What is Newspack?
It’s a ready-to-go, intuitive, revenue-focused publishing platform that will take the tech burden off of small and medium-sized newsrooms, letting them dedicate more resources to journalism. Newspack is simple to set up, easy to use, durable, flexible and fast.
So it’s a new content-management system?
No, Newspack was developed on and uses WordPress, the world’s most popular CMS. Newspack is a plugin and a subscription service overseen by an experienced team that selects, streamlines and simplifies the use of other plugins best suited to newsroom needs. Newspack is the maestro that will arrange and conduct an orchestra of plugins. And it eliminates most of publishers’ technology headaches and overhead.
The list of Newspack-friendly plugins continues to grow to meet the increasing demands of our publishers. We keep a constantly evolving, highly curated catalog of plugins, adding when we find new gems and culling the list when others get outdated. In general, the plugins provide for:
- mobile delivery
- search engine optimization
- advertising delivery and management
- subscription and membership services
- email marketing services
- lead acquisition tools
- advanced analytics
- social-media integration
- and features like AMP and PWA.
How do you find the right plugins?
We don’t pretend to know what’s best for journalists. We consider the experts to be our partners in the continual development and growth of Newspack. When we began, we were guided by publishers at 12 charter newsrooms. We’ve since added another 70 newsrooms to our community, and we surveyed hundreds of small and medium-sized online publishers to get their input. Our publishers push us every day to meet their needs and expand our catalog.
How do you evaluate plugins and other features?
With a tight focus, confidence and a bit of an attitude. Our newsroom partners help us determine the best tool for each job. We sift through everything the open-source WordPress community has to offer so you don’t have to. We approach plugin developers to work with us, if necessary, to modify their product to best suit our Newspack publishers. And we build new solutions when one doesn’t exist. But if a publisher asks for a feature or plugin that is dated or outside of best practices for online newsrooms, we let them know, and then we work with them to reach the best workflow for the outcome they want.
The beauty of an open-source platform such as WordPress is that developers are constantly innovating. But until now, finding, vetting and installing the latest plugins — with confidence that they won’t break what you’ve built — has been a challenge for smaller newsrooms.
That makes sense. What are some of the areas you’re focusing on?
- For publishing, we give newsrooms incredible flexibility so they can modify or change the layout of their pages and story presentations at will. No more being locked into only what a theme offers, or hiring developers to add functional or visual flair. Workflows are streamlined and integrated with social media and newsletters.
- For revenue development, we find features that smoothly take readers through an audience-acquisition funnel to become subscribers or members. We make it easy to create an online store. Accepting payments and donations is a breeze.
- For audience engagement, we use the best tools that ensure your readers can be part of a newsroom’s operations including story inception, sourcing, reporting, and post-publication comments.
Sounds great. What does it cost?
The Newspack subscription service on WordPress.com has three pricing tiers that take into account a publisher’s annual revenue. The product and services that come with Newspack don’t change by tier.
- $500 a month for news operations with gross revenue under $250,000 a year
- $1,000 a month for gross revenue between $250,000 and $500,000 a year
- $2,000 a month for gross revenues above $500,000 a year.
That cost works out to be 5 percent or less for a newsroom with at least $120,000 in revenue.
What does a newsroom get for that?
In short, a foundation for sustainable journalism. The service includes:
- migration of current site*
- hosting on WordPress.com’s worldwide servers
- 24/7 support from more than 300 agents
- a dedicated account manager from the Newspack team
- daily backups
- automatic updates
- high-speed video and image delivery, via CDN
- advice and help redesigning your site
- exclusive benchmarking against your peers
- continuing education on best practices in revenue development and journalism
- a priority connection to Newspack developers
- membership in a growing community of local publishers.
As Newspack has grown, the last three items on the list have become increasingly beneficial, according to our publishers. Our Slack has become a go-to source for them, not only for Newspack questions, but for nearly every aspect of running a publication. Conversations range from finding the best health insurance for their employees, to crafting the right language for a membership appeal. Our weekly calls have featured subject-matter experts giving advice on such things as launching and monetizing a newsletter, and ways to increase transparency and trust.
*Depending on the complexity and type of CMS you’re currently on, if not WordPress.
Is Newspack open source?
Yes. WordPress.com is committed to its role in the open-source community. Newspack is no exception, and the plugin is portable.
Won’t this just create cookie-cutter news sites?
Only under the hood, where it’s important. One of the key principles of Newspack is that publishers have many common needs. Each of them shouldn’t spend their time researching, choosing, installing, maintaining and updating something so essential to their business. Newspack does that for them. A site’s appearance can be changed easily, and sites will have a lot of discretion over what features they load. All this can be done without having to engage a developer.
This all sounds amazing, but is anyone actually using it?
Yes. We have many publishers already launched, and plenty more working towards launching on Newspack. Check out a full list of launched publishers here.
Perfect. Where’s the sign-up page?
OK. Now talk nerdy to me. How is Newspack developed?
All development takes place in several public GitHub repositories. The community is welcome to submit issues, feature requests, and code-level changes. The main plugin repo is here.
How do the plugin options work?
The most common and critical are loaded by default when publishers create or migrate their sites. Others are offered to publishers during setup, depending on their preferences, such as whether they need advertising-management tools. Other vetted and approved options are listed in our catalog.
What are the elements of Newspack?
Newspack will consist of a modular plugin, a theme, and a managed hosting offering.
Say a bit more about the plugin.
The plugin manages a range of journalism-focused functionality. Some features will be provided natively, and some will integrate third-party products. The plugin will manage the installation of many recommended outside plugins. A key pillar of Newspack will be a fast, distraction-free onboarding experience, focused tightly on the needs of journalism.
And the theme?
The Newspack theme will be based on the latest block-based WordPress thinking, in line with the vision laid out here: one theme, many styles, blocks and templates. Newspack will not be about offering an unnecessary variety of themes. It will zero in on the precise visual needs of a newsroom, but still let publishers customize their site with a distinct look and layout.
How does Newspack interact with the block editor?
Newspack has the luxury of being a textbook application of Gutenberg block concepts without significant backwards compatibility concerns.
Will custom plugin and theme installation be supported in the service offered by WordPress.com?
Yes. Automattic’s Newspack hosting will live on Atomic architecture, which allows for installation of custom themes and plugins, within reason. We aspire to make Newspack a comprehensive solution in which you won’t need to do this much, but the option exists if you so choose.