reported this evening that Automattic raised a $29.5 million Series B venture round led by Polaris Ventures, and including previous investors True Ventures and Radar Ventures. Perhaps the most intriguing part of the news is that the New York Times Company is also joining the round, making a strategic investment in Automattic, who are the creators of the widely used Wordpress blogging platform.Om Malik
According to Automattic founder Matt Mullenweg, Wordpress.com experienced phenomenal growth last year, recording 3.2 billion page views across 25 million posts, while signing up 1.2 million new members. Compete confirms the big year for Automattic's hosted blog service, which grew by 427% and is closing in on Google's Blogger in the "people count" metric.
Automattic CEO Toni Schneider, who recently won the Crunchie award for best start-up CEO, said in a blog post that the funding will help Automattic attain two goals. "One was to put enough money in the bank to have financial security for years to come," he wrote. "Another was to invest more aggressively into our 'other' products and services (other than WordPress) like Akismet, Gravatar, and bbPress."
But as we said, the most intriguing part of the news is the strategic investment by the New York Times Co. Like many large news organizations, the Times Co. utilizes Wordpress to power its blogs. As we noted, earlier this week the newspaper ran two stories that were approbative toward tools like blogs that are traditionally used by citizen journalists. Meanwhile, the paper's blogs are very successful -- their technology blog, "Bits," currently sits at #17 on the Techmeme Leaderboard (the paper is #3 -- any many of the stories attributed to the flagship are by Bits authors), while their political blog, "The Caucus," is #15 on Memeorandum (the paper is #1).
With the paper receiving so much web attention from blogging, it probably can't hurt to get cozy with the provider of their blog platform. According to Schneider, the paper has the dual goals of "[expanding] their existing WordPress blogging infrastructure and to create new ways of connecting WordPress bloggers with the New York Times and its readers."
The latter bit makes me wonder if the Times is planning to allow readers to set up blogs on the paper's web site -- similar to how The Huffington Post or DailyKos work. Or it could mean that the paper will be looking at ways to syndicate content from outside bloggers who are using the Wordpress platform -- similar to the way Reuters and USA Today syndicate bloggers via BlogBurst.
Either way, it sounds like the fruits of this investment may lead to an opportunity for broader syndication for long tail bloggers. Whatever the NYT has in mind for its Wordpress tie-up, it is certainly an interesting direction for one of America's oldest and most respected daily newspapers, and a further affirmation of blogging's use in legitimate journalism.
Update: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that True Ventures led the round. However, Polaris Ventures provided $20 million of the $29.5 million raised in this funding round.