Plugins for publishers, April 2011 edition

The following are WordPress plugins I find myself using and recommending regularly. In the interest of making this available to everyone, here’s the full list:

  • WordPress.com Custom CSS – Use your own CSS to tweak your website without modifying your theme’s files. Includes a revision history so you can always backtrack to prior versions. This is a feature WordPress.com charges $14.97/year for and has saved the J-School significant pain.
  • Co-Authors Plus – Assign multiple bylines to an article. You’ll need to edit your theme templates too for the multiple bylines to appear.
  • W3 Total Cache – Speed up the load time of your website with caching. Caching takes a generated page of your website and stores it statically for future use.
  • After the Deadline – Spelling, style, and grammar checker powered by artificial intelligence. Catches misused words, passive voice, and cliches.
  • Edit Flow – Move your editorial workflow into WordPress with custom post statuses, editorial comments, and calendar and story budget views.
  • Post Author Box – Add an informational box about the author to the beginning or ending of every post (or any other post type). Can also be used to add the byline if your theme doesn’t support bylines.
  • Google Calendar Events – Parses Google Calendar feeds and displays the events as a calendar grid or list on a page, post or widget. It’s the Google Calendar widget you always wanted.
  • Audio Player – Embed MP3 files in your content with a simple shortcode.
  • JSON API – For the programmatically-inclined, access all of your content through a JSON API. Useful for pulling content into your website with jQuery.
  • Twitter Tools – Automatically publish your articles to Twitter, and pull in your most recent tweets into a widget area.
  • Subscribe to Comments – Allow commenters to subscribe to email notifications on threads they’ve commented on. Increase repeat visitors and engagement.
  • Emphasis – Paragraph- and sentence-level linking and highlighting. Originally developed for nytimes.com, Michael Donohoe open-sourced the code and Ben Balter made it into a WordPress plugin. Every website should have emphasis.
  • Restrict Multisite Plugins – For those running multisite instances, allow your users to activate only a limited number of approved plugins. Interface is very similar to WordPress’ network theme management.

Also, as a part of the documentation we’re continually preparing for the J-School, here are the criteria I follow for adding new plugins:

  • GPL-compatible – We can only install plugins on our server that are compatible with the GNU General Public License. This ensures we have the legal right to modify the plugin if it breaks, and make it available to all members of our community. All WordPress.org plugins should be compatible. The license must be packaged with the plugin. Unfortunately, Creative Commons licenses are not GPL-compatible.
  • Regularly updated and well-rated – The plugin has been updated in the last 6 months or so by its author. WordPress adds new features regularly, so it’s necessary the developer keep the plugin compatible with the latest version. Active users can also indicate whether the most recent version of the plugin is compatible with the most recent version of WordPress. You can find this information on the right hand of the plugin’s profile page.
  • Performs well – A couple of ways you can see whether it’s a good plugin are googling the name of the plugin to see if there’s any negative feedback, or looking in the support forums. If there are a lot of site comments or discussion threads complaining about problems with the plugin, it’s usually a bad sign.

A canonical reading list for the future of news

Earlier today, I received a request to put together a synthesis of the future of news discussion thus far. As such, I spent an hour or so going through my 600+ journalism links and now present the definitive, canonical reading list, a collection of both popular posts and hidden gems from the last 18 months or so that I’ve been paying attention to the industry.

Explaining the past

The [Monday] Papers
An epic laundry list of everything that needs to be said about the newspaper industry.

A Public Can Talk To Itself: Why The Future of News is Actually Pretty Clear

Perhaps the biggest challenge in media criticism this year has been making discussions on ‘Future of News’ more than a debate between New and Old Media. Just because a news organization established itself and started publishing recently doesn’t mean that the way they are publishing is any different than in the past. Many of the biggest news organizations to spring up in the last few years that are largely considered to be ‘new media’ — The Huffington Post, Gawker, Politico, Tech Crunch — are fundamentally similar to the NYT. That is to say, they are trustee media, they stake a claim on a certain beat and a handful of editors ultimately control everything that is published.

Open memo on how to right a sinking ship
A synthesis of all the advice I would give newspapers struggling to reinvent themselves: experiment with business models, improve your relationship with your community, and invest in your technology.

Objectivity isn’t truthful — it’s pathological

When the good-intentioned pursuit of truth leads the truth-seekers to lie (to themselves, to readers; by inclusion or omission) rather than break their code, there’s probably something wrong with the code.

How the Web and the Weblog have changed Writing
Superb essay on the web and writing formats.

Seeds for the future

A fundamental way newspaper sites need to change
Holovaty’s testimony for structured data.

The “Lack of Vision” thing? Well, here’s a hopeful vision for you

This isn’t copyright advice: What I’m really saying is we have to begin learning how to add value to the information we collect, and then put that information into a thoughtful structure to retain and expand that value.

Idea for the future of journalism: newspapers as providers of structured information for any given community. The scarcity is having that data in the aggregate.

Attention Is the Real Resource
Gruber prices advertisements in his full RSS feed at a premium because his readers are more engaged than one-off webpage visits.

A breakthrough for the Times? Possibly.
Content producers would bid to have their articles, images, videos, etc. appear next to related NY Times articles. Smart, intriguing subsidization idea.

Eleven Things I’d Do If I Ran a News Organization
Numbers two and three would be my top choices. Transparency by default, and leverage that to build intelligent conversation.

My advice to the New York Times? Copy Foursquare.
All of these ideas are smart. Specifically, Sean offers clever ways to use reader engagement with a website to build a profile of their interests and areas of expertise.

10 Ideas I Want to Try at the Newspaper Where I Work
I dig the ideas Will has for community relationship management, as well as using data and APIs well.

This is a mock-up for a news site that I think should exist
Users go to the site with journalistic questions they want answered, “Why is corn still subsidized?” as an example, and journalists answer them. Smart, but execution is the hardest part.

Most of all, however, I think this tweet depicts the entire horizon.