July VIP Roundup

Highlights from July in enterprise WordPress included our new GitHub Pull Request workflow, Gutenberg version 0.6.0, the upcoming WordCamp for Publishers event, 10up’s acquisition of Lift UX, and Brightcove Player version 6.

@jeckman at WordCamp Boston, via @johnmaeda

News and Releases
Updates from around VIP, our clients, and our agency and technical partners.

As part of our ongoing refinement of the VIP experience, in July we implemented a new, streamlined code review approach that integrates more directly with the default workflow of most teams. As of July 13 we have moved all VIP Go sites to the improved code review process using GitHub’s Pull Request (PR) workflow (public announcement, documentation.) In the new flow, when your team has code ready for review you open a pull request against the master branch. The VIP team will review the code on GitHub and either provide feedback if any changes are required or approve the PR. Approved PRs can then be merged at your convenience, which automatically triggers a deploys to your site(s).

  • The new WordPress editor Gutenberg has reached version 0.6.0, with a whole slew of additions, fixes, and improvements.
  • 10up acquired Lift UX, familiar faces to WordPress.com VIP. From 10up: “We’re very excited to bring their team, design leadership, and Emmy nominated portfolio into the 10up fold.”
  • Big Bite Creative released RSSUnify, a free tool that creates W3C validated RSS feeds from multiple RSS sources, for use with platforms like MailChimp and Campaign Monitor.
  • Weston Ruter at XWP published an extensive discussion of a question he got from a colleague about the context parameter in the WordPress REST API.
  • Alley Interactive detailed their launch of People’s video flash briefing on Amazon Alexa, with enhanced visual capabilities on the Echo Show.
  • Parse.ly overhauled their overlay bookmarklet with an eye towards making it easier to explore audience usage quickly.
  • JW Player offered some advice in preparing video technology for the announced deprecation of Flash.
  • Brightcove released a new major version of the Brightcove Player, Version 6, with new features and benefits, including an improved plugin API, dynamic sources allowing changing video types after player initialization, accessibility enhancements, and a simpler CSS model for customization. WordPress.com VIP clients will benefit from this new version automatically.
  • Let’s Encrypt will be supporting wildcard certificates, which can secure any number of subdomains of a base domain (e.g. *.example.com), as of January 2018.

Media and Marketing Notes
Research and perspectives on the business of media and the practice of marketing.

…for-profit media companies would be well served to pay attention to what nonprofit media organizations like [Christian Science Monitor] are doing. They should view nonprofit publishers in part as the innovation labs they cannot sustain in-house, and should find ways to partner and learn from them.

-Sam Ford in Knowledge@Wharton, on the ways non-profits can test and refine audience-driven models in ways that are far more challenging in traditional newsrooms.

Flipboard is becoming one of the biggest drivers of traffic to news stories on mobile, according to exclusive data from media analytics firm Parse.ly, which found that Flipboard’s traffic has been growing steadily, while digital magazine competitors like Pocket and Feedly have plateaued or gone into decline.

-Sara Fischer at Axios, on the growth of platforms built on simple visual user experience.

Just 37 percent of users who came from search, and 47 percent of those who found a story via social media, could correctly name the news organization that published it (2 days later). By comparison, 81 percent of users who directly arrived on a story could later recall where it was published.”

-Joseph Lichterman at NiemanLab, on a study from Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford.

Featured July Launch: Food Channel

Recently acquired by USA Today, Foodchannel.com relaunched this month on VIP, taking advantage of USA Today’s common theme and feature set.

Recent Events:

10up CEO John Eckman presented Ten Use Cases for the REST API at WordCamp Boston.

rtCamp did a workshop for students under their “WordPress-in-education” initiative. Historically, FOSS culture in their region was more about Linux itself and Python projects. They presented WordPress and its power to 60+ students from all over the Maharashtra state.

Human Made curated all of the talks from their Out of Office event into a handy YouTube playlist.

Upcoming Events:

WordCamp for Publishers is coming up August 17-19th. It is a community-organized event bringing together folks who use WordPress to manage publications, big or small. This event will empower participants by coaching them on best practices, and encourage collaboration in building open source tools for publishers.

