How Storipress is Building a Solution for Writers to Succeed Online
And Why This Is a Market Ripe for Disruption
Hi everyone! 👋
This is a follow-up to my last article on content focused platforms. Storipress benefits from 2 growth trends- disrupting WordPress and the rising value of written content. It was my conversation with Storipress co-founder Alex Pan that initially got me interested in this area. While Substack and Beehiiv focus on newsletters, Storipress’s website builder enables entire newsrooms to succeed online.
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Becoming a writer has been an important part of my investor journey. However, it was only after speaking to Alex Pan, co-founder of Storipress, that I truly began to understand the opportunities for writing online. With startups like Storipress, Beehiiv and Substack, we are finally seeing website builders that are focused on the needs of writers. By doing so, they stand to benefit from 2 growth trends - disrupting the incumbent website builder WordPress and the rising value of written content.
Alex co-founded Storipress in 2020 after experiencing frustrations running an online student news publication. He was using WordPress which was introduced way back in 2003 and isn’t suited for prolific content producers. While Substack and Beehiiv focus on newsletters, Storipress’s website builder is more ambitious. It is built for news publishers and enables entire newsrooms to succeed online.
I first met Alex during the Startmate Media Fellowship program. He impressed me with his long-term vision and customer centric approach. To date, Storipress has raised $500,000 in pre-seed funding from Startmate, Tim Duggan (founder of Junkee Media) and Boson Ventures. Their product is currently in Beta and I encourage writers and investors interested in this exciting space, to try it.
This article will explore Alex’s journey, Storipress’s unique solution and the opportunities for long-term growth.
* All opinions are personal. This is not investment advice
How Alex’s Publishing Journey Led to Storipress
Alex has been passionate about media from an early age. Do you know many people who leave high school to study media? This was what Alex did and eventually, his path led him to Macquarie University where he started a student newspaper called Polity.
Polity was a social enterprise news publication with over 45 volunteer writers and 2000 followers on social media.
What do news publishers do? Running a news publication is more complicated than writing a blog. For example, instead of writing a weekly article, news publishers can publish several articles per day. It’s about quality, collaboration and consistency.
Quality: Independent publishers are known for their unique perspectives. It’s important that their articles maintain high standards. To do this, they have editors to review article submissions by writers.
Collaboration: Teams of writers and editors collaborate during the above review process.
Consistency: Planning and publishing articles to a schedule to generate audience growth.
News Publisher Workflow
With no specialised solution, Alex had to cobble together several systems including ‘sophisticated tools’ such as Google Docs and Google Sheets as shown above.
There had to be a better way. Alex teamed up with technical co-founders David Peng and Yu-Sheng Chang to build an all-in-one solution for news publishers. This starts with building a website.
Why Storipress Is in a Fast-Growing Market That's Ripe for Disruption
How do you create a website? In the past, you had to write the code for the website yourself. In 2003, WordPress popularised Content Management Systems (CMS), which are platforms to build websites.
Led by WordPress, CMS became a fast-growing category as it replaced the older custom code websites. However, like any incumbent, it wasn’t perfect. Some examples are:
Plug-ins: WordPress required additional plug-ins for important features like SEO (getting found on search engines like Google Search) and security.
User Experience: It can be intimidating for some users to install and manage numerous plug-ins. Additionally, these plug-ins and coding that began in 2003 are making the user experience slow and clunky.
To address this, SaaS CMS providers like Wix and Shopify came on the scene. These are all-in-one systems that appealed to a mainstream audience. WordPress still dominates the category. However, it is being disrupted by SaaS CMS providers which have grown at nearly 2x the rate of WordPress from 2011 to 2021.
Sources: CMS January 2022 Market Share. Active website growth rates estimated from Wix Investor Day Presentation - WordPress estimated growth at 23% pa and SaaS CMS at 37% pa. Wix targeted long term revenue growth at 15% pa.
