February VIP Roundup

After a brief stint away for the holidays, 2019 is off with a bang (or, a shake, for the VIP Business Development team attending a meetup in Mexico City last week). The first 1/12th of the year has seen several exciting launches, including GitHub, Prensa Libre, and Crowley. Our client USA Today came back with its Ad Meter rankings of the most popular ad at the Superb Owl, but our favorite might be this shoutout to the free press from the Washington Post.

Take a look ahead at this month’s updates from across enterprise WordPress, including a spotlight straight from VIP’s own newsroom, and the running list of events we’ve got our eyes on this spring.

Thirteen Lego astronauts in orange jumpsuits nestled in the snow holding a black sign that reads 'VIP Launch'

The VIP Launch Squad met in Boulder, Colorado last week. Photo not actual size. (Photo credit @kgagne)

News and Releases

Updates from around VIP, our clients, and our agency and technical partners.

  • You can now watch and share the videos from November’s BigWP NYC event. Our thanks to Remy Stern of the New York Post, Setka CEO Katya Bazilevskaya, and Libby Parker and KAdam White of Human Made for dropping knowledge on managing push notifications, AMP compatibility, and customizing pre-existing Gutenberg blocks.
  • GitHub has a new home on VIPGo, with a .blog TLD. Check out github.blog or their 2019 policy predictions for a look around the new digs.
  • Prensa Libre is one of the biggest newspapers in Guatemala and one of the highest-trafficked websites in Central America. We partnered with Alley to migrate them over to WordPress and the VIP Go platform. New capabilities include a refreshed landing page module system, and the option to export wire stories straight to print.
  • Congrats to Crowley on their long-haul launch of a new site on VIP, and many thanks to the small army of collaborators from across several teams who made this one possible.
  • Alley published a robust 2018 year in review, highlighting their work with news organizations, museums, nonprofits, and more.
  • Hello Design worked with MDC to build the Coral One robot, which Business Insider called the best robot at CES2019.
  • Clutch named Human Made both a “Top 1000 Global” B2B company and “Top WordPress Development Company.”
  • Reaktiv Studios launched Tala on VIP Go as a multilingual site.
  • Rtcamp is heading to WordCamp Bangkok, where CEO Rahul Bansal will speak on the art of pricing. Read how choosing ‘focus’ as a guiding theme for 2018 impacted their year.
  • XWP wrote a piece on what you need to know before you AMP. They also released v1.0.0 of their WordPress development library.
  • Setka’s CEO Katya Bazilevskaya was quoted in the Native Advertising Institute’s 2019 predictions e-book (gated download).

Platform Notes

  • We’re building a testing panel to give us feedback as we develop our client-facing tools. If you’re interested in helping us, please drop us a note via support.
  • We’ve released WordPress 5.0 (Lobby post for clients) up to 5.0.3 (Lobby post) and Jetpack 6.9 (Lobby post)
  • VIP CLI has been updated to 1.3.0. You’ll notice a few updates: we now preview the date and time of the backup used for sync, show the mapped domain when listing apps, and better messaging around environments–as well as some minor bugfixes and general bolt tightening. Please update your local install with npm install -g @automattic/vip
  • MU Plugins:
    • Query Monitor is updated to 3.1.1
    • Fieldmanager is updated to 1.2.4 (Lobby post)
    • Edit Flow is updated to 0.9 (lobby post for clients (Lobby post)
    • Safe Redirect manager is 1.9.2 (Lobby post)
    • Responsive Images are rolled out to all sites (Lobby post)
    • Getty Images 4.0 (Lobby post)
  • We’re upgrading our VIP Go Hosting to PHP 7.3, to take advantage of the performance benefits, stability, and security advantages there. Non-production environments were updated on Monday 4 February, and production sites are planned to be upgraded on Monday 25 February (Lobby post)

What We Read (And Listened To)

Spotlight

Image via thenewsproject.net

VIP is deeply committed to the sustainability of news organizations, large and small, around the world. We’re excited to share we’ve doubled down on that commitment by investing in the News Project. According to founder Merrill Brown, the News Project’s goal is to “stabilize existing news sites and encourage new startups by simplifying publishing and the path to sustainability.” Take a product tour to learn more about their tools, or sign up for their newsletter to stay up to date.

