Why WordPress for Web Portals is like Lego Bricks for High-rise Towers

WHAT EXACTLY IS A WEB PORTAL?

The primary idea behind web portals is to aggregate information from diverse sources and then present it in a uniform manner. Web portals can be visualized like a well assorted library which categorizes, updates content and grants access.

In the 90’s, horizontal portals were popular. AOL, Excite.com & Yahoo! gained special attention because they were for many users, the gateway to the World Wide Web. In recent times vertical portals that provide a gateway to a particular industry such as health care, insurance, automobiles, or food manufacturing are getting all the attention (ex: Yelp, WebMD, SitePoint, etc.)

HOW IS IT MANAGED?

Web portals manage their content using a software system and each type of content is displayed in a dedicated area (portlet). There is also role-based privileges, granted by the PORTAL admin to the staff (and registered users) in order to manage these portlets. Common features of portals are directory listings, articles, latest news, events, classifieds, videos, image gallery, etc.

Web publishers today require a level of dynamic content and functionality that goes well beyond what a conventional content management solution can offer.

WHICH CMS TO CHOOSE FOR WEB PORTALS?

Almost everybody knows about WordPress - a simple publishing and blogging platform with a massive user-base. It also provides a very powerful framework for developing websites with its "themes" and "plugins" ecosystem. In fact, it has become the de facto platform for most digital agencies.

On the other side, there are lesser-known "specialized" CMS's like BlackMonk - a modern publishing platform for portals, media companies, business directories and online communities. The central idea behind BlackMonk CMS is to provide a platform with integrated suite of apps and features necessary for developing, managing and monetizing web portals.

Which solution is most suitable for building portals? Lets find out!

BlackMonk vs WordPress for Web Portals

APPLICATION BUNDLE

BlackMonk was developed from the ground up keeping in mind all the important components of a modern web portal.

It has 20+ unified apps compatible with both mobile and web browser. All of these apps are developed in-house to ensure seamless integration and standardization. Rigorous testing ensures that the deployed apps will neither be conflicting with each other nor crashing your portal.   

Out-of-the-box apps include: directory software, articles, photo & video gallery, events, polls, classifieds, attractions, deals, bookmarks, social media integration, Google map integration, advertising management, user management, payment processing, data migration and reporting. The list doesn't end here - click to explore the features.

While WordPress is hands down the go-to CMS for blogging, it was not originally built to to be a portal platform.

In order to build a portal using WordPress, you can either go for custom theme development and on top of this you would have to get these 20+ apps developed. Another way to do this is to purchase a premium directory theme, because the free theme won’t cut it in the long run. Then you would have to also buy all of the required apps in the form of WordPress plugins.

The downside of this approach is that the integration among these plugins won’t be solid (as they will be provided by different vendors). WordPress plugins are quite infamous for breaking the theme because of the incompatibility issue and bringing in security flaws. More number of plugins also means equally bloated portal. Check out the detailed article written by amazing folks from WooThemes about the dangers of WordPress plugins.

Key thing to understand here is that your portal is as secure and swift as the code that creates it. Thus, all the required plugins would have to come from professional developers, not amateur programmers.

SUPPORT

BlackMonk clients are entitled to dedicated email support, knowledgeable and video tutorials.

As a BlackMonk client, you get support directly from the developers who have built the product. Not from a third-party developer.

 

WordPress has a popular forum where people can ask questions and also search for solved issues. Many are able to solve the issue from the answers posted in the forum and many are not able to.
Reason behind this is that none really ‘owes’ anyone an answer.

You can argue that when we are paying to theme developers and plugin vendors, they are supposed to give us support. True, but here is the thing - one vendor would invariably blame the issue on the other plugin vendor or the theme developer whenever the issue would go out of hand. In that case you’ll have to try different plugin and use something that integrates well with other plugins & theme.

MAINTENANCE

All the updates related to new features, performance and security are managed by the BlackMonk team and automatically rolled out after multiple rounds of testing.

