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WPTavern: WordPress.com Secures $2.4 Million in Funding from Google and Partners to Build a Publishing Platform for News Organizations

WPTavern: WordPress.com Secures .4 Million in Funding from Google and Partners to Build a Publishing Platform for News Organizations

WordPress.com has announced plans to create a new, open source publishing platform that caters to small and medium-sized news organizations. The Google News Initiative has contributed $1.2 million towards the development of “Newspack” on top of WordPress.com’s infrastructure.

Automattic and Google have joined with other contributing partners from the broader world of journalism for a total of $2.4 million in funding for the first year of the project. These partners include The Lenfest Institute for Journalism ($400K), ConsenSys, the venture studio behind Civil Media ($350K), The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation ($250K), and an additional partner who will join later this month. Spirited Media and News Revenue Hub will also contribute to the creation of the platform.

Local news organizations are critical for a healthy democratic society, keeping the public informed about things happening close to home. The move to digital news consumption has forced consolidation in the news industry where larger players have come out ahead while smaller publications struggle to stay above water.

In a report called “The Expanding News Desert,” published in 2018, researchers at the University of North Carolina found that nearly one in five newspapers has disappeared during the past 15 years. Many others have become “ghost newspapers,” shells of what they once were – either absorbed by larger dailies that purchased them or suffering from a severely pared back newsroom that is unable to adequately cover local events.

WordPress.com has amassed an expert team to address this crisis in local news. The Newspack platform will cater to the technological and editorial needs of smaller newsrooms, with the monetization tools to make their work sustainable. WordPress.com is currently accepting applications for charter participants and plans to launch in beta near the end of July 2019.

Open Source Newspack Platform to Offer an Alternative to Expensive Proprietary CMS’s

The WordPress community has speculated widely about what shape Newspack will take, whether it will be like WordPress.com VIP tailored to publications or something similar to Jetpack with a curated set of tools that could be used by self-hosted sites through SaaS upgrades. According to WordPress.com president Kinsey Wilson, a former executive for NPR and The New York Times who joined Automattic in 2018, the platform may end up being a hybrid of approaches.

“It’s still very early in the process, but I expect elements of both VIP and Jetpack to inform this,” Kinsey said. “Newspack will be part of the WordPress.com platform, but we’re going to be working on a highly curated experience tailored to these news organizations, with individualized support available across editorial and business.”

The platform will support plugins that solve problems publishers experience at the local level and will also include Gutenberg-specific editorial tools.

“It will leverage Gutenberg,” Kinsey said. “A few examples of the tools that might be launched with Newspack include email integration for marketing and editorial; programmatic ad integration, analytics, real-time backups, and revenue generating tools for subscriptions and e-commerce. We hope to work closely with partners across the WordPress ecosystem for potential ways to work with services that are beneficial to news organizations.”

The most important distinction of the Newspack platform is that it will be open source. That also puts it directly in competition with proprietary CMS’s like Arc, Vox Media’s Chorus CMS, and MediaOS, that are prominent in the news industry right now. Instead of working together, larger media companies have opted to build their own CMS’s and many of them are also licensing enterprise versions to publishers or offering them as SaaS solutions.

I asked Kinsey if Newspack will be something news organizations could self-host or if it will be inextricably tied to WordPress.com’s infrastructure. WordPress.com is making it open in the sense that publishers will not be tied to using it forever if they want to their information and copy the same setup somewhere else.

“It is not only open source, it will be designed so that at any point in time any individual site or even a commercial competitor could capture an image of the setup and port it to another platform,” Kinsey said. “The value we offer is our knowledge of the news industry, our ability to keep pace with new requirements, and our ability to vet various plug-ins and open-source contributions to the project for security and interoperability — all at an attractive operating cost of between $1,000 and $2,000 per month. In addition, we hope to expose news organizations to a wider community of like-minded developers and to create an on-boarding system that simplifies the setup.”