Upcoming Events

  • Tickets are on sale for WordCamp London, April 5-7. This event joins a slate of WordCamps going down all across the globe this spring, including Jakarta and Pune on February 16, Helsinki March 7-8, and Miami March 15-17.
  • ‘Intelligent Connectivity’ is the focus of #MWC19, coming to Barcelona February 25-28. Attendees can explore 8 themes, including Immersive Content and Digital Trust.
  • This year’s (free) AMP Conference will be in Tokyo April 17-18. Already an AMP expert? Act fast: the call for speakers is open through February 14.

Freedom to innovate: VIP at Change Forum 2019

VIP was proud to sponsor February’s Change Forum, where our friends at News UK brought together established media businesses and startups in London, to speak candidly about product design and development.

Speakers from the BBC, The Times, Netflix, Lego and here at WordPress.com shared lessons learned about audience engagement and growth whilst leading product teams.

The common thread across all the day’s presentations was an acknowledgement that a steady flow of new ideas and perspectives was essential to the continued success of a modern business. Teams at one startup were expected to carry out five experiments every single month.

David A Kennedy on stage at Change Forum 2019 London
David Kennedy, design director at Automattic

Data, experience and intuition were all of limited value in predicting which ideas would ultimately move the needle. Several speakers described lengthy or expensive processes which yielded little; whilst tweaks taking only a few hours could have a remarkable impact.

And sometimes, as our colleague David Kennedy explained, ideas expected to deliver one benefit could produce greater gains in another, unexpected way. David’s passion is accessibility in design. He cited the example of NPR, who began posting transcripts of their audio broadcasts to aid accessibility – and saw a significant increase in traffic and user engagement, through the text content’s greater search engine friendliness.

Christina Scott interviews Jonas Huckestein
News UK’s Christina Scott chats with Jonas Huckestein of UK bank Monzo

Jonas Huckestein, co-founder of UK banking disruptor Monzo, confessed that the company’s success had been built on trying things, seeing which ones worked, and keeping on doing them. They spent months developing a peer-to-peer payment function, which was a total flop. But a simple ‘golden ticket’ function, to let friends of existing customers jump up the waiting list, drove steady weekly growth for many months.

Customers loved it when Netflix began sending out brand-new movies on the day of the DVD’s release; but it only reduced customer churn by a tiny amount, so they canned the initiative.

Conversely, when faced with the dilemma of whether to notify customers about the imminent expiry of their initial free trial, Netflix decided to do the ‘right thing’, and send out reminders. It naturally reduced conversion rates, costing the company tens of millions in revenue; but they decided it was good for the brand… and easy to reverse.

Gibson Biddle, former VP of Product at Netflix

How to decide if an innovation was successful? It depended on what you had hoped to achieve, the data you considered, and who was making the decision. Your CFO might take one view; your community of users, or readers, or consumers might take another. It’s for the culture of the company to decide whose view matters most.

With VIP’s roots deep in the WordPress open source community, these conclusions rang true to our own experience. We believe that the freedoms to innovate on top of WordPress, to share your ideas and efforts with the world, and to choose from many solutions already in circulation, are key factors in the continuing growth of WordPress.

Photos courtesy of Fluxx Studios: posted on Flickr, used under license.

March 2019 VIP Roundup

The WordPress team recently celebrated another major milestone with the release of WordPress 5.1, alongside news that the platform now powers a full third of the web. Huzzah! Kauffman Indicators, the Facebook Journalism Project, Rio Negro, MinnPost, and MTN now count themselves among that elite group after enjoying successful launches this month.

Elsewhere, we were lucky to join some amazing conversations about shaping the enterprise WordPress world we want to live in, including more women leaders in digital journalism and the importance of designing for all. Read on for details, as well as the latest updates from across the community.

A group of women from ONA's Women Leadership Academy posing in front of a brick wall.
ONA Women’s Leadership Academy participants and mentors. Photo via ONA.

News and Releases

Updates from around VIP, our clients, and our agency and technical partners.