There is a significant opportunity to disrupt a legacy player (WordPress) with more specialised, user-friendly solutions
Wix and Squarespace are easy to use website builders that build everything from blogs to eCommerce websites. Their ‘jack of all trades’ approach can detract from the user experience. For example, Venture Journeys uses Wix. While Wix is easy to use, I find the website slow and clunky. I try to avoid including videos and Gifs (all those cool memes *sigh*) in my posts to speed up the experience.
In contrast, Storipress is built for writers.
How Storipress’s Unique Solution Is Empowering News Publishers to Succeed Online
Storipress’s target customers are independent news publishers or writers that have over 30,000 monthly views on their website. As a former publisher, Alex understands their need for a specialised solution. Storipress’s website builder combines the functionality of the 5 different providers he used in Polity into one platform.
As a result, Storipress’s early customers have been able to reduce the steps taken to publish an article from 70 to 20. This allows writers to spend more time creating content and building their audience.
I spoke to Storipress customers, Edge of the Crowd and Sub 11. They highlighted 3 key benefits – Speed, Audience Growth and Collaboration.
After transitioning from WordPress, Edge of the Crowd saw a noticeable increase in speed which made for a better user experience.
WordPress was introduced in 2003. By contrast, Storipress has built its own infrastructure (i.e content delivery network) around modern code called Jamstack, first presented by Netlify co-founder Mathias Biilmann Christensen in 2016.
Using Jamstack results in faster, more secure websites. It became popular and resulted in Netlify raising US$105m in late 2021 at a US$2bn valuation.
Storipress further innovated around Jamstack to increase its flexibility and ease of use. The result is user friendly websites with class leading speed.
Storipress helps audience growth through an engaging user experience. Its speed allows its websites to have infinity scrolling. This recreates the experience on social media where new content loads automatically when the reader scrolls to the bottom of the screen. Readers consume 20% more content which makes it a great feature for news articles and blogs.
Both Edge of the Crowd and Sub 11 highlighted how Storipress made SEO easy with intuitive in-built tools.
Storipress’s inbuilt workflow tools such as editorial control and scheduling make content production more efficient.
Sub11’s director highlighted Storipress’s word editor which allows him to type drafts directly into the editor and publish from there. I reflected on my own experience of managing and transferring drafts from Microsoft Word to Wix. I’m jealous!
Edge of the Crowd complimented the Kanban board (see below) which makes collaborating between writers and editors easy.
Storipress’s built-in Kanban board where article release schedules can be planned
Pricing That Is Aligned to the Value Customers Receive
WordPress’s open-source nature means it starts off as free. However, as users add plug-ins, pricing can vary widely.
In contrast, Customer Centric businesses align their pricing to the value that customers receive. Storipress’s pricing is based on the number of editors using the platform. Editors are seen as indicators for content published and therefore, the value customers are getting.
The feedback I received from his customers reflect this. For example, with 4 editors, Edge of the Crowd is paying a similar amount to what they used to pay WordPress. However, co-founder Dan Coppel was satisfied due to the value they are getting. Articles are being published more efficiently and audience growth has increased since transitioning from WordPress.
How the Growing Value of Written Content Positions Storipress for Long Term Growth
My previous article described the opportunity for content focused platforms like Storipress. Bringing together writers and their audiences on 1 platform unlocks opportunities for monetisation and audience growth. This gives rise to a virtuous cycle of monetisation and content as shown below:
Virtuous Cycle of Content and Monetisation
We are seeing the start of a promising trend. Longer term, written content will be seen as a product that writers can expect to be paid for. Content focused platforms like Storipress will be the place to create, market and sell this ‘product’. They will be obvious beneficiaries as the value of written content rises.
There are many opportunities for Storipress to introduce additional product features like audience analytics, referral programs or its own ad network for long term growth and retention. This is why Alex often refers to his business as the ‘Shopify of Media Companies’.
It’s been a long time since written content featured on any growth investor’s radar. Startups like Storipress are changing this by providing writers with the tools to grow and monetise their audience online. Current solutions like WordPress are built on dated code and are ripe for disruption.
Alex’s customer centric approach stood out to me. He is building Storipress’s product and pricing around what customers care about - producing content. I encourage content producers and investors to experience his website for themselves (here).
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