The WordPress core development team has just announced a draft schedule for the next WordPress release, which will include the long-awaited new editing component, Gutenberg. But for many leading WordPress agencies, Gutenberg has been a fact of life for several months already.
One such agency is VIP partner Big Bite, whose technical director Jason Agnew described the experience of implementing Gutenberg on a number of enterprise-level projects at September’s BigWP gathering in London, hosted by our friends at News UK.
Big Bite have recently been working with a major global bank, to produce an internal news app for consumption primarily via iOS and Android smartphone apps, but managed in WordPress using Gutenberg blocks. And as profiled here previously, they delivered a block-based solution for Amnesty International to build and manage pages in visual form.
Jason describes how Big Bite nominated one team member to become their in-house expert, giving him the time he needed to build his own knowledge, which he could then spread across the company.
Developing with Gutenberg can feel a lot slower, Jason says: ‘you can’t really build the site until you have all the blocks.’ His rule of thumb is that it takes a week to build a block: but if a client is in it for the long run, ‘it’s definitely worth the investment now.’
Discussing Gutenberg with clients has been really easy: some even described the authoring experience as ‘fun’, which is rare indeed in the world of content management systems! Project owners expressed concern at using beta or newly-merged functionality; but Jason has explained that it’s worth a little bit of risk now, in order to save a lot of upgrade costs in the future. ‘Most people can relate to that,’ he says.
Welcome to the September roundup! Even though this is October material, we’d be remiss not to start off with the big news coming out of the Gutenberg project this week, Matt Mullenweg’s Plan for 5.0 update and Gary Pendergast’s follow-up Proposed Scope and Schedule. We’ll keep you updated as 5.0 plans continue to come together.
Meanwhile, there’s lots to catch up on from September. The Online News Association’s annual event is always a highlight of the year and ONA 2018 in Austin was no exception. We came back energized and excited about all of the work going on across the digital journalism community. And thank you to Human Made and News UK for co-hosting our latest BigWP London, with great talks which will be available on YouTube shortly.
Read on for news and updates from across enterprise WordPress, including a new section called, “What We Read,” a carousel of articles (and podcasts) that inspired, informed, and influenced us this month.
Gutenberg News and Notes
The latest tools, demos, and updates around the block-based editor coming to WordPress 5.0.
As mentioned above, plans for the WordPress 5.0 release are starting to take shape. Matt Mullenweg posted a plan and Automattician and core contributor Gary Pendergast gave further details in this proposed scope and schedule, identifying November 19 as the target release date.
Earlier in September, Gutenberg version 3.9 shipped with a host of UX improvements within the editor, in addition to the ability to create reusable templates and import/export reusable blocks.
Peek behind the scenes at the custom blocks powering Amnesty International‘s new platform developed by Big Bite, also embedded in the spotlight below.
News and Releases
Updates from around VIP, our clients, and our agency and technical partners.
VIP teamed up with Human Made to host Big WP London, featuring talks from 10up, Big Bite, Inpsyde, and News UK. Video from the talks coming soon!
Alley helped the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation answer the question, “Does where you live affect how long you live?” by building a life expectancy estimator using data from 73,000 U.S. Census tracts. They also redesigned the Online News Association’s VIP-hosted resource portal just in time for #ONA18.
10up CEO John Eckman shared slides from his talk at WordCamp NYC on rethinking his approach to GDPR and privacy.
If you haven’t checked out the VIP Dashboard for our VIP Go platform, take a look and open a ticket to let us know what you think. (Watch for the first major feature, which will be data sync, arriving over the next few weeks.)
Liveblog v1.9 introduced support for the AMP project, alongside the popular AMP for WordPress plugin. v1.9 also includes enhanced performance for high-traffic liveblogs and support for cross-domain updates (Lobby post).
Spotlight: Amnesty International
Take a video tour of the custom Gutenberg blocks powering Amnesty International’s new platform, built by Big Bite for the new WordPress editor. Their team is also working on one of the largest Gutenberg-built applications to date, with a global financial organization.
VIP take: “Still exchanging Microsoft Word documents with contributors to make edits? Apparently, some publications are still redlining their way to a final draft, while others have made the shift to Google Docs. If you’re happy with the collaborative editing features in Google Docs, try out this add-on to send your drafts straight to your WordPress site.” — @ryansholin
VIP was thrilled to be a part of ONA again in 2018, which went down in Austin, TX from September 13-15.
