WordPress.com has chosen the 12 newsrooms that will help shape Newspack, the core business platform for small and medium-sized news organizations. Newspack is a project of WordPress.com and its parent company, Automattic, and operating partners News Revenue Hub and Spirited Media.
Together, they will produce a ready-to-go business and publishing offering that will let publishers dedicate more resources to their journalism.
The creation of the platform is supported by funding, as well as technical and advisory assistance, from the Google News Initiative, The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, ConsenSys, the venture studio backing Civil Media, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
The newsrooms are:
- Baltimore Jewish Times
- Bangor (Maine) Daily News
- Brooklyn Eagle
- The Chicago Reporter
- The Hechinger Report (New York)
- The Lens (New Orleans)
- Oklahoma Watch
- The Rivard Report (San Antonio)
- El Soberano (Chile)
- Transitions (Prague)
They will be joined by journalists from the Daily Maverick, a news, analysis, and investigative outlet based in South Africa and founded in 2009, and from Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting, a decades-old, national nonprofit investigative newsroom based in California. Both will offer critical insight as Newspack is created, but they aren’t expected to be part of the platform’s launch.
The journalists at these 12 publications will work with the Newspack development team to identify the needs of publishers with small and medium-sized newsrooms. They will help design, test, and deploy the first live versions of the platform, using some tools not yet available to the wider WordPress community.
These publishers were among more than 370 from around the world who applied to be part of the project.
The result will be a finely tuned solution for the unique needs of smaller publishers. The selected features and continued support of the Newspack team will ease the technology burden for newsroom leaders so they can put their resources toward doing what they do best — serving their communities with high-quality, dependable journalism. Further, the built-in audience-engagement and revenue-development features will give publishers more options to experiment with sustainability strategies.
Google, through its Google News Initiative, is the lead underwriter of Newspack’s development. The initiative’s extensive contacts with local publishers position it well to advise on common newsroom needs and to provide technical support when Newspack plans involve integration of Google products.
In addition to $1.2 million committed by Google, financial supporters include The Lenfest Institute, which is contributing $400,000; ConsenSys, which is contributing $350,000; and the Knight Foundation, which is contributing $250,000.
“We’re delighted with the outpouring of interest and the wide range of sites that have applied to be part of the initial Newspack launch,” said Kinsey Wilson, President of WordPress.com and a former digital executive with The New York Times and NPR. “It reflects a real hunger for solutions across the digital news industry.”
Newspack will eliminate the need for news organizations to devote time and effort to simply keeping pace with broad-based industry innovations and instead let them concentrate on efforts essential to their distinctive missions. Newspack sites will be hosted and updated by WordPress.com, providing the world-class technology and support relied upon by some of the most trusted names in journalism.
“The whole purpose of Newspack, to me, is to unleash potential,” said David Fritze, executive editor of Oklahoma Watch, a pilot newsroom. “At small independent sites like ours, the digital stage can be chaotic, a kind of maze that saps our time and focus. Newspack promises to cut through the clutter, to give us the sure footing to grow.”
Managing editor Graham Watson-Ringo of The Rivard Report in San Antonio, another pilot newsroom, said she looks forward to Newspack helping her showcase content in ways her operation has not been able to explore.
“The ability to help mold a content management system into a tool that will enhance nonprofit journalism is a really amazing opportunity,” she said. “And we can’t say enough about how grateful we are for being chosen to help.”
After the pilot newsrooms re-launch with Newspack, expected to happen in the fall, up to 50 more will be brought on board. This second phase will demonstrate that the platform can scale to meet the needs of a wide variety of publishers. This group of publishers will be selected after a new call for applicants this summer. Newsrooms that applied in the first round will be considered without the need to reapply.
In recognition of their critical role in guiding development, newsrooms launching on Newspack in the first two phases will do so at no cost until March 2020.
By 2020, the Newspack service will be available commercially from WordPress.com, with an expected cost starting at $1,000 a month. In addition to the features already noted, Newspack will stay current with evolving industry needs. The service will include membership in a community of fellow Newspack users with access to the product team; quarterly, confidential WordPress.com benchmarking reports that show how their sites compare to others in their class; and a premium level of support that is still being defined.
More about the pilot newsrooms
Baltimore Jewish Times — Founded in 1919 and now published by Mid-Atlantic Media, the print and online publication is affectionately known locally as the JT. Its powerhouse journalism is a cornerstone of the Jewish community, delivering important local, national and international news and opinion, plus entertaining features and profiles and convenient, useful advertising.
Bangor Daily News — A family-owned business now in its fourth generation of ownership has produced Maine’s newspaper of record for more than 100 years. Its newsroom adopted a Google Docs-to-WordPress platform in 2011, emphasizing its digital growth across Maine.
Brooklyn Eagle — This 178-year-old brand was once edited by Walt Whitman and is renowned as the steadfast chronicler of Brooklyn history. It serves all who live in the borough of 2.6 million people. Its audience includes the civically engaged, such as voters and volunteers; and the socially active, those who participate and contribute to the vibrant food, retail and cultural landscape of Brooklyn.
The Chicago Reporter — The publication was founded in 1972, a time when Chicago and the nation struggled to come to terms with the gains of the civil rights era and the resistance that followed. The mission of the data-driven, investigative publication, with its trademark style of dispassionate but exhaustive reporting, is to document the region’s struggles with the burning issues of racism, poverty and income inequality.