There is absolutely no need for you to keep on checking for new updates and applying them. All of the updates are well tested in our internal server before applying them on client’s portal.

This burden of maintaining the platform and keeping everything in sync is taken care of by our team.

WordPress frequently releases bug fixes and security updates. Owing to its popularity, hackers target websites running on this platform. This makes it all the more crucial to apply the released updates as soon as possible.

The difficult and most dreadful part of update process is getting the site messed up. This can happen when the theme/plugin loses its compatibility with the base WordPress. While most of the vendors would update their offerings to make them compatible with latest version WordPress, we can’t say for sure that the update won’t create conflicts.

REVENUE GENERATION

Generating revenues is the toughest part of the online publishing business. We understand this more than anyone else.

BlackMonk comes integrated with monetization opportunities like business listings, event listings, classified ads, eCommerce (deals), affiliate marketing, banner advertising, advertorials (paid stories), etc.

Most transactions are automated. Ex: an advertiser can directly purchase paid business listing from the portal. There is no need for you to validate the transaction and add the listing manually.

WordPress seriously lacks in providing a built in system for monetization of web portals.

Again usage of plugin and custom coding can bring in limited capability for revenue generation. But, it would always be deficient in terms integration with various avenues for generating revenue and providing uniform transaction management system.

EASE OF USE

Although there is a learning curve involved, BlackMonk is relatively easier to use in the long run.
Our comprehensive video and text based user guides can be used by the portal admin and staff members to get started without wasting much time.

WordPress is very easy to get started. It becomes harder once all the plugins are integrated.

 

TECHNOLOGY

BlackMonk uses Python with Django framework. Some of the hottest startups like Quora, Dropbox, Disqus use Python.

According to a research conducted by Udemy, performance of Python is better than php (the language used by WordPress).

PostgreSQL and Redis constitute the database of BlackMonk portals. Check out how SOOMLA boosted its performance by 7410X simply moving from MySQL to Redis. Here is a nice piece from software developer and technical writer David Bolton (from Dice.com) explaining why he chose PostgreSQL over MySQL.

WordPress was built 12 years back. The technology stack is PHP and MySQL. WordPress is stuck with PHP/MySQL for legacy reasons, not because they are the best options available currently.

 

PRICING

BlackcMonk SaaS plan, designed for small businesses has three options (standard $80/month, premium $160/month and professional $240/month).

No coding required - just choose your theme and activate the apps. Let us maintain the technology and provide you with dedicated support.

Think of BlackMonk as a full service package provider where you save time and piece of mind by paying a subscription fee.

$160 per month billed annually will amount to $1920.

For pricing of WordPress development, we’ll go with the article written by established premium theme developer - Elegant themes.

Option 1:
Custom WordPress site with design, development and custom plugin would cost $6,000 - $15,000.

Note that this price doesn’t include any hosting, support and maintenance charges.

Option 2:
Purchasing premium themes, plugins, hosting and hiring a cheap developer to make the site functional.

Hosting cost: $10/month (VPS by DigitalOcean)

Premium theme: $90 

Plugins: 15 (premium plugins) x $50 = $750

Support and Maintenance: 20$ (per hour fee) x 6 (hours per month) x 12 (months) = $1440

Total = 2400$

Note that 20$ per hour fee is charged by student programmers or hobbyists. Professionals can charge somewhere around $80 - $200 per hour. In addition to this hiring a decent developer is itself a mammoth task.

CONCLUSION:

If you choose WordPress for developing a portal you would have to move through heaps of unwanted objects to find out the right solution for making a functional and good site. Hosting, hiring, maintaining and paying for support are some of the factors that will surely take up most of your time. From the core business point of view, you would also have to deploy an integrated system for revenue generation. By choosing BlackMonk you’ll get integrated suite of apps, hosting, maintenance, security, superior technology and dedicated support at a lower cost ($500 less). In addition to this, BlackMonk comes optimized with revenue generation system and self-service transaction management system. Savings in terms of time and resources are two very critical factors that can help you go a long way with your business.

