February VIP Roundup

If you got through February without stumbling across the word “curling” once or twice, you clearly don’t follow Mr. T on Twitter. Kudos for podium performances from VIP clients Olympic.ca and Pyeongchang OlympicChannel (which also handily delivered content to the main Olympic.org homepage via widget), and to the FiveThirtyEight crew, who scored an Up Close And Personal shot with the victorious US Curling team. Read on for huge news on the AMP Project and WordPress plugin, loads of partner updates, and a special extended spotlight featuring VIP client Harry’s Five O’Clock.

Stylized shot of AMP Conf stage
From AMP Conf, February 13-14 in Amsterdam

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

  • At AMP Conf, we shared exciting news about the latest plugin, AMP for WordPress 0.7, co-created along with our partners XWP and Google. This version debuts a new AMP native mode that makes it much easier for publishers to create a single version of their content in WordPress and still take advantage of all of AMP’s benefits. (Additional thoughts from Alberto Medina, Developer Advocate at Google.)
  • VIP Enterprise Support team lead Klaus Harris provided a glimpse behind the scenes at a recent client onsite with Grupo Abril.
  • We kicked off our partner profile series, Six Questions with, starting with Trew Knowledge. Trew Knowledge released a GDPR plugin this month designed to help manage efforts to meet GDPR requirements and obligations.
  • WordPress 4.9.4 maintenance release rolled out this month. (lobby post, announcement) Jetpack version 5.8 deployed (lobby post), including updates to Jetpack Search, Lazy Images full availability (now out of beta), significant reduction in the JS and CSS footprint for certain features, and a new global filter to filter the list of active modules.
  • VIP client Quartz ran #Qzchartweek, with Managing Editor Kira Bindrim challenging the team to surface charts that are a story in themselves.
  • Alley Interactive completed a custom billing report and time tracking plugin for VIP client ThinkProgress. It allows their editorial staff to keep track of how and where their time is spent. Records are available for admins to export in bulk or review individually, along with advanced filtering options and basic analytics on data.
  • Dekode has some sort of a super top secret print project a’brewing. (We expect updates just as soon as they get back from Tobogganing Day at WordCamp Oslo.)
  • A month chock full of news from 10up included: integrating Amazon Polly technology to transform POLITICO in Europe’s daily newsletter into an engaging podcast, a core contribution to AMP which brings native support for MathML, by Lead Engineer Adam Silverstein, a tutorial authored by Engineer Nicholas Andre walking through 10up’s WP-Migration plugin for WP-CLI, featured on Smashing Magazine, a v1.1 update to their Ads.txt manager plugin, now in use on several VIP client sites, updates to their ElasticPress plugin now with full Elasticsearch 6.1 support, and a look back from the vantage point of their 7 year anniversary.
  • Marketing technology partner Sailthru released v.3.2 of their plugin. (lobby post for clients, GitHub repo).
  • Trevor Kaufman, CEO of monetization partner Piano sat down with Ricardo Bilton of NiemanLab for a conversation on the state of paywalls, revenue, and marketing in big media.

Gutenberg News and Notes
The latest tools, demos, and updates around the block-based editor coming to WordPress 5.0

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

“The cornerstone of next-generation, sustainable business models for news, we believe, will be direct audience revenue supported by high levels of reader engagement.”

Elisabeth Hansen and Emily Goligoski, in the Tow Center’s Guide To Audience Revenue and Engagement.

“It’s not inexpensive to produce the content in all the different formats we produce it, so the fact that we’re investing this much into platforms like Facebook and Instagram and getting nothing in return is incredibly tough.”

-An anonymous snippet among many curated by Hilary Milnes from candid conversations at the Digiday Retail Summit in February.

Client Spotlight: Harry’s Five O’Clock


This month we are excited to share an extended spotlight featuring Harry’s Five O’Clock, which launched in January on VIP. This extended interview with Editor Caitlin Ganswindt covers the pioneering native brand publication’s evolution as a platform as well as the new social mission Harry’s has unveiled with a new short film last week.

