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.
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.
In 2018, WordPress will modernize, streamline, and simplify the content creation experience with Gutenberg. It represents the biggest change to the WordPress user experience in several years. In fact, in the State Of The Word 2017 Matt Mullenweg described its enduring importance as “the editor for the next twelve years.” In this post, we hope to help VIP clients and all enterprise WordPress users understand these exciting changes, and how to best prepare your teams.
What is Gutenberg?
Gutenberg is the codename for the new WordPress publishing experience. It optimizes for direct manipulation of the visual presentation of the content, instead of through indirect means, like metaboxes. The building blocks of a Gutenberg post are, well, blocks. Blocks help simplify the many ways we build a page (shortcodes, widgets, custom HTML, media, text formatting, and embeds) into a single, searchable flow and UI umbrella. The name comes from Johannes Gutenberg, the founder of the printing press.
To get a sense of how the new editor works for yourself, there’s no substitute for downloading the current plugin in a test environment and giving it a spin. However, for a quick overview take a peek at this live demo (video) presented at last weekend’s State Of The Word:
The way the block “handles” intuitively appear when they’re needed
Simple ways to manipulate assets in a gallery
Preview custom HTML blocks inline
Cleverly using blocks to temporarily store code and content snippets
What’s important for enterprise WordPress teams to think about?
Every time the VIP team helps a publisher replatform, we receive an overwhelmingly positive response from their editorial team. The feedback is almost always: “WordPress is so easy to use.” We believe the Gutenberg editor will be no different. The new editor offers content creators a straightforward way to find, insert, and work with elements on the page. We think this experience is so compelling that editorial teams will quickly want to adopt it into their workflow.
For teams who have extensive customizations in place, upfront planning will be required for a smooth transition to Gutenberg. Fear not – VIP plans on helping clients opt-in to the new editor gradually over time. As many of you know, backwards compatibility is a core principle of WordPress, and it is no different with Gutenberg. Any content created in Gutenberg will be editable in the classic editor, and vice versa.
And beyond the modernized editorial experience itself, Gutenberg opens up lots of new possibilities. Let’s explore some that already exist, along with some that could come into play as the project rolls on:
1. Placeholders and Templates
With Gutenberg, editors can build complex story packages with various content blocks: headline, deck, pull quote, video, embed, and gallery. Placeholder blocks can easily indicate exactly what should go where and keep the editorial process moving forward.
As of Gutenberg’s 1.8 release, the project has introduced initial support for templates. This allows a developer to define a specific template for, say, an Event Post. When a user creates an Event Post, they will see a page pre-populated with blocks for Title, Image, Date, Location, Description, and other details.
2. Collaborative Editing
Today, if someone is working in a post in WordPress, the post locking feature prevents writers from overwriting each other. With Gutenberg, it’s possible to imagine locking at the block level, allowing multiple people to work on sections of a draft without interrupting each other.
The flexibility of content blocks means that there could be a block for internal notes, which could allow editors to leave comments throughout a story while editing. The notion of surfacing editorial feedback inline can be useful in other ways as well. Here’s a possibility that the Yoast team has presented, on inline SEO feedback.
3. Block and Embed Discovery
We’ve heard editors complain about the difficulty of finding shortcodes. Gutenberg allows editors to easily search for content blocks, be it a Twitter embed, a Vimeo embed, or a custom template. Not only does this make embed discovery easier, but we could imagine a future with a content block marketplace.
Developers or agencies could create content blocks for unique needs, for media like galleries, or content types like recipes. This could also facilitate better code reuse across teams within an organization.
4. A Standardized Approach to Page Building
In the coming year, Gutenberg’s project focus will shift away from the editor to site creation itself. With that transition, it will bring a standardized approach to page building to native WordPress. Over the years we’ve seen clients create page builders for section fronts or marketing pages using Field Manager, Advanced Custom Fields, or a custom-built solution. Having a well-defined approach within core could provide a framework to support a wide variety of commercial and custom solutions. This common standard could in turn make content and data more readily portable across the various page building approaches.
5. A Foundation for Personalization
With page content all composed of blocks, it’s easy to imagine how that could facilitate conditional delivery of content based on user attributes. For example, on a media site, subscribers could be served a block with a related content recommendation, whereas new visitors would see a “subscribe” call to action. On the backend, the editor interface could offer a toggle so that a site editor could preview a post as various user segments like subscribing member, new visitor, and returning visitor.
So, what’s the timeline and what will rollout look like?
