WordPress isn’t Suited for Major Publishers?

austin@alleyinteractive.comIn this post, WordPress.com VIP Featured Service Partner Alley Interactive‘s managing partner Austin Smith shares his thoughts regarding a recent article which dismisses the potential and power of WordPress as an enterprise solution. We naturally disagree with the article and turn this post over to Austin. 

Felix Salmon sounded off earlier this week, at some length, about one of my favorite topics—choice of CMS for news organizations. One of his central points is that Vox Media has a distinct advantage because of its über-CMS. I admit, what I’ve read about Chorus makes it sound pretty awesome. But there’s a broader question here about CMS models in general—do you want your CMS to run everything, or do you want it to be a component in a broader digital ecosystem?

First, I can answer this question for myself and most of our clients—I think the CMS should be a component in a broader digital ecosystem. From the look of the screenshots on TechCrunch, Chorus includes an ad management platform and a full-scale user management system. I’m not jealous of these features, nor are we often asked for them. The heft of maintaining such a platform would be unbearable for most publications, and to this extent I take Salmon’s point that an organization that can own the full scope of its digital experience may ultimately come out ahead. But we generally handle these features via third-party integration and our publisher sites still succeed.

Second, we build publisher sites on both Drupal (The New Republic, National Review Online) and WordPress (The New York Post, Digiday, Flavorwire, The New York Observer), so I’m in a unique position to take offense at Salmon’s casual offing of both:

Off-the-rack CMSs like WordPress and Drupal are OK for small-to-medium sites, but aren’t particularly well suited to be the framework for a major publishing operation.

Ouch! On whose authority? You could build a platform like Chorus on either WordPress or Drupal, and probably come out ahead. Drupal has long called itself a “Content Management Framework,” and would be naturally suited to this challenge. Similarly, anything you can do in PHP, you can package as a WordPress plugin. Plus with WordPress, you get the added benefit of editorial commonality—chances are pretty good that your reporters will have seen a WordPress admin screen before.

Also, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. These über-CMS projects have a tendency to fail pretty spectacularly, and humble as they apparently are, WordPress and Drupal are antidotes to this syndrome. The TechCrunch article about Chorus mentions WordPress.com VIP specifically as an alternative to this model. By virtue of its bulletproof reliability, careful curation, constant monitoring, and strong system of developer support, WordPress.com VIP takes a ton of this risk off the table. And in collecting a large number of high-traffic media sites, they’ve built a common set of shared plugins which handle many common publisher-site tasks. When WordPress gets better for one, it gets better for the others, too. Similarly, our biggest Drupal projects have launched successfully on Pantheon, and many other Drupal publishers run on Acquia.

Perhaps the “rising tide lifts all boats” mentality does not translate to digital media, as an open-source developer like me would prefer. But even if you buy into an eat-or-be-eaten mentality, it’s hard to believe that your CMS will win or lose the war.

Invective aside, one point I can take is that owning the full stack is a luxury that requires an immense scale. But is it a necessary condition for success? I don’t know, and I’m not sure Salmon does either:

I’m fascinated by the Medium experiment: I think it has a lot of potential, especially if it starts to support custom domains, like Tumblr did early on.

Great, but which is it? Medium or Chorus? I think we can agree that it’s too early to say, and that there could be plenty of room for both. But WordPress and Drupal do great things for big publishers too, and they aren’t going away.

Thanks to Austin for his commentary.

Interested in more information about WordPress solutions for publishing and media? Get in touch. 

Recap: Editorial Tools Demo

Thanks to everyone who attended Friday’s VIP Editorial Tools demo!

Here’s an outline of the demo, and for anyone who missed it, you can watch a video of the presentation here:

I wanted to clarify a couple of things that came up during the demo.

First, a couple of you asked about distributing the post-by-email email address to your staff. This email address is specific to your user account, and all of your other blog users, no matter what their user role is, can create their own post-by-email secret address. Emailed posts by users in the Contributor user role will always be saved as pending rather than published.