  • WordPress released version 5.1. Nicknamed ‘Betty,’ 5.1 introduces new Site Health features and includes performance improvements for the new block editor. Congrats to Automatticians Matt Mullenweg and Gary Pendergast and the 561 contributors (including folks from our partners 10up, Reaktiv Studios, and rtCamp) who made it possible.
  • It’s official: WordPress now powers 33.3% of the web.
  • VIP worked with featured partner Alley to help The Kauffman Foundation launch the Kauffman Indicators of Early Stage Entrepreneurship. This new tool offers in-depth reports and interactive data visualizations that present entrepreneurial trends across decades, geographies, and demographic groups.
  • The Facebook Journalism Project provides products, tools, and training to promote news literacy and help journalists harness the power of Facebook for good.
  • Argentina’s 115-year-old Rio Negro newspaper is looking mighty fine in its new home.
  • Longstanding nonprofit news organization MinnPost joined the VIP family.
  • Congrats to South African mobile phone provider MTN on their new site launch.
  • 10Up turned eight and beta launched WP Acceptance, a team-centric tool for writing reliable, scalable acceptance tests.
  • Alley shared a reflection on how creating a self-quoting SlackBot shaped their company culture.
  • Big Bite sponsored Middlesborough Digital, part of several burgeoning digital sectors in the UK.
  • Inpsyde released a OneStock for WooCommerce plugin to make it easier to manage product inventory across multiple shops.
  • rtCamp shared the PHP migration script they used to move 300+ repos, 10000+ issues/PR and 100,000+ comments from GitLab to GitHub. Their team also attended 3 WordCamps in one weekend!
  • HumanMade hosted their annual meetup in Sri Lanka (We’re not jealous. Okay, we’re jealous).

Platform Notes

What We Read (And Listened To)

Spotlight: Kurator at NewsCorp Australia

We have had the pleasure of working with News Corp Australia (NCA) since early 2015. Today they host 21 sites with us, including market leaders News.com.au, Foxsports.com.au, and TheAustralian.com.au. For NCA, WordPress represents one important application among others, within a complex and powerful systems architecture that predated their migration. We spoke with Juan Zapata, head of the Site Production Platform team, to learn more about their custom-built Kurator tool, which brings external resources to authors and editors working in WordPress. Read all about it.

Recent Events

  • Earlier this month, we sponsored and attended ONA’s Women Leadership Accelerator at UCLA. Each year, this event brings 30 women from around the world for a weeklong leadership intensive to advance women in digital journalism. VIP has been a major sponsor of ONA WLA since the beginning and are proud to continue our support. Alternate: This year, our very own Steph Yiu spoke about managing remote teams (recap on her site) and VIP’s work promoting digital journalism.
  • VIP was also pleased to sponsor February’s Change Forum, where our friends at News UK brought together established media businesses and startups in London to speak candidly about product design and development. Simon Dickson, Alison Blanda, Jason Snow, Ryan Sholin, and Simon Wheatley represented VIP at the event, and Automattic’s design director David Kennedy spoke on reaping the benefits of prioritizing accessibility in design. Get a summary of his talk alongside major highlights in our event recap.
David Kennedy on stage at the Change Forum conference, pictured in front of an audience and against a red background with the word 'Change' inscribed across it.
Automattician David Kennedy speaking on designing for diversity. Photo via News UK

Upcoming Events

  • BigWP meetups focus on the operation, development, and scaling of large, high-traffic WordPress websites. Next up is BigWP Toronto, hosted by our friends at the Canadian Olympic Committee on March 27. These events always fill up fast, so hop to it.
  • Facebook’s developer conference F8 is slated for April 30-May 1. Billed as, “A conversation about technology and human connection,” this event offers deep dive sessions and product demos across Facebook’s family of apps. You can apply to attend or sign up to stream the keynote.
  • We’ll be attending WAN-IFRA’s 71st World News Media Congress 2019 in Glasgow, June 1-3.

How VIP supports the future of digital media leadership

This year, VIP is proud to sponsor both the Online News Association’s Women’s Leadership Accelerator and the Poynter Institute’s Leadership Academy for Women. This is our fourth year supporting each program — here’s a little bit about why they’re so important to us.

I write this fresh from wrapping two very full days at Poynter’s spring Leadership Academy for Women in Digital Media. This year, I was struck by how often the attendees used the word “magic” to describe this conference. But then I recalled my first 24 hours at the ONA-Poynter Leadership Academy in 2016. I was completely blown away. In one day, I met more women leaders than I had interacted with my entire career.

Closing the gap

For many years now, VIP has been bringing WordPress to some of the world’s largest publishers. In 2016, we were wrestling with the realization that we rarely interacted with female clients, because digital decision-makers at enterprise organizations tended to be men. We also didn’t have many women on our team and were eager to change that.

At the time, we already had a relationship with the Online News Association, as sponsors of their annual conference. So when the opportunity arose to expand our sponsorship to a women’s leadership program, we were all in.

A different kind of conference

Upon arriving at that first event, I was immediately impressed by the attendees. Twenty-eight women were chosen out of more than 400 applicants. All were up-and-coming female leaders at media companies around the world. Remarkably, the curriculum was completely customized for the group. Coaches closely evaluated attendee applications, teammate feedback, and personality tests to provide 1:1 coaching specific to each individual’s needs. While that was valuable, the most important learnings came from attendees speaking up, being vulnerable, and building on shared experiences.