Gutenberg is already available as a plugin, and is set to be integrated into WordPress 5.0 which is planned for April 2018. The Gutenberg team is currently focused on the post-editing experience, but will then expand their approach to template creation, site creation, and more.
In order to preserve publishing continuity, there is a plugin called Classic Editor that will allow teams to use the current editor as they work on transition plans. We will manage the release of WordPress 5.0 to make the process smooth and opt-in for VIP clients. However, we expect that many editorial teams will want to start experimenting and creating content in Gutenberg right away.
The VIP team is working closely with the Gutenberg team as they test and roll out the new editor. We know very well that our clients have extensive integrations with the current WordPress editor and will want a gradual transition. We are here to help answer any questions on preparing development and editorial teams for the transition.
What happens to existing content?
The current WordPress editor is not going away. Data storage will still be stored as HTML in post_content, which means nothing will change for existing content. Within Gutenberg, there will be a Classic Text block to handle any legacy content within a block of its own. Essentially, it’s the Classic Editor embedded as a block, and will aid in a smooth and carefully planned upgrade path.
How can I share feedback?
The Gutenberg Team is especially interested in feedback from VIP clients, who usually have large editorial teams and complex workflows. They would love for you to help them stress test the new builder. At WordCamp US last weekend, the team set up a special booth for in-person user testing, and will be sharing out findings from those tests. Here are three ways for you to test Gutenberg and share feedback:
Coming up tomorrow, December 7, at the BigWP meetup in London, Tammie Lister, design lead on Gutenberg, will be presenting on the project and taking questions.
This week the VIP team, along with Matías and Tammie, traveled to New York City to spend time with VIP client editorial teams. On this research trip, we gathered information about different editorial workflows, and ran usability tests with web producers. We plan on doing more of these with VIP clients, both virtually and in-person, in the next few months.
We will be communicating updates in the VIP Lobby as relates to the Gutenberg rollout as the project continues. Meanwhile, as you test the plugin and begin to assess plans for the rollout in April, feel free to reach out to your VIP support team. We’d be glad to help.
I’ve helped staff the WordPress booth at the Online News Association over the last four years. It’s my favorite conference to attend because of all the incredible people we meet: students who learned to code because of WordPress, journalists who built their first portfolios on WordPress, newsrooms that were transformed by WordPress.
Like many ONA attendees, I also built my first website on WordPress in journalism school. I worked at the Chicago Tribune as the newsroom was being transformed by blogs. And like so many of the folks I spoke with last week, in 2012 I too walked up to a WordPress booth at a conference to share my story of how WordPress had changed my life. Little did I know I’d end up joining the VIP team, helping newsrooms transition to WordPress one-by-one.
ONA is a massive conference. More than 3,000 people attended this year in Washington, D.C. I knew I’d run into lots of clients and partners, and this year, I was interested in hearing in their words how they reflect on WordPress and its role in their professional lives. So I asked them.
On the first day I saw Zach Seward, SVP of Product and Executive Editor at their gathering to promote Quackbot, their new Slack bot. Quartz’s WordPress launch was one of the early projects I worked on when I joined VIP.
“Honestly, to this day, there’s not a project or need that we haven’t been able to do with WordPress,” he said.
High-volume newsrooms love WordPress because of how easy it is for their teams to publish. This year, we co-hosted with our partners Alley Interactive and Parse.ly at the delicious Lapis restaurant in D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood. This was a topic of dinner conversation at my table – how critical time to publish is in a breaking news situation, and how easily WordPress facilitates that.
At dinner I ran into Patrick Tolbert, Digital Director at KXAN-TV, who helped introduce WordPress to his newsroom.
“The reporters love WordPress. When we train, usually we run through training and immediately I get, ‘that’s it?!’” Patrick later told me. “And I’m like, ‘Yeah, that’s it! Headline, title, categorization, tags, done!’”
At the WordPress booth the next day, Emma Carew Grovum stopped by to say hi. She helped Foreign Policy move onto WordPress, and today she is the CMS product manager at The Daily Beast. She credits WordPress for teaching her about content management systems – and I asked her what she liked the most.
“That WordPress works on mobile!” she said. “I could update our homepage at Foreign Policy from my phone – I remember sitting at a red light at my car just noodling on the homepage because I could… it was probably not safe!”
I was also curious what our clients were taking back to their newsrooms after this year’s ONA. What’s next? I had to ask Juan Muñoz, Interactive Director at CNN en Español, who helped put their social and mobile storytelling teams on wheels.
