WordPress’ ambitious journalism startup gets big backing

By Michael Krumholtz January 14, 2019
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Some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley and journalism have backed an open-source publishing platform from WordPress called Newspack.

Launching in 2019, the platform is one of the latest startups that is working with small- and medium-sized newsrooms to try and overcome the steep financial obstacles that they face going forward. The project has already gotten a $1.2 million investment from the Google News Initiative, as well as $400,000 from the Lenfest Institute for Journalism and another $350,000 from venture studio ConsenSys.

“Local news organizations are struggling to find sustainable models for journalism — a crisis that has very real implications for democracy,” said Kinsey Wilson, President of WordPress.com and a former senior executive at NPR and The New York Times in a company press release. “We’re joining with industry leaders to bring technology, publishing and business expertise together in a single platform that can be shared by news organizations across the globe.”

These news organizations can still sign on to the pilot program that launches in the summer. WordPress wants to begin with at least a dozen of different news organizations on the affordable platform that it says will combine the best editorial and economic practices that its executives have learned from being in journalism.

“Local newsrooms face many obvious challenges, but we do see new examples of success,” said Jim Albrecht, director of news ecosystem products at Google. “Unfortunately, the innovation in technology, editorial focus, and monetization necessary to achieve this success lies beyond the reach of many small organizations. By funding Newspack, we hope to extend the best practices of these market leaders to local publishers generally.”