ONA 2017: Conversations at the WordPress.com VIP booth

I’ve helped staff the WordPress booth at the Online News Association over the last four years. It’s my favorite conference to attend because of all the incredible people we meet: students who learned to code because of WordPress, journalists who built their first portfolios on WordPress, newsrooms that were transformed by WordPress.

Like many ONA attendees, I also built my first website on WordPress in journalism school. I worked at the Chicago Tribune as the newsroom was being transformed by blogs. And like so many of the folks I spoke with last week, in 2012 I too walked up to a WordPress booth at a conference to share my story of how WordPress had changed my life. Little did I know I’d end up joining the VIP team, helping newsrooms transition to WordPress one-by-one.

Pete Schiebel, Jeff Bradley, Matthew Denton, David Artiss, Chris Scott, and Steph Yiu at the WordPress.com VIP booth.

ONA is a massive conference. More than 3,000 people attended this year in Washington, D.C. I knew I’d run into lots of clients and partners, and this year, I was interested in hearing in their words how they reflect on WordPress and its role in their professional lives. So I asked them.

On the first day I saw Zach Seward, SVP of Product and Executive Editor at their gathering to promote Quackbot, their new Slack bot. Quartz’s WordPress launch was one of the early projects I worked on when I joined VIP.

“Honestly, to this day, there’s not a project or need that we haven’t been able to do with WordPress,” he said.

High-volume newsrooms love WordPress because of how easy it is for their teams to publish. This year, we co-hosted with our partners Alley Interactive and Parse.ly at the delicious Lapis restaurant in D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood. This was a topic of dinner conversation at my table – how critical time to publish is in a breaking news situation, and how easily WordPress facilitates that.

At dinner I ran into Patrick Tolbert, Digital Director at KXAN-TV, who helped introduce WordPress to his newsroom.

“The reporters love WordPress. When we train, usually we run through training and immediately I get, ‘that’s it?!’” Patrick later told me. “And I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s it! Headline, title, categorization, tags, done!’”

At the WordPress booth the next day, Emma Carew Grovum stopped by to say hi. She helped Foreign Policy move onto WordPress, and today she is the CMS product manager at The Daily Beast. She credits WordPress for teaching her about content management systems – and I asked her what she liked the most.

“That WordPress works on mobile!” she said. “I could update our homepage at Foreign Policy from my phone – I remember sitting at a red light at my car just noodling on the homepage because I could… it was probably not safe!”

I was also curious what our clients were taking back to their newsrooms after this year’s ONA. What’s next? I had to ask Juan Muñoz, Interactive Director at CNN en Español, who helped put their social and mobile storytelling teams on wheels.

“Integrating all the different tools that we use in one place,” he said, always thinking about ways to make his newsroom more efficient. “Seamless integration with APIs from things like Trello, and Slack. Simplifying and and automating the related stories, suggesting links inside of the content so that editors don’t have to search.”

“More security and more automatic security,” said Bradley Peniston, the Deputy Director at Defense One, a security publication from Atlantic Media. “It’s getting harder and harder for people to have solid, secure websites on their own… The more security can be baked into standard installs whether on my own server or WordPress.com, that’s what I’m worried about.”

At our booth, I also had the pleasure of meeting Amy Claire Nelson, an audiovisual storyteller.

“I’m working on more interactive storytelling and I’m really attracted to 360 documentary journalism and VR experiences,” she said. “I would really love some beautiful templates that would allow a person to experience the project I’m working on… I want my viewer to be present in that situation, for various degrees of immersion into the experience, whether it’s desktop, magic box, Oculus.”

More reading on ONA? The Nieman Journalism Lab has a terrific roundup.

Looking for more events? We’ll be sponsoring and participating in Digital Media North America later this week, in New York October 19-20 (full schedule). Just after Digital Media NA, WordCamp NYC is October 21-22 (tickets are still available!). Topics of interest to the enterprise include 10up CEO John Eckman’s talk on Personalization and WordPress and TinyMCE CEO Andrew Roberts’ Gutenberg update (full schedule).

August VIP Roundup

August in enterprise WordPress saw the debut of WordCamp for Publishers, updated functionality from Facebook, Getty Images, Chartbeat and Ooyala, progress on the Gutenberg project, and a number of publications returning to WordPress from Medium including VIP/Alley Interactive client ThinkProgress.

Read on for all of the details and our monthly launch spotlight – us!

@Gina_Cole_: “Favorite #SRCCON session so far: Addressing challenges like Hamilton characters would (except no duels). Thanks, @hannahsbirch!”