Upcoming Events

  • VIP Director of Business Development Peter Slutsky will be featured on the Remote Work Summit this week. His talk will cover building and scaling remote teams.
  • VIP Happiness Engineer/Wrangler Shannon Smith will be giving a talk on code review April 11 at Web a Québec, the largest French-speaking digital event in North America.
  • We will be sponsoring and attending ONA Insights: Revenue and Engagement in Toronto, May 11th at the Globe and Mail Headquarters.
  • Kicking off VIP Workshop May 14-17 at the Carneros Resort in Napa will be new WordPress.com President Kinsey Wilson! Kinsey previously held executive roles at the New York Times and NPR and will share his insights on the future of digital and organizational change. We’ll be making more speaker and schedule announcements soon. Join us in Napa!

Client Spotlight: Harry’s Five O’Clock

Fresh from the January relaunch of Five O’Clock on VIP, men’s grooming brand Harry’s is in the process of launching a major initiative and set of partnerships that evolves the brand’s mission in culture and sharpens its editorial focus. Last week Harry’s released a new short film emblematic of the new approach, entitled “A Man Like You”:

We caught up with Caitlin Ganswindt, Editor at Harry’s, to hear about what’s in the works and the journey that brought her, and them, here.

Ganswindt came to Harry’s in late 2015 after serving as managing editor at Shinola and leading experiments with native, branded content at Urbandaddy. Since its origins in 2013, Five O’Clock has gone through a number of stages in its evolution from pioneering native brand magazine to the bigger cultural mission it is now embracing.

Tell us about the history of Five O’Clock and where you have taken it in since you joined.

We’re coming up on our 5th year anniversary at Harry’s in March. So you’re talking about, in 2013 starting a native publication with a very small group of people. Whatever story pitches we got pretty much went up on site. When I joined the team, they were looking for somebody who could figure out what the editorial strategy should be, and migrate the site on to a non-self-hosted solution. We just didn’t have the engineering resources to support a site, that we didn’t really know how to quantify yet, and didn’t really know the value of yet.

The original site was custom and proprietary, and very, very binary. There were only a couple of formats that we had to choose from. All of the assets were required and very finite. There was no tagging. There was no way to search on site. It was a rudimentary sort of blog…hole.

I spent the first couple of months, November and December of 2015, just doing a complete audit of the site. Everything we had run, things that worked, things that didn’t, and tried to hypothesize the what and the why. Then, in January of 2016, I made a proposal to migrate on to a customized WordPress theme, so that we could get away from the engineering constraints, and actually start testing against our point of view in real time. I started development of the second iteration of Five O’Clock using the Zuki theme, with a full custom CSS overlay of the existing theme templates.

On the last day of March 2016, the last day of Q1, which was a feather in my cap, we went live with that iteration of the site. We received a Webby nomination, and it was met with a lot of love from customers and industry folks. People were into it! They were really excited about the content that we were producing.

 What was the new editorial focus?

We started talking about grooming education. We started talking about brand happenings. Business initiatives. Iterations of our products. We introduced people to our factories. We started putting faces to the names behind our products.

And then in November of that year, 2016, we launched Five O’Clock News, which is a monthly newsletter of Five O’Clock content.

That’s also been doing really well. We have very consistent readership, with numbers firmly above industry averages. More than half of everybody who receives our emails are opening them, engaging with them, and sharing them on a regular basis.

Do you have a mental picture of what’s been most popular and what the profile of the readership looks like, based on what works and what doesn’t?

We’ve actually gone through another iteration with this new site launch, but the very clear things that are trending, and are still true today: first, grooming education. Actually learning the “how” and “why” behind the tools we make and products and practices. Highlighting ingredients – the differences between shave cream and shave gel and why you should care. How to match the grain patterns on your face to optimize your shave.

Then in January of 2017, we starting thinking as a brand and marketing team more seriously about our point of view as a company. And have been working over the past year to bring that brand mission and positioning to life in the real world.

In tandem, we realized that while the new Five O’Clock site was really beautiful and doing great things, it was also grounded in three categories: better grooming, better mornings, and better life. Because our original positioning of the brand was – “the shaving company that’s fixing shaving” – being really frustrated by the margins in between what it cost to make something, and how much people were actually paying for razors from the bigger guys. While that’s where our story started, and we realized that we can do a lot more with this microphone.