As a sponsor, I came with a prepared presentation on WordPress, but quickly realized I had to adapt to the room. This was a different kind of conference — one where I was expected to be as open as possible about my challenges and struggles. I threw away my prepared remarks.

Instead, I spoke about becoming a female team lead, and how paralyzing imposter syndrome can be when almost all your clients and teammates are male. I talked about how it takes extra courage to speak up when you’re the only woman in a room full of men — courage I often did not have as a new team lead. I shared that I spent a lot of time trying to be like everyone else. It was a long and frustrating road for me to stop mimicking other people, and start validating the things I was good at.

After that presentation, I made genuine friendships with many of the women in the room.

The spring 2019 Women’s Leadership Academy at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida.

An exponential impact

Since that first sponsorship, women we’ve met at the program have attended our BigWP community events, spoken at our annual VIP Workshop, and become a part of WordCamp for Publishers. Some of them have become trusted friends and advisors for me. Others have become clients.

I’m also proud of the impact the sponsorship has had on our team. As we’ve hired more women, I’ve been able to bring teammates to these events. Over the last two years, Suzi Gaiser, Alexis Kulash, Nabaht Peters, and Rebecca Hum have all attended events and become part of the ONA-Poynter community. I have been grateful to both programs for their interest in soaking up a bit of VIP’s distributed and open culture. In turn, the programs have allowed us to participate in sessions on being a change agent, negotiating as a woman, promoting diversity in leadership, and personal career development.

As I travel home, I’m carrying a little boost of positive energy, reminded that there’s an incredible community of women leaders looking to support each other. At VIP, we’re deeply committed to sustainable journalism, and proud to support the critical work of organizations like ONA and Poynter who help raise new voices to the highest levels of media leadership.

April 2019 VIP Roundup

Spring has sprung (in the northern hemisphere, at least) and as you scroll through March’s updates, you’ll see fresh growth everywhere: We’ve got new launches for Hilton and Alaska Airlines. Development for WordPress 5.2 is well underway. Our teammates and partners are winning awards and earning certifications. And we’re thrilled to announce expanded support for enterprise clients in Asia Pacific. Explore details on all that and more below, including the latest from WordCamp Europe and a special spotlight on our work supporting female leaders in digital media.

At WordCamp Kolkata, CEO of rtCamp Rahul Bansal wears a white blazer and poses next to VIP Anand Natarajan in front of a blue banner celebrating rtCamp as a featured partner of WordPress VIPCEO of rtCamp Rahul Bansal poses with VIP’s Anand Natarajan at rtCamp’s 10th Anniversary Celebration

News and Releases

Updates from around VIP, our clients, and our agency and technical partners.

  • WordPress 5.2 is slated for release within the next month, bringing the block editor into WordPress mobile apps and shaving 35% the load time for large posts. The software is still in development, but you can download the beta or experiment with the WordPress beta tester.
  • Newspack is a collaboration from Automattic and partners News Revenue Hub and Spirited Media that aims to make it easier for smaller publishers to produce sustainable journalism. Project leads have selected 12 newsrooms from around the world to pilot the first live version of the platform. Among this first cohort are Chile’s El Soberano, Prague’s Transitions, and San Antonio’s The Rivard Report.
  • Automattician Seyward Darby was named a Top Woman in Media for her work as Editor-in-Chief at The Atavist Magazine.
  • VIP welcomed Anand Natarajan to the team as Sales Director for Asia Pacific, and expanded our infrastructure with a new data center in Mumbai.
  • Does your team deploy on GitHub? If so, 10 Up’s new plugin, GitHub Actions for WordPress, might make your life a little easier.
  • Congrats to Alley on the launch of Food Learning Locator. They’re also behind the design and development of Alaska Airlinesredesigned blog, and the development of Hilton’s corporate responsibility site. CEO Austin Smith was featured in a Local News Initiative story on the need for improved user experience of news websites.
  • Three cheers for Big Bite, who achieved certifications in two ISO standards for Information Security and Quality Management, and won the Northeast England Chamber of Commerce’s Small Business Award.
  • Petya Rakovska of Human Made has started hosting kid’s workshops at WordCamps across the globe, teaching the next generation of WordPress superusers to build their own websites and custom themes. She created an organizer’s kit to spread the movement.
  • Inpsyder Frank Bültge shared this recap of eCommerceCamp 2019.
  • Reaktiv Studios released Design Palette Pro 1.6
  • rtCamp celebrated their 10th anniversary. You’d expect the cake, but the lemons were a surprise. CEO Rahul Bansal spoke at WordCamp Kolkata and COEP FOSSMeet’19 about Hiring in WordPress Ecosystem and Careers in WordPress and Open Source. Another Rahul (Prajapati) introduced students to WordPress Hooks Concept at COEP FOSSMeet’19. Amidst the revelry, they also released three GitHub Actions for automated code review, deploying WordPress, and Slack notifications.
  • Congrats to Trew Knowledge on the recently launched independent.com, the new site for the Santa Barbara Independent, a weekly newspaper in California which moved to WordPress and VIP after years using EllingtonCMS. Trew Knowledge also launched Journal Métro on Apple News.
  • Distributed teams are increasingly common. The crew at XWP identified 7 experiences that help them create a sense of ‘team’ among remote contributors.
Over a dozen kids with laptops collaborate with WordCamp Belgrade volunteers at one of the first WordCamp kid's workshops
Volunteers at WordCamp Belgrade taught kids to build their own WordPress sites and themes. Photo via Petya Raykovska and provided by Ivan Gatić.

