Newspack has chosen a group of 34 news organizations to guide the next phase of development of a new WordPress-based platform for small and medium-sized publishers.
The sites are expected to relaunch on the Newspack platform by the end of February. They join 11 newsrooms that have been working with the development team since March and are in the process of relaunching their sites now.
Oklahoma Watch is the latest site to launch on Newspack this week. It joins El Soberano in Santiago, Chile, which was the first to go live on the platform earlier this month. The remaining pilot participants will launch in the coming weeks.
“We are off and rolling and feeling unshackled in a way, as we had settled for a limited, unremarkable website for too long,” said David Fritze, executive editor of Oklahoma Watch. “Now we have many easy-to-deploy visual and engagement tools, including for the home page, and it all tends to spur your imagination.”
Newspack is an open-source publishing and monetization platform, developed on WordPress.com, that is designed to provide a powerful, yet affordable and easy-to-deploy technology solution for local and niche news organizations. It is designed to free publishers from the burden of selecting, deploying and maintaining complex software systems and allow them to dedicate more resources to producing high-quality journalism.
“We’re delighted by the interest that’s been shown in Newspack and the fact that barely six months into the project we have 45 participating news organizations,” said Kinsey Wilson, president of WordPress.com. “It demonstrates the appetite for affordable solutions that will help sustain journalism at the local level.”
Newspack is supported by funding, as well as technical and advisory assistance, from the Google News Initiative; The Lenfest Institute for Journalism; ConsenSys, the venture studio backing Civil Media; and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Newspack is being developed by Automattic, the parent company of WordPress.com, whose CEO, Matt Mullenweg, is the cofounder of the WordPress open-source software. Newspack sites will be hosted, secured, and updated by WordPress.com, allowing them to tap into the world-class technology and support relied upon by some of the most trusted names in journalism.
Newspack is designed to meet the editorial and business needs of smaller digital publishers and includes audience-engagement and revenue-development features that are designed to help news publishers achieve sustainability.
As with the charter newsrooms now launching, the next group will work with the Newspack team to identify the needs of small and medium-sized newsrooms. They will help design, test and deploy the platform. Nearly 500 newsrooms around the world applied to be part of the program.
In recognition of their critical role in guiding development, newsrooms launching on Newspack in the first two phases will do so at no cost until March 2020 and at a starting price of $1,000 a month after that. Additional applications will be considered starting in January.
In addition to the features already noted, Newspack will stay current with evolving industry needs. The service will include priority access to the Newspack developers, membership in a community of fellow Newspack users; quarterly, confidential WordPress.com benchmarking reports that show how their sites compare to others in their class; and a premium level of support that is still being defined.
The newsrooms in the second round of development are:
Queens Courier, Ridgewood Times, Times Newsweekly, TimesLedger
The Daily Yonder, part of the Center for Rural Strategies