While local media might not get as much coverage as the national press, it serves an equally important role in society. That’s why the decline of local newsrooms in the U.S. has been a troublesome trend in recent years. The Google News Initiative is now partnering with WordPress to invest $1.2 million in creating a “fast, secure, low-cost publishing system tailor-made to the needs of small newsrooms” called Newspack.
Over the past several years, Google has reiterated how important journalism is to the company. The Google News Initiative (GNI) provides funding and builds new features optimized for publishers. The latest project specifically focuses on local newsrooms.
Newspapers with long histories have had to cut back on staff and reduce coverage and reporters who try to start new digital publications face an interminable struggle with technical and business problems. It just doesn’t make sense, for instance, that every team of local reporters should have to invent the right mix of product features, get world-class tech and user experience talent, and then turn it all into the perfect bespoke publishing system to get their stories to readers.
Newspack aims to create the necessary technological tools so that local journalists can just focus on “great editorial work.” This publishing platform could incorporate website design, configuring CMS, and commerce systems. Additionally, Newspack will support existing WordPress plugins, with “operating fees of between $1,000 per month and $2,000 per month” after launch.
It is trying to help small publishers succeed by building best practices into the product while removing distractions that may divert scarce resources. We like to call it “an opinionated CMS:” it knows the right thing to do, even when you don’t.
Automattic — the parent company of WordPress — will be creating the platform, with other funders (Lenfest Institute for Journalism, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and Civil Media) contributing $1 million in addition to Google’s $1.2 million.
Google will be “advising on the Newspack feature set, based on feedback from our extensive contact with local publishers, and providing technical support on the integration of Google products.”
Development on Newspack will begin in the coming weeks with a global launch for publishers scheduled later this year. Early sign-ups are open now and a beta version is expected by July.