“Integrating all the different tools that we use in one place,” he said, always thinking about ways to make his newsroom more efficient. “Seamless integration with APIs from things like Trello, and Slack. Simplifying and and automating the related stories, suggesting links inside of the content so that editors don’t have to search.”
“More security and more automatic security,” said Bradley Peniston, the Deputy Director at Defense One, a security publication from Atlantic Media. “It’s getting harder and harder for people to have solid, secure websites on their own… The more security can be baked into standard installs whether on my own server or WordPress.com, that’s what I’m worried about.”
At our booth, I also had the pleasure of meeting Amy Claire Nelson, an audiovisual storyteller.
“I’m working on more interactive storytelling and I’m really attracted to 360 documentary journalism and VR experiences,” she said. “I would really love some beautiful templates that would allow a person to experience the project I’m working on… I want my viewer to be present in that situation, for various degrees of immersion into the experience, whether it’s desktop, magic box, Oculus.”
More reading on ONA? The Nieman Journalism Lab has a terrific roundup.
Looking for more events? We’ll be sponsoring and participating in Digital Media North America later this week, in New York October 19-20 (full schedule). Just after Digital Media NA, WordCamp NYC is October 21-22 (tickets are still available!). Topics of interest to the enterprise include 10up CEO John Eckman’s talk on Personalization and WordPress and TinyMCE CEO Andrew Roberts’ Gutenberg update (full schedule).
One of my favorite things about working for the VIP team is the incredible community of clients, agencies, partners, and core contributors I get to work with every day. It’s a powerful and thoughtful group. When a bunch of us get together to address shared challenges, it’s especially rewarding and always memorable.
Over the last year, I’ve been collaborating with a group of publishers passionate about WordPress and open source to put together the first-ever WordCamp for Publishers. It was an incredible 3-days focused in the beautiful Denver Post building, thanks to VIP client Digital First Media.
Many attendees suggested Gutenberg, a new block-based content editor for WordPress, as a topic for one of the unconference sessions. The takeaway: “Lot of unknowns but best way to figure those out is getting involved.”
Both Meagan Kelleher Ball from Tribune Broadcasting (a VIP client) and Kevin Koehler from Automattic shared tips on how to help a newsroom get acquainted to WordPress. Will Davis from The New York Times (a VIP client) and Meagan also led a packed session on editorial dashboards.
Tribune Broadcasting chose @WordPressVIP for their CMS, they support 1800 editorial users and produce 42,000 stories a month. #wcpub
Between lunch at the food trucks at Civic Center Park, the brewery tour at Ratio Brewing, and the after party at Wynkoop Brewing, WordCamp for Publishers was packed with activities that encouraged our attendees to get to know the beautiful city and each other.
We hosted a number of hands-on workshops to help attendees learn tools to make their day-to-day lives easier Tools that were introduced included wp-cli (a command line interface for WordPress), WPGraphQL (a query language for your WordPress API), VoiceWP (create voice apps for WordPress content), and Largo + plugins (a news framework for WordPress sites).
We ended the conference at a Rockies game on Saturday, and as all the organizers gathered we began talking about next year’s conference. Planning is already underway, so if you’re interested in volunteering or have a venue you think you could donate, please get in touch with me!
A special shout out to the organizers, we could not have done this without you! From left: Aram Zucker-Sharff (Salon), Christie Wright (Automattic), Adam Schweigert (Mother Jones), Ryan Kanner (Digital First Media), Taylor Hansen (Linchpin), Matt Johnson (Alley Interactive), Davis Shaver (Alley Interactive), Chris Hardie (Automattic), Alexis Kulash (Automattic), Bradford Campeau-Laurion (Alley Interactive), Jared Cobb (Alley Interactive), Aaron Jorbin (Some Spider), Ben Keith (Institute of Nonprofit News), along with Hughie Devore and Jason Bahl (Digital First Media, not pictured).
I am so proud to share that WordPress.com VIP was a sponsor at this year’s ONA Women’s Leadership Accelerator at USC. This was our second year supporting the program, and my second year spending time there. We’re proud to help make the program completely tuition-free for the participants.
WLA is a weeklong forum aimed at developing strong leadership skills for women working in digital journalism. Twenty-five women were chosen from 350 applicants to spend a week developing leadership and management skills. Speakers included Kara Swisher, Recode co-founder; Liz Heron, former Huffington Post executive editor; and Charo Henriquez, former executive editor of People En Espanol.