The organizing team includes folks from clients Digital First Media and Mother Jones, agency partner Alley Interactive, and Automattic. A handful of tickets are still available.

Presenters include:

SRCCON is taking place later this week, August 3-4. Our own Steph Yiu is leading a Pub(lication) Trivia Session. Alley Interactive has two team members facilitating sessions, Matt Johnson in How Do You Stack Your Tech Deck, and Pattie Reaves in Switching CMSes.

rtCamp is speaking at and sponsoring WordCamp Delhi. Delhi is a special city in Indian WordCamp history – it’s the city to host the first WordCamp ever in India.

Send us your news, events, awards, and other info for the next issue. And sign up below to receive these roundups via email:

June VIP Roundup

We’re back with the past month’s highlights from across the enterprise WordPress ecosystem and the media and marketing landscape.

The sponsor area at WordCamp Europe (photo by tinuzzo)

News and releases
Updates from around VIP, our clients, and our agency and technical partners.

  • Parse.ly updated their API, enabling new metrics, better searches, and more flexible time ranges. The write-up also includes some short demonstrations of how Slate and The New Yorker take advantage of the API in building useful features.
  • Playbuzz published an interactive story that serves as a tour of their WordPress.com VIP toolset, version 1.0.3 of their plugin.
  • Google News completed an extensive redesign of its desktop interface aimed at giving readers more control and access to more diverse perspectives.
  • Create Alexa Skills through WordPress! The VoiceWP plugin integrates with Amazon Alexa, allowing any site to have its own Alexa skills. Check out the newly launched video Flash Briefing from People on the Echo Show, built by Alley Interactive and powered by VoiceWP.
  • Inpsyde released Wonolog, a logging library that works with existing php library Monolog.
  • Dave Ross from 10up shared an exploration of project and task estimation. 10up also updated the Restricted Site Access plugin to optimize it for multisite installations.
  • Ana Silva from Human Made dug in to recent changes to their hiring process to foster better diversity within the applicant pool and across the company.
  • Featured partner rtCamp played a big role in the first WordCamp Nagpur, India, including sponsoring and leading a workshop. They’re also sponsoring WordCamp Kanpur.
  • WordPress 4.8 “Evans” came out June 8th, which includes many small improvements focused on end users and developer-related improvements to existing APIs. It always makes us smile to see familiar names from clients and partner agencies on the credits list, including 11 from rtCamp on this one.
  • WooCommerce 3.1 is out, which includes a new CSV importer/exporter and a slew of other minor updates.
  • There are several stories covering the new Gutenberg editor on WP Tavern. Look for more on Gutenberg in the enterprise context shortly from VIP.

Media and Marketing Notes
Research and perspectives on the business of media and the practice of marketing.

“On average, visitors spend 48.2 seconds with pages found through Google search that load with AMP, compared to 35.6 seconds on average with standard mobile pages found through search.”

-Tess Townsend at Recode, on Chartbeat’s latest research on visits to Facebook Instant Articles and Google AMP.

“One of the people familiar with the matter said Facebook is likely to allow users to read 10 articles free before prompting them to subscribe, mirroring the approach of news organizations like the New York Times and the Washington Post.”

-Deepa Seetharaman and Lukas I. Alpert of the Wall Street Journal, on the developing story of Facebook’s emerging news subscription features.

“There are signs that the internet-culture machines are finding ways to make themselves sustainable: YouTube is not shutting down anytime soon, but pre-roll ads weren’t doing the job, and now it has a premium subscription service in order to collect revenue directly from users. The next hubs of internet culture will learn from the mistakes of the past decade, hopefully by doing one of two things: developing a way to collect revenue directly from its audience, like Twitch or Patreon allow now, or by eschewing the notion of a sustainable business at all.”

-Brian Feldman in New York Magazine, on what Tumblr’s financial challenges mean for businesses built on the propagation of web culture.

Featured June Launch: Mother Jones

We’re pleased to welcome 2017 American Society of Magazine Editors’ Magazine of the Year award winner Mother Jones to VIP. Now in its fourth decade, the magazine is a reader-supported nonprofit dedicated to independent and investigative reporting.