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

  • New WordPress editor plugin Gutenberg reached version 1.0.0 on August 28 and is now at 1.1. There are lots of new features and updates since our July roundup. This update from lead developer Matias Ventura offers a glimpse of Gutenberg’s current capabilities in action via video, and see our CEO Matt Mullenweg’s take on the project’s big picture.
  • WordPress 4.8.1 maintenance release was made available on August 2 (Lobby post for VIP clients.) For an overview of August across WordPress.org, check out The Month In WordPress.
  • Corporate Counsel magazine profiled Automattic General Counsel Paul Sieminski (paywall, free limited access upon registration) on our approach to protecting user data and our perfect score from the Electronic Frontier Foundation on digital privacy rights.
  • Alley Interactive migrated the political news site ThinkProgress.org from Medium to WordPress VIP. As one of a large number of publishers abandoning the platform, ThinkProgress asked Alley to help them find a new content management system. They were thrilled to gain more power and flexibility with WordPress. We expect additional Medium sites to follow suit.
  • Alley also recently launched the new site for the New York Post’s Page Six TV. The gossip show will review Hollywood headlines as well as fashion, real estate, politics, and sports. You can sign up for tickets to upcoming tapings, and it will include clips of the show after the September 18th premiere.
  • A Digiday profile on VIP client Quartz praised their approach to branded content, touting their 90% renewal rate, 3X the industry average.
  • Cloud-based platform maekit, from Australia-based web design agency MyWork, has acquired WP Remote from Human Made. Per the announcement, Maekit has committed to keeping the core features available for free.
  • Technology partner Chartbeat’s new subscriber engagement analytics allow you to segment users by subscriber status and analyze and share data from those groups.
  • Video integration partner Ooyala’s v. 2.5 plugin is now available (Lobby post for VIP clients), which includes new analytics configuration options among other updates.
  • VIP client The New York Times released Who The Hill: an MMS-based facial recognition service for members of Congress.
  • Getty Images released plugin v3.0 (Lobby post for VIP clients), which includes a whole host of updates in addition to a new look and feel. The new version features larger images in search results, an improved search filter panel, and the ability to easily set a downloaded image as Featured Image, which should save a couple of clicks. (Available as of September 4)
  • Facebook’s Instant Articles plugin v.4.0.5 (blog post, Lobby post for VIP clients) makes initial setup easier and also creates visual parity between Instant Articles and AMP. (Available as of September 5)

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

Digital-native news outlets are also adopting other outreach and engagement methods. Fully 97% of these outlets offer newsletters, and 92% have an official presence on Apple News. Three-quarters, meanwhile, release podcasts and 61% allow comments on their articles.

-Galen Stocking, in a new Pew Digital News Fact Sheet.

Mr. Shani said the study reaffirmed his contention that people were looking foremost for authenticity from companies. Establishing that takes time; he compared it to putting money into an individual retirement account, where the dividends do not pay off for years.

-Zach Schonbrun of The New York Times, in response to a new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research on consumer skepticism and advertising.

The Lab is part of an approach to help brands and agencies that’s led to a renewal rate of 90 percent for branded content, nearly three times higher than the industry average, per MediaRadar data.

-Max Willens in Digiday on VIP client Quartz and their innovative approach to branded content.

Featured August Launch

WordPress.com VIP relaunched this summer on…WordPress.com VIP, natch. It’s the coming together of a number of elements we’ve been working on, and a pre-Gutenberg exercise in embracing the modular design approach.

Past Events:

Many thanks to organizers and participants at WordCamp for Publishers. Read highlights from our own Steph Yiu, a wrap-up from Institute for Nonprofit News, and many more.

Upcoming Events:

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

New Getty Images Plugin 3.0 with Streamlined Workflow

The new Getty Images plugin v3.0 builds on the previous versions with improved usability and feature enhancements to help you find, select, and use the right images quicker. It includes:

  • New look and feel
  • New landing page featuring Creative, Featured and Editorial images
  • Ability to set a downloaded image as the Featured Image directly from the plugin (no more bouncing back and forth between the media library and the plugin to set your Featured Image)
  • Larger images in the search results (plus the option to switch back to the detailed view if that’s what you prefer)
  • Improved search filter panel

VIP clients can get more details on the update in the Lobby.

Self-hosted WordPress users can find the new version 3.0 in the WordPress.org plugins directory.

7 Highlights from the First-Ever WordCamp for Publishers

One of my favorite things about working for the VIP team is the incredible community of clients, agencies, partners, and core contributors I get to work with every day. It’s a powerful and thoughtful group. When a bunch of us get together to address shared challenges, it’s especially rewarding and always memorable.

