Our Early Review of the Newspack Project from Automattic

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

One of the key players in the WordPress publishing ecosystem is Newspack.

Newspack 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.

Here's the official description of Newspack:

WordPress is already the tool of choice among most small publishers. But it can be daunting to setup and maintain. Newspack solves that by pre-configuring about 50 different plugins that are not only designed to meet the needs of news publishers but also represent best practices across the industry.

Automattic launched over four years ago, with over a dozen newspapers. The first newspaper went live in October 2019 using Newspack and the more sites followed the next month. Back then, I filmed an introduction to Newspack with Steve Beatty from their team.

In the last few years, Newspack has now grown to support over 300 publishers.

Newspack is available as a hosted service costing at $750 per month. Newspack is also freely available on Github. There are three repositories:

You can download and test Newspack. In this guide, I'll show you how.


Getting Started with Newspack

Although there are multiple repos, I recommend downloading and installing the Newspack Plugin. From that starting point, Newspack will prompt you to install everything else.

This is what the main “Plugins” screen looks like with Newspack installed. There are a few active plugins and many more plugin suggestions. Newspack suggests you install more plugins like these:

  • AMP
  • Constant Contact Forms
  • Coral Project
  • Disqus for WordPress
  • Mailchimp for WooCommerce
  • Publish to Apple News
Newspack plugins screen

Whereas some of these plugins are recommended, Newspack has several plugins that are absolutely required. This message lists the seven required plugins:

Newspack required plugins

Here are those seven plugins. You can think of these as the core of the Newspack experience. For example, Newspack is entirely designed for Gutenberg rather than the Classic Editor.

  • Jetpack
  • AMP
  • PWA
  • Gutenberg
  • Yoast SEO
  • Google Site Kit
  • Newspack Blocks

Because AMP and Google Site Kit are in this list, I should mention that Google is one of the sponsors of Newspack. But I suspect that these plugins would have been highly requested anyway. And Newspack does also contain Facebook and Apple integration.

Newspack has a WooCommerce-style setup wizard. The first page will automatically install many more plugins, plus the Newspack theme.

Newspack plugin setup

Later on in the set-up wizard, Newspack will ask you questions about your newsroom:

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Newspack will also offer to install sample data for you:

Newspack set-up wizard starter content

Newspack in Action

If you've installed all the required plugins, themes and starter content, this image show what Newspack looks like.

Newspack theme with starter content

This homepage is built using the Newspack blocks:

Newspack blocks

The “Newspack Homepage Articles” is a very nicely designed block that should allow even non-technical users to customize their newspaper homepage:

Newspack homepage blocks

This video shows the homepage block in action:

There are also ways for publishers to make money. Newspack ships with several advertising plugins. Thanks to WooCommerce, publishers can also collect money directly from readers. Here's a video from the Newspack team that shows how to take reader donations:

Here's a video that shows the advertising features in Newspack:


Newspack Summary

If you download Newspack from Github, you'll find a curated set of plugins plus a theme designed for newspapers.

However, I'd recommend thinking beyond the code. The Newspack project offers all this to newsrooms:

  • A series of best practices for newspapers, expressed through those carefully hosted plugins.
  • A hosted service from WordPress.com.
  • Support from a team at Automattic that's 100% focused on optimizing the experience and listening to journalist's feedback.
  • Out-of-the-box eCommerce options.

If I was running a small newsroom, I would absolutely consider Newspack. $1,000 per month? That's the cost of just a few hours help from a good developer.

Getting more newspapers on WordPress is a commendable goal. Many newspapers don't have the time or resources to have their own internal IT department or to spend a lot of money on outsourcing. That's not even counting the costs of hosting, plugin licenses, security and everything else that's needed to run a large and busy site.

I suspect we'll find that Newspack is a solution that solves a real problem for WordPress publishers.


Updates

We interviewed Steve Beatty from the Newspack team.

The Knight Foundation is paying 24 newsrooms to upgrade their websites. 20 choose WordPress and most choose Newspack.

  • Steve Burge

    Steve is the founder of PublishPress. He's been working with open source software for over 20 years. Originally from the UK, he now lives in Sarasota in the USA. This profile is generated by the PublishPress Authors plugin.

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2 Comments

  1. Thanks for your article on NEWSPACK.
    As the publisher of a small newspaper, I have been thinking of moving over to NEWSPACK.
    Your article was succint.
    Thanks for all you do and blessings always.

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