WordPress Growth Rocks

TechCrunch calls the growth of the WordPress blogging platform, as announced today at WordCamp, “Awesome.”

It doesn’t surprise me at all that U.S. unique visitors to WordPress.com have roughly tripled in the last year to 20.9 million per month, while Typepad.com has only increased about 20 percent to 7.2 million. The two platforms were roughly equal a year ago.

But what wasn’t equal was the value proposition. WordPress.com offers 3 gigabytes of free storage and unlimited bandwidth, and for $45 a year you can customize the CSS, buy an extra 5 gigs of storage (and the ability to upload mp3 files so you can host podcasts), and map your blog to a domain or subdomain of your choosing.

You’d have to spend at least $299 a year on Typepad.com for anything approaching this functionality. And the cheapest, entry-level package price on Typepad.com is $49.50 a year.

With Typepad you can get a two-week free trial, but with WordPress.com you can blog for free almost indefinitely. And even with upgrades that would give most people as much functionality and capacity as they could possibly need, the cost for WordPress.com is still less that that for the stripped-down version of Typepad.

It all adds up to powerful incentives for new bloggers to start with WordPress.com, because all it costs them is their time to learn.

And that doesn’t even take into account the free, open source WordPress.org software you can download and install on another server for even more functionality.

Ben Martin agrees.

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Blogging Platforms Compared

Note: This post is Blogging 105, part of the Blogging curriculum at Social Media University, Global.

In developing the curriculum for Social Media University, Global I had originally planned to have Blogging 105 be about the pros and cons of WordPress.com and WordPress, with Blogging 106 and 107 providing the same analysis for Blogger and Typepad/Movable Type, respectively.

If someone wants to write those posts (106 and 107), I would be glad to have you join the SMUG faculty as a visiting professor. But given limited time (and my increasing satisfaction with WordPress.com and WordPress), I will focus on why this platform is both a great way to get started with blogging, and also why it provides flexibility for growth as you become more serious about it.

I have limited experience with both Blogger and Typepad. They’re both fine, and their major advantages from my perspective is that you can embed flash-based widgets, which is something you can’t do, for security reasons, on WordPress.com. That lets you put all those sharing icons like this:

…at the bottom of your posts. I had a friend describe WordPress.com as “Digg-proof,” which is a limitation, I suppose. You can overcome it by moving to a WordPress installation on a rented server, however, so it’s not a crucial deficiency in WordPress.com, from my perspective. And I guess it helps with security, so some malicious Flash application can’t bring down thousands of WordPress.com blogs

WordPress.com Benefits

  • It’s free, and comes with 3 gigs of storage for photos and documents. No credit card needed to get going. No 14-day free trial. You can start now in about 30 seconds, and could quite possibly blog long-term without spending a penny.
  • If you’re nervous about starting, you can make your blog private and get hands-on experience without anyone seeing. (Or if you want to get experience in a blogging playground, check out the Training Wheels blog, where I would be happy to make you an Author.)
  • It’s Open Source, so lots of unpaid programmers are adding cool features really rapidly.
  • You can embed YouTube or Google videos (and some other types), as well as Slideshare.net slide shows.
  • If you want to use WordPress.com as a podcast server, you can pay another $20 a year to upgrade your storage to 8 gigs, and to enable you to upload mp3 or video files. (More on this soon.)
  • Bandwidth is unlimited and free. If you can upload it to WordPress.com, your blog visitors can download it. It doesn’t matter how many of them visit.
  • You can create workflows for an editorial process. You have a hierarchy that runs from Contributor (can write posts but can’t publish) to Author (can publish and edit own posts) to Editor (can edit anyone’s posts) to Administrator (can do all of the above plus add or delete users and change blog design.) So if you want people to be able to write posts but want a quality check before they go live, you can have that process built into your publishing tool.
  • URLs are in plain English, and you can edit them for search engine benefits. For example, I have given this post a URL that ends …global/blogging-platforms-compared/. Google looks at that URL and deduces that this post might just be about comparing blogging platforms. So if anyone searches on those terms, I’ll be likely to come up higher in the rankings than if I had a Typepad URL like …/blogging-platfo.html
  • Upgrade costs are minimal. For $15 a year you can customize the look and feel of your blog, as we did here and here and here. For $10 a year you can map your blog to another domain or subdomain (see the same examples, as well as the domain name you see in your browser right now), although it may cost you another $10 to register a domain name (like social-media-university-global.org). I already mentioned the $20 a year fee for 5 gigs of extra storage, and for $30 you can have an unlimited number of private users. Add it all up and you’d have a hard time finding a way to spend over $100 a year on a fully featured WordPress.com blog. A comparably equipped TypePad blog would be at least $300 a year, and more likely $900.
  • If your blog becomes wildly successful and you want to start offering Google Adwords or Flash-based applications, you can transfer your blog from wordpress.com to a server you control (and that you can rent for maybe $10 a month.) Just update your server’s IP address with your registrar, and you can make the move without losing any links.

As I said earlier, I would welcome as a visiting professor anyone who would want to explore the pros and cons of either Blogger or Typepad in a guest post. Or if you have experiences with any of these platforms that you would like to share in the comments, please do!

Otherwise, what are you waiting for? Get started with WordPress.com now.