By sheer coincidence, my former boss from the Chicago Tribune was this year’s facilitator. Tran Ha, the former Editor and General Manager of the RedEye, was my first manager out of college. Both last year and this year, I got to sit in the back of the classroom as the facilitator coached attendees on problem-solving in the workplace with real-life examples. The very candid discussions about the difficult parts of leaderships allowed women to connect with each other – and hopefully build a support network to help each other throughout their careers. It was also terrific to see many VIP clients represented: The Atlantic, The New York Times, CNN, Bloomberg, and FiveThirtyEight.
Tran asked me to participate as a mentor, and I spent the afternoon working with four women, from AJ+, NPR, The Guardian, and Vice. The topics we worked on together included hiring and leading a remote team, project managing engineers, and how to innovate within a busy daily news cycle. Later that evening, I gave a two-part presentation at dinner.
For the first part, I talked about the open-source ethos that powers WordPress. Earlier in my career, I worked in newsrooms and used WordPress daily. Back then I knew the software and dashboard very well, but didn’t know the mission behind it all: to democratize publishing. I wanted the help the leaders of newsrooms understand why supporting open source is so important.
For the second part, I talked about transitioning from a fairly gender-balanced workplace in editorial, to a mostly-male workplace at the intersection of journalism and technology about five years ago. I talked about the challenges of imposter syndrome and making your voice heard when you’re a minority, and reminded the women in the room that they are an important change in the wave of diversity in leadership at journalism and tech companies.
I’m thrilled that VIP was a part of this event for the second year in a row, and I’m looking forward to seeing these women excel across the industry!
For more reading, you can keep an eye on the rising stars here. If you’re interested in learning more about women leaders the digital media space, definitely check out Katie Hawkins-Garr’s newsletter from the The Poynter Institute. It’s an incredible read and a great way to find out about amazing things women are doing in journalism and technology.
2014 has been a big year at WordPress.com VIP. So far, we’ve served more than 28 billion pageviews (or, 28,250,403,658 the last time we checked). We’ve also added 350 new sites to the VIP network and 13 new members to our team (including an acquisition)!
As the leading WordPress solution for enterprises, we pride ourselves on working with your team to ensure that your code is optimized, secure, and fast. This year our customers have deployed changes 31,000 times, comprising more than one million lines of code—and we’ve reviewed every line. (And in case you were wondering, 4pm ET on Thursdays is the busiest hour in our deploy queue).
We introduced in-dashboard live chat support for the 22,000 editors, authors, and contributors across the VIP network. Our team is on stand-by to assist users and help them get their work done more efficiently.
Robin Williams’ death was covered by almost every news site in the VIP network, with more than 221 million pageviews over a span of roughly 48 hours.
We welcomed Fusion.net, a joint venture between Disney/ABC and Univision, onto WordPress.com VIP.
We geared up for another set of our VIP Training Days events around the United States – these 1-day courses bring VIP training to a city near you, whether it’s the Superuser, Developer Fundamentals I, or Developer Fundamentals Site Security & Debugging courses you’re interested in.
Another huge traffic day for the VIP network this year were the 2014 midterm elections. As the results unfolded we followed along the live blog on FiveThirtyEight.com. (Read more on how politicians and government groups are using WordPress to power their sites here.)
The Media Explorer plugin was a joint project between WordPress.com VIP and Code for the People, which allows editors to quickly and easily insert tweets and YouTube videos straight from the WordPress dashboard “Edit Post” page. The plugin is easily extendable, and allows for you to include alternate media sources.
The GlobalNews.ca team decided to customize and extend the plugin to include other video and photo sources that their editors commonly use. In doing so, they allowed their editors to centralize their workflow within the WordPress dashboard. Watch their 10-minute “Flash Talk” below to see their customizations in action, and then check out our recent Q&A with Keith Robinson, manager of digital products, and Imran Nathani, web development architect.
What was the thinking behind extending the media explorer?
Keith: We have dozens of active producers, and making it really easy for them to curate content into story posts is a big part of what we do. Anything we can do to make their job even incrementally easier has terrific benefits.
With WordPress, we want to get our producers comfortable with one user interface, rather than telling them to learn a new system or look in a different place for each new feature. There’s a lot to be said for simplicity and getting people to do almost everything they need in a post, and then press a button and move on.
It’s organized and simple. That’s exactly what we look for in a CMS.
When we first saw the Media Explorer plugin in the fall, we saw how easy it was to curate Twitter and YouTube content straight from within the post. It’s organized and simple. That’s exactly what we look for in a CMS. Imran pointed out that it was easily extendable and can be adapted for our own media. We’re trying to get as much rich content as possible into every story post, to hold readers a little longer, and Imran said, why not use the Media Explorer to do that?