To kick things off, we and our partners at Alley co-hosted a pre-conference meal where we broke bread with clients and friends. At the conference itself, VIP’s very own Steph Yiu, Ryan Sholin, and Shannon Smith teamed up to present “The Future of Content Creation in WordPress” which gave an inside look at the intersection of publishing, WordPress, and Gutenberg. Ryan also joined a panel on “Remixing Content: Refining Your Workflow to Make Your Work Flow,” sharing tips to make workflows meet your newsroom’s distribution needs without bloating them.
Overall, the VIP team was inspired to see how journalists and newsrooms are using WordPress to create new frontiers in digital publishing. To learn more, visit the VIP-hosted journalists.org.
WAN-IFRA is hosting the Digital Content Expo (DCX) and World Publishing Expo parallel to each other from October 9-11 in Berlin. While the World Expo focuses on print strategies, DCX examines digital trends for content production, distribution, management, and monetization.
WordCamp US is coming to Nashville again on December 7-9. Organizers just announced the fifth round of speakers. November 1 is the deadline to get a printed badge (and share your preferred shirt size).
NICAR is slated for March 7-10 in Newport Beach, California. Sign up for the NICAR mailing list to stay up to date with conference announcements.
The first batches of tickets have dropped for WordCamp Europe! It goes down June 20-22, also in Berlin. While may seem like a long time from now, tickets always sell out, so grab yours fast.
See how Big Bite’s custom blocks streamline publishing for Amnesty International.
The most exciting thing around the WordPress community right now is the new editor experience. The Gutenberg project has transformed what it’s like to create content and manage pages and sections. It has also offered a new approach to matching a team’s existing workflow, and allowing editorial teams to work in the context of what the site and pages actually look like. And it has made a flexible, granular reusability of individual elements across projects and even across the community much more directly available.
Agency partner Big Bite has built an entirely new site platform for Nobel Peace Prize Winner Amnesty International, with the new WordPress editor as its foundation, via the Gutenberg plugin. They focused on developing custom blocks and a core theme that serve as the heart of Amnesty’s digital efforts moving forward. More than a new site, this is a framework for applying consistent brand identity, design, and user experience standards to many new sites and for allowing creators to spin up new, powerful sites quickly and with ease. And as a part of Big Bite’s and Amnesty’s shared commitment to give back to the community, large parts of the project will be released as open source components for anyone to use.
In the short video above, you’ll see a quick overview of what it’s like to build new sites quickly and publish and manage content in Amnesty’s new platform launching in September.
August kicked off with the second annual WordCamp for Publishers in Chicago, IL, where presentations and discussions centered on how publishers can protect and nurture the open web and all of its core values.
Meanwhile, as awareness efforts kicked up a notch, the new WordPress editor Gutenberg plugin surpassed 100,000 active installs within a week (and is now past 300,000). It’s now a central component of many new enterprise site projects slated for Q4 launch.
We’ve soft launched a VIP Dashboard for our VIP Go platform at https://dashboard.wpvip.com/. Please open a ticket to let us know what you think. We’re planning the first major feature, which will be data sync.
This month we profiled VIP agency partner 10up, whose work includes enterprise WordPress tools including Distributor and Ads.txt Manager. They have also contributed greatly to efforts around the new WordPress editor. 10up comprises more than 150 full-time staff members globally, and works with a wide array of clients including Facebook, Microsoft, Google, the State of California, ESPN, and AARP. Read the full profile to find out about 10up’s agency history, vision for the future, and why they chose the three words “Dedicated,” “Creative,” and “Welcoming” to describe their culture.
Media and Marketing Notes
Research and perspectives on the business of media and the practice of marketing.
“Unless we build in natural alternatives to ad revenue models we can’t be an honest authentic media brand.”
Frederik Anderson in Digiday explains Vice’s strategy to grow its revenue streams through ‘offline activations’ like music festivals and food courts.
“Even as they draw from journalism standards and training, podcasters seem to embrace the idea that their tone, style and motivations go beyond traditional techniques, defining their craft in non-journalistic terms such as intimacy and connection.”
