Interview with WPCandy.com owner Ryan Imel - Heart Internet Blog - Focusing on all aspects of the web

In this interview, WPCandy.com owner Ryan Imel tells us about the challenges of running such a large website, identifying new opportunities and why he is so passionate about WordPress itself.

Could you tell us a bit more about yourself?

I have been developing websites with WordPress for close to five years now, and have been a freelancer nearly as long. It is only in the last couple of years that I would consider myself an entrepreneur.

I stumbled across WordPress when building a website for myself in PHP. I found that the outline I was using for my own site was pretty similar to the theming structure that WordPress used. The only difference was that WordPress itself was far more thought out and useful than what I had done. I used it on a couple of sites and was hooked.

Some of the first freelance work that I did using WordPress was with Cory Miller, some time before he launched iThemes. It was actually Cory that first suggested I get a blog about WordPress going, which I did with Theme Playground at the time. Of course the Playground has been folded into WPCandy now.

What has been your overall strategy with wpcandy.com since you bought the site in 2010?

Technically I bought the site in 2009, but didn’t have time to do anything with it until 2010. I knew what I wanted to do, even before purchasing WPCandy. The goal was to start up a respectable blog covering WordPress and its communities, something that would reliably track the movements of the project and those within it. WPCandy became the perfect vehicle for that idea.

Since then, and still now, my strategy is pretty much the same: make a blog about WordPress that I would want to read. As long as I would pull open WPCandy in the morning and read what we publish there I’ve done my job.

You recently launched a job board for WordPress creatives and developers, why did you decide to add this to your site and what have been your experiences so far?

It’s actually more of a reverse job board. I found that a large percentage of our readers were either professionals looking for work or professionals looking to hire (sometimes both). Our Pros section is a way for those folks to find each other, without the need to post available job openings. Pros can be browsed by location, budget, and skills. We also have plans to expand it to include areas of specialty, down to the theme frameworks that folks have experience with.

So far the response has been great. We hear about Pros getting work just about every week.

On average, how much time do you spend working on the website each day and what are the biggest challenges you face keeping it running?

WPCandy is a full time job for me, so it’s tough to nail down just how much time is spent daily. Plenty of time is spent daily posting WordPress news to the site, which we do at a pretty high volume. News is our primary concern, but we do other things too. We have a daily show called The Daily Plugin that features a new and interesting WordPress plugin every day. Features and guest editorials take time to arrange. We also run a forum for WordPress community discussions, and regularly broadcast on a live stream (including a weekly podcast).

In other words, there’s a lot going on. The biggest challenge is staying on top of all the great stuff the community is doing, and finding ways to highlight that on the blog.

How important is social media to you and do you use twitter and facebook as the same or do you approach them differently?

Sure, it’s important to our site. We use Twitter and Facebook for the most part, though I’ve found that the responses to WPCandy’s content seem to be stronger on Twitter than on Facebook.

Your idea of advertisers ‘powering’ your website rather than booking banners is interesting, why did you decide to take this approach?

I want WPCandy to be a place I’d like to spend time, and I don’t enjoy advertising online. Who does, right? Sidebar banners, video pre-rolls—these things are no fun at all. In particular I don’t like how advertising changes the tone of sites it is used on. So rather than try the same system everyone else was, I decided to implement a community support model, where the readers support the site when they find value in it.

This isn’t my own idea, of course. I was inspired, in particular, by Adam Curry and John C Dvorak on their No Agenda podcast (noagendashow.com). They introduced a listener support model for their podcast, which I thought was an excellent way to avoid the negative effects that traditional advertising usually brings with it.

I’m actually pretty adamant that those who support WPCandy aren’t advertisers at all. They are supporters, contributors, producers, and subscribers. In all seriousness, they are WPCandy.

What is it about WordPress that attracts such an active and passionate following?

It’s hard to pinpoint one thing. I think different groups get involved for different reasons, but the tie that binds is usually the community that has formed around WordPress. There are a lot of great people working on this project, and their excitement is infectious.

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