Over the last year, I’ve been collaborating with a group of publishers passionate about WordPress and open source to put together the first-ever WordCamp for Publishers. It was an incredible 3-days focused in the beautiful Denver Post building, thanks to VIP client Digital First Media.

For those of you who couldn’t be there, I wanted to share with you a few highlights from the event:

#1 Distributed Content

Jake Goldman, president of 10up (a VIP partner agency) presented on the changing distribution channels for publishers, and how WordPress can remain the hub in an evolving ecosystem.

#2 Newsletters make money

Both Rebekah Monson, co-founder of WhereBy.Us, and Jake Spurlock, software engineer at WIRED, highlighted the importance of capturing emails and sending newsletters as a key way of making revenue.

#3 Get involved with Gutenberg

Many attendees suggested Gutenberg, a new block-based content editor for WordPress, as a topic for one of the unconference sessions. The takeaway: “Lot of unknowns but best way to figure those out is getting involved.”

#4 Introducing a newsroom to WordPress

Both Meagan Kelleher Ball from Tribune Broadcasting (a VIP client) and Kevin Koehler from Automattic shared tips on how to help a newsroom get acquainted to WordPress. Will Davis from The New York Times (a VIP client) and Meagan also led a packed session on editorial dashboards.

#5 We love Denver

Between lunch at the food trucks at Civic Center Park, the brewery tour at Ratio Brewing, and the after party at Wynkoop Brewing, WordCamp for Publishers was packed with activities that encouraged our attendees to get to know the beautiful city and each other.

#6 Exploring Publisher Tools

We hosted a number of hands-on workshops to help attendees learn tools to make their day-to-day lives easier Tools that were introduced included wp-cli (a command line interface for WordPress), WPGraphQL (a query language for your WordPress API), VoiceWP (create voice apps for WordPress content), and Largo + plugins (a news framework for WordPress sites).

#7 Let’s do this again next year

We ended the conference at a Rockies game on Saturday, and as all the organizers gathered we began talking about next year’s conference. Planning is already underway, so if you’re interested in volunteering or have a venue you think you could donate, please get in touch with me!

 

A special shout out to the organizers, we could not have done this without you! From left: Aram Zucker-Sharff (Salon), Christie Wright (Automattic), Adam Schweigert (Mother Jones), Ryan Kanner (Digital First Media), Taylor Hansen (Linchpin), Matt Johnson (Alley Interactive), Davis Shaver (Alley Interactive), Chris Hardie (Automattic), Alexis Kulash (Automattic), Bradford Campeau-Laurion (Alley Interactive), Jared Cobb (Alley Interactive), Aaron Jorbin (Some Spider), Ben Keith (Institute of Nonprofit News), along with Hughie Devore and Jason Bahl (Digital First Media, not pictured).

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:

GitHub Code Review Comes to VIP Go

On our containerized managed platform, VIP Go, the platform team has been experimenting with and refining one of the most valuable parts of our service: code review.

Code review does lots of things for our clients. It gives developers confidence that their code will run at scale, that they’re not adding any unanticipated technical debt, and allows us to share skills to develop knowledge and best practices. For leaders and product owners, it makes launches smoother and more predictable, and creates trust and accountability.

When we began working on the VIP Go project a few years ago we felt it was a good opportunity to revisit our development workflows and code review. We had watched developer teams move from SVN to Git and wanted to ensure our tools did the same. We chose GitHub as the place to be as so many open source projects are based there.

One of our goals for this year has been to bring our code review process even closer to the default workflow most teams use. We’d like it to be so seamless that it feels like we’re just another member of the development team. This week we have introduced a new workflow and process for our industry-leading code review with this in mind.

Pull Request Code Review

As of this week, we will now be providing code review using GitHub’s excellent code review tools. Among other things, GitHub provides inline commenting, excellent syntax highlighting and diffing, and allows the VIP team to work with your team in a shared UI.

A pull request against your master branch is all it takes to trigger a code review from one of the VIP team. We will then leave feedback inline against the code itself.

This workflow has a number of benefits:

You control when your code is deployed to production (including reverts)

Once a pull request has been approved by the VIP team you will be able to merge it to your master branch. The merge triggers a code deploy on your site. This allows you to control when code is deployed and you no longer have to schedule deploys with us.

It also simplifies rollbacks/reverts as the Github UI provides a simple one-click method to revert PRs.

Code review takes place inline; no more back and forth in tickets

Our current code review feedback takes place away from the code itself via Zendesk tickets. This abstracts it from its context, which can slow down reviews and the implementation of fixes. On GitHub, conversations happen alongside your code making it easier to address the feedback given. Pushing changes also dismisses inline feedback.

