Houston Herald newsletter

The Houston Herald is among 34 newspapers in the world selected to participate in an internet platform designed to guide the industry in innovative ways.

Newspack chose a group of news organizations to guide the next phase of development of a new WordPress-based platform for small and medium-sized publishers.

The sites are expected to relaunch on the Newspack platform sometime next year. They join 11 newsrooms that have been working with the development team since March and are in the process of relaunching their sites now.  

Nearly 500 newspapers around the world completed an application during the summer for consideration. “We’re very happy to think our weekly newspaper would be one of those selected,” said Herald publisher Brad Gentry. “It will give us access to tools and technology that will guide the newspaper industry over the next several years. It is a great thing for our staff and readers.”

Oklahoma Watch is the latest site to launch on Newspack. It joins El Soberano in Santiago, Chile, which was the first to go live on the platform earlier this month. The remaining pilot participants will launch in the coming weeks.

“We are off and rolling and feeling unshackled in a way, as we had settled for a limited, unremarkable website for too long,” said David Fritze, executive editor of Oklahoma Watch. “Now we have many easy-to-deploy visual and engagement tools, including for the home page, and it all tends to spur your imagination.” 

Newspack is an open-source publishing and monetization platform, developed on WordPress.com, that is designed to provide a powerful, yet affordable and easy-to-deploy technology solution for local and niche news organizations. It is designed to free publishers from the burden of selecting, deploying and maintaining complex software systems and allow them to dedicate more resources to producing high-quality journalism. 

“We’re delighted by the interest that’s been shown in Newspack and the fact that barely six months into the project we have 45 participating news organizations,” said Kinsey Wilson, president of WordPress.com. “It demonstrates the appetite for affordable solutions that will help sustain journalism at the local level.”

Newspack is supported by funding, as well as technical and advisory assistance, from the Google News InitiativeThe Lenfest Institute for JournalismConsenSys, a global company; and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Newspack is being developed by Automattic, the parent company of WordPress.com, whose CEO, Matt Mullenweg, is the cofounder of the WordPress open-source software. Newspack sites will be hosted, secured and updated by WordPress.com, allowing them to tap into the world-class technology and support relied upon by some of the most trusted names in journalism.

Newspack is designed to meet the editorial and business needs of smaller digital publishers and includes audience-engagement and revenue-development features that are designed to help news publishers achieve sustainability.

As with the charter newsrooms now launching, the next group will work with the Newspack team to identify the needs of small and medium-sized newsrooms. They will help design, test and deploy the platform. Two Houston Herald employees will travel to Tampa for a meeting Nov. 18-20 to kick off the newspaper joining the program.

The Herald’s participation includes priority access to the Newspack developers, membership in a community of fellow Newspack users, confidential quarterly WordPress.com benchmarking reports that show how their sites compare to others in their class and a premium level of support that is still being defined.

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