Steph Yiu

WordCamp NYC Flash Talk: WP Hearts Journalists

At WordCamp NYC a few weeks back, I gave a 10-minute flash talk on editorial tools that I’ve seen different media companies use. Presenting at the United Nations Headquarters was definitely a wild experience!

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Photo by Kevin Koehler

Thanks to the amazing realtime captioning service by Stan and Norma, I have the transcript of my presentation. Here it is, with edits for clarity.


Hi everyone. My name is Steph Yiu and four years ago I was at a conference just like this – when I walked up to a WordPress booth and asked for a sticker. And that’s how I got my job at WordPress.com VIP. True story!

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Fwor the last four years, I worked at WordPress.com VIP. If you’re not familiar with us, we provide hosting and support for large-scale WordPress websites and…

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…it’s been an interesting evolution over the last four years, watching WordPress grow and change. When I first  started at my job, it was we were mostly working with small blogs for publishers. And in the last four years we’ve really, really grown to become the home pages and full websites for a lot of large media companies and large publishers. I just wanted to show you a couple of examples…

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Personally, I’ve been watching this evolution so closely, because I love journalism. That’s the world that I came from, and that’s what I worked on before I worked at Automattic or WordPress.com VIP. I was the editor in the newsroom trying to get something published, and I couldn’t get it live because it wouldn’t save. It was incredibly, incredibly frustrating.

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I know that today, especially working with newsrooms, that journalists love WordPress.

When I walk into a newsroom and editors find out that their publication is being replatformed onto WordPress, they are so excited. Because as you know, WordPress powers 26% of the web and most people have used it, and so they’re very, very comfortable with the easy-to-use interface.

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But on the flip side, as media companies have started to take up WordPress, WordPress also hearts journalists. If you look at many of the core contributors (and you will meet many of them here this weekend) a lot of them have worked on large media websites, or in fact, work for a large media companies. In line with this trend, WordPress itself has started to introduce features that are really targeted at sites that have a lot of editors and writers.

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So even thinking back to 3.6, when publishers were starting to take up WordPress, a feature called post locking was introduced. This feature only matters if you have 10, 20, 30, editors in there. And if you talk to any news director, he or she will tell you how amazing it is to go to the All Posts page and be able to see which editors are working on which story, and who’s filing what. That’s a really, really critical feature for a newsroom. And of course, you don’t have to worry about saving a post and having someone overwrite you. That would be a pretty terrible experience.

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Since you guys all know WordPress Core, what I wanted to talk a little bit about today is some of the work that publishers have done to modify WordPress for their own newsrooms. I was able to get approval from some of the publishers that I work with to share some of these with you and so we will dive right in. And originally I was going to use random example cat, but I decided to use a famous cat, because that way, I hope that you guys will remember this presentation. This is Taylor Swift’s cat, Meredith.

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So this is WordPress Core. You’re in there publishing, and it’s super easy and super simple. But if you’re a publisher, you may have a lot of customizations, right? You might have a custom pull quote, a custom deck, you may have a proprietary video software that you need to embed. So if you are an editor working in a  newsroom, you might have a text document of shortcodes, iFrames, or embeds that you’ve saved.

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So the folks at Fusion.net and Human Made built a plugin called Shortcake, and this is an open source plugin that you can go check out. Essentially, you click in add media and it allows you, as an editor, to customize what you need to drop in, whether it be an article section or an embed.

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Then, click insert element and then it will pop in like an oembed and preview within TinyMCE.

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I was interested in the editorial workflow work that the Fusion and Human Made team created together, and there’s another plugin they created called Publishing Checklist. Because if you are a newsroom and you have 50 editors working in there, you’re going to want some sort of consistency across all of the posts. So this open source tool allows you to create a list that you need your editors to fill in before they publish. This lets you make sure: Did they add a featured image? Have they added an SEO friendly headline? Have they added the correct tags? Once everything is properly filled out, you can hit update and publish.

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So… that creates consistency across a single install, but what if you’re a publisher with 50 to 60 WordPress installs around the world or the United States? That was an issue that Tribune Broadcasting looked into. They have many, many WordPress installs for local TV stations around the United States. They create a tool called Network Notification. It allows the central Tribune Broadcasting team to push notify all of their different editors via wp-admin.

Here’s how it works: if there is a breaking news story and the central team in Chicago needs to quickly alert all of the local stations, they will do this via Network Notification. It’s a separate WordPress install, and when they publish a post to it, all of their sites get this little red alert. You can imagine that in a breaking news situation, it would be really helpful to make sure everyone gets the names right, or they can encourage everyone to embed the same video shortcode.

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Another tool I wanted to share related to breaking news situations is Liveblog, which is a plug-in that my team at Automattic worked on. Essentially, it helps you turn a WordPress post into a liveblog. So once you enable the plugin, you can publish a post and hit “enable.”

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Once you publish the post, you can go to the front end of the post. In this example, this is our breaking news liveblog on Meredith Swift. You can go in and create posts, you can have multiple editors working at the same time, you can drag and drop posts, you can oEmbed tweets. And, this plugin has been tested. We’ve had folks like TechCrunch use it for WWDC, we’ve had newspapers use it for red carpet events like Emmy and Oscars. It’s a very good way to use WordPress live or breaking news situation.

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The last example I wanted to show you is Eight Day Week by Observer and 10up. When Observer first migrated to WordPress, they began to think of everything with a web-first workflow. So, instead of having to publish things twice, once for the web and once for print, they worked with 10up to build a plugin called Eight Day Week that allows them to author articles entirely in WordPress.

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Once the articles are created, Eight Day Week allows them to bundle all those stories up and mark them with statuses with what’s ready and what’s not ready for print. Then they can tag an entire issue to note what’s ready or not ready for publishing. Once it’s ready, they can export that entire bundle and import it into InDesign, a tool that a lot of newsrooms use for print design. This allows them to work with the copy from WordPress and lay it out for their print edition.

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So those are the all the examples I have time for, and all of ones that I got approval to show you. But, there are many more examples of customizations, and if you want to find me I’m happy to chat with you about them.

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There are also a huge number of third party tools that are useful to journalists. Everything from WordPress plugins for Facebook Instant Article and Apple News to third party plugines like Playbuzz, CoSchedule, and Apester.

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The reason why I wanted to share all of this with you today is because I really care about the WordPress community and the journalism community. And, I hope that by sharing these examples with you today, some of you might have ideas for plugins that you might want to work on, or you might have seen a plugin you might want to contribute to. The more we work together to build tools to support our journalists, the better off our community will be.


Resources and Links

On one of the last slides, I had a list of additional examples. Many of them do not have links/examples because they are internal to the companies, but here are some links that I hope you will find helpful.

In the very last slide, I had a list of additional resources. Here are some links to the listed plugins:


Thank you for reading! Here are some photos and tweets of the presentation as well!

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