( from: Open Publishing talk at #2012megaconf )
Open source represents freedom. Free as in “zero software costs”
This doesn’t mean no cost. When you choose to embrace the open source philosophy, you are investing in the people who created it. Software is constantly evolving, it gets upgraded, patched, repaired and new features are frequently added. If you are not paying a vendor to maintain your software, you should seriously consider employing someone who will.
So WHY do it?
I know this sounding less appealing right about now, if I have to hire someone there goes the savings, right? Let me explain…
There are many open source projects out there, the one I have chosen to collaborate on is called WordPress. You’ve probably heard about it, at least half of the bloggers in your market are using it. In fact, there are over 70 million WordPress blogs in the wild now.
And it’s not just for blogging. Some really big companies are using WordPress. According to W3techs.com, a website that monitors usage of web technologies, a staggering 14.7% of active domain names on the internet are running WordPress.
I’ll say it again, WordPress is NOT just for blogging anymore. This is world class software.
We talk a lot about the internet’s disruptive impact on our business, yet haven’t managed to do much disrupting ourselves.
Take craigslist for example. Internet classifieds were not disruptive. It’s the fact that they were FREE that disrupted us. Craig used a powerful technology in an innovative way. So, is there another powerful technology out there waiting for someone to pickup and run with it? I think there is…
Probably the most famous feature of WordPress is it’s “5 minute install.” It is remarkably easy to install and to run this software. This chart shows how WordPress.com keeps pace with top tier web properties at a small fraction of the cost.
With a mere 102 employees, WordPress.com beats out AOL and Yahoo both with several thousand employees. Clearly, there is something special going on here.
WordPress is a publishing platform, and we are publishing companies. The efficiency is free for the taking, if we don’t use it, someone else certainly will.
HOW can I use it?
Now for the examples: With access to this free publishing platform, how can newspapers better apply their investments in technology?
Here are a few newspapers that use WordPress to power both their WEBSITE and their print workflow. This is beyond digital first, I call it “digital native.” Lets take a look at how that works:
The reporter writes his story as a blog post. Next the editor does her thing, and tweets it. Readers on twitter get the last read before the article is published in the next edition.
Print first or Digital first doesn’t even comes into this equation, we simply deliver news, information and advertising.
Aggregation is the new Pagination. We’ve taught WordPress to be aware of the print edition. (Using a vendor) we dummy the paper as usual, then feed the dummy into WordPress.
This has all happened before anything has been published to the website or in print.
Once the dummy has become available, Editors curate or ‘aggregate’ the best content we have available while simultaneously filling the news hole.
This efficiency has has cut hours off of our print production schedule, and resulted in moving back press times.
Here’s a way in which ads are changing. When a reader receives a story via twitter on the iPad, the appropriate ad is severed. This is not a banner ad, but a print ad. In our markets, the social media strategy is spelled ROP.
3 of the sites that I run have been paywalled since 2001. What has evolved is what we lovingly refer to as the FREEWALL. It works more like a sports blackout, in that we only require readers in our delivery footprint to pay. With the electronic zone based freewall, we can target specific segments of audience as needed. This maximizes readership, and our retention efforts.
Is there a CATCH?
If you are anything like me, you’ll leave this conference fired up with ideas. Then back at the office find yourself wondering how to get started. And this is a genuine weakness of the open source movement, it’s definitely a lean-forward activity. Even though this software is free, powerful, and incredibly effecient… How does a community newspaper get involved? How can you dip your toe in and try it out?
NewspaperFoundation.org is a non profit corporation that I founded. It’s charter is to create, advocate for and facilitate the use of open source software at newspapers, for the benefit of the communities they serve. This is an opportunity to try on these WordPress tools as no cost. In fact it goes way farther than that. NewspaperFoundation.org has partnered with web hosting providers to provide this service to community newspapers indefinitely, at no charge.
As you can see, I’m very excited about this topic, and I Thank you for letting me share it with you.