Awards and Recognition

Congratulations to Dekode for winning two awards for the campaign they did for Norad, the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, at this year’s Sabre Awards. The campaign won in the Youth Marketing category as well as the In2Sabre innovation prize, for using gamification to teach youth. The same campaign also won the best website award at the European Excellence Awards in Brussels. (Short case study in English: Daron)

Upcoming Events

The first ever WordCamp for Publishers is happening in Denver on August 17-19. It is a community-organized event bringing together folks who use WordPress to manage publications, big or small. This event will empower participants by coaching them on best practices, and encourage collaboration in building open source tools for publishers.

An amazing group of speakers was announced in June. They work with journalists and publications on all aspects of digital publishing. They’ll lead discussions and workshops on a variety of topics, including WordPress publishing workflows, distribution methods, content syndication and tooling, censorship, modular layout design, open-source in newsrooms, and site architecture.

Organizers from the VIP team, its partner agencies, and VIP clients have worked together to plan this one of a kind event. Tickets are still available, but they’re going fast.

Send us your news, events, awards, and other info for the next issue. And sign up below to receive these roundups via email:

Custom Tools for the Largest UK Newspaper: The Sun and Human Made

Powerful and intuitive, the WordPress editorial and content management interface is also extremely flexible. It has been customized to match varied and sophisticated workflows for enterprise media and marketing teams all over the world.

Last month at the Big WP Meetup in London, John Blackbourn (@johnbillion) of VIP agency partner Human Made presented highlights of a major customization project for The Sun and its sister publications, The Irish Sun and The Scottish Sun. The Sun is the largest newspaper in the UK by circulation, and second-largest by online audience. The customization work was just one piece of a larger replatforming initiative that moved The Sun to WordPress.com VIP from a print-based CMS. This was a massive undertaking, and involved moving 10 years worth of content — 400,000 articles a terabyte of images.

John’s talk focused on the interface Human Made built to match the editorial workflow of the three publications.

A Layout Customiser for The Sun

Requirements and Discovery

Highlights from the Sun’s editorial requirements included:

  • Editors need to quickly and frequently alter the content and the layout of the home page, which can change as often as every ten minutes
  • Complete, visually accurate previews of changes before they go live
  • Scale to handle and manipulate hundreds of articles on the same page
  • Smart and efficient data storage methods

To gain more context and uncover useful details about each of these requirements and how the editors really work, Human Made ran a workshop with The Sun’s editorial team.

They found that editors very frequently move a story around on the home page based on importance, and not in only one direction. Depending on how a particular story develops, it can take any number of routes through the slots on the page. And story order can change up to every few minutes.

Also, originally editors thought they wanted open and free-form editing capability, to have a fully open palette with which to work. Through exploration they found that there are really a limited number of patterns that they use frequently. They may be updated every once in a while, but for the most part they work from a number of pre-set formats. A detail or shade of clarity on a requirement like this has a huge impact on how an agency like Human Made conceives of the solution, and what they prioritize.

Watch Blackbourn describe highlights from the workshop below:

The result of the project was a completely overhauled layout customizer (using WordPress’ extensible Customizer) and page/section management tool – all set up to work within the WordPress admin interface without requiring any side trips or extra clicks. It’s a tool The Sun’s editors live in every day, all day.

The ingenuity of the entire interface is impressive to see in action, but three particular areas of note from the talk:

The Cascade

To tackle the ability to move stories around the page throughout the day, Human Made developed something they call The Cascade. This allows editors to stick an article to their cursor and swap it with an existing article on the fly, so that they don’t need to go through an extra step of adding or removing to adapt the story order. This tool efficiently controls articles throughout the entire, scrolling home page layout.

Layout Chooser

Editors add new sections by choosing from a couple dozen pre-set layouts, which cover all of the styles they more commonly use. Picking one adds a blank section into which they can then quickly drop articles, then easily style and publish the new layout. This all unfolds in the WordPress editorial interface, without requiring them to go to a separate screen or tool.

