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.

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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

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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.

Announcing the 2017 VIP Workshop

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May 8-11, 2017 @ The Carneros Resort

We are excited to announce the next installment of the WordPress.com VIP Workshop! As the leading provider of enterprise WordPress solutions, WordPress.com VIP provides the premier event focused on the needs of enterprise WordPress users. In our 6th year of the VIP Workshop we’re continuing where we left off last year with sessions for product owners and developers along with a Best of WordPress.com VIP showcase where we recognize the best of your work over the past year (stay tuned for when we open the request for entries).

 

The VIP Workshop provides a unique opportunity to learn from the WordPress.com VIP team in person, as well as exchange ideas and experiences with other WordPress.com VIP clients and partners through networking lunches and dinners, in-depth curriculum and exercises, and focused, collaborative conversations.

A quick peek at the itinerary – details & agenda will be continually updated on the new WordPress.com VIP Workshop site, powered by WooCommerce.

  • Monday, May 8th — Arrival Day. Check-in, special guest keynote and welcome dinner.
  • Tuesday, May 9th — In depth business and engineering sessions.
  • Wednesday, May 10th — In-depth product sessions and hands-on development workshops. We’ll wrap the day up with the Best of WordPress.com VIP showcase!
  • Thursday, May 11th — Departure Day.

Space is limited for this event, so register now and take advantage of early bird pricing! Early bird pricing is $3,500 each until February 15. After which, the full participant price will increase to $4,000.

Pricing includes airport transfers to/from the SFO airport, meals, and lodging (May 8th – 11th).

WordPress 2016 VIP Workshop - Carneros Inn, Napa, CA, USA

Header image by CM Howard from the 2015 Automattic WordPress developer summit at the Carneros Inn in Napa, CA

With the US Election, a Landmark Week for WordPress.com VIP

There were mixed feelings on the VIP team last week, when a joke about one of our clients went viral.

Reports of obsessive refreshing of the US election predictions on Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight site, hosted on WordPress.com VIP, began to appear in late October. As Election Day got ever closer, things reached fever pitch.

One of the campaigns even felt the need to send an email to supporters, urging them to “stop refreshing FiveThirtyEight” and focus on getting out the vote instead.

Things really went into overdrive when the team fired up their Election Day liveblog. The first calls were made at 7pm Eastern; traffic surged as visitors looked for guidance on the clues each new result gave to the final, surprising outcome.

By midnight, FiveThirtyEight had posted — in a single day — the kind of traffic numbers we would usually expect of the most popular, mass-appeal sites we host… over the course of a week. Not bad for a nerdy site all about statistics.

We’re absolutely delighted to see a client doing so well, but the VIP team were all too aware of the responsibility on our shoulders. We knew our systems and practices would face their sternest test ever — even if constant refreshing hadn’t become a new national pastime.

It wasn’t just FiveThirtyEight, of course. With so many VIP clients in the news business, many of the sites we host saw significant traffic spikes on Election Day, or for those addressing audiences living several timezones away (like News.com.au or Indian Express), the day after. Follow-up coverage on Thursday saw at least one major site post a new record number of page views.

I’m happy to say that we coped admirably. Independent monitoring by Pingdom shows 100% uptime for the week, and barely a blip in terms of average response time.

Part of VIP’s appeal is that we ensure you’re ready for high-traffic events like this: the ones you can predict, and the ones you can’t. With so many sites, from so many places, covering so many subjects, we simply have to be prepared for the most extreme scenarios.

VIP clients share the same high-capacity global infrastructure as the WordPress.com platform, consistently ranked as one of the web’s busiest properties. And our engineers work with each site’s developers to ensure their code is as efficient and performant as possible.

Clients are often anxious about traffic spikes. But really, they should be something to look forward to: these are the times your website truly earns its stripes.

A vibrant Fourth Estate will be more important than ever in the next few years — and it will need to be fast and performant for readers around the world. If VIP can deliver for FiveThirtyEight, the national focal point on one of the most dramatic election nights in history, you can be confident we can deliver on your big night too. We dare you to put us to the test.

WordPress.com VIP‘fastest by a wide margin’ in study of enterprise WordPress hosting

We were delighted to learn last week that VIP had ‘easily’ achieved Top Tier status in an authoritative study of enterprise-level WordPress hosting.

Review Signal’s analysis is recognized as the benchmark for comparing the performance and resilience of specialist WordPress hosts. This is the company’s fourth review of the market, but the first time they have looked specifically at enterprise offerings; and it’s the first time VIP has been assessed.

VIP put on an ‘amazing show’, according to Review Signal’s Kevin Ohashi; ‘they blew my (test setup) out of the water.’