Platform Notes

  • VIP Files Service, our distributed, scalable, and versioned file system, now supports a much greater range of files operations, thanks to an upgrade in the way file writes work for WordPress uploads.
  • We rolled out WordPress 5.1.1, Jetpack 7.1, and Jetpack 7.2 to all sites. (Links point to Lobby posts for clients.)
  • We released a VIP Cache Personalization API.
  • We updated the process for specifying files to be excluded from automated build and deploy processes. It now uses a .deployignore file, rather than .gitignore.
  • WP core upgrade has been fixed for local environments.
  • Fixed an issue with Contact Form 7 attachments and the VIP Files Service.
  • We’ve been working with selected clients on our Node.js application hosting. If you’re interested, please get in touch using the form below, or by contacting your RM.

What We Read (And Listened To)

Research and perspectives on the business of media and the practice of marketing.

Spotlight

The spring 2019 Women’s Leadership Academy cohort at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Florida.

This year, VIP is proud to sponsor both the Online News Association’s Women’s Leadership Accelerator and the Poynter Institute’s Leadership Academy for Women. Steph Yiu has been attending their programs since 2016 and wrote a feature on the exponential impact of raising new voices to the highest levels of digital media leadership.

Upcoming Events

  • We’re excited to sponsor WAN-IFRA’s 71st World News Media Congress in Glasgow June 1-3. The event draws global news leaders passionate about media freedom and ensuring a sustainable news industry. You can register here.
  • We’re also sponsoring brand storytelling and digital marketing conference Forward, where marketing VP Jessica Snavely will share how Automattic uses data to tell success stories.
  • WordCamp Europe descends on Berlin June 20-22. Schedule highlights include talks from our featured partners 10up, Human Made, and rtCamp; sessions on Gutenberg, accessibility in design, optimizing remote teams; and a keynote from Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic. VIP’s very own Tom Nowell will do a live demo on using blocks outside of posts and pages.
  • The sixth annual SRCCON returns to Minneapolis July 11-12. This event attracts over 300 journalism-technologists, newsroom leaders, and others working to change journalism for the better. Sign up for information about tickets if you want to learn more.
  • WordCamp for Publishers is slated for August 7-9 in Columbus, Ohio. Plans are underway for the speakers and schedule, which will include tracks for editorial, engineering, and product teams. Read our notes from the 2018 event to get a feel for the festivities, and bookmark the event page to stay up to date.
  • The National Association of Black Journalists’ Convention and Career Fair combines education, career development, and networking to improve access for journalists of color. This year’s theme is “Fight The Power: Press Forward with Passion and Purpose” and goes down in Miami August 7-11.

Human Made’s approach to Gutenberg? Don’t repeat yourself.

Libby Barker, a Senior Project Manager, and K. Adam White, a Senior Developer, both from Human Made, spoke about their approach to working with clients on Gutenberg projects, even before its recent official launch in WordPress 5.0. This talk was delivered on November 13 at BigWP NYC, a gathering of developers and product people who work on WordPress applications at scale.

Instead of reinventing the wheel, Human Made started with the blocks already available in Gutenberg, and customized from there. Rather than spending time and effort building blocks from scratch, they were able to give clients more control of design elements and a better editing experience.

Any Gutenberg block might turn out to be reusable on another page, or in another layout. In one example they shared, the Human Made team found that an element built for a site’s homepage could double as a recirculation module at the bottom of single posts or pages, too.