A conversation with Hamilton’s Javier Muñoz, on life, work, and his path to understanding his own masculinity

We started thinking about what we truly believed, and realized that our focus was really more about this idea of progressive masculinity. Harry’s is committed to amplifying the ongoing cultural conversation around what it means to be a man today. Because men can be both strong and nurturing, self-assured and accepting of others. The big overarching picture is that to be a good man is to be a good human. We’ve always felt that existing shave brands weren’t speaking to us in a way that resonated. And again, since launching, we’ve learned so much about our customer values. So we wanted to do our part in opening up that conversation and try to modernize ideas around masculinity, to better reflect who our customer really is.

Obviously we know that shaving is inherently masculine, and the category has been dominated by brands that have perpetuated this traditional idea of masculinity as “being the best, the strongest, the smartest, the toughest.” But in real life, guys are a lot more than those traditional stereotypes. There is no one box that can define a person, and we feel like it’s time for brands to promote a more progressive vision of masculinity. But, moreover, we want to help guys define what it is to be a man on their own terms. Embrace whatever attitude and behaviors actually are resonating with them, and have a safe space to be who they are, or who they’re not, and embrace the parts of themselves that have previously been off limits according to these outdated ideals.

It’s quite a maturation of vision from “fixing shaving” to this bigger, cultural piece, with a lot of area to explore.

Yeah, definitely. We’re rolling out our new social mission over the coming weeks as well. Harry’s is partnering with a few really wonderful charitable organizations, to donate a portion of our profits to, and join the movement behind the initiatives and the conversations that they are pushing forward.

But by and large, as far as Five O’Clock is concerned, we’ve realized there’s a real whitespace when it comes to men’s lifestyle content. With all these fights for gender, marriage, class, equality, all over, men are facing new dynamics that are having them question these traditional ideals of what it means to be a real man. We think that the tension between the past and the future are really important to highlight and have real, candid conversation around.

We feel that Five O’Clock is a microphone to amplify these voices and galvanize this new generation by cultivating a space for real discourse. I think what drives us most is to lead in culture and raise awareness by bringing positive attention to these progressive shifts, rather than just focusing on the negative.

Lena Waithe on the significance of her Emmy win, her career path, and the causes she supports

Tell us about where you are today with that mission and project. What has been shared so far?

We have a new brand campaign that came out on the 26th. It is a video called “A Man Like You.” I think that may bring to a finer point the goals of the messaging.

One of the partners we’re aligning with is The Representation Project. They’re focused on helping guys understand misrepresentation and breaking down barriers of harmful stereotypes. We worked with GSD&M, a creative agency out of Austin and The Representation Project to create this film. We’ve also rolled out on Five O’Clock, profiles with the founders of The Representation Project and A Call to Men, another organization that we’re partnering with for our social mission. In the UK we’re collaborating with an organization called CALM (Campaign against Living Miserably) that focuses on awareness on mental health and also suicide prevention among men. We’ll have a profile and some great initiatives coming out with them soon.

Over the next several weeks and months, you’ll definitely see us putting a bigger stake in the ground around these conversations for sure.

It all sounds amazing. How do Five O’Clock and Harry’s fit together? How does the one connect up with the larger organization?

We feel like Five O’Clock is the place where our point of view can be loudest. It’s the most concentrated as far as participating in these conversations. It serves as a point of discovery and inspiration for people who feel like they’re ethos and values are in line with this progressive future.

It definitely serves as a contrast, particularly if you look in the broader world of beauty across masculinity and femininity – having a strong magnetic pull that says ‘This is what we’re about. If you’re about this, become a part of our…of us.”

Totally, and I think that’s definitely the goal. And it’s not to say anybody else is doing it wrong. Brands have found, and will continue to find success in myriad ways. But taking two steps back and reflecting on the state of culture and the world right now, we feel like particularly that grooming—you can call it beauty, sure—it’s a lot deeper than that. Shaving is important for upkeep, but it’s also a moment to make you feel good. And there are so many other things that are important to feel good as a human.

A profile on Justin Baldoni and Man Enough, the new series exploring traditional masculinity

What do you think about the observation that in the current political moment, skincare is all of the sudden becoming a bigger piece of self care than it was before?

I don’t necessarily know if that is tied to a cultural moment. I think that care routines in general are becoming more center lane, and I think that that’s a little bit more of a technology thing. With social media, if you look at Glossier, Fenty Beauty—it’s the age of bloggers—we’ve never before had such democratized access to product reviews in real time.

