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Newspack Newsletters Now Live in the WordPress Plugin Directory

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Automattic released its Newspack Newsletters project to the WordPress plugin directory earlier today. It is the first Newspack-related plugin the company has made available outside of GitHub or its custom platform.

Newspack is primarily a service geared toward small and medium-sized publications. Its goal is to work with news industry leaders to create a platform for bringing WordPress to more newsrooms worldwide. El Soberano, a Chilean news publication, became the first site to launch on the service in October 2019. Earlier this month, Newspack showcased 60 sites running on the platform.

The platform is more than one theme, plugin, or service. The code is open-source, available on GitHub, and free for anyone to use via self-hosted WordPress. Each plugin is built based on feedback between publishers and the Newspack development team to solve real-world problems for publications.

The downside? Until now, the various Newspack plugins have all been hosted on GitHub, which is a developer-centric platform.

Small newsrooms may not have an onboard developer or IT team. The discoverability of necessary plugins will often happen through WordPress.org. With Newspack Newsletters landing in the plugin directory, it could be an indication of things to come.

The Newspack team should not stop with their first plugin. The entire suite of tools should be available through the plugin directory. The Newspack Blocks plugin could have uses outside of news sites. Many users might find value in its Post Carousel block or various patterns. The Newspack Content Converter bulk-converts classic WordPress posts to the block system. Even the Newspack theme and its child themes should have a home on the official WordPress theme directory.

I have reached out to the Newspack team for information on whether other plugins are coming to the directory but have not yet received official confirmation.

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How the Plugin Works

Newspack Newsletters launched in July 2020. The plugin initially integrated with Mailchimp. However, the team has since added Constant Contact support. It also requires integration with Mailjet Markup Language (MJML) for transforming the HTML from WordPress into responsive markup for email clients.

After installing the plugin, users must set up the API keys from the third-party services they are using. Steve Beatty has a complete walkthrough of the process in the following YouTube video:

The plugin adds a new post type for managing newsletters. It works much the same way as any other post or page. When adding a newsletter, users are initially presented with four layout options:

  • Breaking News: Displays the latest blog post and a message afterward.
  • Daily/Weekly: Lists the latest posts from the blog and a section for sharing curated links from around the web.
  • Daily/Weekly (No Images): An alternate version of the Daily/Weekly layout without post featured images.
  • Support: A template for asking readers to support the publication.

Of course, these are only starting points. Users can begin from any of these four templates or wholly from scratch. The plugin also provides an option for saving newsletters as custom layouts.

Selecting a layout from the Newspack Newsletters add new screen.
Selecting a layout from the newsletter screen.

While the plugin works similarly to posts and pages, it does limit the available blocks to those more suitable for emails. This subset includes text-based blocks like Paragraph, Heading, Quote, and List. It also supports few design-type blocks, images, and the plugin’s Post Inserter block.

The user experience is straightforward. Newsletter-specific settings are in the sidebar panel. One of the simple-but-useful features is a “Styling” tab that allows users to make wholesale font and color changes for a single newsletter.

Editing a newsletter via the block editor while using the Newspack Newsletters plugin.Creating and sending a test newsletter.

Users can even send a test email before publishing to make sure everything is in order. This feature also makes it easy to test on a local machine before deciding if the plugin is worth using in production.

Newspack Newsletter email as viewed through Gmail.Newsletter viewed via Gmail.

Usage of the ads system was not immediately apparent. It was not until I ran a test email from the Edit Newsletter screen that I realized that the ad I had created was attached to the end of the email. Even after figuring this out, I still felt a disconnect between how ads worked for newsletters. There is a sidebar setting for disabling ads on the Edit Newsletter screen. Perhaps I am missing something, but ad placements should be a block the user can insert into the content canvas.

Despite feeling at odds with the ads system in the plugin, the overall experience was mostly smooth. The plugin is not overly complex, which can sometimes be the case when a developer attempts to add too many features. Newspack Newsletters has managed to hit that Goldilocks zone that should go over well with the average end-user.

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Customize Your Entire Site With New Block Themes – WordPress.com News

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Customize Your Entire Site With New Block Themes – WordPress.com News

Customize Your Entire Site With New Block Themes

Experiment with a new look for your site with themes created to take advantage of Full Site Editing.

In case you missed it, we’ve been rolling out a new set of powerful site design tools called Full Site Editing (or “FSE”) and it’s now available for all WordPress.com users!

Don’t worry if you’re just hearing about Full Site Editing for the first time. We’ve been releasing these new tools in a way that doesn’t actually require you to do anything with your existing site(s). If you are up for a change though, we’re happy to announce the launch of a brand new family of themes made specifically with Full Site Editing features in mind. As of this writing we have over two dozen themes available that support Full Site Editing.

These new themes have been designed with a wide variety of sites cases in mind. But their potential stretches well beyond their screenshots and demo sites. Because each theme is fully editable in the Site Editor, every one of these themes can be heavily customized to fit your site’s needs. You can start with theme that features single minimalist homepage, and then add as many menus and sidebars as you wish. Or, you can start with a complex business theme and strip it down to something minimal to suit your vision.

The Site Editor also includes a new feature called “Global Styles,” which allows you to edit site-wide settings for color, typography, and more. You’re free to change your theme’s default color scheme to whatever fits your mood, or even make all site text larger or smaller in a couple of clicks. To kick off this new feature, we’re also providing a few pre-built variations on some of these new themes.

All the new themes and variations can be found in the Theme Showcase. Or, if you’re starting a fresh site, they’ll be offered to you automatically in the site creation flow. This collection of themes is just the beginning, and we’re excited to continue launching a variety of diverse theme options for you. What would you like to see in the next set of themes on WordPress.com?

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