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Word on the Future

September 2018 | ~ 7 min read

Welcome to the second edition of Word on the Future. Let's jump right in.

Keywords: WordPress 4.8.9, Gutenberg 3.8, Drupal, newsroom technology, personalisation, TechCrunch



The CMS-agnostic Gutenberg editor as the 'editor of open source'


Drupal and Gutenberg: In 2017 Per André Rønsen (CIO at Norway-based agency, Frontkom) came across Gutenberg in WordPress and decided they’d give it a try. They were working on a project, sponsored by Google Digital News Initiative, to create a front page builder. The project was successful, and inspired Rønsen to create a Gutenberg module for Drupal, tailoring it to the media industry and building functionality to support newsroom workflows.
Gutenberg for publishers: Ronsen identifies this as a first step towards creating a CMS-agnostic Gutenberg editor; one that can benefit from contributions across the open source communities. And their enthusiasm for, and confidence in, Gutenberg is clear. This is not just a tool for WordPress, it is the ‘editor for the open web’, and keeping it decoupled from both CMSs is a priority. Their next step is building additional tools for publishers as soon as they have a stable Gutenberg release.

In a practical sense, Gutenberg’s commitment to semantic blocks makes it ideal as an experimentation tool. And the need for a tool that supports a fast-paced iterative approach is already there. The New York Times have been experimenting with homepage layouts, creating a variety of options; and the BBC have been experimenting with different storytelling formats (you can also read this coverage from Neiman Lab about their work). Gutenberg makes possible, and easy, the type of experimentation that helps publishers decide which storytelling formats work for their audience in a way that might otherwise be costly, and drain resources and time.

Technology in the newsroom should support a scalable revenue model: Austin Smith, CEO at Alley Interactive, has been Entrepreneur in Residence in 2018 for The Lensfest Institute, (an institute designed to develop and support innovative and sustainable business models for local journalism). As part of his residency, Smith researched the state of local news, and published a report offering suggestions for newsrooms to scale economically; comparing legacy models, such as display advertising, with modern digital models.

Austin’s report demonstrates that open source has the potential to scale revenue for local news publishers, and display advertising can boost revenue when publishers have a large and well-identified audience, which is not always the case for local news publishers.

Another school of thought sees experiments in personalisation in the newsroom as an additional route to scaling revenue. Neiman Lab published an analytical round up of Smith’s report, identifying ‘products’ as one of the keys to scaling revenue in local newsrooms, and mutually beneficial collaboration between smaller organisations as an opportunity for growth.

Gutenberg 3.8 has been released. Included in the updates are improvements to the toolbar, a full screen mode, UI for bulk managing blocks, along with several fixes and improvements to existing features. The ‘Try Gutenberg’ dashboard callout, included in the 4.9.8 WordPress release, pushes the plugin downloads to over 200,000 since launch. A Gutenberg Block Library has been released by developer, Danny Cooper, demonstrating the wide diversity in block functionality and extending the editor.

Austin Smith

CEO, Alley Interactive

Likewise, an economy of scale in digital news need not mean that every publisher should be owned by a national conglomerate. For many news organizations, the easiest way to achieve scale would be to share non-competitive resources like technology and shared production services across an industry group.

Find us: We’re sponsoring The Newsroom Summit at WAN-IFRA this year. Get in touch with me directly if you’d like to arrange a coffee, or find us there 29 - 30 October.

Watch: Earlier in August, WordCamp for Publishers was hosted in Chicago, and we were sponsoring, attending, and speaking. Libby Barker and Mike Selander, took to the stage to present ‘Press, Publish, React’, a story of their experience building a semi-decoupled website for one of the world’s most influential media technology publishers, TechCrunch.

Read: Be one of the first to read our extensive white paper on the TechCrunch project, ‘Speed and Agility: Using Modern Technologies to Rebuild Digital Experiences’. Find out how we delivered a headless architecture on managed WordPress hosting. 

Get in touch with me to discuss Gutenberg in enterprise, WordPress at scale, or any of the material covered in this newsletter: or, reply directly to this email. 

Until next time!

Noel Tock
Partner and CGO at Human Made

September 2018 contributions from: Ana Silva, Ant Miller, Barbara Marcantonio.

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