To sum it up developing a portal using WordPress is like plugging in bits and pieces of Lego bricks for building a high rise tower. You never know when it would collapse. What you need is precast concrete instead of lego bricks to be successful in the weird wild web (catch the drift?).

More than 200 publishers have chosen BlackMonk Enterprise Edition as the preferred web portal platform for their businesses. Now, the Small Business Edition makes the same power of BlackMonk accessible and affordable to small publishers. Visit our showcase page to learn more about how we have been adding value to the success of businesses.


Where2Go 411 out with new look and features

Where2Go 411

Founded by award winning journalist Kathy Times and author James Covington, Where2Go  411 is a national platform which aids in economic empowerment of African-American owned businesses, and also serves as a community connection for promoting Black culture. Launched over a year ago, the website has already succeeded in creating more than $3 billion worth of economic opportunities for Black Businesses.


Last week, Where2Go411 was relaunched with an all new look and range of features aimed at maximizing the outreach of registered businesses. Where2Go 411 now provides localized content through dedicated city websites. Where users can look-up Black Businesses, find hot deals and browse content (articles, photos and videos) posted by local contributors.


Where2Go 411 has also introduced an affiliate program aimed at attracting traffic from popular local/national websites. The affiliate program provides incentives to publishers for placing Where2Go 411 widget on their website.


The  upgrade of Where2Go 411 website coincides with round 2 of Mega League All Star Entrepreneurs event, which is a unique community empowerment initiative led by Where2Go 411 team. Mega League All Stars entrepreneurs event is a conference where prominent entrepreneurs share their expertise and insights on various aspects of business including customer service, product management, crowd funding etc.

Click here for more information on Where2Go411.


8 Practical Ways to draw an audience to your web portal!

With such a low barrier of entry, nearly everyone can set up a blog in 10 minutes and start publishing. A tonne of content is published on the internet every day. As a result, a lot of online publishers find it difficult to draw the attention of their audience to their web portals. They struggle with the same old question: How to build an audience for their web portals?

This question has been asked millions of times and has been answered quite ambiguously. Let us take a simple approach to it and find out exactly how to do it.

To build an audience, you have to place yourself in the shoes of your customer and be everywhere they go. Online users behave similarly as they do offline. They like to connect and interact. For that you have to reach out to your audience and be open to interaction.

Everyone knows about SEO, ad campaigns and social media profiles. The key is to use them effectively to be visible to your audience.

Let's see how we can do that.

1. Be searchable

Although, SEO is very well known, it still remains the number one point on the list. With the way that the Internet has evolved, search engines have indeed captured the central position in the online world today.

Locate the keywords that your target users use on search engines to find what you can offer and focus your SEO activities around them.

You can find out the keywords and know the frequency with which they are used by using Search engines’ free keyword tools.

Be aware that many CMS’s are not very SEO friendly. Look for a CMS that can help you with SEO. Eg. BlackMonk is a CMS that is made specifically for publishers and allows them to take care of SEO with almost no coding required.

Besides SEO, launching ad campaigns from time to time can hasten the process.

2. Give them what they want.

Now that you are searchable and also know what your audience searches for, address the pain points and provide them what they look for. Tailor your content to match the needs of your audience.

Look for the topics where your expertise can help users find solutions to their problems.

Make a content marketing strategy by deciding upon the topics and writing on them with a good frequency. This process requires patience, but is a sure shot way to build a loyal audience.

This is exactly why many business owners today have begun making their own blogs rather than relying on big publications only, for their content promotion activities.

3. Jack of all trades, master of one.

You already know that social media profiles are necessary. They are the platforms where your target audience already frequents.

Although, it can be quite daunting to take care of so many social media profiles. The good news is, you do not need to be very active on all of them.

Have your presence on all the social media platforms, but focus on the one that you find is the best to convey the message about your web portal and interact with your audience.

I personally prefer Facebook. Make a page and update it frequently with posts that either help your audience or have some entertainment value.