Operating costs on proprietary platforms are much higher than what WordPress.com is planning for Newspack. Arc costs smaller publishers $10,000 per month in software licensing fees and can cost up to $150,000 monthly for larger publications. Vox media executives told the Wall Street Journal that the company “plans to sell Chorus at different pricing tiers depending on the demands of each customer with fees in the six and seven-figure ranges.” Small local news publications are often priced out of using a publishing platform like this.

“It breaks my heart how much of their limited resources these organizations still sink into closed-source or dead-end technology,” Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg said in a post introducing Newspack on his blog. “Open source is clearly the future, and if we do this right Newspack can be the technology choice that lasts with them through the decades, and hopefully our 15 years of growth lends some credibility to our orientation to build things for the long term.”

Google’s support of Newspack is in line with its history of building with and supporting open source projects. When asked for clarification on Google’s investment in the project, Kinsey said, “It is a donation that is intended to support work that otherwise would not likely find commercial support because of the relatively modest means of small digital publishers.”

WordPress.com’s Newspack announcement comes on the heels of the news of Digital First Media’s unsolicited $1.36 billion bid for Gannett. The future of local news is tenuous, as larger players in the industry press for more consolidation and cost-cutting journalism. In the same week, Facebook, who has had a hot and cold relationship with publishers, announced the company is investing $300 million to support local news.

In recognition of the dire situation facing many local newsrooms, the largest companies on the web are committing funds to help them find a sustainable business model. WordPress.com’s Newspack platform, with its affordable, open source alternative to proprietary systems, is positioned to make a strong impact during this seminal time in the evolution of the news industry.

“By itself, an open source CMS is not going to help news organizations remain independent,” Kinsey said. “However, by helping new, emerging organizations overcome the complexity and cost typically associated with technology deployment and instead allowing them to focus resources on journalism and smart business practices, we think we can help them become more sustainable.”


WordPress.com has announced plans to create a new, open source publishing platform that caters to small and medium-sized news organizations. The Google News Initiative has contributed $1.2 million towards the development of “Newspack” on top of WordPress.com’s infrastructure. Automattic and Google have joined with other contributing partners from the broader world of journalism for a total of $2.4 million in funding for the first year of the project. These partners include The Lenfest Institute for Journalism ($400K), ConsenSys, the venture studio behind Civil Media ($350K), The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation ($250K), and an additional partner who will…

Source: WordPress

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Matt: My TED Video on the Future of Work

Matt: My TED Video on the Future of Work

I was thrilled to participate in TED’s new video series, The Way We Work, and not surprisingly I made the case that distributed work is where everything is headed.

&version;

Why Working from Home Is Better for Business

This company is so dedicated to remote working that they literally don’t have an office. Here’s why a “distributed” workforce is better for business — and employees:

Posted by The Way We Work on Monday, January 14, 2019

What I really love about this video in particular is that we get into the specifics of how a company can start to embrace a culture of letting employees work from anywhere, even if it started out as a traditional office with everyone in the same place. Automattic never started that way, so even as we’ve scaled up to more than 840 people in 68 countries, there’s never been a question — it’s now built in to our entire culture.

For distributed work to scale up, it’s going to require more CEOs, workers, and managers to test the waters. Any company can experiment with distributed work — just pick a day or two of the week in which everyone works from home, I suggest Tuesdays and Thursdays, then build the tools and systems to support it. Yes, that may require some shuffling of meetings, or more written documentation versus verbal real-time discussion. But I think companies will be surprised how quickly it will “just work.”

If the companies don’t experiment, workers may force them to do it anyway:


I was thrilled to participate in TED’s new video series, The Way We Work, and not surprisingly I made the case that distributed work is where everything is headed. &version;Why Working from Home Is Better for BusinessThis company is so dedicated to remote working that they literally don’t have an office. Here’s why a “distributed” workforce is better for business — and employees:Posted by The Way We Work on Monday, January 14, 2019 What I really love about this video in particular is that we get into the specifics of how a company can start to embrace a culture of…

Source: WordPress

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WPTavern: WooCommerce Blocks is Now a Feature Plugin, Version 1.3.0 Introduces 6 New Blocks

WPTavern: WooCommerce Blocks is Now a Feature Plugin, Version 1.3.0 Introduces 6 New Blocks

WooCommerce Blocks 1.3.0 was released yesterday with six new blocks. Previously, the plugin allowed users to display a grid of products by category. The new version introduces a Featured Product Block with design options for customizing nearly everything about the display, including color overlay, price and description, text alignment, call-to-action button, and the product photo.

