Matt Mickiewicz – Interview with the Co-Founder Of SitePoint.com
24 year old SitePoint Co-Founder, Matt Mickiewicz gives us an insight into what it is like to run one of the most popular webmaster websites in the world. Sitepoint.com has circ 479,701 Newsletter Subscribers, an Alexa Rank circ 774 and the stated goal of educating web developers and helping them improve their businesses or careers.
Matt Mickiewicz of SitePoint.com – Interview
Today’s interview is with Matt Mickiewicz of SitePoint.com – perhaps the best known webmaster / web developer site on the Net. With a site as big and busy as SitePoint.com there can be no doubt that Matt Mickiewicz knows a thing or two about 1) how to have a great idea and see it through to completion and 2) build upon the success of the site and continusiolly strive to make it bigger and better.
SitePoint.com is currently the 825th most visited website in the world.
Thank you very much for agreeing to this interview. Like so many SitePoint.com is a site that I visit not just once a day, but several times per day, every day.
First off – can we have a little background information – Where you live? How old you are? What motivates you? Inspires you?
I’m 24 years old and live in Vancouver, Canada – which is actually a bit of an odd situation, since our offices and all our staff are based in Melbourne, Australia where Mark Harbottle, the co-founder of SitePoint lives.
The location puts me in the same time zone as most of our customers, advertising clients, and also within a short flying
distance to our retail book distributor, so it works out really well.
The primary motivation and driving force behind SitePoint is our goal of educating developers and helping them improve
their businesses or careers.
Our Main Questions:
1) Sitepoint.com is one of the webs best known websites – with 479,701 Newsletter Subscribers and an Alexa rank today of 774. Tell me, when you started Sitepoint, did you ever think it would be such a huge success? What were your GOALS in the first year or so and when did you realise the site would take on almost a life of its own – expanding beyond most peoples best expectations?
The precursor to SitePoint was actually a website called Webmaster-Resources.com that I launched on April 1st 1998 — that’s when
Network Solutions, the only domain name registrar at that time, lowered their fees from $100 to $70 for a two year registration. I was that cheap!
I really began thinking that I had stumbled onto something big when the media attention started coming in. The site was in the LA Times, USA Today, Washington Post and WINDOWS Magazine (1 million subscribers) within its first 6 months. I even became an occasional contributor to WINDOWS magazine on web development and SEO issues.
2) As I mentioned above, you have 479,701 Newsletter Subscribers (double opt-in). This is a huge number – how often do you send out a newsletter and what are your most popular topics?
We publish four separate email newsletters. Three of them are bi-weekly and each focuses on a separate topic: design, development or business. A fourth one targets our community of developers who participate in our forums.
3) Also, do you manage this list in-house? Do you experience much in the way of deliverability issues? (Due to spam filters etc) Do you have any advice for legitimate webmasters emailing a large list – to make sure as much email as possible reaches the subscriber?
We have a dedicated server for distribution of our email newsletters because of the huge volume that we send. In 2007 alone, we sent about 10 million email newsletter issues out!
Our software (Lyris) does provide us with solid reporting on any domain names that are blocking us with is a rare occurrence. Additionally, we monitor the blacklists to ensure our dedicated IP address doesn’t show up.
The best way to avoid getting filtered is to use a double opt-in process, and to send information that people actually want to read and that provides real value and insight. Investing in content development is a huge part of what we do and we have several people full-time doing nothing but working with authors, tech editing content for accuracy, English editing content, etc.
4) I also notice on your website that 88% of SitePoint visitors, subscribers, and customers invest their own money in furthering their careers and 7% have an annual income greater than $100,000 USD. In your opinion, what do you feel Sitepoint offers visitors like that, which they cannot find elsewhere? Also, do you have much contact with your users / subscribers.
I think SitePoint is extremely comprehensive in our offerings, which are unmatched by anyone else. Our competitors tend to focus on only one thing — whether its free online content, book publishing, running a community or running a marketplace. We’re the only one that does all four.
But at the end of the day, it really comes down the passion and the skills of all the people that work at SitePoint. Every one is dedicated to understanding and meeting the needs of our visitors.
5) Day to Day – what do your “duties” mainly involve? Can you give us a idea of a typical day for you at SitePoint.
My main focus and responsibility is sales, but I’m across most areas of the business.
I’m not afraid to dive into our forums and chat with our moderators, pick up on the phone and call a customer when they have a problem or spend a few hours answering support questions from our customers. It all helps me understand our audience, where we need to improve, and what the problem areas are.
6) Outside of Sitepoint, what are your interests / passions / hobbies?
When I visit our Australian office in Melbourne, my office door has a sign that says “Chief Viticultural Officer” – a reference to my hobby of wine collecting. I’m also an avid reader of non-fiction books and a (poor) golfer.
7) Do you think that entrepreneurialism is something that is in your blood? Or is it something that can be learned?
I’ve known I wanted to be in the business world at a very, very young age.
8) Do you have any favourite business related, internet marketing or personal development related books that you can recommend to other entrepreneurs?
I’d highly recommend “The Web Design Business Kit” which we’ve published. It’s focused on running a web design services business, but the advice is almost universal.
9) What advice would you give to a Young Entrepreneur setting up their first business?
Be conservative with your investments and your projections.
Be patient since everything will take 2-4 times longer than you think
Create real value. I cringe at all the people who think that pay-per-click arbitrage, scraping RSS feeds and all this other nonsense will generate any real, long-term results or value.
Finally, don’t be afraid to tackle a really small niche. Without globalisation, SitePoint wouldn’t be in business (50% of our products ship
outside of the USA). The internet gives entrepreneurs and unprecedented opportunity to aggregate an audience, no matter how obscure or niche the value proposition is.
10) Have you any plans (personal or business) that you can share with us about your future plans / goals / lifetime goals?
The thing I’m most excited about is the imminent release of the 2nd version of our Marketplace. It’s become a huge driver of income and revenue to thousands of people. In February alone, we had $4 million worth of websites listed. It’s something really valuable that I’m very proud of.
I’m equally excited about our new spin-off company — 99Designs.com, and the potential it has to change the graphic design industry and positively impact designers around the world by allowing them to compete in equal footing – without regard to their client list, portfolio, or marketing & sales skills.
Thank you Matt – great interview – superb replies. We really appreciate your contribution