Precise Preview Rendering

In order to achieve the preview goal, any time an editor makes a change, WordPress fires off an AJAX request to the back end and pulls in the actual template code the site will use to render the finished page. This assures that editors see an accurate preview, and that there are no discrepancies between what shows up during section management and what the user sees when the visit the page. This also makes maintenance seamless, because when a template changes, that inherently and automatically changes the preview code.

Watch Blackbourn demonstrate each of these features:

These new tools and platform free up The Sun’s editorial teams to focus on what’s most important, what’s most popular, and what has suddenly moved from a small blip to a massive unfolding scoop.

To be notified of the next BigWP event in London, join the Meetup group. There are also enterprise events throughout the year in various other big cities.

May VIP Roundup

With May drawing to a close, we’re several weeks out from seeing many of you at VIP Workshop, and WordCamp Europe is just days away. See below for the past month’s highlights from across the enterprise WordPress ecosystem and the media and marketing landscape.

We’ve added a signup form below the post to get these updates via email, and please send feedback and notes for next month any time.

Iain, Jason, and Mark (Big Bite Creative) and Anthony (Trew Knowledge) on wheels at VIP Workshop

News and releases
Updates from around VIP, our clients, and our agency and technical partners.

  • The WordPress.com for Google Docs Add-on has had a few updates since its launch in March, including support for categories and tags, and post types. If your team uses Google Docs as part of your editorial workflow, this Chrome extension could save some time. (changelog)
  • Emily Schechter, Product Manager for Chrome Security at Google, gave a talk about the importance of HTTPS at Google I/O, featuring the story of our own extensive rollout.
  • WordPress.com VIP is now Privacy Shield certified under the EU-US and Swiss-US Privacy Shield Frameworks.
  • Human Made shared their company handbook with the world and also released Cavalcade, a “a horizontally-scalable WordPress jobs processing solution.”
  • Inpsyde published a detailed and visually rich look at their company retreat.
  • Alley Interactive updated the Publish to Apple News plugin to version 1.2.7, with minor bug fixes.
  • Recent reader-facing feature updates to VIP clients FiveThirtyEight and The Undefeated include allowing visitors to embed the site’s podcasts via iframe code snippet, and implementation of the Apple metatags for smart podcast promotion.
  • Technology partner Parse.ly analyzed more than 10 million articles published last year to find out which platforms drove site traffic, broken down by topics.
  • WordPress 4.7.5 security and maintenance release and Jetpack 4.9 launched. The latter included new widgets and bug fixes.
  • WordPress 4.8 is expected around June 8-9. VIP customers, check the VIP Lobby for more info related to the release.
  • A hackathon for small businesses in Detroit staffed by volunteer WordPress developers turned in to WordPress.com’s first ever TV ads.

Media and Marketing Notes
Research and perspectives on the business of media and the practice of marketing.

“Mobile Ad-Blocking Skyrockets: In developing markets where data costs can be high, users are increasingly blocking ads whenever they can. Nearly 400 million people around the world block mobile ads.”

-TechCrunch coverage of Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends presentation. (slides, video via Recode)

“Google Attribution works by integrating with AdWords, Google Analytics and DoubleClick Search to bring together ad data from across Google to give a more complete view of performance. It is based on tech Google acquired when it bought attribution company Adometry three years ago. The machine learning works by determining how much credit to assign each step in the consumer journey – whether a first search or a final click before purchase. It analyses each account’s unique conversion patterns to compare the paths of those who convert with those that don’t, meaning personalised results.”

-Sarah Visard covers the May 23 launch of Google Attribution and related tools at Marketing Week.

“Now, when you click on a Trending topic, you’ll see a carousel with stories from other publications about a given topic that you can swipe through. By making it easier to see what other news outlets are saying about each topic, we hope that people will feel more informed about the news in their region.

-Ali Amahdi and John Angelo at Facebook, on their redesigned Trending results page, which aims to distribute attention on timely topics to a broader set of publishers and views.