If you think back to the original general store, if you needed a product, you went and you talked to the shopkeeper and said, “This is what’s going on and this is what I need.” And they would make a recommendation on the right product for you. You weren’t competing with branded advertorials. It wasn’t the guy who has the most money made the loudest boom, and that’s who you went with.

And now, in the age of bloggers, and independent brands, and direct to consumer, I think that we’re actually coming back to that original moment of …all of this information is available, so it’s about what you need and what you want and then you can find the product and brand that is most in line with that. I think it goes beyond just the quality of the products themselves and ladders up more to, “Is this brand for me in general?”

Tell us about the current iteration of the site, and the move to VIP.

As we were working on this updated brand positioning, we realized we’d also need to overhaul the Five O’Clock editorial mission to be in line with that. So we were thinking, yet again, of overhauling our content space. Part of the challenge we wanted to solve for was to be able to see the whole 360-degree user funnel. We wanted to improve our approach to data as far as who is using the site. Are they Harry’s customers? Are they more valuable because they are reading our content? Those kinds of questions, and that’s how we came to VIP.

In March of last year I put together a proposal for this migration. And then building all of the piping on our end to use the analytics we’re now able to use. We started development in September, and we launched live in January of this year. The whole site is fully custom. We’re doing some really cool things as far as styling on galleries. We have a really lovely dynamic scroll on the homepage as well as all of our article pages that have a gradient treatment, which is not something we see super often. Also, the entire site is set up super scalable to our business needs. For example, we built in hexadecimal code fields for every category on the site. Which means changing the look and feel of the homepage is as simple as changing the color scheme that’s aligned with a particular content category. So, if we had a big campaign or partnership we were rolling out that we wanted to do a whole new treatment for, we have that immediate flexibility without actually getting in to the code.

We’re also now running a reverse proxy for hosting, so the domain is now Harry’s.com/fiveoclock. We’ve also set up a child environment where we can theoretically host all of our acquisition/DR pages. So for the first time everything that we’re creating as a brand is all indexed against the same domain, providing that full 360 user funnel.

Over the next year, two years, and beyond, my focus is going to be figuring out what that attribution model looks like, understanding the real brass tacks – things like profitability of content on long term customer value. And that’s definitely where we’re heading next.

How does this new brand and site relaunch feel for you, to have done so much in evolving Five O’Clock multiple times in such a compressed period of time?

I think that this is a next step in one of the most exciting years for Harry’s as a brand, and Five O’Clock as a publication. I definitely feel lucky that, as an editor, we’ve had such confidence from our co-founders from the start, and that we were given the years necessary to hone in and prove out the channel. And I’m just really excited for the opportunities Five O’Clock has ahead.

You’ve built a very progressive case and grown this thing deliberately over time. Any advice for others who might be trying to develop similar evolutions for their publications?

I think the most important thing is to keep yourself in check. Particularly working at a brand, if you’re talking about native content, there tends to be one editorialist in a room. So that person needs to remember to take two steps back and ask themselves “Do I give a shit about this piece of content that I’m putting out in the world? Do I believe in it? Do I care personally?” If these answers are no, then you’re probably not on the right path. At the end of the day, even if it’s branded content, it’s still content, and as an editor, you’re wasting your mind if you’re putting things out into the world that you don’t feel are spurring or perpetuating culture or conversation.

Highlights from Five O’Clock:

January VIP Roundup

After the briefest of holiday breaks in many places, the new year roared to life across the enterprise WordPress community. Most recently, VIP client USA Today’s Ad Meter launched ahead of the Superb Owl of American sport, and just hours ago crowned Amazon this year’s advertising winner. With Alley Interactive, we completed a successful data migration of Women In The World from WordPress.com to VIP Go, helping to decouple it from The New York Times.

The Gutenberg editor plugin reached version 2.1 and gained lots of great enhancements. Featured Partner Human Made implemented it on their site and provided an inside look at how it went. Read on for lots more, as well as upcoming events.

