It is difficult to develop a publishing empire, and it is equally difficult to destroy one. Broadcast moguls, first in radio, then in television and cable, have mostly replaced newspaper magnates and now, of course, they are all competing for our attention with social media tycoons and streaming impresarios. Each generation of media titans passes away and is replaced, just as each medium finds its place in the world only to displace by something new. In an industry littered with the gravestones of media sites of the past, time and longevity have a curious meaning for Automattic, the main commercial counterpart to the open-source WordPress publishing platform. Since its inception in 2005, the organization has worked hard to evolve and expand in order to combat the pervasive sense of gloom that surrounds the media.
Automattic, now valued at $7.5 billion after sixteen years, has made numerous strides in its quest to possess a larger share of the media market. It is a publisher, a social networking network (thanks to its Tumblr acquisition), an e-commerce behemoth (thanks to WooCommerce), a productivity tool (thanks to P2), and more. According to VCs, it reached its peak by doing almost everything badly, a strategy that, as we will see, proved to be enormously effective in the long term.
Chris Morrison is the TC-1’s principal writer (we have renamed it the EC-1 to fit our TechCrunch+ makeover). Chris has been one of our most productive breakthrough company analysts, having previously profiled Roblox and Klaviyo in this series. He is an independent game developer that brings his knowledge in business development and engineering to bear in understanding Automattic and its open-source focus, in addition to writing and analyzing. Danny Crichton served as the package’s primary editor, with Ram Iyer as the assistant editor, Richard Dal Porto as the copy editor, and Nigel Sussman as the illustrator.
Morrison has no financial relationships to Automattic and no other potential conflicts of interest. The Automattic TC-1 is made up of four primary articles totaling 10,700 words and taking roughly 40 minutes to read. Let us have a look at some examples:
The origin story “How doing everything wrong turned Automattic into a multibillion-dollar media powerhouse” (3,850 words/15 minutes) delves into the formation of Automattic following the success of the WordPress project, as well as how a 21-year-old jazz saxophonist with a side hobby in publishing became a media mogul.
Development of open source software “There’s nothing Automattic about balancing commercial growth with an open source developer community” (2,500 words/10 minutes) — examines the tensions that come with being a commercial backer of an open-source project, and how Automattic manages to push the community forward while allowing contributors to participate.
A workplace culture that encourages remote work “The Future of Remote Work is Text” (2,000 words/8 minutes) — examines Automattic’s unique corporate culture, which was remote years before the corporate tech industry was ready for work from home, and how the firm has centered communications on text. We are always tweaking the TC-1 format. Please email TechCrunch Managing Editor Danny Crichton at email@example.com with any questions, comments, or suggestions.