C-Suite Conversations: An Interview with Jason Cohen, CTO, WP Engine

Dec 02, 2016

Article ImageWP Engine is the fourth startup for Jason Cohen, who serves as the company’s CTO. Cohen says, “While at Smart Bear Software, which I founded and subsequently sold in 2007, I created a corporate blog on WordPress. I ended up becoming the main contributor, and it evolved into a personal blog focused on marketing, startup growth, software development and other topics.” After the Smart Bear acquisition, Cohen did a stint as a stay-at-home dad, and blogging became a way to keep up with the outside world. “I became frustrated when sudden traffic spikes caused my blog to crash, and it ultimately provided the genesis of the idea for WP Engine.”

After writing the code that laid the foundation for WP Engine’s managed web-hosting platform, Cohen founded WP Engine in 2010, solving four problems he had with his own site: speed, scale, security, and service. “WP Engine’s managed hosting platform provides the performance, reliability, and security required by the biggest brands and agencies in the world, while remaining affordable and intuitive for smaller businesses and individuals,” says Cohen. 

Trends He’s Watching

Cohen sees four trends building momentum for brand publishers, starting with the co-creation of content. “Brands will invite their audience into the content creation process to make for a more immersive and fun experience,” says Cohen. “We’ve already seen this trend start to catch on, as when @TheHungerGames built buzz and anticipation for Mockingjay—Part 1 by launching the trailer on Twitter once enough fans had ‘unlocked’ it with a retweet.” He also sees personalized content at scale becoming more prevalent, as automation tools enable a simpler, more systematic way for brands to deliver it. Cohen says, “A great example was when ?@AmericanExpress partnered with Digigraph to send personalized digital autographs from Pharrell to fans who live streamed his concert.”

Signal-driven content will be important, as exemplified when Budweiser supported its #FriendsAreWaiting campaign about responsible drinking through smart distribution that connected with users talking about going out to bars and parties. “The ability of brands to tap into signals of intent when people are talking about everything from car shopping to eating lunch is powerful,” Cohen says, mentioning that the Budweiser campaign yielded a 6-to-1 earned-to-paid ratio.

Finally, Cohen believes brands will develop content that maps directly to different parts of the purchase funnel. “Gone are the days of creative teams working in a silo,” Cohen says. “We’ll see holistic content plans that drive transactions, and brands will increasingly use first- and third-party data to inform targeting decisions.”

Challenges He Faces

“It boils down to the issue of the noise, and the ability for individuals to discover relevant content. For brands, it’s creating a customized buyer’s journey with content that provides a clear benefit and helps the consumer move further down the consideration path or helps them form a closer relationship to the brand. There’s also a huge issue in the industry around clickbait versus quality content.”

Dreaming Big

“I’d like WP Engine to be the solution that solves the whole problem of making it easier to find relevant content despite the noise!”

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