What Could the WordPress Community Do for Publishers?

Thursday, September 7 was a very interesting day for WordPress publishing.

We saw a significant investment in the space, with the promise of more to come.

The Newspack investment

Newspack, a division of Automattic, announced over $7 million in funding:

Newspack is among the recipients of a $15 million investment in local news that was  announced by the Knight Foundation today. Newspack and our partners at BlueLena will share a $7.25 million grant that will be administered by the Local Independent Online News Publishers organization, or LION. 

Here’s the Knight Foundation’s goal with this investment:

stimulate and stabilize the marketplace of technology services for small- and mid-size publishers, including content management systems.

Basically, the Knight Foundation is spending that money to improve the WordPress options available to publishers. It’s likely a good choice because Newspack has over 200 customers and is growing quickly. Their code is open source and free for anyone to use.

You can click here to see a full overview of where the Knight Foundation money is going. There’s also $1 million for URL Media, which is a network of “high-performing Black and Brown media organizations”. Almost all of them use WordPress.

Future investments

The Knight Foundation was also involved in a second, larger announcement on Thursday.

A new group called Press Forward is investing $500 million in local news organizations. They’ll spend that money over the next five years. Their eventual goal is to raise $1 billion.

Press Forward has a vision that could have been taken directly from WordPress or many other open source projects:

  • Prioritize transformation
  • Center community needs
  • Enable growth with equity and diversity of thought
  • Ensure accessibility
  • Independence and interdependence

And Press Forward explicitly want to invest in technology. This quote below is from an introduction to Press Forward from Jim Friedlich who was heavily involved in the launch. He’s hoping that Newspack will grow 10 times larger:

Press Forward includes a timely commitment to help fund shared services and enabling technology, a rising tide designed to lift many boats. The Knight Foundation’s Jim Brady, a news executive with a largely commercial career background, talks about philanthropy not picking winners or losers, but investing in local news infrastructure that enables the market to determine success. Press Forward will allow this effort to multiply. For example, Newspack, a content management software package developed on WordPress and now in use by 200 small-to-medium sized newsrooms, could with sufficient philanthropic capital serve 2,000 or more.

IndieGraf is in a similar space to Newspack and is growing quickly after raising $500,000. What Newspack and IndieGraf are doing is excellent, and can be replicated by others.

I’d love your feedback on this

Here’s where my thinking is:

  • WordPress is the foundational tool for small-and-medium size publishers.
  • WordPress is currently the best-in-breed platform for those publishers, but it’s far from perfect and could be improved in many ways.
  • There are organizations who want to invest in making WordPress better for publishers.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. There’s the opportunity to do work that has real significance. And there’s going to be investment available.

What could the WordPress community do for publishers over the next few years?

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