Version 1.3.0 also introduces a Hand-Picked Products block that displays a grid of manual selections that can be ordered in different ways. Other new blocks include the following, which display as a grid and can be filtered by category:

  • Best Selling Products block
  • Top Rated Products block
  • Newest Products block
  • On Sale Products block

WooCommerce Blocks is also now a feature plugin, which means that after it is more polished and tested, the plugin can be considered for merge into WooCommerce core. WooCommerce Blocks 1.4 is expected the last week in January with improvements to the Featured Product block and a new Products by Attribute block.

In December 2018, WooCommerce published usage data that indicates 40% of users who could be considered “established business owners” also have a brick-and-mortar location, and 27% host events in physical locations. This means that many WooCommerce store owners have multiple channels for selling their products. The data also showed that large stores don’t always turn to big companies to handle their website development needs.

Based on that usage data, blocks have the potential to greatly improve the site management experience for many WooCommerce store owners who want to market to different audiences beyond their physical stores. Blocks enable them to easily swap out featured products and customize promotions on products that are selling well in their stores. All of these actions are quick to configure inside the new editor with a live preview. The sooner this feature plugin lands in WooCommerce core, the easier it will be to make these kinds of quick updates. Store owners with sites running on WordPress 5.0+ can take advantage of these blocks now by installing the plugin.


WooCommerce Blocks 1.3.0 was released yesterday with six new blocks. Previously, the plugin allowed users to display a grid of products by category. The new version introduces a Featured Product Block with design options for customizing nearly everything about the display, including color overlay, price and description, text alignment, call-to-action button, and the product photo. Version 1.3.0 also introduces a Hand-Picked Products block that displays a grid of manual selections that can be ordered in different ways. Other new blocks include the following, which display as a grid and can be filtered by category: Best Selling Products blockTop Rated Products…

Source: WordPress

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WPTavern: CoBlocks Adds Row and Columns Page Building Blocks for Gutenberg

WPTavern: CoBlocks Adds Row and Columns Page Building Blocks for Gutenberg

CoBlocks, one of the earliest block collections for Gutenberg, has added new page building blocks and tools in the latest 1.6 release. ThemeBeans founder Rich Tabor and plugin developer Jeffrey Carandang partnered together on this iteration of CoBlocks to bring users new Row and Columns blocks and a Typography Control Panel.

The Row and Column blocks are resizable and can be dragged to new positions.

After selecting the Row block, users can choose the number of columns and then a layout for the row.

These row layouts can also be adjusted from inside the row toolbar or inspector sidebar panel, which includes responsive media query controls.

The Row and Column blocks also come with fine-grained controls for adjusting background and text color, width, margin, and padding.

Version 1.6 also includes a new Typography Control Panel with support for Google fonts. Users can customize the fonts with built-in controls for line-height, letter-spacing, font-weight, and text-transform properties. It also supports customizing fonts for the core heading, paragraph, and button blocks.

The video below shows a quick demo of column layouts and nested row blocks in action, as well as a few other blocks in the collection. Tabor said the team has more blocks in development that are geared towards full page layout and design. They are also working on a more advanced Google Maps block, feature blocks, and image cards.

The Gutenberg team has been discussing a “section” block since February 2018, where columns blocks could be placed inside the more generic section container. It’s on the roadmap for Phase 2 but contributors are taking their time to carefully define how this block will work. In the meantime, plugin developers have created their own versions of sections.

CoBlocks is currently setting the bar for Gutenberg-powered layouts. When WordPress core gets deeper into site building, this plugin’s user-friendly approach to rows and columns should provide some inspiration for creating an intuitive page building experience.


