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How will WP Engine's $250M influx affect the future of WordPress?

The already-large WordPress provider WP Engine is getting a massive cash infusion, but what does that mean for the content management market? Expert Geoffrey Bock weighs in.

Yes, there is a promising future for WordPress, the platform from which 28% of all websites are built. WP Engine,...

one of the world's largest WordPress hosting providers, also has a bright future, announcing early this month that it raised an eye-popping $250 million in new venture funding.

The market demand is certainly out there for WordPress' more than 75,000 customers globally, which represents a 30% increase from 2016 to 2017.

WordPress has the right stuff for publishing content on websites and mobile devices. It includes capabilities for creating, editing, sharing and staging works in progress, while also seamlessly distributing content to websites and mobile devices. Small and medium-sized businesses, in particular, can choose the right templates, rapidly go live, and continually enhance their digital presence on websites and mobile devices.

WP Engine cracks the business model with a range of price points and offerings targeting organizations of all sizes. This latest investment round recognizes that WordPress, in particular -- and web content management, in general -- is now in the domain of the mainstream market across multiple industries and is even attractive to market laggards.

But can and will the growth continue?

Extending the core

Remember, at its core, WordPress is a web publishing platform. It defines content as self-contained pages and not as atomic and granular snippets. It assumes customers will view and respond to content that appears within websites or on mobile devices.

WordPress and web content management, in general, are now in the domain of the mainstream market across multiple industries.

Certainly, WordPress and providers like WP Engine support a range of plug-ins to extend this core publishing experience. Plug-ins address many in-the-moment situations, such as personalization, email marketing and customer analytics. An extension strategy works up to a point, before collapsing due to performance, scalability, complexity, and other seemingly technical factors that have a direct impact on customers and what they seek to accomplish.

Beyond a publishing engine

Don't get me wrong: Publishing as a business activity is not going away anytime soon. Whether deployed within SMBs or large enterprises via providers like WP Engine, WordPress will have a role in delivering published information to websites and mobile devices.

Yet, publishing is a pretty basic kind of digital activity. Delivering omnichannel digital experiences is a different matter, requiring fresh approaches to the underlying enterprise architecture.

Needed are highly granular approaches for embedding intelligence into content streams, sensing contextual queues from a variety of mobile and internet-of-things sensors, and ensuring content delivery for ambitious digital experiences, now the domain of innovators and early adopters.

Going forward, be sure to recognize the strengths and limits of WordPress. In the immortal words of Kenny Rogers, "You've got to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold them." There is more to building digital experiences than publishing. Know when it is time to move on.

This was last published in January 2018

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