Dekode’s Björn Johansen presenting at WordCamp Stockholm

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

  • New Relic application monitoring, the same tool set we use to monitor and optimize site performance, is now available for all clients on VIP Go. We also released Liveblog v.1.7, developed by partner agency Big Bite Creative, which includes a fully rebuilt React front end.
  • Early bird tickets are now available for everyone’s favorite gathering of the enterprise WordPress ecosystem, this year’s VIP Workshop, May 14-17th in Napa, California. We’re putting together the best lineup of speakers and sessions yet, and we’ll have updates to share on that soon.
  • WordPress 4.9.2 security and maintenance release came out this month (lobby post), as well as Jetpack 5.7 (lobby, public announcement), bringing easier customization for Jetpack Search among other improvements. Jetpack 5.7.1 maintenance release followed shortly thereafter (lobby.)
  • In early January Dekode published an expansive look back at their year, including projects, growth, goals, and their new office in the center of Oslo. From the post: “As we all know…Our work life consists of all the small things that happen as we move forward, the tiny breakthroughs in a complicated task, or a moment of clarity in a workshop with a client, or it could be the sun that blinds your vision as it reflects your computer screen, forcing you to go out for a deserved 2 minute break with your sunglasses on.”
  • Earlier this month, Alley Interactive completed a data migration for Women In The World (WITW) from WordPress.com to the VIP Go platform, which also involved a new url: https://womenintheworld.com.  This was an effort to effectively decouple WITW from the New York Times. After doing an initial data migration to the new Go hosting, Alley planned a specific date and time for the final migration. VIP hosted a launch session with Alley and WITW on Stormchat to ensure that all of the data was properly migrated. Daniel Gale-Rosen at Alley noted, “Everything went off without a hitch and VIP was even able to import WITW’s old site usage statistics to their new site’s WordPress Dashboard.”
  • New Relic is now featuring 10up’s advanced WordPress integration, New Relic Reporting for WordPresson their Connect Directory. Additional releases from an action-packed period for 10up include: Async Transients, an open source Composer library that improves handling of WordPress transient caches especially at enterprise scale, a significant update to Urban Airship Web Push Notifications, and Ads.txt Manager for WordPress, which adds validation and testing tool for the rapidly growing standard.
  • At XWP, Mike Crantea published a set of recommendations for improving Google Page Speed, and Luke Carbis offered a perspective on AMP’s role on the web. And as of January, the AMP plugin for WordPress, which XWP supports along with Google and Automattic, is now at version 0.6. Among other improvements, the new version has merged the AMP Customizer with the main Customizer, and has out-of-the-box support for Pages.
  • rtCamp was the Gold sponsor for the second edition of WordCamp Udaipur, the City of Lakes, January 27-8. Later in February, Rahul Bansal will be speaking at WordCamp Bangkok about the qualities and assurances that enterprises look for while choosing a content management systems. rtCamp is also one of the sponsors of this WordCamp.
  • Getty Images has deprecated plugin versions earlier than 2.4.4 (lobby). We recommend updating to the latest, currently version 3.0.

Gutenberg News and Notes
The latest tools, demos, and updates around the block-based editor coming to WordPress 5.0

We encourage everyone to install the Gutenberg plugin in a test environment and start working with it. For clients, your VIP support team is available as always to help. If you’re already developing blocks or related tools, let us know! We’d love to hear about them. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the highlights from across the community last month:

  • Gutenberg v2.0 came out January 12th with lots of big updates including refinements to copy and pasting, mobile usability, the block API, the block library, and accessibility. Matías ran down all of the changes and offered a demo video as well. As of this post, it’s at version 2.1.
  • Tammie shared a post outlining the basics of Gutenberg design piece by piece.
  • In a tweet, Matías showed off the ability to paste Markdown text directly into Gutenberg.
  • Matt Mullenweg stopped by a WordPress Orlando meetup and answered questions about the Gutenberg project in an open floor, town hall-style session. Here’s an unofficial recap of the questions and answers.
  • Matthew Haines-Young at Human Made wrote up his experiences in adding Gutenberg compatibility to their main site, including 13 custom blocks and a UI for editing them.
  • Aaron Jorbin reflected on six months of using Gutenberg so far, including eighteen posts.
  • Gutenberg.news, Mike McAlister‘s ongoing collection of resources and tutorials, came on line this month. It’s another great way to stay up to date.

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

“Publishers are also using these Interactive Advertising Bureau-backed text files to organize inventory reports they share with advertisers, drive programmatic direct deals and shop for vendors.”

Ross Benes at Digiday, in a story exploring additional uses publishers have found for ads.txt.