Secondly, one of you asked if all users could see the post revisions. All administrators and editors can see all post revisions. Authors can see post revisions for any post they have authored (which are the only posts they’re able to view in the Dashboard). Contributors cannot see revisions.

Thanks for the great questions!

As a reminder, here are the links I shared during the demo and support documentation for each feature discussed:

  • VIP Training Days — upcoming training events in San Francisco in October 2013!
  • Copy a Post — Find yourself repeating the same post format frequently? Use an existing post as a template.
  • Request Feedback — Send a preview of your draft to folks who don’t have access to your site and collect their feedback before you publish.
  • Distraction Free Writing — Focus on your content with the cleaner, simpler full-screen editor.
  • Revisions — Want to recover some text in an earlier draft? Restore the earlier revision. Not familiar with the new 3.6 revisions format? We cover it!
  • Post by Email — Don’t have time to log into your Dashboard? Post to your blog directly from your email.
  • Zemanta Editorial Assistant — Meet the ultimate editorial assistant! Add related content and related images to your original content. Find out more at Zemanta.com! [Deprecated]
  • Jetpack — Add tons of popular WordPress.com features to your self-hosted WordPress site with one plugin. Jetpack is supported by the team here at WordPress.com.
  • Edit Flow — Redefine your editorial workflow and empower your team with custom statuses, a calendar, editorial comments, and more.

We’ll be doing an online demo on editorial plugins in the near future, so watch this blog for that announcement. If you have feedback for us on the demo, or if there are topics you’d like to be covered in this way in future, let us know!

You’re Invited! Join Us for an Editorial Tools Demo

Attention all VIP editors and writers!

You’re invited to join us for a demo on Friday, September 6, 2013 at 11:00am EST. We’ll discuss how to speed up your composition with six handy WordPress.com editorial tools you might not know about, including:

  1. Copy a post: Find yourself repeating the same post format frequently? Use an existing post as a template!
  2. Request feedback: Send a preview of your draft to folks who don’t have access to your site and collect their feedback before you publish.
  3. Distraction free writing: Focus on your content with the cleaner, simpler full-screen editor.
  4. Revisions: Want to recover some text in an earlier draft? Restore the earlier revision. Not familiar with the new 3.6 revisions format? We’ll get you up to speed.
  5. Post by email: Don’t have time to log into your Dashboard? Post to your blog directly from your email.
  6. Zemanta Editorial Assistant: Meet the ultimate editorial assistant! Add related content and related images to your original content.

The demo will last for about 20 minutes, and we’ll have a question-and-answer session afterward.

Date: Friday, September 6, 2013
Time: 11:00am EST — See what time the demo is in your timezone.
Register: Click here to register!

New Editorial Features in WordPress 3.6

We’ve been posting about the development of WordPress 3.6 over the past few months, and while the target launch is coming up later this month, many of these features are already available to WordPress.com users. Here’s a quick overview of the new editorial features.

Post Locking

Working in a multi-author environment? Post Locking lets you see at a glance who’s editing a post, and prevents authors from overwriting each other.

See Who Is Editing What Post
If you navigate to All Posts in your dashboard, you will be able to see who is editing what post.

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Prevent Editors from Overwriting Each Other
If you click on a post that another editor is working on, you will have three options to choose from: Go backPreview, and Take over.

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 12.02.00 PM

Know If Someone Else Is In Your Post
If you are working on a post and someone takes over, this screen will prevent you from continuing to work on the post.

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 9.08.14 AM

Log Out Notification

If for some reason you are logged out of WordPress while still in the dashboard (or editing a post), a pop-up notification will appear and allow you to log in right on the page, so that you won’t lose any work. Once you’ve logged back in, the pop-up will disappear and you will be right back where you left off.

Screen Shot 2013-04-10 at 12.44.54 PM

Better Autosave

The newly revamped Autosave takes advantage of your web browser’s storage to ensure that you never lose your work again, despite a wonky internet connection. If you are editing a post and suddenly get disconnected from the internet, you won’t lose your work. When you get reconnected, you’ll be able to restore the backup and the browser-stored content will simply pop up into your text editor.