“VIP put up the absolute fastest scores that I’ve seen by a wide margin, roughly triple the speed of the next fastest”
– Kevin Ohashi

We were the clear winner in tests conducted using Review Signal’s open-source WPPerformanceTester tool. ‘VIP put up the absolute fastest scores in the PHP bench that I’ve seen by a wide margin,’ Kevin writes: ‘roughly triple the speed of the next fastest.’

In a load test simulating up to 10,000 concurrent users, VIP’s average response time was ‘impressively flat and the fastest of any company by a good bit’. VIP came out top for almost half the global locations used in tests via WebPagetest.org, including Sydney, Japan, Singapore, South Africa, and LA.

We were delighted to see our Automattic siblings in Pressable also achieving Top Tier status, along with Kinsta, Pagely, Pantheon and Pressidium. It’s great to see an ecosystem of managed hosting solutions growing around WordPress, allowing publishers and enterprises to choose the solution that’s right for their needs.

We know how much performance matters at enterprise level – for consumers, content creators and search engines alike.

Review Signal’s findings confirm our status as the leading solution for enterprises seeking the fastest and most reliable hosting for their WordPress sites.

New: WordPress Plugin for Facebook Instant Articles

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Facebook has announced that its Instant Articles program will be open to publishers “of any size, anywhere in the world” starting on April 12, 2016. And with the free plugin we’re unveiling today, you’ll be able to prepare your self-hosted or VIP WordPress for the demands of this new channel.

Install it now from GitHub (it’s also coming soon to the WordPress plugin directory).

Instant Articles, now available to people using Facebook for iPhone and Android, load articles in Facebook’s News Feed up to ten times faster than standard web articles, and are optimized for the mobile reading experience.

The native format includes a built-in set of interactive tools like auto-play video and tap-to-zoom image galleries, bringing stories to life on mobile devices. Early analysis suggests that people engage more deeply with the immersive experience and share Instant Articles with their friends more often than standard web articles.

We’ve been working with Facebook, and VIP Featured Partner agency Dekode, on a plugin which takes care of the basics. Activate it, and you’ll have a compliant feed of Posts, wrapping your core content in the markup Facebook requires.

How it works

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Facebook has a review process where they verify that all Instant Articles generated from your website are properly formatted and adhere to their community standards and content policies before you’ll be able to start pushing content to the platform. (You can get more information in our Instant Articles FAQ.) Instant Articles generally should contain all the content a person would see in the web version of an article, so if you have extended the standard WordPress Post template in any way, it’s likely that you’ll need to extend the plugin’s default output too.

If you find any problems in our plugin, please send your feedback as an Issue on GitHub. And if you write a compatibility layer for another popular plugin, we’d encourage you to share it with the WordPress community via a Pull Request.

The Instant Articles program is one of several current initiatives that aim to bring improved speed and performance to the experience of reading news on your mobile device. We are thrilled to be working with Facebook on making it easier than ever for WordPress publishers to reach and engage their audiences in new ways.

Learn more at Facebook.

A warm welcome to Norwegian WordPress experts Dekode

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Norway’s Dekode are the newest members of the WordPress.com VIP Featured Partner Program, bringing a dash of Nordic cool to our list of the planet’s leading WordPress development agencies.

Based in Oslo, Magne and his growing team are building not only an excellent reputation for themselves, but for WordPress as a platform for publishing and ecommerce. The Scandinavian CMS market has historically been dominated by one proprietary platform; but Dekode are working to establish WordPress as a credible alternative, even for complex enterprise usage.

They represent WordPress at Oslo’s Webdagene (‘Web Days’), one of the region’s leading conferences for the web industry; and they help organise Oslo’s WordPress meetups, including its very highly regarded WordCamp. (If you’d like to discover if that reputation is justified, the next one is in just a few weeks.)

More than most, Dekode’s focus is on combining creativity and technology. There’s no doubting their developers’ credentials; but what really shines through their project portfolio is the sophistication of their visual and UI work.

Dekode are consistently producing beautiful, modern, innovative websites. They aren’t afraid to take on challenging work, such as reinventing local community journalism, pushing WordPress forward as they do so. And they are doing it all in the right way, recognising the need for solutions to be sustainable in the long term.

So we’re excited to bring Dekode to the attention of a wider audience. They have concentrated on the Norwegian market thus far, but we’re in no doubt, they are ready to do great things on a European level.

If you’d like to find out more about Dekode, or any of our Featured Partners, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Germany’s Inpsyde: our newest VIP Featured Partner

We’re delighted to welcome Germany’s Inpsyde, one of Europe’s largest and longest-established WordPress agencies, as the newest member of the WordPress.com VIP Featured Partner Program.