“When you create a subscription business model, your incentives change significantly,” [he said.] “You’re trying to build a really deep relationship with your reader. No one is going to subscribe if they think that what you’re doing is not unique … You do want as many readers as possible. You do want people to come frequently. But what you really want them to do is love your stories.”

-Wired Editor In Chief Nick Thompson, in an article and podcast conversation with Peter Kafka at Recode about Wired’s newly unveiled paywall.

Upcoming Events

  • As mentioned up top, we’re excited to share the dates for VIP Workshop, May 14-17, and have opened up early bird ticketing. It’s our favorite time of the year! We hope to see you all there.
  • LoopConf is happening February 21-24 in Salt Lake City, Utah and Automattic will be participating as a sponsor. Automatticians Mel Choyce and Dennis Snell will also be presenting, along with Human Made’s John Blackbourn. Tickets are still available.
  • Recode’s Code Media, an immersive, two-day media and technology event hosted by Peter Kafka and Kara Swisher, is coming up February 12-13 in Huntington Beach, CA.
  • AMPConf is coming up February 13-14 in Amsterdam. Alberto Medina from Google along with XWP’s Thierry Muller will be presenting on AMP powering WordPress on the first day, and Gil Birman and Brian Ta from Airbnb will be on a panel on monetization and retail on the second.
  • Dekode, WooCommerce, and Jetpack are all diamond sponsors of WordCamp Oslo March 2-3. Speakers include our own Tess Needham, Scott Baasgard and Magne Ilsaas from Dekode, and John Blackbourn from Human Made.

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

Independent Speed and Performance Analysis Finds VIP Fastest among Top Tier Hosts

WordPress.com VIP has once again been acknowledged as a top-tier provider of enterprise-level WordPress hosting, posting the fastest average response times from a range of global testing locations in independent analysis carried out by Review Signal.

Each year Kevin Ohashi at Review Signal evaluates enterprise WordPress hosts, and again in 2018 WordPress.com VIP joins a strong top tier. In the language of the review system, top tier means, “companies who maintain 99.9% uptime throughout the entire testing and show little to no performance degradation during load testing.”

After putting up “the absolute fastest scores [I’ve seen] by a wide margin” in our first participation in the rankings last year, this year VIP’s performance shone again. In addition to meeting each metric for top tier status, our scores in the WebPageTest.org tests showed off the speed of our content delivery network in accomplishing its main function – serving content as fast as possible to end users all over the world. Of the 11 locations used to test, VIP came out ahead in 9 of them, and we scored second in the two others. In his review, Ohashi concluded “[VIP] were delivering content the fastest on average around the world in the WebPageTest tests. Another Top Tier Performance award easily earned for WordPress.com VIP.”

Raw speed and performance is more than just an area for bragging rights. In terms of both search algorithm ranking factors and the behaviors and bounce rate of site visitors, it translates to real business value.

 

Liveblog 1.7 Brings a React Front End and More

We’re pleased to announce the release of Liveblog v1.7, which introduces a completely new React-powered front end, adds new features and provides improved support for liveblogging from mobile devices.

Our Liveblog plugin offers a powerful and easy to use way to cover high profile events on an owned channel. With it you can host frequently updated real time event coverage pages, drawing in collaboration from multiple contributors who may be in multiple places. Many of our clients use Liveblog in their newsrooms to cover awards shows, big sporting events, and breaking news.

The new front end, rebuilt from the ground up, offers the enhanced performance and simplicity of React while retaining the existing Liveblog feature set, including:

  • Key events
  • Hashtags
  • Lazy loading of events
  • Slash commands

Check out the added autocomplete and emoji rendering features in action:

And it adds some of our most frequently requested enhancements:

  • A more mobile-friendly interface
  • Easier image insertion, including on mobile
  • Better formatting tools
  • Pagination of entries
  • Performance improvements for high-traffic liveblogs

Here’s a quick run-through of what’s new for editors:

And for users:

Special thanks to our development partner on the project, VIP featured partner Big Bite Creative, who with this great release have set a new foundation for continued enhancements to a critical newsroom tool.

“It’s been a rewarding few months working with the VIP team on what has been the biggest update since the original release. And it doesn’t stop here! With 1.8 already in works, we’re excited to demonstrate how easy it is to extend the new UI with some exciting new features.” said Liam Defty, Release Lead at Big Bite.