The fact is that once your profile starts getting traction on any one of the platforms, your profiles on other platforms would get audience with little effort.

You do not need to update others as frequently.


4. Strike when the iron is hot.

Many people would agree, a quick way to get heads to turn is by being controversial.

Stay tuned to the news and happenings around the world that your target audience takes an interest in and publish content at appropriate times.

Content delivered at the right time, at the right place, can get the number of your daily visitors to shoot overnight.

Let us take an example. A week ago, the whole world was down with the FIFA World Cup fever. Many noteworthy happenings were witnessed from Suarez biting on the field to Neymar Jr. getting hurt.

All those posts written about them on all platforms got great views and a lot of interaction.

It’s all about connecting with your audience. Use this weapon smartly for your web portal.

5. Guest blogging and PR.

This is the best way to establish yourself as an expert in your niche. Although it’s not easy to get published in well known web portals, you can definitely start with your own, move towards higher blogs and work your way up to your target web portals.

It requires both patience and smart work. Make a list of the portals you want to target first and find the areas where they lack in. It’s easier to approach them if you already have some reference articles published on your blog.

Write to them directly, with a good cover letter and sample articles and some of them would definitely get back to you.

These blogs may even offer to review and write about your portal for some cash. This is one way to break the ice.

It’s always great to have a third person or blog talking about your product or portal.

6. Go an extra mile to support your audience.

If your users can create something on your web portal, they’re bound to share it with their friends and family. Let your audience market your web portal. They would return the favor if you help them promote their businesses, events etc.

Reach out to local businesses, event managers etc and invite them to post on your web portal. Make the posts shareable and see users flock to you.
You may not want to charge money initially to post, consider this an investment.

7. Focus on key people.

This can be done by introducing your portal to some of the trendsetters of your industry and get your name out in front of the people that matter.

It is just like LinkedIn did it. They approached the top players in various industries and honored them by making them the influencers on their network. This helped them in attracting their respective followers easily.

This also makes your platform much more credible in the eyes of both your audience and PR industry.

8. The Viral Effect


 

Lastly, let’s discuss how you can get your posts to go viral on the internet.
I had a word with Gauri Lokare, Video Editor for oncars.com and with her experience in the publishing industry, she told me that for anything to go viral on the internet, it has to be ethical, logical and emotional.

It’s all about connecting with your audience. If your post can spur emotions in a reader, he’s likely to share it.

These emotions can both be negative and positive. Emotions like hope, happiness, anger and excitement go a long way.

It's all about intensity. If your post can do that, it’s bound to become viral.

Eg. LOLcats included pictures of cute cats with grammatically incorrect headlines like “Can I has a Cheeseburger?” went all over the internet.

 

Lastly, the best way to keep your web portal thriving is by caring about your audience and giving them quality content.


6 strategies for Online Publishers for 2014!

With a whopping 400% hike in the tablet adoption since last year and 56% of which being used for reading news; publishers can't afford a moment to waste before jumping to handheld devices.

Since the advent of social media and blogging platforms, publishers have been worried about an extremely low barrier of entry in their field. Now, it seems like anybody can set up a blog and begin posting articles in 10 minutes! Moreover, payouts from display advertisements alone are not good enough.

With changing consumer demand, the strategies of publishers need to change.
Arm yourself with these 6 strategies to keep pace with the consumer trends:

1. Target Mobile, the home screen:

An average person spends 26% of his/her time looking at his mobile. The most common reason cited is the "fear of missing something!” So, the smart step for any publisher would be to get more screen time for themselves on the mobile.

Most online publishers have non responsive websites, not suitable for mobile devices or tablets.

Now the question is, do you want a native mobile app?

There are many platforms that bring third party content from various publishers at one place. Eg. Flipboard.

If you don't want to spend time and money towards creating a mobile app initially, you can utilize such platforms to build up a following for your content.

Later on, once you have built enough readership, you may go for your own mobile app.