What was the previous workflow like?
Imran: We’re a very video rich site because we’re a broadcaster, and with the way the video management was first integrated into WordPress, it was a separate screen. You had to go in and search in a separate interface, and then grab a short code and then bring that over into the story editor and cut and paste it in there somewhere. That may not sound like the most onerous workflow in the world, but it’s all about making things that much easier.
How has your tool evolved? Imran: Our video producers are really localized, so we’ve given the producers an option to search video based on a specific region. For the first round of development, the user would just select a video and insert it. For the second round of development, we started thinking about groups of videos. This was mostly triggered by Rob Ford being on Jimmy Kimmel Live — we wanted to be able to show all the clips together. So, we created the option of a video gallery.
As for the NewsCred integration, sometimes the images that come through are really large, and our editors need to crop the photo to something that suits our site’s dimensions. So, we made it possible for editors to choose the photo and crop it, lower the quality for web, and then add it to the media library for use.
What’s the feedback from the producers been like?
Keith: Our video producers really like it a lot, and — the difference in the process before and after is pretty extreme. They’ve expressed that they really do find it a lot easier.
Since we’ve added this, there’s been more video going into posts, a lot more embedding of tweets right into the post. And I like that because it gets people away from using other outside tools to curate social media, and this allows you to do all the curation right within your post and house all of your own content.
We currently have two open (paid) intern positions. You’ll be working on a range of projects depending on your skills and passions, but here’s an overview:
Development Intern: This internship is all about making things. You’ll likely be working on WordPress plugins for large media companies, or working on core WordPress.com features and development.
Communications Intern: This internship is all about improving client communications. You’ll likely be writing case studies, interviews, launch posts and new feature posts for the VIP News site, in addition to helping organize our fall events.
Where will you be working you may ask? Anywhere! We are a distributed company and are happy if you work from wherever you are — as long as you have a good broadband connection. The internship runs 8-10 weeks between June 1st and August 1st, 2014, but we are flexible on the dates.
Interested? Write up a post on your WordPress blog and leave a comment on this post with a link to it telling us what you’ve done and what you’d like to work on — for example, a killer plugin or integration, a feature improvement, a case study, etc. It’s OK if you’d like to keep your post private; your comment and link will remain private to the VIP team as well.
Send in your internship application by May 1st, but the earlier, the better. If you have any questions, please leave a comment and we’ll get back to you!
“Consequence of Sound is now mobile responsive and will look just as great on your iPhone or Android phone as it does on the web,” site creator Alex Young wrote. “The homepage is easier to navigate, our content is better presented, and Festival Outlook has been completely revamped.”
The Consequence of Sound team is planning on rolling out new features in the coming weeks, including the ability to personalize the homepage.
“In other words, if you no longer want to see stories about Kanye West, you no longer have to see stories about Kanye West,” Young writes. “Your settings will also carry over to our mobile app, which will also soon get a fresh update.”
We’re excited to bring such a beautiful and dynamic site onto WordPress.com VIP. Congrats again to the team!
We are thrilled to announce that we are forming our own new and independent media company, Revere Digital, with a pair of respected investors and partners — the NBCUniversal News Group and Terry Semel’s Windsor Media. Revere will be operating news sites and apps, as well as a series of conferences.
First up is Re/code, a new tech and media news, reviews and analysis site launching today, with the same talented team we’ve worked with for many years at the former All Things Digital site we ran for Dow Jones & Co beginning in 2007.
Andrew Nacin is one of the lead developers of WordPress. At our August Big Media Meetup, he gave a short “flash talk” on how WordPress evolves while maintaining backwards compatibility — here’s a video from the event.
Josh Kadis is the web applications technologist at Quartz. At our August Big Media Meetup, he gave a short “flash talk” on building qz.com on WordPress, which we’ve shared here. Quartz just celebrated its one-year anniversary, and you can learn more about it by reading our case study here.
In the next few days we’ll be sharing video from each of these talks. Today, here’s Scott Taylor’s presentation on “The Future of Blogs Development at The New York Times,” where he discusses how the NYT’s WordPress blogs fit in with the larger site-wide redesign.
Ready to get started?
Drop us a note.
No matter where you are in the planning process, we’re happy to help, and we’re actual humans here on the other side of the form. 👋 We’re here to discuss your challenges and plans, evaluate your existing resources or a potential partner, or even make some initial recommendations. And, of course, we’re here to help any time you’re in the market for some robust WordPress awesomeness.