In this talk from BigWP London in December, you can hear Jason from Big Bite introduce the context behind this new release and a share a bit about what’s coming next.

If you’re a VIP client and have any questions about how to upgrade, check the Lobby post for specific instructions, or get in touch with your VIP support team.

Bugs, feature requests, and contributions are more than welcome on GitHub. And anyone can download and use the plugin via WordPress.org.

December VIP Roundup

For many, December was a frenzy of activity kicking off with WordCamp US (more in last month’s special edition roundup) and continuing from there, followed by a good chunk of quiet heading in to 2018. As the year turns, once again we share a look back at news and updates from across the enterprise WordPress ecosystem.

From December’s BigWP London, at Twitter HQ (photo by @scottsweb)

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

  • There has been a flurry of Gutenberg-related activity across the community since the exciting updates and live demo at the State of the Word, including new resources, demos, and videos. WP Tavern has gathered many of them in one central post for easy discovery. Human Made published a white paper on Gutenberg with a wide range of contributors including Tammie Lister, Anna Harrison of TinyMCE, Greg Priday of SiteOrigin, and their own Ant Miller, Joe McGill, and Matthew Haines-Young. And 10up‘s Helen Hou-Sandi explored how Gutenberg could bring better integration between ads and content. Also, don’t miss our overview of what’s coming in the Gutenberg editor, and how to best prepare for the transition.
  • Jetpack 5.6 was released in early December (Announcement, Lobby post), followed up by 5.7 earlier this week (Announcement, Lobby). Updates include enhancements to Elasticsearch-based Search, JavaScript minifcation, and various other improvements and bug fixes.
  • You can now find full videos of the talks from December’s BigWP London meetup on VIP News: Tammie Lister on Gutenberg, Jason Agnew from Big Bite on the Liveblog project, Parker Ward from Capgemini on their migration from Drupal to WordPress and VIP, and Dan Drave from Sotic on their work with the Lions tour.
  • Automattic updated our user privacy policy, with changes going in to effect as of January 3, 2018. This policy affects users of our services, but does not apply to the information we collect on our VIP clients’ behalf about their site visitors – that information is covered under our existing agreements with our VIP Clients.
  • Dekode‘s Magne Ilsaas published Modularity by Design, an essay on what modular design and development means at Dekode and how it informs their entire approach.
  • Urban Airship released a WordPress integration for web notifications, developed with 10up.
  • SailThru released version 3.1 of their plugin (VIP News, Lobby post), bringing finer controls for developers and users.
  • Storify notified its users of its sunsetting timeline, with the service and web site going offline for good as of May 18, 2018. (Lobby post, Storify’s FAQ)

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

“The good news: Of those who are not paying for online news now, younger Americans are more willing to pay in the future, possibly because they often already pay for other forms of digital media. The bad news: No more than 2 percent of people surveyed in any country said they are “very likely” to pay for news in the future.”

-Denise-Marie Ordway summarizing a University of Oxford study on paying for news online, in a roundup of the most important digital and social media research from 2017.

 In addition to using the platform as a reporter’s notebook or to fact-check statements, some people used tweets to really explain the journalism they were doing in a really human way. The explanations were amazing, clear and necessary. But Twitter is the worst place for them.

-Melody Kramer evaluates the value and limitations of journalistic tweetstorms as they became a much bigger part of the landscape in 2017.

Featured Launch(es)

With the year drawing to a close and a new one just beginning, this month we wanted to recognize all of the fantastic work done across the VIP family this year. We are proud to celebrate all of you, our clients, partners, colleagues, and community members. This post from the WordPress.com blog highlights some of this year’s moments and launches from across the Automattic family.

Upcoming Events

  • O’Reilly’s OSCON, which takes place July 18-19 in Portland, OR, is accepting speaker submissions until January 30.
  • LoopConf, an annual WordPress developer conference, is happening February 21-24 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Automatticians Mel Choyce and Dennis Snell will be presenting, along with Human Made’s John Blackbourn. Early bird tickets are still available.
  • Recode’s Code Media, an immersive, two-day media and technology event hosted by Peter Kafka and Kara Swisher, will take place February 12-13 in Huntington Beach, CA.

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

The WordPress Tool Set Powering the Lions Tour

Note: This is part of a series of posts highlighting talks from the BigWP London meetup at Twitter HQ on the evening of December 7. 

