WordPress Developer Announces New Revenue-Generating Publisher Platform

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Newspack, a new content management system (CMS) from Automattic, the people behind WordPress, is still being developed, and it's already generating headlines. And publishers can apply now to become charter participants.

Google has dedicated $1.2 million to the project, while the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, blockchain organization ConsenSys, Civil Media and The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation are also funding the project.

Covering the story last week, TechCrunch wrote that although they use and like WordPress, "it becomes more difficult to use once you want to monetize your content using subscriptions, metered paywalls and user accounts. WordPress doesn't have a native solution for that."

Enter Newspack. Its goal is to be "an advanced, open-source publishing and revenue-generating platform for news organizations." It's designed for small to mid-size publishers who focus on local geographic regions or specific, focused topics—right in some members' wheelhouse.

At this point, they are inviting small and medium-sized digital news organizations—whether local, single topic or general interest—to apply to become charter participants in the development of the platform, which will launch in beta form near the end of July 2019. The deadline to apply is Friday, Feb. 1. Here is the link to fill out and submit the necessary questionnaire.

According to the Newspack blog, the project will be fully funded by Automattic through the development period (which goes to January 2020). After that, operating fees of between $1,000 and $2,000 per month will be applied to participating sites. Successful applicants will have an opportunity to discuss their participation with the project staff before committing to join.

Here are some of the requirements for initial applicants:

  • They want organization models to be different, a plus for SIPA members.
  • Sites that have demonstrated both editorial and financial success—or in the case of new startups have a strong launch plan—will get special consideration. Sites whose models may apply to other digital news organizations and/or sites that have seen technical challenges in their strategy may be given preference.
  • Using WordPress? That's an advantage.
  • They want to see a well thought-out editorial and business approach to your future growth.
  • Emphasize your excellent coverage and original content of a "distinct subject area."
  • You must commit to participating in a bi-weekly video call and making staff available to assist with the migration of their site to the Newspack platform.
  • And you must commit to migrating your site to the Newspack platform at the conclusion of the initial six-month development period.

"It's an interesting move, as Medium has been trying to monetize online content for a while (with mixed results)," wrote TechCrunch. "Bigger players won't necessarily move to Newspack. But many smaller websites covering a single topic or a small area could use multiple options on this front."

Writing on Publishing Executive, Eric Shanfelt, founding partner of eMedia Strategist, speculated that "Newspack will be a managed service that includes hosting. It likely won't be available as software that you install on your own server." He cited a recent Google blogpost: "Newspack publishers will have access to all the plugins created by the WordPress developer community."

"From this, it seems that Newspack will be built on the WordPress base platform but will include additional technologies that don't come standard with WordPress: member management, security, subscriptions and ad serving," Shanfelt wrote. He added that Newspack will integrate with many of Google's publishing tools such as Ad Manager, Subscribe with Google, Google Analytics and Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP).

Said WordPress in its initial announcement: "Our hope with Newspack is to give [publishers] 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."

Again, the deadline to apply is Feb. 1. With Google investing this heavily, it's definitely worth a look.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…