Janet Saidi of the LA Times on how podcasts are changing journalism.
“The best parts of Chicagoist, the ones that Chance would be wise to preserve, were its broad editorial freedom and its focus on niche neighborhood stories that might escape the attention of larger outlets.”
Kim Bellware speculates on the implications of Chance the Rapper’s purchase of local news site Chicagoist.
#ONA18, the Online News Association‘s annual conference is just a few days away! Sept. 13-15 in Austin, Texas. Find us at the Midway when you get there. VIP is proud to support ONA as both a sponsor and the platform for ONA’s sites. You’ll find us in several spots on the schedule, including Steph Yiu’s Table Talk and a session with New York Times’ senior editor Hamilton Boardman called, “OMGWTFBBQ: Breaking News Without Breaking Your Site.”
The latest BigWP London is also just around the corner, September 13th at News UK headquarters in London at 6:30 pm. The four flashtalks are as follows: WordPress Multisite for large and high traffic multilingual websites by Giuseppe Mazzapica of Inpsyde; Rebuilding NobelPrize.org by Gabe Karp of 10up; How we won the World Cup by Joel Davis, News UK; and Using Gutenberg in production, by Jason Agnew, Big Bite. Space is limited and signups will close 24 hours before the event.
Look out, too, for a surprising amount of WordPress-related content at Drupal Europe! Automattic will again be sponsoring the event’s Open Web Lounge, to promote sharing and networking between open source projects, communities and influencers; and there are several familiar names from the WordPress world on the session program.
We’re excited to announce our newest technical partner, Setka! Setka creates tools that make it easy for content creators to produce beautiful, customizable, multimedia content pages that work across platforms.
Part of what makes the Setka Editor special is it brings the elements we love about print design into the interactive environment of the screens we use today. It puts power directly in the hands of editors and designers to create stunning content with beautiful features—without much extra effort (and without always having to rely on developers). They can change page layouts, add interactive and multimedia elements, and make other design decisions based on what will serve their content best. The user-friendly WYSIWYG interface combined with customizable layout and style templates give the people producing content creative freedom while making sure they stay on-brand with design.
While the user experience is a breeze, the Setka Editor is working hard behind the scenes. It’s already compatible with the new Gutenberg editor, and will stay on track as WordPress moves to version 5.0. It pairs with the AMP for WordPress plugin to generate eye-catching Accelerated Mobile Pages. It generates the mobile version of your article pages automatically. The HTML is stored in the database, so your content design stays the same even if you uninstall the plugin, and pages can be exported in any necessary formats. The plugin seamlessly integrates into both editorial processes and scaling technical infrastructures to keep everything moving efficiently.
“We’re so proud to be a WordPress.com VIP Partner, since VIP and the WordPress community value design as much as we do. We can’t wait to keep adding more features to help you easily produce amazing content,” said Katya Bazilevskaya, co-founder and CEO of Setka, who spoke on visual storytelling at this year’s VIP Workshop in Napa.
If you’d like to know more about how Setka can improve your daily workflow, drop us a note.
The second annual WordCamp for Publishers went down last week in Chicago with the theme “Taking Back The Open Web.” This theme was sparked from questions explored in a 2016 post by Drupal founder Dries Buytaert:
Do we want the experiences of the next billion web users to be defined by open values of transparency and choice, or by the siloed and opaque convenience of the walled-garden giants dominating today?
As conference organizers, we challenged speakers to touch on whether an open web ever truly existed, what state it’s in now, the consequences of a closed web, and how publishers can protect and encourage an open web.
Overall, we saw common themes emerge around empowering publishers to innovate and evolve. There was a shared belief that ethical journalism depends on an open web, with inclusivity as a fundamental building block to creating responsibly for the future.
Each of these topics has raised significant discussion in the WordPress community, and we envisioned #WCPub as a platform to discuss the state of the publishing industry and future of WordPress in the open web together, with folks from all different backgrounds in the industry. Thankfully, our speakers and attendees were more than up to the task!
Where Code Meets Community
John Eckman, CEO of 10up, was particularly drawn to the challenge of the event’s theme as it related to identity, inclusivity, and imagined communities. John explored the philosophical roots of the open source movement and how those ideas influenced modern-day open source ethics, software freedom, and netizen empowerment.
