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Illustration: Sarah Grillo / Axios

The competition to oust Wordpress as the top website-building platform is heating up, with challengers pouring millions of dollars into marketing campaigns and readying bids to go public.

Why it matters: WordPress has remained the dominant tool in the field of website-building for a decade. But today, competitors see a lucrative opening to challenge it by focusing on design, simplicity, and community — values that have become more important to consumers in the era of social media and easily-accessible editing tools.

Driving the news: Squarespace is launching a large, multi-city ad campaign Tuesday, Axios has learned. The campaign will highlight the creativity of the sites built by small businesses on its platform, in an effort to bolster its image as a leader in website design.

  • The campaign includes 3 films that will run across TV and digital and 12 out-of-home ads that will appear in New York, Chicago, Toronto and London.
  • Squarespace has been investing more in strategic marketing and customer acquisition as it readies for an IPO in the next few years, sources tell Axios.

The news comes just days after Squarespace rival Automattic Inc., the parent company of web publishing platform WordPress.com, announced that it raised a $300 million as a part of a Series D round from Salesforce Ventures, putting Automattic’s valuation at $3 billion post-funding.

  • Wix, the Israeli-based web-building platform, reached its highest point on the Nasdaq this summer. The company made its name years ago when it raised over $120 million dollars upon going public at a $750 million valuation.
  • Medium, which is mostly for professional editorial bloggers, has recently launched a slew of magazines that it sells under one bundled subscription.

Be smart: The main thing that new challengers are focusing on is offering consumers a simpler and prettier solution to WordPress. And in a world where consumer expectations for quality and aesthetics online are extremely high, those are major selling points.

  • Squarespace's entire philosophy is based around design and its new marketing campaign is a reflection of that. The company has established itself amongst users as a premium space for establishing a brand online, and encourages creativity as a point of distinction within its software. Other web platforms are beginning to lean more into design as a way to compete.
  • Wix's advantage is that it's a less complex software tool than Wordpress. Wix allows users to drag and drop design imagery in real-time, while Wordpress mostly allows editors to view design changes via preview buttons.
  • Go Daddy has mostly distinguished itself as a platform for web and domain hosting. Its platform is less about design and creativity and more about function and scale.

Bottom line: "A website for everyone" is the cry of a bygone tech era, but most businesses and individuals still need to set up their own websites.

Go deeper

Drought, record heat wave in West tied to climate change

People on Folsom Lake in Granite Bay, California, U.S., June 16, 2021. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The prolonged and widespread heat wave in the West, along with the region's increasingly severe drought, is a sign of how climate change has already tilted the odds in favor of such extremes, studies show.

Why it matters: The rapidly growing Southwest, in particular, is also the nation's fastest-warming region. The combination of heat and drought could lead to a repeat, or even eclipse, the severity of 2020's wildfire season in California and other states.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
3 hours ago - Energy & Environment

What to watch as infrastructure talks heat up

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

A mix of Beltway action and extreme weather events have brought the fault lines in infrastructure talks and their planetary stakes into sharper focus.

Catch up fast: Senate Democratic leaders pledged to seek big climate measures in a multitrillion-dollar, Democrats-only package that faces a very narrow political path.

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
4 hours ago - Sports

The sports stock market

Note: Michael Jordan's card is for baseball; Data: Alt; Table: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Shohei Ohtani's trading card value has risen 781% since the start of 2021, the highest year-to-date return of any athlete on Alt, a sports card exchange that aims to bring more liquidity to alternative assets.

Why it matters: The trading card market is the closest thing we have to a stock market for sports.