Today’s two WordPress.com VIP launches: PandoDaily and Grist

Today, MLK day even, two new sites launched on WordPress.com VIP that I’m personally pretty excited about.

PandoDaily

PandoDaily is a brand new tech site started by Sarah Lacy, former senior editor at TechCrunch. From her announcement post:

We have one goal here at PandoDaily: To be the site-of-record for that startup root-system and everything that springs up from it, cycle-after-cycle. That sounds simple but it’ll be incredibly hard to pull off. It’s not something we accomplish on day one or even day 300. It’s something we accomplish by waking up every single day and writing the best stuff we can, and continually adding like-minded staffers who have the passion, drive and talent to do the same.

So… this sounds like a newer, better, and fresher TechCrunch starting from scratch. And she’s recruited Michael ArringtonMG SieglerPaul Carr and Farhad Manjoo as regular contributors. Props to Sara Cannon for pulling off the design.

Grist

Grist, a non-profit environmental news publication, is near and dear to my heart. It’s why I’m on the technology side of publishing instead of photographing in the third world. In summer 2007, I worked an awesome web production internship where, in exchange for a bit of copy and pasting into the CMS, I had the freedom to explore publishing on the web and to start developing my skills. That was back in the days of Bricolage; Grist has since been on ExpressionEngine. Props to Matt Perry and Nathan Letsinger for making the switch happen (and to the Otto and Nacin show for their support).

Want to help publishers kick ass with WordPress? Come join my team — we’re hiring.

Questions publishers want answered

Short list of questions publishers want answered that I believe could be answered with the right data:

  • Who are my best writers?
  • What topics are my audience most engaged in?
  • Which types of pieces do best over time?
  • What type of stories should I have my writers work on?
  • When is the best time to publish?
  • What’s the best length for a piece?
  • Does including rich media help with engagement?
  • Do my writers actually need to include links? How many?

What am I missing?

Obviously most publishers know most of these by heart, it’s key to running a successful business. What’s more interesting is to use this type of data as a baseline for experimentation.

It’s important to remember the difference between creation and optimization, and how data can be used for each.

WordPress.com idea: Nothing but custom CSS page template

For those who have the custom design upgrade enabled on WordPress.com, it would be neat if we offered a bare, stripped to the basics page template you could style to your hearts delight. For instance, if I do a year in review post, it might be nice to prepare a unique design for that. Dustin Curtis is notable for producing custom layouts for each post.

Obviously you can do this now, but you first need to reset a lot of design first. If you switch themes, there’s no guarantee your resets will still work.

Co-Authors Plus v2.6: Search user’s display names, change byline order and more

Co-Authors Plus makes it easy to add multiple bylines to a given post, and has full support for custom post types. Out this evening, v2.6 has the following improvements:

  • Sortable authors — drag and drop the order of the authors as you’d like them to appear
  • Search for authors by display name so you can easily add bylines by first or last name
  • Option to remove the first author when there are two or more listed
  • More reliably generates the published post count for each user

Thanks to those in the forum who provided feedback and special thanks to Russell Heimlich for his contributions with sortable authors. If you feel like giving back, there are a few tickets open we’d love patches for. In particular, guest bylines would be pretty neat. I have a possible direction you can go if you’re looking for inspiration.

For our WordPress.com VIPs, this release will be available in the shared plugins directory in just a moment.

Taxonomies don’t matter anymore

What is more frustrating to me than a lack of solid content categorization is that there is no single CMS out there that allows you to indicate follow-ups, updates, series, retractions, corrections and responses. Now that would be interesting metadata and it’d really allow us to keep readers in the loop and give them updates to stories they care about. Much more useful than telling me that this story is an education story and that that story is about air travel.

Stijn Debrouwere — Taxonomies don’t matter anymore

The inevitable collision of journalism and everything else

Journalistic entities are moving towards becoming product companies, offering products that turn content into marketing. As a side effect, this creates businesses that follow Jack White’s theory of control: vertically integrated, creating content that markets a product that markets the content that markets the product all over again.

Like USA Today selling its data, POLITICO making a bookstore, my local public radio station selling membership or TechCrunch launching Disrupt. Publishers that successfully turn their content into brand building and marketing for a product are the ones that are surviving.

Sean Blanda — The inevitable collision of journalism and everything else