise that content producers are also content consumers.
Much of Tumblr’s app family focuses on reading and not publishing. The iPhone app especially, which acts as a feed reader first and a publishing tool second. That’s a great way to do it. I do far more reading on my phone than writing.
WordPress.com offers a great reading experience from the front-end. I love how it spruiks content with the related posts feature. But it fails to offer more for the millions of users with a WordPress.com account.
WordPress.com’s subscriptions feature is a second class citizen. It’s great to get subscriptions in your inbox, but to read all your subscriptions you have to visit the front-end of WordPress.com. And even then it’s just a list of sites, not a feed of all the sites you follow.
Millions of WordPress.com users log into the blog and go via the dashboard, so why not fill the WordPress.com dashboard with a subscriptions feed?
This is how my WordPress Dashboard looks:
All the dashboard widgets are minimised. I don’t care about any of that content.
This is my Tumblr dashboard:
I always spend a few minutes scanning what people I follow are sharing.
To follow WordPress.com blogs, Automattic relies on feed readers – which we all did use once upon a time, but who uses one now? Even Instapaper, designed exclusively for reading, ditched RSS support in the latest version.
What WordPress.com Needs Now
To stay on top, Automattic needs to do two things (and fast).
1. Publish from Anywhere
Publishing is not just about writing anymore. It’s a lot to do with sharing and throwing in our 2 cents. Press This needs to become a button in the iPhone Instapaper app & Twitter app. Instagram needs to support it. We need to be able to share without firing up a browser, visiting WordPress.com and pasting a link.
2. Make Reading a Priority
Give us a first-class way to follow our favourite blogs from within the WordPress app family. That means a subscriptions feed in the iPhone app and the dashboard of destination site. Personally, I say ditch the WordPress related feeds & QuickPress in dashboard and make it a beautiful subscriptions feed.
It’s arrogant of me to think I know something the brilliant folks at Automattic don’t. I also understand that WordPress is principally about hand-crafting content.
But while WordPress is still the superior publishing software, the .com flavour is dropping the ball. To stay relevant, I think Automattic need to recognise the shift to sharing and take the opportunity to centralise content consumption for content producers.