“Our interviews with more than 70 social media managers and strategists for the Tow Center for Digital Journalism’s “The Platform Press: How Silicon Valley Reengineered Journalism” found that expensive news distribution strategies aren’t yet yielding enough consistent revenue for publishers to justify the costs or to know whether their strategies are working.”

-Nushin Rashidian at CJR, on the challenges of publishers caught in the crossfire between social media platforms, and the complexity of trying to optimize assets like video to multiple competing specifications.

Featured May Launch: Spotify Jobs

We’re proud to highlight Spotifyjobs.com which launched on VIP in early May. The site integrates several API’s and features vibrant, emotive moving image backgrounds that use focus pulls as a design element.

Awards and Recognition

Congratulations to Big Bite Creative for winning a European Digital Media Award for Best Lifestyle, Sports, and Entertainment app, for their React native/WordPress powered football news app 11versus11.

Upcoming Events: WordCamp Europe

The big event in June – in fact, the biggest event in WordPress history is this year’s WordCamp Europe, with well over 2,000 people expected in Paris. The event opens with Contributor Day on Thursday June 15 where VIP’s Tom Nowell will be helping first-timers take their first steps in core contribution. Then on Friday and Saturday it’s the usual packed schedule of talks and demos, with VIP’s Simon Dickson returning to the stage as an MC. Look out for VIP wranglers Andrea, David (A), Scott, Shannon and Stefan among the army of volunteers.

Speakers at the event will include Rian Rietveld, John Blackbourn, Jenny Wong and Petya Raykovska from Human Made; Adam Silverstein from 10up; and Rahul Bansal from rtCamp. Matt Mullenweg will do his now traditional Q&A on the Saturday afternoon, in the company of Om Malik. And watch out for Automattic’s John Maeda, a big hit at our Napa workshop last month, on why design is often an afterthought – and why designers are to blame.

If you can’t join us in Paris, watch for announcement about the conference livestream in the coming few days; or catch up afterwards at WordPress.tv.

Other Events

  • Technology partner Skyword is hosting brand storytelling conference Forward 2017, June 15, in Boston.
  • Getty Images will be hosting the panel discussion Seeing is Believing: The Power of Re-picturing Stereotypes at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity on June 22 at 4pm.
  • Speaker submissions are now wrapped up for the first WordCamp for Publishers, which will be August 17-19 in Denver.
  • The WordCamp US call for speakers will be open until June 23 at 11:59 EST. The event itself will take place December 1-3 in Nashville, TN.

Send us your news, events, awards, and other info for the next issue. And sign up below to receive these roundups via email:

This embed is invalid

Thank you from VIP Workshop 2017

We spent most of last week with many of you at WordPress.com VIP Workshop, our annual gathering of clients, partners, Automatticians, provocative thinkers, and invited guests. It brought together folks from all over the world, including India, Australia, across Europe and the UK. The main focus of the event is to convene the community of enterprise WordPress users to share knowledge, forge relationships, and spark ideas. But there are lots of other great things that always fall out of it as well, including the chance to hear directly from our platform users in a more relaxed setting, and the chance to renew and strengthen the bonds between lots of folks distributed throughout the world who work together all year long.

The first night and each day started with big picture thinking about issues broader than our day-to-day work. Innovation Catalyst Lee Kitchen offered a few examples and approaches to creativity that help his team get unstuck. Automattic’s Head of Design and Inclusion, John Maeda shared his real-world experiences in leadership challenges and his overarching mission of inclusion for WordPress and other platforms. And Matt Mullenweg reflected on VIP over the years, and a look at what’s coming to the Customizer as well as the Editor.

Sessions focused on many of the challenges and opportunities we all face every day. In the business track, a few highlights among a slate of stellar talks all around included Nicole Wilke of TechCrunch on how to approach major redesigns, Google’s Ilya Grigorik on key trends in Search, and Automattician Luca Martoni, who presented a methodology and case studies for A/B testing.

The developer track featured explorations of Google’s Progressive WordPress Sites and AMP with Alberto Medina, multi-format publishing with Facebook by Diego Quintiero, and Automattic’s testing infrastructure with Lauren Mermel. Several talks focused on using the REST API, including Jason Bahl of Digital First Media on GraphQL. Automatticians also led sessions about WooCommerce, the Calypso project, the VIP Go architecture, and the history of Jetpack’s redevelopment as a React app powered by the WordPress REST API.

