An Interview About Newspack With Steve Beatty from Automattic

Steve Beatty

Here at PublishPress, we’re very focused on the publishing experience in WordPress.

In recent weeks, there’s been very interesting news for WordPress publishers with the launch of Newspack. This is a project from Automattic (the owners of WordPress.com, but not WordPress.org) that aims to help small newspapers run their sites on WordPress.

Last month, I wrote a review of the Newspack installation available on Github.

Last week, I got to sit down and chat with Steve Beatty from the Newspack team. He talked about the background, current status, and future plans for Newspack.

There's a video below. I've also written up some key points from our discussion, including some information Steve shared before the recording started.


The goal of Newspack

The Newspack team wants to create a content management system that can be easily deployed by small and medium-sized publishers. The publishers are likely to have between 4 and 40 staff members and are going to have very limited technical resources.

Steve says it should be possible to create a boilerplate package because newspaper websites are 85% identical. Almost all newspapers have the same technology requirements.


The cost of Newspack

Newspack costs $1,000 per month for publishers with less than $500,000 annual revenue and $2,000 per month for larger publications.

Newspack was priced with two aims in mind:

  • To cost less than 5% of revenue for each publisher.
  • To break-even for Automattic. Newspack is not built to be a revenue generator.

Newspack and other plugins

The goal at Newspack is not to build new things. They want to remove the tech burden from publishers and curate the best existing tools. Newspack installs plugins from a pre-selected list, adding on those that are necessary to meet the publishers' goals.

Steve says that most publishers have already researched and selected some additional plugins. The Newspack team will evaluate those choices and install them on the hosted service if they pass their quality tests.


Newspack is ramping up in 2020

Newspack opened their application process in April 2019. They chose twelve newspapers. One dropped out and eleven continued. Over the next seven months, they talked about best practices with those newspapers and launched the first Newspack site in October. Two more have launched: Oklahoma Watch, and The Lens in New Orleans. The remaining eight sites should launch over the next six to eight weeks.

The Newspack team have already selected a second group of 36 publishers. The aim is to scale what they've learned from the smaller first group. They hope to have 50 sites live on Newspack in the next few months.

There still will be an application process throughout at least 2020. It might be another couple of years before Newspack is a self-service platform.


The Newspack homepage block is awesome

After we finished recording, Steve gave me a detailed tour of the “Newspack Homepage Articles” block. The block is really an awesome, mini page-builder. Seeing this block in action really showcases how much easier it is to build interesting layouts with Gutenberg, rather than the .

Let me close this post with an interesting tidbit: this homepage block is good enough that there have been initial discussions about adding it to the WordPress core.


Some Newspack updates

The Knight Foundation is paying 24 newsrooms to upgrade their websites. 20 choose WordPress and most choose Newspack. We also featured Mountain State Spotlight, a Newspack user.


More WordPress interviews

Tags: Classic Editor, The Knight Foundation


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