“Accessibility should be a pervasive feature and not shoved in. We have allowed ourselves to walk away from it. Inclusivity should be a core principle.” @jeckman#wcpub
Austin Smith, CEO and co-founder of Alley, presented his research on the narrow path for local news. He argued in order to protect hyperlocal journalism, we’ll need to convince more readers to pay for the content they consume. We’ll also need to empower local publishers to innovate formats, ownership, and distribution.
Tyson Bird, projects designer at GateHouse Media, and David Parsons, senior software engineer at USA Today, spoke about their use of WordPress at scale to enable publishers to manage large media networks with a variety of markets and staff.
An Emphasis on Engagement
Caroline Porter, consultant for the Shorenstein Center on Media, Harry Backlund, co-founder and director of operations at City Bureau, and Sarah Schmalbach, resident at the Lenfest Institute, discussed the ethical collection of user data, experimenting with innovation around reader engagement, and two-way audience communication in a panel session moderated by Sherry Salko, director of the Amplify News Project.
Eric Ulken, a consultant, and Nick Johnson, founder of Pigeon Paywall, shared differing viewpoints on monetization strategies that ultimately focused on catering to users and their needs.
Key challenge of modern journalism: “There aren’t enough good ways for online readers to compensate publications in ways proportionate to the value they receive.” –@eulken on paywalls #wcpub
There was a lot of excitement around Gutenberg, and Chris Van Patten, founder of Tomodomo, open sourced his team’s documentation project on best design practices using Gutenberg live during his presentation.
Chris wasn’t the only presenter to live open source a project during a talk. Russell Heimlich, lead developer at Spirited Media, open sourced his team’s image CDN project to much applause.
Sina Bahram, president of Prime Access Consulting, and Pattie Reaves, senior user experience developer at Alley, discussed the importance of developing with accessibility in mind.
Two lightning talks also addressed site accessibility concerns: one focusing on the particular needs of those with dyslexia, and another which offered a solution to accessibility through integration with Alexa.
Shayda Torabi, director of marketing at WebDevStudios, and Jodie Riccelli, director of client strategy at WebDevStudios, demoed a number of workflows with streamlined editorial experiences all contained entirely within WordPress.
Brands big and small are using WordPress. But when we look at the editing workflow, we're all piecing together stacks of frankentools before content gets into WordPress. Premise: Can we centralize everything in WordPress instead? #wcpub
Keanan Koppenhaver, CTO at Alpha Particle, showcased a few modern use cases of the REST API, from the Techcrunch redesign, a mobile news simulator, Amazon Echo integration, virtual reality, and more.
Barb Palser, global product partnerships at Google, argued we should look at site performance as a product, with a focus on quantifying the opportunity to increase user engagement.
Leo Postovoit and Ryan Kienstra of XWPwent a step further and demonstrated how to improve performance “up to 85%” simply by integrating AMP.
On the flip side, Brian Boyer, VP of product and people at Spirited Media, delivered a passionate talk explaining his team’s decision to leave the AMP platform to focus on engaging readers in a different manner.
The always-quotable @brianboyer on user experience: "We want people to love us, and nobody's going to love us when we're punching them in the face." #wcpub
Attendees voted on Unconference session proposals to explore hyperspecific themes. The winning topics (“Gutenberg Therapy Session,” “Direct Revenue Discussion,” and “The Future of WordCamp for Publishers”) served as an opportunity for many to share their concerns about specific industry trends.
Workshops dealt with a variety of topics important to the community:
Joshua Wold, design strategist at XWP, dove into creative thinking through development problems by sketching.
Ernie Hsiung, CTO at WhereBy.Us, fostered a discussion about communication across stakeholder groups.
We held a series of lightning talks that ranged widely in topic: from determining whether WordPress was a product or community, to implementing transparency standards for news; from solving content reuse and syndication woes to finding smarter and more efficient ways to create responsive HTML emails and manage media at scale, and even a case study of the need to combine mobile and AMP themes.
No matter where you are in the planning process, we’re happy to help, and we’re actual humans here on the other side of the form. 👋 We’re here to discuss your challenges and plans, evaluate your existing resources or a potential partner, or even make some initial recommendations. And, of course, we’re here to help any time you’re in the market for some robust WordPress awesomeness.