Sotic are a digital agency focused solely on sport, who recently adopted WordPress as their strategic development platform of choice. Senior front-end developer Dan Drave peeled back the curtain on the specialized knowledge and experience they have gained in building digital platforms for some of the biggest brands and governing bodies in European sport. Specifically, Dan’s talk shared the approaches and tools they used to support the British and Irish Lions as they faced the mighty All Blacks (now also running WordPress, by the way) earlier this summer.

The key elements that define Sotic’s approach include:

  • A custom WordPress theme built specifically as a sports CMS foundation
  • Custom Post Types that support unique formats such as quotes and fun facts
  • Advanced Custom Fields to weave the post type fields into templates
  • Sotic Metadata and Widgets that work with their customized API
  • The WordPress REST API

In this clip, Dan explains the mission and functional requirements involved in supporting a high scale sport site such as the Lions Tour:

Watch Dan’s talk in full:

More from this month’s BigWP London:

Capgemini’s Move from Drupal to WordPress

Note: This is part of a series of posts highlighting talks from the BigWP London meetup at Twitter HQ on the evening of December 7. 

Earlier this year, global consulting and technology leader Capgemini completed an impressive replatforming from Drupal to WordPress and to WordPress.com VIP, supported by agency partner Human Made. Parker Ward, global head of digital and content at Capgemini, took to the BigWP podium last week to share highlights of the case study.

The initiative successfully addressed a number of shortcomings of the previous system, from administrative bottlenecks in making changes to a challenging and unfriendly interface that itself caused churn within teams who were required to use it. Where previously the site was dependent on 4 Drupal webmasters, their new WordPress build already had 70 people managing content across 40 markets, with more to follow.

The new WordPress platform also put in place new functionality that will better support the needs of Capgemini’s 200,000 employee global operation. Adding a simple, powerful shared publishing calendar has allowed teams of marketers globally to free up their email inboxes and share an always updated canonical record of what content each team is running, day after day.  Another new feature Parker highlighted involves customized syndication tools that empower local editors to manage their own use of global content and also share content laterally.

In this clip, you’ll hear Parker describe the state of the previous Drupal system and the processes around it, at the time when he was brought on board, and some of the challenges the new WordPress system solved for:

Watch Parker’s talk in full:

More from this month’s BigWP London:

What’s Next for the Liveblog Plugin

Note: This is part of a series of posts highlighting talks from the BigWP London meetup at Twitter HQ on the evening of December 7. 

Jason Agnew, technical director at our agency partner Big Bite, presented an overview of the work they’re doing with us to rebuild and update our popular and powerful Liveblog WordPress plugin, initially released in 2012 and up for a re-release soon.

He started with some perspective on how and why big media companies use Liveblog, to create rolling coverage of breaking news (see: GlobalNews.ca) and high profile events like national elections or the Academy Awards. It’s a fantastic way to host a single, frequently updated page in real time, usually with contributions from a number of writers and editors who may be watching and curating from multiple external locations and sources.

Jason went through some of the advantages of the Liveblog approach over things like Tweetstorms:

  • No item length limitation
  • Support for all kinds of form factors
  • Ability to run more than one at a time
  • Persists after the event without any additional effort

In this clip, Jason talks about the project’s goals and the focus of the next release:

Watch Jason’s talk in full:

More from this month’s BigWP London:

Gutenberg at BigWP London

 Note: This is part of a series of posts highlighting talks from the BigWP London meetup at Twitter HQ on the evening of December 7. 

Fresh from participating in WordCamp US and meeting with several enterprise WordPress teams at big media companies in New York, Gutenberg design lead Tammie Lister (@karmatosed) took the BigWP crowd through an overview of the project and a look at the editor plugin’s latest progress (more background on Gutenberg here).

The strength of WordPress is based on its large, diverse and passionate community of users and developers, and it’s fair to say that passions have been stirred by Gutenberg and its implications. With all development happening in public, it has been easy for anyone with an interest to jump in and participate. The team has welcomed that engagement, providing a range of perspectives that have helped to refine the user experience with each weekly release.

In the clip below, Tammie describes some of the ways the team has brought in feedback and hands-on user participation, including online and via an in person testing booth at WordCamp US.

Watch Tammie’s talk in full:

More from this month’s BigWP London:

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