WordPress—the most popular publishing platform for the open web—is already used by around two-thirds of small and medium-sized publishers as their content management system. Now the company has announced an initiative to take the relationship further, and help local newsrooms create a sustainable business model.
Automattic Inc, the parent company of WordPress, has joined with other news industry leaders—including the Google News Initiative, Lenfest Journalism Institute, Civil funder ConsenSys, and the Knight Foundation—to develop an advanced open-source publishing and revenue-generating platform for news organizations.
The project—named Newspack by WordPress.com—is designed to address some of the persistent obstacles to creating economically sustainable models for journalism, particularly at the local level.
“With many local news organizations struggling to find sustainable models for journalism, we’re seeing a need for an inexpensive platform that provides the technology and support that lets news organizations build their businesses and focus on what they do best — providing critical reporting for their communities,” says Mark Armstrong, Editor at Automattic.
“Our hope with Newspack is to give them a platform where they can continue to focus on what they do best, while we focus on providing world-class technology and support across their editorial and business operations.”
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.Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic Inc.
“Open source is clearly the future,” says Matt, who is also the founding developer of WordPress, “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.”
NiemanLab reports that Kinsey Wilson, former digital chief at NPR and The New York Times and now WordPress.com’s president, is leading the initiative, and is working with the News Revenue Hub and Spirited Media as development partners.
“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,” said Wilson.
It’s not simply a CMS for a newsroom, but a full business system that enables publishing and monetization at the same time.Kinsey Wilson, President of WordPress.com
“We’ve seen through our work at the News Revenue Hub how many small and medium-sized news organizations struggle with their websites. They’re limited by everything from stale design and poor user experience to mobile responsiveness and SEO,” said Mary Walter-Brown, the hub’s CEO.
“They’re also not always optimized for lead generation or fundraising. Over time it becomes extremely difficult for them to grow audience and serve their readers. It also makes it difficult to implement any kind of reader revenue program — like membership.”
Publishing partners who apply by February 1 will be able to use
The project will initially give a dozen sites the chance to pilot this new WordPress.com-built platform in the first half of 2019, and more than 50 to use it in the second half of the year. Wilson and the News Revenue Hub are looking especially for local newsrooms with single or double-digit staffs.
Publishers interested in being part of the pilot launch can go to newspack.blog to learn more.