Planning for next year’s has already begun. We take great care in gathering and reflecting on lots of feedback from participants, and we’ve just started the process of compiling all of that and taking a look at it together. In the meantime, we wanted to say thank you to everyone who took the time out of their busy schedules to be a part of this great event.

April VIP Roundup

Welcome to the first edition of VIP Roundup, your monthly review of news and perspectives from across the enterprise WordPress ecosystem, and the digital media and marketing landscape.

This is brand new, and we want to serve your interests, so please send us feedback anytime to steer it towards what would be most useful for you.

News and Releases
Updates from around VIP and our agency and technical partners.

  • On April 7 we launched our phased rollout of required two-factor authentication, an important step in helping keep your sites secure. 2FA is now required for all users who publish on a VIP site. Thank you to everyone for their cooperation in making this process as smooth as possible.
  • 10up released WP Docker, an open source Docker configuration optimized for local WordPress development. As we previously noted, support for VIP Quickstart officially ended on April 21. If you’re still working on migrating away from Quickstart, WP Docker is a good option in addition to VVV and Chassis. If you have any problems migrating, we’re happy to help.
  • Playbuzz released a new version of its plugin which adds the new Playbuzz Creator feature so editors can easily create Playbuzz items directly from the WordPress post editor.
  • XWP offered a digital treasure hunt they developed as an outgrowth of their new visual identity.
  • 10up Senior Engineer Derrick Koo wrote a step-by-step guide as an easy jumpstart to help anyone who wants to contribute code to the WordPress Core.
  • Automattic, Mash-up Americans, and MIT Center for Civic Media hosted Design and Exclusion, a remote conference focusing on how the design of technology platforms excludes people. All of the talks are archived here.

Screen Shot 2017-05-01 at 10.23.48 AM.png

Media and Marketing Notes
Research and perspectives on the business of media and the practice of marketing.

The latest moves on the social platforms to address “fake news” include an algorithm update for Google and a broader preview approach on Facebook. Facebook will also invest time to train local newsrooms. Jimmy Wales launched Wikitribune (running on WordPress) this month, as a new model for journalism and publishing. Wikitribune joins a field of new approaches including Jay Rosen’s efforts to launch De Correspondent in the U.S.

“Absent any additional warnings other than the disclaimer, [and] fewer than 1 in 5 people recognized native advertising when they were exposed to it – and these were native ads labeled as ‘sponsored content.”  -A recent Boston University academic paper suggests caution and transparency for publishers experimenting with native advertising.

“…if you write a great story about an event, brand, or person not immediately recognizable, you need to explain what it is and why it matters within four words. More than that, and you’re meandering.”  -Ryan Craggs at CJR looks closely at the art and science of headlines and featured images in social media posts.

“We don’t need bigger numbers, we need saner numbers.” -Josh Topolsky reflects on what’s working with The Outline so far and what all media companies should be focusing on in editorial and advertising.

April VIP Site Launch Spotlight

screen-shot-2017-04-05-at-12-23-38-pm.png

This month we highlight Anthony Bourdain’s newly launched online travel guide Explore Parts Unknown. The site features compelling stories, recipes, features, and video snapshots from all of the places Bourdain visits. At launch destinations include Madagascar, Senegal, Hanoi, Korea, Manila, Punjab, London, Rome, the Greek Islands, Istanbul, Vegas, LA’s Koreatown, Montana, New Jersey, Buenos Aires, and Colombia.

Awards and Recognition

  • East Bay Times won a Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News for their Ghost Ship coverage.
  • Agency Partner Hello Design was recognized in HOW’s International Design Annual for their work on #Sonos and #ArtCenter.
  • Technology Partner Sailthru was named to Gartner’s 2017 Magic Quadrant for Multichannel Campaign Management.