Integration opportunities with automated code feedback and CI systems

In the near future we plan to introduce automated code feedback integrations with Continuous Integration systems like Travis CI, CircleCI, and TeamCity. This will provide near instantaneous feedback on code quality, errors and linting for our code standards.

So far the feedback has been very positive:

“a big thumbs up for the recent change to incorporate the pull request review functionality”
– Weston Ruter, XWP

If you would like to find out more, our documentation on the new GitHub PR Review Workflow describes the workflow in detail and answers many common questions.

Under the hood

The VIP Go operational API searches across all GitHub repositories looking for open pull requests against master branches. These are aggregated into our code review queue. The review queue is what notifies our developers that a review should be started.

The review queue is a React powered front end that interacts with the API. This front end currently supports both this new workflow and our existing workflow which will be deprecated soon.

Here is how a pull request currently looks for our developers:

The pull requests can be filtered to only show those that require attention and we also highlight SLA information along with the latest discussion to take place.

On the GitHub side things are as you would expect them:

What’s next?

The VIP platform team focuses on the advancement of the tools and systems that power WordPress.com VIP. As mentioned above our main focus now is looking at automated feedback and integration with common CI systems. Beyond that we want to keep the dialog open and continue to refine the process. If you’re a current client, we look forward to your feedback as you use these tools. If you’re thinking about working with VIP, we’d love to hear how a process like this would integrate with your workflows and processes. It will be user feedback that helps determine where we head next.

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.

We’ll always have Paris: thoughts from WordCamp Europe 2017

Simon Dickson and Matt Mullenweg on stage at WordCamp Europe

WordCamp Europe has become an annual highlight for anyone working with WordPress on this (or that) side of the Atlantic, and it was great to see so many familiar faces gathering in Paris last week for the 2017 event, from Europe and beyond.

The event is now in its fifth year, with each a little more polished and professional than the last; and Paris was no exception, drawing a crowd of almost 2,000 people from 82 countries, with another thousand following the live video streams.

The speakers programme featured some of the most prominent names in the WordPress space, including lead developers Andrew Nacin, Mark Jaquith and John Blackbourn; Automattic’s global head of computational design and inclusion, John Maeda; plus of course, the now-traditional Q&A session with WordPress co-founder and Automattic CEO, Matt Mullenweg.

It was great to see a number of faces from the VIP partner ecosystem on stage, too. 10up’s Adam Silverstein led a workshop at a busy Contributor Day. rtCamp CEO Rahul Bansal gave a flash talk on bringing new people into the WordPress community through translation sprints. Human Made’s Petya Raykovska, Jenny Wong and Rian Rietveld gave rousing talks, with Ant Miller bringing his customary energy to the job of MC’ing one of the Tracks. (Or so I’m told: I was MC’ing in the other room at the time.)

A particular highlight was the beautiful and spacious sponsor area, between the registration desks and the main conference hall. Speaking as something of a WordCamp veteran, it felt like the first time I’ve ever seen sponsors receiving the prominence their support deserves – and without detracting from the community feel of the event, too.

The VIP team has always considered the broader ecosystem to be an integral part of our value proposition. When we represent WordPress at enterprise level, our message is all the more compelling when potential clients can see a diverse marketplace of products and service providers. Looking around the sponsor area, few could doubt that WordPress now demonstrates the kind of maturity and sustainability that corporations expect to see when selecting a strategic platform.

A recurring theme throughout the event was Gutenberg, the new block-based text editor component, whose first beta release Matt Mullenweg announced during his Q&A. Although still some way from being production-ready, it’s clear there is a lot of excitement about its potential to take WordPress content creation to the next level, far beyond the current capability of other enterprise CMS solutions. The VIP team will be working with clients and partners over the coming months, to help them make the most of its new possibilities.

The organisers have wasted no time in cutting up the videos for viewing on demand. All the talks, plus a few behind-the-scenes extras are already available at WordPress.tv; many are also available on YouTube. You’ll need to supply your own café and croissants.

But really, there’s no substitute for being there. If you use WordPress for work or for pleasure, and perhaps even both simultaneously, large-scale events like WordCamp Europe or its transatlantic cousin WordCamp US provide an amazing opportunity to meet people and hear stories from far and wide. Your next opportunity will be Nashville in December; or next year’s European event, in the Serbian capital Belgrade. See you there?

Photos courtesy of Val Vesa (@adspedia), published on Flickr under GPL

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:

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