Watch the talk:

BigWP is our enterprise WordPress meetup series, that brings together developers, business leads, and product people who work with high-scale WordPress applications every day. To be the first to find out about the next enterprise WordPress event in New York, join the meetup group. You’ll find groups for other cities there as well.

Find all of the talks in the November’s BigWP playlist.

Client Spotlight: Kurator at News Corp Australia

Peek behind the scenes with the WordPress team at News Corp Australia

We have had the pleasure of working with News Corp Australia (NCA) since early 2015. Today they host 21 sites with us, including market leaders News.com.au, Foxsports.com.au, and TheAustralian.com.au.

For NCA, WordPress represents one important application among others, within a complex and powerful systems architecture that predated their migration. They run their own massive content database and API (CAPI) and also use Méthode for print publishing. The smart ways they have integrated their existing components into WordPress as they migrated their flagship publications to it are a testament to their development vision and execution. They also point to one of WordPress’ great strengths. Its flexibility allows enterprise organizations with existing infrastructure to adapt and evolve with WordPress over time, rather than requiring a complete systems overhaul and mass migration all at once.

News Corp Australia Site Production Platform WordPress team
The SPP team at News Corp Australia

Kurator Lite is one of those powerful custom-built tools that NCA uses to bring external resources to authors and editors working in WordPress. After catching a glimpse of Kurator Lite in action, I chatted with Juan Zapata, head of the WordPress group, the Site Production Platform (SPP) team at News Corp Australia, to hear more about its history, how it works, and what’s in the pipeline for the SPP team.

You shared a really cool video that shows how an author or editor in WordPress at News Corp Australia can use Kurator Lite to work with all these different assets and content from all over the company. It looks like a really impressive piece of workflow. Tell me about its history.

Juan Zapata: Before we moved on to WordPress VIP we had two different platforms running. One was called FatWire, which was Oracle-based, for print and digital. The other one is Méthode, for print editions of newspapers. There was a disconnect between digital and print in which a user had to create the categories in both systems to be able to have them running correctly. This gap drove the company to create something to bridge the two.

That’s where the need for Kurator came about, a tool that manages whole sections of content in both. It’s a tool to help editorial tell the story a bit more easily and share it within these 2 worlds. After Kurator the team built Kurator Lite, which is that small panel you see in the video. That allows you to see the sections or the categories that you can assign to multiple stories. Then they embedded that thing into FatWire. And the same functionality was embedded into Méthode.

What year was that?

I started at News Corp Australia in 2015, and I think that project started in 2013.

How many publications and asset sources does Kurator search?

Kurator is basically an interface on our database, which is called CAPI, for Content API. At this stage, it has six million stories, last time I heard, like a month ago. The stories are syndicated across multiple sites, so it is basically a massive search on our database.

Really massive. So there was Kurator and you had versions of it implemented in these two CMS systems, FatWire and Méthode. Tell me about the WordPress implementation.

We decided, ‘okay, editors already know how to use this tool. Editors already are familiar with these interfaces. Let’s also embed it into WordPress, where they are managing digital publications.’ That’s the video that you saw in which you can basically find stories, search by section, drag and drop those assets from an external database, which is not within WordPress. Then WordPress will grab them and import them to be displayed and curated.

How recently was that embed for WordPress made available? When did the team finish that?

That needed to be done ASAP as we implemented WordPress…It went live at the end of 2015, so it had to be ready by that time because they need to be able to manage stories or curate stories within WordPress. They need to be able to search the stories that are not in WordPress to be able to import them and organize them and display that within the WordPress template. That had to go straight out.

The News Corp Australia Content API has over 6 million stories

How does it work? Can you walk me through some of the ways that an editor or an author would use it as they’re creating a story?

We tried to keep it as simple as possible. There are two ways of interacting with this thing. One of them is to rank or put collections into WordPress. Within WordPress, we created a custom post type that is a collection of items, of stories, of promos or whatever you want in there. It’s a collection of posts, basically.

You can go and open an interface for Kurator in your right panel. Then you search for whatever story you want. You drag it and drop it. You drop it into your container of the collection in that case. Then you can rank your collection in any place or your story in any part of the collection. It can be in the first location of that collection.

Then that collection is rendered in the website, for example, in the front page. It will be like the main stories in there. They can drop main stories in there directly, so they manage that concept of collections in there for that one. One way of doing it is through ranking stories into collections. You can open your Kurator panel, drag and drop, and pull your story directly in there.

