Automattic/WordPress.com have just announced Newspack by WordPress.com — A New Publishing Solution for News Organizations.
Newspack by WordPress.com is a new platform aimed at small and medium-sized news organisations, receiving a total of $2.4m funding, with half of that from from Google. Other contributors include The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, ConsenSys and The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Google have a post on how a new publishing platform can help local news. I do wonder about the intentions behind this, as Google have a history of opposition from news organisations around the world who don’t like the aggregation which Google does.
Will Newspack by WordPress.com just make it easier for Google to aggregate news from organisations using it? And how many will be paying $1,000 a month for the privilege?
One of the areas I’ve been paying attention to over the last few months, is the release of WordPress 5 with the Gutenberg block editor. This has not been well received by the wider WordPress community, but is the path WordPress is being taken down by Autommattic.
Gutenberg Phase 2 has already been announced and will see Gutenberg rolled out through menus, widgets and the customizer. I tried Gutenberg and found it didn’t work for me and a lot of other people seem to have found the same.
Based on feedback from the community (lots of negative reviews have been deleted), Gutenberg has a lot of opposition, but WordPress have stuck to the plan and rolled it out even though it has serious accessibility problems and a lot of outstanding bugs and incomplete features.
In theory WordPress.org is owned by the WordPress Foundation, but this organisation is not very open about who the foundation is (I browsed around their website and couldn’t find any names or even an org chart).
A wider search online didn’t really find me anything either, but, if memory serves, as with the WordPress.org project management and team leads, most of the Foundation are either Automattic employees or have strong links with Automattic.
With initial funding from Google and others, plus $1,000+ a month revenue per organisation using Newspack by WordPress.com, the intent behind the push for Gutenberg despite feedback and resistance from the WordPress community now seems to make a lot more sense.
From what I’ve read and see, it appears that the driver for Gutenberg is monetisation by Automattic who control the direction of WordPress.org which is, ostensibly, an open source community driven project, but there is little evidence that this is the case. The monetization is in at least two directions: WordPress.com hosting, where I think a fear of competition from the likes of Wix and Squarespace has also driven Gutenberg, and Newspack by WordPress.com which they aim to be a new revenue stream.
If you are using WordPress and don’t want Gutenberg then you have two options:
- Migrate to ClassicPress, a fork of WordPress 4.9.8 which is nearing version 1 release.
- Migrate to an entirely new platform.
You can remain on WordPress for a while longer without using Gutenberg by installing the Classic Editor plugin, or one of the other plugins which restores the Classic Editor. However, while Classic Editor is supported until 2021, Gutenberg Phase 2 will be rolling out much sooner and will mean that changes to WordPress sites will be required well before then.
I have a lot of time invested in WordPress in both blog posts, which would need to be migrated to a new platform, and plugins I have written to give me the functionality I require, that moving to an entirely new platform is not an option I want to explore, so I am opting to go down the ClassicPress path and will be migrating all of my sites over.
If you have a lot of content or time sunk into your WordPress site, ClassicPress is worth a look as v1 will remain compatible with WordPress 4.9 and is going to be a LTS (Long Term Support) version. Version 2 will see new features included based on requests from the ClassicPress community.
ClassicPress are also putting in place a democratic structure which aims to avoid the control problems suffered by WordPress.