Announcing BlackMonk V3.0 with responsive design, content channels, dynamic widgets & more

We are excited to announce the launch of the much awaited BlackMonk v3;0. The new release of BlackMonk web publishing platform takes web portal experience to a new high, with features that enable world class content curation and seamless user experiences across computers and mobile devices.

BlackMonk v3.0 was built ground-up to enable publishers expand the outreach of their content, and build an engaged community around their website. Monetization has always been the key aspect of BlackMonk, and the new release enables publishers to drive revenues through: advertising, promotional content, directory subscription and online sales – along with an option to integrate third party affiliate marketing channels.

Responsive design

BlackMonk v3.0 introduces responsive web portal design for convenient viewing on all devices from 21” desktop monitors to 7” tablets and 4” smart phones. The new responsive front-end, adapts to different screen sizes by presenting content through adaptive layouts.

BlackMonk v3;0 responsive design

With ‘out of the box’ responsive capabilities, publishers can now reach-out to the ever growing segment of mobile and tablet users. Publisher can also order a custom Android/iOS app to deliver information/content to ‘on the move’ mobile audience.

All new community app

The new community app takes engagement to a whole new level, by providing a framework through which users can indulge in discussions, share ideas and receive advice from peers.

BlackMonk v3 - all new community app

Content channels

BlackMonk v3.0 makes content presentation more intuitive for the audience, by enabling publishers to club various forms of content into subject-specific channels. The new channel feature allows easy access to information of interest – enabling publishers to put out content targeted at different interest groups.

BlackMonk v3 - all new channel feature

Widgets

Now, publishers can create widgets for showcasing dynamically compiled content such as: popular events, most viewed photos, most commented articles and so on. Widgets help drive traffic to key areas of the website, and publishers can also create embed-able widgets for third party websites/blogs.

To know more about other features of BlackMonk v3.0 click here. If you are interested in using Blackmonk V3.0 for your next web portal project, please write to us.


Released: Android App for BlackMonk

BlackMonk Android app

We are pleased to announce the release of the Android App for BlackMonk CMS. The all new Android app allows publishers to deliver a fabulous user experience on ALL Android-powered mobile phones; users can now look-up information on the go! The current version of BlackMonk Android app  includes articles/news section, business finder, event calendar and classifieds.

Here’s a quick look at the key features:

Delightful content presentation

The Android app makes reading articles and news stories a delightful experience. Users can quickly flip through news stories, browse through categories and view images in slide show mode. The app also enables users to keep tabs on upcoming events, as well as bookmark events/news stories for future reference.

Map based search & geolocation features

The app provides a convenient way for users to look-up nearby supermarkets, gas stations, restaurants or any other local business. Users can either run a text search or use the map to find nearby businesses. Once user has selected a business, the app launches GPS enabled navigation for turn-by-turn driving instructions. The map based search and GPS enabled navigation features are also available in event calendar and classifieds section of the app.

Powerful user engagement

User engagement on BlackMonk powered portals gets even better, as the app provides a convenient way for users to comment on articles and review business listings/events.

Download the official BlackMonk Android app for a hands-on experience:

https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=blackmonk.mobile.activities&hl=en


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.


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.