Upcoming Events

Further ahead: Calls For Speakers have been issued for WordCamp US, taking place in Nashville in December; and the first WordCamp for Publishers, aimed specifically at journalists and publication managers, happening in Denver in mid-August. Proposals for Denver must be received by May 10th; you have until mid-June to submit ideas for Nashville.

Send us your news, events, awards, and other info for the next issue.

The State of the News Audience, Post-Election

Dan Maccarone of Charming Robot has spent much of his career conducting user research with regular people about how they use various forms of news media. He and his team spend time with them inside of their homes, learning how they get their news and looking over their shoulder to retrace their steps together. Having conducted this type of research repeatedly and over a long period of time, he has developed a keen sense for spotting emerging changes in perception and action. Based on his most recent batch of conversations he identified a few emerging behavior patterns, useful to think about for media companies and brands alike.

DSC_5410

Dan shared insights he derived from interviews shortly after the 2017 Presidential Election, at the BigWP meetup in New York in March.

Video is in a new moment

For years video was a feature that users universally scowled at across Dan’s research. The use of video in lieu of text-based articles has finally found strong support among an audience segment. He reports that there’s still a strong negative contingent, but that it is now a polarizing topic – some people seek it out, while others still specifically avoid it. He found about half of the interview subjected preferred video.

Trust has likely never been harder to secure

Viewers are judging everything that passes through their browser with heavier doses of skepticism than ever. This, combined with the feeling that there’s no way to keep up with the ongoing onslaught of new information, makes it a particularly challenging time for publications to foster engagement from their audiences.

Negative news has exhausted viewers

With what feels like a constant barrage of hard news, scandal-chasing, cliffhangers, and fear mongering, viewers feel like they are overwhelmed, and need a break. This seems to be more of an issue with national news, and less so with the local news mix.

Content has to travel to succeed

It’s been the case for many years that most people are visiting sites through side doors rather than home pages. Likewise, Facebook has long since earned a spot next to Google as the starting point for most content journeys. What Dan observes about the current moment is that people are often not noticing where they end up at the end of that journey, and when they do they are holding on to that overarching skepticism. In the video below, Dan shares a conversation he had with an interview subject about what you’d expect to be a benign and non-controversial article.

You can follow Dan on Twitter at @DanMaccarone.

And to be notified of the next BigWP event in New York, join the Meetup group. There are also enterprise events throughout the year in various other big cities.

If you’d like to hear more about how WordPress.com VIP can free your teams up to focus on publishing, get in touch.

The Coral Project – Community Tools from Newsrooms, for Newsrooms

The ongoing critical interest in the relationships between news publications and their reader communities has only escalated throughout the 2016 US election cycle and beyond. The practice of journalism as a craft and a business is in the national spotlight, and broad cultural issues relating to credibility, truth, and trust are also under exploration. As a part of this, there’s a renewed focus in the industry on ways to improve how media companies build and sustain meaningful relationships with their audiences.

Andrew Losowsky, The Coral Project

The Coral Project is a non-profit initiative focused on these challenges. It’s a collaboration between Mozilla, The New York Times, and the Washington Post, and is funded by a Knight Foundation grant. In addition to ongoing research projects, they’re developing open source tools that help journalists and community managers with the thankless tasks of working with community-sourced material and improving the quality of the discussions in online comments.

Forms purpose-built for community sourcing

Andrew Losowsky, Project Lead of the project at Mozilla, stopped by the March BigWP meetup to tell us about the tool set and the thinking behind it. Ask, a tool designed for journalists working on data collection through forms, is purpose-built for the kind of sorting, archiving, and display tasks newsrooms go through any time they put together these kinds of stories.

In the clip below, Andrew explains that use case and how Ask works better than the other tools commonly used today:

Another element of Ask, the Gallery Manager, allows an editor to embed a curated entry into a story using a WordPress shortcode, while allowing edits and omissions as needed, in such a way that preserves the original full set of collected data.

Univision recently used Ask to take in, sort, and use responses from their audience during a special live town hall edition of the weekly news magazine show Aquí y ahora.

