Sep 24, 2019

Blogger battles heat up

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.

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

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Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., left, and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., on Capitol Hill in July. Photo: Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call.

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Media mergers highlight arbitrary private valuations

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

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Why it matters: The only way for anyone to really know how much any private company is worth is if it sells in an all-cash deal. When privately-held companies sell via all-stock transactions or via a mix of cash and stock, dealmakers can essentially make up the value of the assets they are looking to purchase.

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