The other way authors use Kurator Lite is, when you’re creating a story, basically you have your WordPress story in there. You create your title, your body. Within News Corp, we have the concept of containers. Container One is…if I translate that into WordPress, that will be your thumbnail image or your picture image. When you open the article page at the top you’ll see your featured image.

We have extended that functionality a little bit. What you can drop in there is multiple images and even videos. To keep it simple you just open your Kurator window on the right side, and then search for the image and then drop it into Container One. We have also extended this capability to the body of the article using this as oEmbeds elements.

Finally, we have something that is called Container Two right at the bottom, which is a container for related articles, things that you may be interested in that are related to these articles that you’re creating. The same functionality works there. You drag and drop and put it into that container. We tried to keep it as easy as possible as it helps to manually curate content.

The drag and drop looks really nice in the video. How does that work?

It took us a while to develop because the Kurator panel is an iframe. What we have to do is behind the scenes when you click on a drag event, it extends or puts a div that extends across the whole visible area of your editor. When you drag out of your iframe (visually as you are still within it), it starts sending post messages to that parent window, telling it, “Look, I’m in this position of that massive element.” Then it will be able to identify what to highlight behind the scenes.

Because there was no easy way of offering drag and dropping functionality between two iframes, we came with this approach. It’s all done through post messages going back and forth. Once you drop it, it sends another post message saying, “I drop it in this location.” Then we’ll add it and trigger the whole thing that is happening there.

It’s not the best implementation today because nowadays there are various different tools available that we can implement it with. There is now a way that we have figured out of integrating directly into WordPress, instead of using an iframe, but we tried to keep it as close as possible as it was implemented in the previous system because it was a known interaction and a business requirement. We knew what we were going to do in there at the time, basically, instead of going and trying different stuff with WordPress. But now we know a way of integrating more directly with WordPress, which will come later on.

What else does the full Kurator application do? What features are you most proud of?

Kurator does section management. If we translate that into WordPress terms, that will be category management. You can create categories in there. It does very good as it displays syndication rules in a very natural way. Kurator does not syndicate per se, but it has the rules of syndication. You can create a section within Kurator, and that section will say, “Okay, when somebody selects this specific section, I have to put it in this website in this category, in this other website in this category, in this website in this category.” It will tell CAPI, “You have to publish this information into all these sites.”

That’s one of the fantastic features that Kurator has in there, section management and syndication management.

The other one, of course, is Kurator Lite, which is for searching assets. That’s the part that’s integrated into WordPress.

The other one is legal kill. The whole concept of legally killing an asset is to remove it from any website as soon as possible for legal reasons. You say, “I want to legal kill this item,” but the problem is that the asset has been syndicated to multiple sites. You cannot say, “Yeah, it’s deleted from all the sites,” until you get confirmation from all the sites. To accomplish this Kurator verifies all the sites that it has been syndicated to and starts pulling information from there to see if everything was successful depending on the information that it has. It stays there until it finishes. If there is an error, it will notify people about it. It’s a very robust platform built in Node.js with AngularJS. It’s very interesting. It’s completely separate to WordPress, completely separate to CAPI. It’s its own beast.

How much of a team supports Kurator?

It’s three people. It’s a very small team. It was built long ago, and the core of it hasn’t needed to be touched since then. They built it as a plugin system – one plugin is search. Another plugin is the legal kill functionality. Another plugin is the section management piece. That core thing, they haven’t touched it since they built it. That’s how well they built it. It was a very good engineering task that they did in there for that one. Yeah. At this stage, it’s three people maintaining it.

Tell me about the SPP team, what does your team do and how do you work?

Within the company, we are the core team that powers WordPress and the teams that all the other product teams developed. We are responsible for ingesting content from our content API, CAPI into WordPress, getting that synced correctly in WordPress, Developing and maintaining our own editor and supporting theme developers with extra plugins within other functions of the team.

We are 4 WordPress PHP developers, 2 testers, and 1 automation tester, who is also a developer.

We actually have 52 different plugins that allow us to do a lot of stuff in our system within WordPress. To name some we have CAPI sync which controls the translation and ingestion of content to WordPress, Authoring which allows editors to create content within WordPress with all the different containers and integrations, Kurator integration, CHP integration which is our archive of images not hosted within WordPress, Legal Kill, Draft Post, Expire Post, Site Migration, I can go on…The list is massive.

What’s coming up on the SPP roadmap?