CoBlocks, one of the earliest block collections for Gutenberg, has added new page building blocks and tools in the latest 1.6 release. ThemeBeans founder Rich Tabor and plugin developer Jeffrey Carandang partnered together on this iteration of CoBlocks to bring users new Row and Columns blocks and a Typography Control Panel. The Row and Column blocks are resizable and can be dragged to new positions. After selecting the Row block, users can choose the number of columns and then a layout for the row. These row layouts can also be adjusted from inside the row toolbar or inspector sidebar panel,…

Source: WordPress

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WPTavern: WordPress Support Forums Add @mentions with Auto-complete

WPTavern: WordPress Support Forums Add @mentions with Auto-complete

The WordPress Support forums have been updated to include Twitter/GitHub style auto-completion for usernames. As users begin typing @username in the forum’s TinyMCE editor, it will begin to suggest usernames, narrowed further by characters typed. Hitting tab or enter will complete the username and link it to the user’s profiles.wordpress.org page. This will trigger a notification for the user.

A similar feature was implemented on WordPress trac three years ago. This initial version of @mention auto-complete for the support forums works in a similar way in that it completes a partial search query from a known set of usernames. In this case it only includes thread participants. In order to make the auto-complete scale for WordPress.org’s 10+ million registered users, it does not perform site-wide username lookups or include moderators, plugin reps, or theme reps who have not yet commented on the thread.

The @mentions have been implemented across all WordPress.org forums. Any issues with the feature can be reported on trac by re-opening the original ticket or creating a new one. Daniel Iser commented on the ticket that he is working on getting this feature working for bbPress during the first half of this year.


The WordPress Support forums have been updated to include Twitter/GitHub style auto-completion for usernames. As users begin typing @username in the forum’s TinyMCE editor, it will begin to suggest usernames, narrowed further by characters typed. Hitting tab or enter will complete the username and link it to the user’s profiles.wordpress.org page. This will trigger a notification for the user. A similar feature was implemented on WordPress trac three years ago. This initial version of @mention auto-complete for the support forums works in a similar way in that it completes a partial search query from a known set of usernames. In…

Source: WordPress

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Matt: Journalism and Newspack

Matt: Journalism and Newspack

WordPress.com is partnering with Google and news industry leaders on a new platform for small- and medium-sized publishers, called Newspack. The team has raised $2.4 million in first-year funding from the Google News Initiative, Lenfest Journalism Institute, Civil funder ConsenSys, and the Knight Foundation, among others. We’re also still happy to talk to and engage other funders who want to get involved — I’d love to put even more resources into this.

It’s been a difficult climate for the news business, particularly at the local level. It also breaks my heart how much of their limited resources these organizations still sink into closed-source or dead-end technology. Open source is clearly the future, and if we do this right Newspack can be the technology choice that lasts with them through the decades, and hopefully our 15 years of growth lends some credibility to our orientation to build things for the long term.

Here’s Kinsey in Nieman Lab:

The goal is to both make sure that the catalog of publishing tools as well as business tools they need to be able to run what one hopes is a sustainable news operation are addressed simultaneously. It’s not simply a CMS for a newsroom, but a full business system that enables publishing and monetization at the same time.

Nieman Lab interview

As you have come to expect from Automattic, everything will be open source and developed to the same standards WordPress itself is. We’re working with Spirited Media and the News Revenue Hub on the platform, and we will likely look for even more partnership opportunities from across the WordPress ecosystem. If you’d like to invest or get involved, drop us a line at newspack@automattic.com.


WordPress.com is partnering with Google and news industry leaders on a new platform for small- and medium-sized publishers, called Newspack. The team has raised $2.4 million in first-year funding from the Google News Initiative, Lenfest Journalism Institute, Civil funder ConsenSys, and the Knight Foundation, among others. We’re also still happy to talk to and engage other funders who want to get involved — I’d love to put even more resources into this. It’s been a difficult climate for the news business, particularly at the local level. It also breaks my heart how much of their limited resources these organizations still…

Source: WordPress

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