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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

Senate confirms retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as defense secretary

Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

The Senate voted 93-2 on Friday to confirm retired Gen. Lloyd Austin as secretary of defense. Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) were the sole "no" votes.

Why it matters: Austin is the first Black American to lead the Pentagon and President Biden's second Cabinet nominee to be confirmed.

House will transmit article of impeachment to Senate on Monday, Schumer says

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced that the House will deliver the article of impeachment against former President Trump for "incitement of insurrection" on Monday.

Why it matters: The Senate is required to begin the impeachment trial at 1pm the day after the article is transmitted.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Private equity bets on delayed tax reform in Biden administration

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

In normal times, private equity would be nervous about Democratic Party control of both the White House and Congress. But in pandemic-consumed 2021, the industry seems sanguine.

Driving the news: Industry executives and lobbyists paid very close attention to Treasury Secretary nominee Janet Yellen's confirmation hearings this week, and came away convinced that tax reform isn't on the near-term agenda.