KQED Publishes at the Speed of News with WordPress

“Usually it takes longer to agree on a logo than it does to make a new WordPress site.” – Kevin Cooke, KQED.org

KQED Public Media, one of the largest PBS and NPR stations in the US, is probably most recognized by its public in the San Francisco Bay area as 88.5FM and by channel 9, the TV station where they watch NOVA and Frontline.

But KQED is working very hard on expanding its ever-growing web presence. In 2007, it was using WordPress for several websites in individual instances. Three years later, KQED.org has more than 15 active WordPress sites, collaborates with other regional public media outlets on WordPress plugin development, and sees a future where WordPress helps them quickly deliver the news their audience wants.

“The WordPress sites have been growing in number mainly because our users like them so much, both our editors and our end-users,” affirms Kevin Cooke, Technologist at KQED, whose first project upon arrival was migrating the single WordPress sites in WordPress MultiUser.

Open Source WordPress and Non-Profit Organizations: Win-Win

The choice of WordPress was an easy one for the organization. They looked at Movable Type and Drupal in the past but WordPress just suited their needs best, and they cited the community’s involvement and growth as a key reason for choosing it.

With just a small development team, KQED is able to take advantage of the new features that are continuously rolled out by WordPress’s community development team as well as select added functionality from the tens of thousands of plugins submitted by the entire community.

“The thousands of plugins available means we’re able to immediately adopt or build upon something from the community for a new functionality or feature. That’s why open source projects like WordPress are a good fit – we can be very effective with a small team,” says Cooke.

Since media is the driver of the news world, the ability to use several different types of embeds in their content and to customize their own media player has allowed them to rapidly follow trends and adapt the site in order to capture and diffuse the latest stories, no matter their format.

KQED has also collaborated with other public media outlets around the country on key shared WordPress plugin improvements and evolutions. They regularly share the workload of code improvements and debugging, and update each other often via email. It saves them a lot of time and money in a non-profit environment where resources are always limited.

“We’re not really reverse-engineering anything – most folks are happy to share their work, as with a recent plugin written by a colleague to support a PBS-created RSS standard. I helped him debug the plugin in the WP 3.0 environment and in doing so helped the plugin work better for everyone,” says Cooke.

KQED uses WordPress’s built-in RSS functionality to be the glue between the various pieces of its websites, integrating them seamlessly and dynamically. “Every tag, every category, and every blog automatically has RSS feeds built-in that have proven really handy in sharing our content not only with our partners, but within our site and its various technologies (Java, Ruby on Rails, other php apps),” explains Cooke.

Sites from Idea to Online in Record Time

The most measurable success factor for KQED with WordPress is the speed to market from idea to online. The most recent site launched on KQED.org built with WordPress is News Fix, which they debuted just a few weeks before the November 2010 election night. The site saw record traffic and continues to report Northern California news and serve up live blogging for events such as the Giants World Series Victory parade.

“News Fix served a pretty crucial role in our coverage. The site was seen in the newsroom as a very good outlet for rapidly extending our news coverage beyond our radio newscasts,” explains Cooke.

When planning a site in such a short time frame, KQED takes advantage of the new WordPress default theme, Twenty Ten, as a base theme and adds site-specific customizations through child themes and widgets. It allows them to immediately provide a stable theme code base that can be customized by the individual site without having to start from zero, and reduces their maintenance on multiple themes’ upkeep.

“We’ve enjoyed WordPress not only for the ability to handle traffic as our sites grow, but also it gives us the ability to move quickly. Usually it takes longer to agree on a logo than it does to make a new WordPress site,” says Cooke.

KQED Editors Love Publishing with WordPress

As the news world continues to change, KQED’s success as a news organization is determined by their ability to move quickly, and WordPress keeps them agile, and publishing early and often.

A large part of this success comes from user adoption, and is due to the WordPress administration interface’s usability and how easy it is to learn. “In terms of user adoption, choosing WordPress was a no-brainer as it’s really simple, and a lot of our editors are already familiar with it. The editorial tools WordPress uses are easier to use than some of the tools we’ve developed internally,” says Cooke.

Extensive guides and instructions are available through the WordPress Codex and thousands of published WordPress how-to articles across the Internet add up to a dynamic reference guide that can be used as a base to educate editors on the WordPress interface and its features, but often KQED editors are teaching amongst themselves. “My favorite aspect of WordPress is that it’s very easy to use,” confirms QUEST site editor, Jenny Oh. “It usually takes me 20 minutes to introduce new users to WordPress, and several individuals were able to pick it up with just written instructions.”

KQED has more sites using WordPress planned for the near future and they intend to take advantage of some features released in WordPress 3.0, like custom post types. “We’ve got a site planned that will take advantage of the custom post types and taxonomies, and we can’t wait to share it,” shares Cooke.

Visit KQED.org and their WordPress sites at http://www.kqed.org/community/blogs


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