At Automattic, we firmly believe in the development of a strong and sustainable WordPress ecosystem. The invite-only Featured Partner Program is our way of promoting the agencies who not only demonstrate creative and technical excellence; but also share our commitment to supporting the WordPress open source project, and the community built upon it.

Inpsyde are synonymous with WordPress in Germany, Europe’s largest single market. Few agencies worldwide have been so instrumental in building and supporting their local community. They provided technical infrastructure for blogs and forums long before anything central existed. They represented WordPress at industry events, and organised or sponsored WordPress-based events of their own.

When we began to think of potential partners in continental Europe, Inpsyde were the most natural choice. Founded in 2006, they have grown into a company of some 30 employees, scattered across Germany.

If you follow the development of the WordPress core software, you will immediately recognise the name of Inpsyde’s Dominik ‘ocean90’ Schilling, a Core Committer since 2013, who will lead the development of version 4.6 this summer. Attendees of the larger European WordCamps may not know co-founder Robert Windisch by name… but they will almost certainly know his straw boater hat!

There’s no shortage of familiar names on Inpsyde’s client list too, including global brands like Adidas and Mercedes-Benz; and media companies like ZDF, Sueddeutsche Zeitung and Arte.

The web industry has particular reason to be grateful to Inpsyde, for their ongoing work with Smashing Magazine, a must-read resource for designers and developers. ‘Thanks to our work with Inpsyde, Smashing Magazine is now loading faster than any other well-known Web Design or Web Development Blog around the web,’ according to editor Vitaly Friedman. ‘If you are looking for professionalism and endless know-how in terms of WordPress and Web Development in general, then seek no longer since you just found what you were looking for.’

We’re proud to recommend them for projects not just in German-speaking countries, but more widely. Their experience in multilingual development, and deep knowledge of WooCommerce will be of interest to many enterprise and VIP-level clients.

It’s also a significant moment for us at VIP. Inpsyde are our first Featured Partner agency for whom English is not their first language (although it’s a very close second). With well over 25% of the top 10 million websites running on WordPress, its success reaches far beyond the English-speaking world, and it’s time our Featured Partner network did too.

The VIP team will be happy to advise on the contribution Inpsyde, or any of our Partners can make to your next WordPress project.

Join the WordPress.com VIP team!

At WordPress.com VIP, we provide support, hosting, training, and other services to some of the biggest and best WordPress sites on the web.

Our business is growing, and so is our team. We’re hiring for three positions: Technical Account Engineer, Business Engineer, and VIP Wrangler.

We’re a hard-working and fast-paced team. Qualities that we’re looking for:

  • You love working with some of the most influential companies on the planet, and helping them get the most out of WordPress and our VIP program.
  • You’re an amazing communicator, comfortable with a customer-facing role and dealing with a high volume of communication.
  • You’re comfortable in high stakes situations, and are quick to resolve unexpected challenges.

Think that sounds like you? Apply now.

 

Accelerating the Mobile Web

Today we’re announcing support for Accelerated Mobile Pages for WordPress, a new open source initiative spearheaded by Google to dramatically improve performance of the mobile web.

“Speed has always been a cornerstone of Google Search and we’re thrilled to be working alongside others in the tech industry and publishers around the world to bring the Accelerated Mobile Pages Project to life.”
—Dave Besbris, VP Engineering, Google Search

The mission of the WordPress project is to democratize publishing, and with 24.6% of sites running the software—making WordPress the most popular CMS on the web—we feel we’re making good progress.

That success has been built on our openness, our flexibility, and our commitment to delivering the best possible user experience—both for publishers, and their readers.

To that end, we are developing a plugin to support the AMP specification, enabling publishers to produce AMP-formatted content from WordPress without lifting a finger (other than clicking “publish”, naturally). The plugin is still in early stages, but you can see it in action on WordPress.com or even this very post.

If you’re interested in kicking the tires, submitting improvements, or squashing bugs, we’d love your help.

We believe that open source is one of the most powerful ideas of our generation. We strongly and actively support a free, open internet. We’re very happy to support an open source initiative like AMP, which brings publishers and technology companies together to make a better mobile experience for everyone.

Upvoted – a Redditorial publication – launches on WordPress.com VIP!

We all know Reddit – the online community where users vote on content. Today, we on the WordPress.com VIP team are excited to be part of a new chapter in Reddit history as they launch a hub for that original content, Upvoted.com. Reddit co-founder, Alexis Ohanian, explains a bit more about what Upvoted is for the Reddit community…

This launch of upvoted.com is the next logical step in celebrating the Reddit community: a hub for original content to give Redditors credit, as well as go beyond the original story to learn more about the people and ideas that bubble up across this site of 202 million monthly users (bigger than Brazil!). And of course, you can discuss every piece of original content at r/upvoted.

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Read more about the launch on Upvoted!

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