Interview with Mark B, Creator of Autoblogged Plugin

In the second part of our interview series, we have an interview with Mark B who created the popular Autoblogging plugin, AutoBlogged.

Autoblogging plugins can be great to use to add automated content to your sites, as long as you dont break any copyright laws and give credit where required. They could be used to create a feed aggregation site, rss directories, for adding content from your other sites to your blog or as an alternative to parked domain pages.

How long have you been working with WordPress ?

I actually started working with WordPress just a month before I wrote AutoBlogged. I was looking for a good way to park a large number of domains I had at the time. There were a huge number of parked domains cluttering the web at the time and I was searching for a better alternative. I knew that WordPress was very SEO-friendly I had seen a couple autoblogging plugins for WordPress and realized this was a great way to build indexed content and even provide useful aggregated content, but the existing plugins had little flexibility and looked too automated. I started work on the first version of AutoBlogged for my own use before I even knew PHP.

After a month I finished the script and built my first autoblog that aggregated blog posts on IT security. I was completely shocked to see my Google PageRank shoot up to PR5 after just a few weeks. My next site was a news aggregator for the 2008 elections. When I saw my site ranking higher in search engines than the original articles on CNN and the Washington Post, I knew I was on to something huge.

A few months later I was comfortable enough with PHP and WordPress to completely rewrite AutoBlogged from scratch and offer it for sale. I was completely surprised with how popular AutoBlogged became.

How long have you been running Autoblogged now ?

The first version was released in early 2008.

Do you personally run sites powered by Autoblogged ?

I have had hundreds of sites running with AutoBlogged. Most of my domains I have sold off so I don’t have as many now but we always keep real autoblogs running on the most common hosting companies for testing purposes. We found that building real sites is the best way to see our product from the eyes of our customers.

What do you think of the state of the current premium plugin market ?

I think the market has a huge potential but Matt Mullenweg is holding it back with his everything-that-touches-wordpress-is-gpl crusade. A well-developed and well-funded plugin market could be a major boost to WordPress but they completely shun us from the community if our products are not GPL. We even offered to sponsor one of their Word Camp events and they didn’t want our money. We are strong believers in GPL software, but we simply don’t agree with Matt that a plugin that contains 100% original code is a derivative work.

WordPress is also technically unfriendly to paid plugins. We cannot list our products in the plugins directory and there is no way for us to use the built-in updating features. Without support from WordPress, the paid plugin market will always be limited.

Do you have any advice for someone wanting to create their own premium WordPress plugin ?

Although limited, paid plugins are still a great untapped market. Even without support from WordPress, it still has quite a bit of potential. The important thing is to build a strong customer support infrastructure because WordPress is a complicated and ever-changing platform. Keep things as simple as possible and make sure all the code is your own.

What your plans for the future ?

We are moving towards a major rewrite of AutoBlogged and have a few other plugins in the works.

Thanks a lot for your Time, Good luck for the future of AutoBlogged!

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Oliver Dale is the founder of Kooc Media, An Internet Company based in Manchester, UK. I founded WPLift and ThemeFurnace, find out more on my Personal Blog. Thanks!