The Hechinger Report — This nonprofit publication that focuses intently on all aspects of education is named after Fred M. Hechinger, the former education editor of The New York Times. It covers inequality and innovation in education with in-depth journalism that uses research, data and stories from classrooms and campuses to show the public how education can be improved and why it matters.
The Lens — Founded in 2009, the online publication is the New Orleans area’s first nonprofit, nonpartisan public-interest newsroom, dedicated to unique investigative and explanatory journalism. Its mission is to educate, engage and empower readers with information and analysis necessary for them to advocate for a more transparent and just governance that is accountable to the public.
Oklahoma Watch — Launched in late 2010, this statewide investigative news organization covers public-policy and quality-of-life issues facing the state and region. It produces data-driven and multimedia reports on topics that include education, state government, criminal justice, public health and poverty. Oklahoma Watch is nonpartisan and strives to be balanced, relentless and comprehensive. Its mission is: “Dig deep. Fear none. Inspire change.”
The Rivard Report — Publisher and editor Robert Rivard oversees a full-time staff of 17 at this nonprofit, nonpartisan online San Antonio news source.The newsroom tackles the city’s problems and challenges, and it spotlights innovative solutions. The Rivard Report stays attuned to and covers the city’s personalities, neighborhoods, businesses, culture, cuisine, arts and entertainment.
El Soberano — This three-year-old Chilean, Spanish-language publication focuses on high-quality reporting on social issues and civil society. The publication’s goal is not just to inform, but to also discuss and coordinate actions — and to bring attention to the political and business actions that are harmful to the quality of life for ordinary citizens. The newsroom stresses dialogue to create a more inclusive country.
Transitions — Founded in 1999, Transitions is an online magazine covering the 30 countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Published by a Prague-based Czech nonprofit, Transitions emphasizes using local voices to cover news and trends, with a particular focus on social issues, human rights, and other democracy-related topics that are often undercovered by traditional international media.
Daily Maverick — Daily Maverick is a leading independent news publisher in South Africa, providing coverage of the nation’s politics and current affairs. Daily Maverick is viewed as one of the most innovative publishers on the African continent, having won the top journalism awards in South Africa. Few publishers can match the dedication to journalistic quality while also being open to experimental projects.
Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting — Reveal, heard on more than 470 public radio stations weekly and as a podcast, is produced by The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX. Founded in 1977, The Center for Investigative Reporting is the nation’s first nonprofit investigative newsroom.
WordPress.com helps millions of people create websites for small business, publishing, and blogging. We host sites for some of the biggest brands and publishers in the world — including Microsoft, News Corp. and CNN — and our users publish more than 87 million new posts every month. WordPress.com is a product of Automattic, Inc., a fully distributed company with more than 800 employees working from 69 countries. For more, visit automattic.com.
About the Google News Initiative
The Google News Initiative (GNI), is Google’s effort to help journalism thrive in the digital age and signifies a major milestone in the company’s 15-year commitment to the news industry. The GNI brings together everything we do in collaboration with the industry—across products, partnerships, and programs—to help build a stronger future for news. The GNI will fuel these efforts with a $300m commitment focused on three objectives: elevate and strengthen quality journalism; evolve business models to drive sustainable growth; and empower news organizations through technological innovation.
About The Lenfest Institute for Journalism
The Lenfest Institute for Journalism is a nonprofit organization devoted to sustaining and advancing local journalism. The Institute was founded in 2016 by cable television entrepreneur
H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest when he gifted both an endowment and sole ownership of the Philadelphia Media Network (The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, and philly.com) to the Institute. These news properties serve as a live lab for the Institute’s investments in innovative news initiatives, new technology and sustainable business models for local news in Philadelphia and across the country. For more, visit www.lenfestinstitute.org
Civil is a community-owned platform for independent journalism. We are a growing network of news organizations and supporters committed to a free press, civil discourse and public accountability. Every Civil newsroom has pledged to abide by high ethical standards and is held accountable to the public they serve. Journalists on Civil and their supporters own the underlying network by owning Civil tokens, which give a say and share in how the project evolves. If you share our passion for journalism, become a member today to support and shape Civil directly. To learn more, including how to become a Civil member, visit www.civil.co.
ConsenSys is a blockchain company dedicated to transforming the world’s digital architecture toward a more open, inclusive, and secure internet of value, commonly called Web3. ConsenSys is helping unlock new business models and value, gain efficiencies through a shared IT infrastructure, and utilize modern cryptographic methods to safeguard private user data. Through our unique global business comprised of anincubator, Enterprise Ethereum consulting arm, and investment fund, ConsenSys is building for the decentralized future.
About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. We invest in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. and James L. Knight once published newspapers. Our goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which we believe are essential for a healthy democracy. For more, visit kf.org.
About News Revenue Hub
The News Revenue Hub helps news organizations build the trust and financial support of their audiences by providing customized technology tools and proven strategies to create and sustain successful digital membership programs. For more, visit fundjournalism.org.
About Spirited Media
Spirited Media is a digital news consultancy. Founded in 2014 by veterans of the Washington Post, AOL, DIgital First Media, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, the company ran local newsrooms in Philadelphia (Billy Penn), Pittsburgh (The Incline) and Denver (Denverite) after attracting funding from Gannett, the founders of Business Insider, and Patch.