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Revised Revisions

WordPress 3.6 gives revisions an update, making it easy to scan through previous revisions and see edits or updates.

Avatars with Revisions
See at a quick glance on your “Edit Post” page who has previously edited a post.
Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 12.30.41 PM

See Changes Easily
The new revisions page includes a slider that lets you move forward or backward through revisions, and colors additions in green and deletions in red.

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Compare Revisions
The “Compare Revisions” tool allows you to drag the slider to two different revisions and compare the differences.

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 12.39.14 PM

New Look for Post Formats

Note: This feature is still in development. Post Formats got an updated look, which allows you to quickly toggle between different formats (i.e. quote, video, image) using a new bar at the top of “Edit Post.”

To switch to a different post format, simply click the icon at the top.

Manage Menus with Ease

If your theme supports Custom Menus, the interface to create anad manage these menus has been updated. Now, “Edit Menus” and “Manage Locations” are split into separate tabs. Step-by-step instructions on how to use Custom Menus can be found here.


Want more? To see the many updates that went into 3.6, follow the open-source WordPress development here.

Interested in learning more about WordPress.com VIP Cloud HostingGet in touch.

All About SEO on WordPress.com

On the WordPress.com Blog, we recently published a post on Search Engine Optimization for WordPress.com. It has a ton of great information relevant to authors on WordPress.com VIP, so please check it out and feel free to forward it to your colleagues.

All About SEO on WordPress.com, by Elizabeth Urello


Common Myths about SEO

Myth: I need a plugin for SEO.

Fact: WordPress.com has great SEO right out of the box — you don’t have to do anything extra. In fact, WordPress takes care of 80-90 percent of the mechanics of SEO for you, according to Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team. All of our themes are optimized for search engines, which means they are designed to make it easy for the Googlebot (and other search engines) to crawl through them and discover all the content.

Smart ways to increase your SERP rank

Make sure to use short, easy-to-read post slugs that accurately describe what your posts are about. On WordPress.com, the post slug is the last part of your post title, which you can edit to be anything you like. For example, the slug “/buying-sailboats” is better than “/how-to-buy-a-beautiful-inexpensive-sailboat-on-Craigslist” or “/354.”

Read the full post here.

Q&A: How National Post Liveblogs the News

Since launching our Liveblog add-on here at WordPress.com VIP, we’ve been impressed again and again by how fully the National Post newsroom has embraced the tool as a way to cover live events and breaking news.

They’ve used Liveblog to cover everything, from the Grammy Awards, to Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address, to the Newtown shooting, to Stephen Harper tweeting his entire day. And the results are visually stunning, with a heavy emphasis on story telling through photographs, videos, tweets, commentary, and even gifs.

We chatted with James Martin, Digital Managing Editor, to learn more about how they integrated Liveblog into their newsroom, how they prepare for big live events, and what his favorite Liveblog has been to date.

Continue reading “Q&A: How National Post Liveblogs the News”

Time.com Chooses WordPress.com VIP for Person of the Year Website

When TIME.com started planning their Person of the Year coverage in 2012, they knew the whole world would be watching the announcement. They chose to publish the site on WordPress.com VIP, and in the first few hours of the site going live, traffic instantly skyrocketed – 3,000 retweets, 7,000 Facebook shares and links from every major media outlet around the world.

TIME.com’s managing editor Cathy Sharick took the time to answer a few questions for us about why they chose WordPress, how they approached creating the website, and how they assembled the site in just two weeks.

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Continue reading “Time.com Chooses WordPress.com VIP for Person of the Year Website”

Easier Twitter Embeds with WordPress.com

Did you know that you can embed tweets into your WordPress.com posts by simply pasting in the tweet URL on its own line?


That’s all there is to it. The content of the tweet will magically appear in your post, complete with the avatar, clickable links, and the date.


You can do the same thing when embedding YouTube videosInstagram photosHulu clips, and Spotify songs.

No more screenshots or messy embed codes. Easy peasy.

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