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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.

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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Shopmatey – Create a web store on your phone. Built on WooCommerce

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Shopmatey - Create a web store on your phone. Built on WooCommerce

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Shopmatey is a social commerce platform that combines shopping and social media. Discover new products, sell your own, or combine your products sold on other marketplaces into a single link. Join the future of shopping with Shopmatey today.

Launched in Android, iOS, E-Commerce by

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How to Prevent Fraud and Fake Orders in WooCommerce

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How to Prevent Fraud and Fake Orders in WooCommerce

Do you want to prevent fraud and fake orders on your WooCommerce store? Fraud and fake orders can cause serious losses for an online store. Luckily, …

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If Shopify Passes This Test, the Stock Could Soar

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If Shopify Passes This Test, the Stock Could Soar

For the first time in 12 years, Shopify (SHOP -4.37%) is raising prices.

The e-commerce software peddler hiked rates on its Basic, Shopify, and Advanced tiers by about 33%, leaving the most expensive Shopify Plus plan untouched at $2,000 a month.

The move comes after Shopify has been rocked by the pandemic hangover as e-commerce growth slowed dramatically last year after booming in 2020 and 2021. That was true not just for Shopify, but also peers like Amazon and Etsy.

The company has taken steps to reel in costs, issuing layoffs and finding other ways to trim expenses. As it looks for ways to grow and reinvest in the business, raising prices seems to make sense.

At a time when the stock is still down roughly 70% from the 2021 peak, the price hikes pose a major test for Shopify — one investors should pay close attention to.

Image source: Getty Images.

How wide is your moat?

Shopify has been a top-performing stock for most of its history thanks to its turbocharged revenue growth, but the company has also earned a high valuation from the market because of its perceived economic moat.

The company dominates the e-commerce software sector, serving a wide range of businesses from sole proprietors to Fortune 500 enterprises, and its customers generate roughly $200 billion in gross merchandise volume on its platform. The company fended off a challenge from Amazon, which closed its competing Amazon Webstore product several years ago, and is much larger than direct competitors like BigCommerce and WooCommerce.

That large base of customers and significant lead over its competition offers evidence for the company’s competitive advantage, and its product comes with high switching costs. Once you get set up selling, it’s costly, both in time and money, to switch to another provider.

Another way Shopify can demonstrate its competitive advantage is with pricing power. Great companies often have the ability to raise prices without significant customer loss. This might be due to a powerful brand or the sense among customers that there’s no equal substitute for the original company’s product or service. So, they simply accent a higher price when it gets passed down to them. 

Shopify was a much smaller company 12 years ago, and therefore has never really tested its pricing power before.

What Shopify merchants are saying

Unsurprisingly, the Shopify price hike sparked a lively debate on Reddit’s Shopify channel, with merchants airing different opinions on the matter. Some were frustrated with the price hike, especially coming at a time when online retailers are already struggling and facing higher costs through inflation.

However, others dismissed those concerns, essentially saying that the value of Shopify was worth paying an extra $10 or $20 a month. One commenter said, “As a web dev myself with years of experience in e-commerce, I can tell you there are so many Shopify features I take for granted now as a store owner that I know were mammoth tasks in our own platforms. You won’t get a shop for that price with the same functionality and ease of use.” They also added, “I do agree the app subscriptions are a bloody rip-off though!”

A handful of commenters said they planned to switch to Block‘s Square, and others discussed alternatives like BigCommerce and WooCommerce, but most didn’t seem to consider switching in response to the price hikes. A number of commenters also seemed to defend the move, saying that Shopify’s business has been struggling and it needs more money.

Will the price hikes pay off?

It’s unclear how much Shopify’s revenue stands to increase from the move. Subscriptions made up 28% of revenue in the most recent quarter, but close to half of its gross profit. However, this isn’t a straight 33% price increase as current merchants can keep the old monthly rate by switching to a yearly plan, and they also have three months before the price hikes are implemented. New merchants will have to pay the higher prices immediately.

Still, these price increases could add at least a mid-single-digit bump to revenue, but more important is that that extra income will flow straight to the bottom line since there are no extra costs associated with it.

That will give Shopify more money to reinvest in the business and could also give the stock a boost by padding the bottom line. 

Investors will learn more about the price hike’s impact over the coming quarters, but if the move is successful, Shopify could start increasing prices more regularly, possibly every few years, giving it an additional lever to pull as it grows the bottom line.

If the company can clearly demonstrate its pricing power and give a jolt to the bottom line at the same time, the stock could soar in response.

John Mackey, former CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool’s board of directors. Jeremy Bowman has positions in Amazon.com, Block, Etsy, and Shopify. The Motley Fool has positions in and recommends Amazon.com, BigCommerce, Block, Etsy, and Shopify. The Motley Fool recommends the following options: long January 2023 $1,140 calls on Shopify and short January 2023 $1,160 calls on Shopify. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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