One big one is, we removed the previous liveblogging functionality that we were using, which was with a third party. We are bringing it into WordPress using VIP’s Liveblog plugin. We have been rolling that out this last month. Now we’re rolling out AMP support for live blogging which I’m really keen and looking forward to getting it out. Also, we are working on migrating to VIP Go to which our plugins need a bit of massaging but nothing that worries me.

That’s great. What kinds of use cases around News Corp is live blogging used for mostly? Is it sports? Is it entertainment?

Almost everything. Sports is the main one that you will see in there, but they have rolling stories around every morning that says, “Things that you need to know today.” Think of it like a live coverage story. They’re just churning stories in there into the Liveblog, and that appears in your homepage saying, “Things that you need to know today. This happened, or this happened yesterday.” They change that every 10 minutes, every 15 minutes. It’s like a live blogging functionality, but they use it in that part of the site. That’s used every day.

Political applications as well, they use it. Catastrophic events, like fires. Anything that needs a live blog, but basically the two main ones are sports, and then daily things that are happening in the city.

To learn more about our work with News Corp Australia, check out this case study

Push Notifications at Scale at the New York Post

How The New York Post uses WordPress to manage push notifications for a busy newsroom

Remy Stern, Chief Digital Officer at the New York Post, our hosts at BigWP NYC on November 13, led off the presentations with an explanation on how they use WordPress.com VIP to send thousands and thousands of push notifications, email alerts, and to control their breaking news alerts on the web, too.

Why use WordPress to manage notifications? It’s the central tool for workflow in their newsroom, and reduces the risk of errors by keeping things in one familiar system with a consistent user experience. As a bonus, that helps things move quickly.

“Speed really matters when you’re sending out breaking news push notifications.”

Maropost, Urban Airship, and even Apple News are all in the notifications mix for the New York Post, all managed from inside their WordPress admin.

Watch Remy’s talk in full:

BigWP is our enterprise WordPress meetup series, that brings together developers, business leads, and product people who work with high-scale WordPress applications every day. To be the first to find out about the next enterprise WordPress event in New York, join the meetup group. You’ll find groups for other cities there as well.

Find all of the talks in the November BigWP playlist.

WordPress.com VIP Invests in The News Project

At WordPress.com VIP, we’ve worked closely with journalists since the very beginning of our service. From our earliest clients, news organizations were an integral part of WordPress’s growth from an open-source blogging platform to a technology that now powers more than 32% of all sites on the web.

Since that time, VIP has grown into an enterprise publishing platform that now boasts a customer list including some of the biggest news organizations in the world — CBS, Time.com, and News Corp., to name a few — to global brands like Microsoft, Airbnb, Capgemini, and Capital One.

But in this difficult business climate for news organizations, we want to double down on our commitment to journalism and a free (and sustainable) press. Today VIP is announcing that it has made a significant investment in The News Project, a new WordPress-based platform founded by Merrill Brown, the veteran digital news executive who helped launch MSNBC.com.

In addition to VIP’s financial investment, The News Project will be powered by VIP’s platform, with a goal of serving medium-sized digital news organizations around the world. You can read more about TNP’s vision here.

Along with VIP’s existing platform for large publishers and brands, Automattic’s funding of the new Newspack initiative with Google and other partners (announced yesterday), our own in-house media properties Longreads and The Atavist (bringing the best narrative storytelling to WordPress), and even the individual work of reporters like 12-year-old Hilde Lysiak, we are deeply committed to the sustainability of news organizations, large and small, around the world.  

We’re thrilled to work with Merrill and his team on this shared vision. For more information, go to thenewsproject.net.

Bringing AMP and Gutenberg Readiness to Setka

How the Setka Editor team built AMP compatibility into their custom post design tool

At our latest enterprise WordPress meetup in New York on November 13, Katya Bazilevskaya, Cofounder and CEO at Setka, talked about building the Setka Editor to be Gutenberg-ready and AMP-ready. The Setka Editor is a powerful tool for building beautiful longform stories out of building blocks, all optimized for mobile with full Google AMP integration.

The Setka team transformed WordPress galleries, javascript libraries, and even animations into AMP-ready HTML elements, speeding up mobile load times and giving users a lightning-fast experience.

Modern CSS approaches available in AMP help cut down on time to First Meaningful Paint, and Setka users are seeing the difference.

Watch Katya’s talk:

BigWP is our enterprise WordPress meetup series, that brings together developers, business leads, and product people who work with high-scale WordPress applications every day. To be the first to find out about the next enterprise WordPress event in New York, join the meetup group. You’ll find groups for other cities there as well.

Find all of the talks in the November’s BigWP playlist.