Bangor Daily News completes final switch to WordPress

Wednesday, we pointed the last of our traffic to our WordPress servers.

We started planning the transition soon after I started at the BDN in July, and started beta testing the system in late August with our Sports section.

Stories are penned first in Google Docs, then brought over to WordPress via XML-RPC and pushed to InDesign via tagged text. It’s a unique system we built, for the most part, from the ground up, and we believe we’re the largest newspaper running entirely on WordPress.

Over the next few months we’ll be extensively sharing how we did it and open-sourcing much of the project. Our goal is to help other newspapers set up an easy-to-use, low-cost content management system. The setup is actually quite simple and easy to implement.

For the time being, feel free to leave comments with questions or e-mail me at wdavis@bangordailynews.com.

To get everyone started, I would recommend a few plugins that I think are must-haves for any news org on WordPress. The first, which the BDN commissioned from Mo Jangda, is The Zoninator, which allows you to order content by hand instead of chronologically.

Another is Edit Flow, which is an important tool for managing workflow through WordPress.

Scott Bressler‘s excellent Media Credit allows you to natively set the credit for images, instead of including the information in cutlines.

Co-Authors Plus, also by Mo, allows you to set multiple authors per post.

And CP Redirect is a good example plugin for how you might remap links from your old site. We used it as a template to avoid dropping links.

You might also wish to check out the Ben Franklin Project, from the Journal Register Company, CoPress, which, although not operating anymore, contains a trove of useful tips for converting, and a post I did in 2009 after converting my college newspaper to WordPress.

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32 Responses to Bangor Daily News completes final switch to WordPress

  1. Good work, Will. Now that I’m at a newspaper, I truly understand how huge this move is in terms of newsroom workflow. Not sure that WordPress would work at a metro paper, but I have lots of questions. You should use screenr.com to capture some video of the workflow. I want to see what this process looks like on the back end, especially the push from web to print.

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  3. Billy says:

    This is really interesting! I am looking forward to seeing your code. :)

  4. J. Heasly says:

    Hi William —

    Pretty interesting approach/post.

    So do changes made in the InDesign print copy get ported back into the WordPress database? I’m assuming the InDesign print editions are saved into operating system files (and not a database)?

    — John

    • William P. Davis says:

      John,
      Changes made in InDesign aren’t saved back to anything, by design — changes to copy aren’t supposed to be made in InDesign. Our entire editing system is Web-first, so all the editing should be done before the copy even hits the print page.

      InDesign files are indeed saved on a local server.

      • J. Heasly says:

        But how do you know about copyfit issues until you get the copy into InDesign?

        When transitioning from the eternal newshole of the Web to the confines of print, headlines/cutlines/muglines never cause any grief? Ever? Everything fits to the line?

        • William P. Davis says:

          Is there any CMS out there that magically fits all your copy to the page? The same rules still apply — precise budgeting, good planning, trimming and pushing stories when needed. Of course there are problems with headlines and fitting copy correctly, but it’s not like those problems didn’t exist before.

          • J. Heasly says:

            Sorry, I was confused by:

            ” … changes to copy aren’t supposed to be made in InDesign. Our entire editing system is Web-first, so all the editing should be done before the copy even hits the print page. ”

            … so I was seeking clarification. Thanks!

          • William P. Davis says:

            Ah, gotcha. All articles are fully copy edited before hitting the print edition, so any changes made in InDesign are print-only (such as trimming a story to fit).

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  6. This is fascinating! I am particularly interested in the WordPress to InDesign plug-in. Is that available? (Didn’t see it linked in article.)

    On the topic of InDesign-to-Wordpress, you might take a look at: Russell Viers’ http://www.atomicnewstools.com which is designed as a “edit in InDesign, then push out to WordPress” workflow.

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  8. Florian Kohl says:

    Sounds very interesting, how do you handle media files?

    • William P. Davis says:

      Florian,
      The digital producers handle media files just through the WordPress uploader. The problem with media is that they must be cropped and toned separately for print and online, so we haven’t come up with a great solution yet. We’re looking into integrating Picasa, though.

  9. Harish Pillay says:

    Good writeup, thank you! I am wondering if you’ve looked at scribus (http://scribus.net) instead of InDesign?

    I’m inspired from your post to now explore a fully open sourced newsroom setup.

    Thanks.

    Harish

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  11. Meagan Ewton says:

    Wow, I’m speechless. I’ve used both Word Press and InDesign for publishing a website and a paper, but I never thought to reverse the process. It makes so much sense! I would love to know more about the structure of BDN’s Google Docs and workflow. I would love to introduce a similar process at my school newspaper. Something like this could really improve our workflow!

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  16. Steve Holt says:

    I have one strange question…

    What made you choose Edit Flow over Assignment desk? Just wondering… xD

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  18. Bubacarr says:

    The Docs to WordPress plugin haven’t been updated for two years now. Just trying to find out if it’s still supported and compatible with current versions of WP. Thanks.

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