Filling in the empty box

When it comes to comment tools, the team at Coral is seeking to improve quality by addressing both cultural and technical challenges. Many online communities suffer from a lack of direction and human tending from the outset, which dooms them to negative interactions and unmet expectations from the start. Using a metaphor popularized by our own Derek Powazek(@fraying), Andrew explains why one of the critical features of Talk, the Coral comment system, is the ability to place a question at the top of the empty comment box:

Andrew concluded with a plea for site owners and operators to carefully consider with which companies they entrust their comment data and systems. Taking the open source approach puts you in control of your community for the long haul. This creates the most direct relationship between you and your readers and participants, who you may be looking to as paying subscribers and sustainers at one point or another if you don’t already.

The Ask tool has been released and is available for use, and the Talk tool is in beta testing and will become a WordPress plugin. The Coral Project is also working on guides to best practices in journalism and community management, which will be released later this quarter. Their blog offers a wealth of information, research findings, and calls for participation.

You can follow Andrew on Twitter at @Losowsky and the project at @coralproject.

And to be notified of the next BigWP event in New York, join the Meetup group. There are also enterprise events throughout the year in various other big cities.

 

If you’d like to hear more about how WordPress.com VIP can free your teams up to focus on publishing, get in touch.

 

 

USA Today Sports Media Group on the Benefits of a Common Theme

When newly acquired publications and sites come in to a large publishing group, they often come with baggage: their own approach to UX and underlying technologies. These unique themes and feature sets can add up to significant technical and operational debt. It’s a whole lot of tools and processes that only exist for one project’s benefit. And in most cases, those unique systems bring with them a distinction without a difference – there’s little benefit to the end user that’s gained from that diversity of approach. It’s just history.

This is a set of issues that we’ve seen again and again. Bringing groups of publications together under a common theme and architecture can reap tremendous rewards, across speed, productivity, and cost savings.

David Parsons, USA Today Sports Media Group

Earlier this month at the BigWP meetup in NYC, David Parsons of USA Today offered a peek into the evolution of the company’s Sports Media Group and its underlying systems. His team worked with WordPress.com VIP to migrate a number of sites, each with its own unique theme hosted on Amazon, over to VIP. All of the sites are now under their shared Lawrence theme, with a system called Wasabi that can turn on and off features from site to site.

Here’s David explaining the history of the project and the ways working with WordPress.com VIP frees his team up to focus on what’s most important:

“When we first started off, we wanted to be as lightweight as possible and we were picking up these extremely heavy CMS’s that aren’t necessarily WordPress. So what we initially did is move everything to WordPress as fast as possible, and we hosted this ourselves on the Amazon platform. And we had site-specific themes, so every codebase for every site was completely unique.

We soon realized that there were a lot of issues with this, especially when a site goes down, or we have an issue overnight. Obviously there’s the potential of losing thousands of dollars. As soon as possible we moved to WordPress.com VIP, and we moved to a platform called Lawrence, which is essentially a shared theme. By moving to WordPress.com VIP, we were able to not worry about downtime, and whenever we push our code up for deployment, they run an additional code check to make sure we’re not pushing anything up to production that could potentially be catastrophic. Things like security we no longer have to think about. So this allows our team to focus on building awesome stuff.”

USAT-image.pngThe ability to create and launch new sites quickly, and centrally control the feature set for each one or a group of them, enabled the Sports Media Group team to quickly test a concept for a new set of NFL team sites, and then roll it out across all 32 teams:

In this next clip, David explains how the WordPress Customizer manages various look and feel elements for each site.

Site-by-site feature interface

He also describes the plugin interface, depicted above, that allows the team to easily control features site by site, and apply functionality created for one to any or all of them:

You can follow David on Twitter at @dpjustice.

And to be notified of the next BigWP event in New York, join the Meetup group. There are also enterprise events throughout the year in various other big cities.

If you’d like to hear more about how WordPress.com VIP can free your teams up to focus on publishing, get in touch.

Ready to get started?

Tell us about your needs

Let us lead the way. We’ll help you select a top tier development partner. We’ll train your developers, operations, infrastructure, and editorial teams. We’ll coarchitect your deployment processes. We will provide live support for peak events. We’ll help your people avoid dark alleys and blind corners, and reduce wasted cycles.