The Press Association is the engine which powers the UK news machine. In effect it’s a cooperative owned by the UK’s regional and national newspapers. It has noticed that, as funds get tighter, its members have stopped reporting on local democracy – council meetings and the like. And it’s working on a proposal to fill that gap in the information provision market by providing the content itself, free of charge online… if the public purse cares to pay them £15-18 million to do so.
It’s a very interesting notion, and – considering the potential public benefit – a not inconceivable price-tag. But the line in Robert Andrews’s piece at PaidContent which really caught my eye was this:
“It will probably be delivered initially through a WordPress (blog) site, but it will be delivered with RSS feeds spinning off it and not as a primary site of interest.” Johnston showed a mock-up of PA content in a blog wearing an out-of-the-box default WordPress theme.
In fact, it’s a concept I’ve proven myself. A couple of years ago, I did some work with a small business information consultancy to move their (relatively tiny-scale) news publishing mechanism over to WordPress. Stories were being written in an existing workflow management app: but when it came to distributing these stories, we simply dropped them into a WordPress build – and let WP’s remarkably flexible RSS functionality do the rest. Stories were tagged according to subject area and clients; feeds were generated; and content got syndicated to wherever it needed to be, in an easily-republishable format. There was no front-end website at all: just the feeds coming off it.
So yes, I can heartily endorse this proposal. If it’s an open-access site, requiring easy authoring and easy syndication, WordPress should be perfect. And since it already does all the feed stuff, out-of-the-box, the project could be up and running as quickly as the reporters can be recruited.
But still, it’s a startling moment to be receiving the endorsement from the biggest player in UK news distribution. And it’s yet another reason, as if we needed it, for anyone working in news to look at what WordPress could do for them. If we could get every government press office on WordPress, for a start…