Today Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com announced funding for a new platform, Newspack by WordPress.com, aiming to help small and medium-sized news organizations. Google, through the Google News Initiative, is taking the lead in backing the project and has committed $1.2 million.
Other funders include The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, which is contributing $400,000; ConsenSys, the venture studio backing Civil Media, which is contributing $350,000; and The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which is contributing $250,000. An additional $200,000 from a fifth source is expected to be contributed toward the project later this month.
This is huge for all types of media business especially the ones that cover a smaller niche like us.
With many local news organizations struggling to find sustainable models for journalism, Automattic is seeing a need for an inexpensive platform that provides the technology and support that lets news organizations build their businesses and focus on what they do best which is providing critical reporting for their communities.
The main goal with Newspack is to give smaller news sites a platform where they can continue to focus on what they do best and ideally get paid for it.
As of now, the company is inviting small and medium-sized digital news organizations — whether local, single topic, or general interest — to apply to become charter participants in the development of the platform, which will launch in beta form near the end of July 2019.
The effort will be fully funded by Automattic through the development period (which extends through Jan. 2020). After that, operating fees of between $1,000 per month and $2,000 per month will be applied to participating sites.
Successful applicants will have an opportunity to discuss their participation with the project staff before committing to come on board.
The following requirements will be used to assess prospective applicants:
- Automattic will seek to assemble a group of testers that together represent a wide variety of organizational models, technology and business approaches, as well as audiences and geographies.
- Consideration will be given to sites that have demonstrated both editorial and financial success in their markets (or in the case of new startups have a strong launch plan); sites whose models may have applicability to other digital news organizations; and/or sites that have run up against significant technical challenges in the implementation of their strategy.
- Preference will be given to applicants already using WordPress. Exceptions may be made at Automattic’s discretion for sites easily migrated to WordPress.
- To qualify for consideration, applicants should be able to articulate a clear editorial and business approach to the development and growth of their site.
- The site should be designed to meet the news and/or information needs of a distinct geographic region or distinct subject area of coverage.
- Sites should be producing original content and not be a pure aggregator.
- Although all forms of media will be supported, sites that are principally designed for audio or video news reporting will not be supported in this phase.
- Sites should have:
- a track record of serving their intended news audience and a budget that credibly forecasts 12 months of continued operation, OR
- a launch plan that addresses how they intended to serve their target market and funding commitments sufficient to operate for at least 12 months
- Candidates must commit to participating in a bi-weekly video call and making staff available to assist with the migration of their site to the Newspack platform.
- Candidates must commit to migrating their operating site to the Newspack platform at the conclusion of the initial six-month development period.
If you’re in the journalism space, you can apply directly on their site here.