Automattic has released the Newspack Newsletters project to the plugin directory – the first Newspack-related plugin available outside GitHub or its custom platform.
The Newspack Project
Newspack is an all-in-one platform designed for small and medium-sized news organizations that simplifies publishing and drives audience and revenue right out of the box. Many smaller news startups struggle with the complexities of technology selection, development, maintenance, hosting, and security, which in turn can be an obstacle to effective revenue generation. And there is currently no common, cost-effective solution that allows best-in-class tools to be easily shared among different news houses.
Newspack – a project from Automattic in collaboration with Google, Lenfest Institute for Journalism, ConsenSys, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation aims to help small digital publishers get onto the platform quickly and provide them with an affordable system that incorporates the best editorial and business practices from across the industry. We can think about it as a version of WordPress specifically designed for news organizations.
The Newspack project was initially announced in January 2019 by WordPress.com and in October 2019, a Chilean news site El Soberano became the first publication to launch on the new platform. By February 2021, 60 news sites were running on the platform.
The Newspack Newsletters Plugin
The release of the plugin to the WordPress repository may well be a harbinger of better things to come. The chances of it being discovered by more WordPress users are higher now. Newspack lead Jeff Rabb has said that “We are planning to release the Newspack Content Converter on WordPress.org next, which is expected to happen in the next two months.” Many feel that the entire suite of Newspack tools including the Newspack theme should be released in the repository.
Newspack Newsletters lets you build eye-catching newsletters using the WordPress editing tools you’re already familiar with, and lets you save drafts, create reusable layouts, send them to your existing mailing list, and also publish them to your website. You can also create email newsletters with the Gutenberg editor and send them via Mailchimp or Constant Contact from WP Admin.
The plugin comes with four default layouts – Breaking News, Daily/Weekly, Daily/Weekly(No Images), and Support – to help you start building newsletters quickly. You can use an existing layout, or start fresh with a blank page. You can also create and save your own layouts, or alter the ones that come bundled with the plugin and save the settings, and use them for future campaigns.
Newspack Newsletters uses MJML to transform the HTML generated by Gutenberg into markup that will be displayed nicely by email clients and comes bundled with the Newspack Post Inserter block. This block lets you insert excerpts from live posts on your site, and, once inserted, will turn those posts into static content using the Header and Paragraph blocks, linking back to your site.
Most importantly, the Newspack Newsletters plugin lets you create ads, which are stored as a custom post type. Ads are automatically inserted into your newsletters, and can also be toggled off on a newsletter-by-newsletter basis.
The plugin is quite user-friendly too. Newsletter-specific settings are in the sidebar panel. You can also send test emails to one or more email addresses at a time from the newsletter editor, to make sure everything is perfect.
Overall, the average WordPress user will find it refreshing and impressive. There does not seem to be any major issues for disappointment.