Bangor Daily News: A complete publishing system on WordPress

Check out the inspiring and detailed story about Bangor Daily News switching to a publishing system powered by WordPress and Google Docs, on Media Bistro. There’s also a screencast which outlines their new editorial workflow and a list of all the plugins you can install to run your own news site with WordPress (emphasis ours):

The Bangor Daily News announced this week that it completed its full transition to open source blogging software, WordPress. And get this: The workflow integrates seamlessly with InDesign, meaning the paper now has one content management system for both its web and print operations. And if you’re auspicious enough, you can do it too — he’s open-sourced all the code!

Rather than having to pay a licensing fee to a company that runs your content management system, what The BDN has set up is essentially free to run. Of course, there were upfront costs involved with paying freelancers to help write the plugins, and each month the website has to pay hosting fees, but the rest of the tools they use are free for everyone. WordPress is open source software that anyone can download and use. Google Docs is also a free product if your organization is small enough. [Media Bistro]

We also had a chance to speak with William Davis, part of the Bangor Daily News team who led the integration who told us more about their decision to use WordPress:

“We looked at several solutions, including proprietary hosted solutions, but we quickly decided they wouldn’t offer the flexibility we needed. We didn’t want to have to wait around for a corporation to develop any features we needed. We wanted to be able to get into the guts of our website if we needed to,” Davis said. “We’re growing quickly online, so we wanted a platform that allowed us to develop and deploy easily and with speed.”

Through a series of plugins they developed specifically for their news site, and utilizing a few from the WordPress community, Bangor Daily News extended WordPress to do exactly what they needed it to do.

“To us, that’s the beauty of WordPress: It’s more easily extendable than any other CMS. In nine months I haven’t hacked core once except to apply patches,” said Davis.

Some of those plugins include, in Davis’ words:

  • the Zoninator (written by now-Automattician Mo Jangda) that allows us to order posts in specific zones, such as the home page, instead of displaying them in reverse-chronological order. It’s a must-have for any publisher on WordPress and we’re very pleased he released it. I believe it will be available for WordPress.com VIP members soon.
  • We use custom post types for quite a bit, including to power our contact pages, our events pages, our photo galleries, our our user-contributed content and our candidate pages for the election. Each of those are a separate plugin, and all will be open-sourced eventually.
  • We use Terms to Links, which I built after being inspired by someone else’s plugins, to automatically link people, organizations and places to drive readers deeper into the site. Each of those are custom taxonomies.
  • We use Edit Flow, a CoPress project, to handle copy flow once it gets into WordPress. It’s another must-have.
  • We use Media Credit to handle attribution for images.
  • We use Automattic’s own PollDaddy, with a custom plugin on top of theirs, to handle polls.

The changes to Bangor Daily News’ editorial workflow have been immediate and dramatic, but they have also seen an increase in productivity regarding their development cycle, and their site has benefited with an increase in traffic, too.

“We started rolling things out in earnest in January, and the change has been dramatic. With one workflow with WordPress at the center we’ve cut down handling times for articles dramatically — we’re now able to get the news out faster than ever before. We’ve also seen a nice jump in search engine traffic thanks to more advanced URLs. Our build times are now down dramatically, as well — we can develop or patch features as quickly as they need to be addressed. The speed at which we break news requires a nimble API to develop with, and we’ve already been able to put it to the test, to great results.”

They were also able to take advantage of WordPress’ APIs to integrate everything and even publish back to the print version in InDesign, creating a truly seamless publishing system.

“I’m proud of how deeply we’ve integrated WordPress into everything we do. Our stories start in Google Docs, where our reporters write and our editors edit. Those are seamlessly and automatically moved to WordPress when they’re ready to be published — no more copying and pasting. We also use XML-RPC to easily find and bring content onto the print page in InDesign. We custom-built an InDesign plugin to accomplish that.”

Visit Bangor Daily News

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12 thoughts on “Bangor Daily News: A complete publishing system on WordPress

  1. This was a great piece. We have been looking to really bring some sanity to how we publish on the websites we control. The problem has really been about workflow, attribution, and the recognition that not everyone who interacts with the system is computer savvy. So any opportunities to address these issue is greatly appreciated. Please let us know when some of the aforementioned plugins become available for the rest of us little guys who have BIG ideas about the news that interests them.

    • @Quincy – many of the plugins are already available in the WordPress.org repository – follow the links above to check them out.

  2. Love the implementation here. I’m working on a development of a community site and would appreciate some insight into how you handled the Marketplace side of the site. Was this a custom plugin?

    • That’s a custom theme we developed. I’d recommend looking at the GeoPlaces theme — it’s not very well coded, but it has a lot of nice features.

  3. That is an interesting side to this article the fact that WordPress can be integrated with print. As an amazing a platform as WordPress is been able to save time on any side of this work can be a blessing. It would be interesting to find out more about these plugins?

  4. Pingback: A Complete Publishing System with WordPress | David A. Kennedy

  5. Following Will Davis’ great work at BDN, we shifted North Bay Business Journal in late summer to WordPress-first, InDesign-second workflow to save five labor hours a week in loading the paper for print.

    We used DirtySuds’ Export to InDesign plugin for WordPress to export posts in Adobe Tagged Text formatted text files. Because we use InDesign CS3, we had to rewrite the tagged-text portion of the plugin to format the file correctly, because InDesign wasn’t accepting the abbreviated tags. The production department demanded that the tagged files come in with the headline, deck, byline, subhead and body text styles used for various types of articles (news, people news, business register, commercial leases and sales, etc.), so we modified the tagged-text portion again to include logic to add the InDesign style names depending on the WordPress categories selected.

    We use custom fields for print headlines, decks, captions and production department notes (where graphics files are located in the fileserver, placement of the stories, etc.)

    The BDN plugin that graphically shows word divisions for headlines of various sizes and column spans looks pretty handy. I don’t know if that will ever be publicly released. Our editors have just gotten adept at counting characters for headlines and decks in the custom fields.

    One goal will be to create a plugin that combines these custom fields into a metabox.

    We’re trying to figure out the best way to handle sidebars in our workflow. Currently, we’re adding them to stories in DIVs with class-level styling. But upon export, the text gets inserted into the story where the sidebar is floated. We’ve been thinking about putting the sidebars into custom fields (would lose WYSIWYG until a rich text editor is added with the planned metabox plugin). Putting the custom-field sidebars into the web story could be tricky, but adding the sidebars to the end of the tagged-text file would be relatively straightforward.

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