But you definitely need a responsive website optimized for mobile devices and tablets. That should be the first thing on the list!

 

2. Focus on the reader:

Publishers always had the problem of satisfying two masters at the same time: sponsors and audience. Not anymore!

One of the biggest reasons of depression in the publishing world is the deterioration of the quality of content. That's where the bloggers came into the picture.

As the number of publishing platforms has increased, thanks to internet blogging, the demand for content consumers has gone higher than ever!  The first rule of economics, ‘Demand and supply’ will testify that.

Keep the readers happy and the sponsors will follow the lead. The best way is to automate the process of getting advertisements (more about it later). Now, the publishers should focus on creating great content regularly. Now, the reader is more impatient than ever, so regularity holds high importance today.

3. Engaging your audience: The Supermarket Model

Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond and other big box stores understand the fact that the consumers do not have time. There’s something to learn from their success stories for publishers as well.

Supermarket model, as I like to call it, is all about engaging the audience and giving them all they want under one roof. Offer them a buffet and they'll keep coming back.

Here's what you can do:

- Listen to your readers, community:

Nothing beats quality content, but today's readers need more than just that.

They need to engage! Understanding this, websites like Quora, Reddit, Medium has amassed a big audience. Now, the readers want to be heard!
Giving them a community where they can discuss your content, topics important to them or other events is a great option.

- Offer them events:


Events have always interested people. A cool option is to inform them about the upcoming events around them. This will not only excite the audience, but if you allow users to add their own events, this can drive revenue for you too.
If you want to start fast, it's smart to join the affiliate network of websites like Meetup.

- Take their opinion, Polls:


Let your audience poll about hot topics and voice their opinion by just a click!
This will also allow you to gain poll data and people's voice about any occurring.
This can be invaluable for your writers and businesses that want to use your poll for mass feedback.

4.  Join hands with competitors:

Many publishers have been inviting bloggers to write for their websites. It's a win-win situation. It gives the bloggers the platform they deserve and publishers, access to more quality content.
One of the best ways is to allow users to submit articles on your portal. You can surely edit those before you hit publish button or deny them politely. This would get you an engaged audience and more content for your website.

5. Monetization:

Almost the whole publishing industry knows that relying on banner ads alone is a difficult thing today. No more firing against banner ads here. Now, what are the options?

• Sponsored articles: Get paid to publish advertorials and white papers on your website.
• Business directory: Let sponsored businesses make you money.
• Event directory: Let users add sponsored events.
• Classifieds: Let sponsored classifieds make you money.
• Deals and offers: Let businesses offer deals through your website.
• Polls: Let businesses allow conduct polls for mass reviews.
• Contests/sweepstakes: Thrill the audience and make money at the same time.
• Movies and theaters: Tie up with local theaters.
• Affiliate Marketing: Let third party plugins make you money and entertain audiences.
• Banner ads: Old school way to monetize.

Here are deeper insights and smart ways to monetize your website efficiently.

6. Automate; get a good CMS:

You have been running your website well. It has made good money. But, to scale it and go to the next level, you need a robust CMS that gives you the power to easily manage content, users, staff and monetization options.

The time of negotiating with businesses one on one is over. Automate it! And let your website make you money 24x7.
It saves you your biggest asset: time. So that you focus tension free on what you love; creating new content and engaging your audience.

BlackMonk is a robust CMS that allows you to do all of the above and more at one place. Want to know more?

Request a demo, explore the possibilities.

Do you have more suggestions? Did I miss out something? Get in touch with me in comments below.


BlackMonk v2.6.0 released

BlackMonk v2.5.0 which was launched 5 weeks ago introduced 2 new modules – designed to enable web portal operators enhance their online services.  And today, we launch v2.6.0 featuring an enhanced banner ad management system.

The new version enables web portal operators to create custom ad zones of specific dimensions. So, advertisers can place their ads on pages containing relevant content. The new release allows advertisers to have greater control over ad campaigns and achieve greater ROI.