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Publishing from The Source with Superdesk and WordPress

The Source's trainees
The Source's trainees(photo: The Source)

“What we want to do is publish to different platforms at the same time,” says Alfonce Mbizwo, news editor at The Source in Zimbabwe. A financial and business news outlet that is currently web-only, The Source aims to expand into Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media channels. “We look forward to reaching new audiences,” Mbizwo adds.

Distributed content and multi-channel publishing are common aspirations among media outlets everywhere these days. What sets The Source’s plans apart is having access to a technological secret weapon: the Wordpress Superdesk Publisher plugin.

“Journalists at The Source will be able to manage their news coverage seamlessly,” says Douglas Arellanes, who’s been leading Sourcefabric’s part of developing the plugin. “When they finish an article, they hit publish and the WordPress plugin takes care of everything else.”

Using technology to boost journalists’ impact

Sourcefabric and The Source came together under the auspices of a European Journalism Centre (EJC) project which provides training and technical support to The Source.

“I see EJC's collaboration with Sourcefabric as a potential model for other under-resourced news agencies we currently partner with in developing media markets: agencies that have the right journalism talent in place but need the right 'tech talent' to make their output more effective and efficient,” says Josh LaPorte, Zimbabwe country manager for EJC.

The Source’s staff agrees that the new technology will have a multiplier effect. “We have a good and widespread network of stringers that would work well with our new capabilities,” says Alfonce Mbizwo.

The Source launched in 2011 with the aim of focusing on finance and business news. The content provided by the Harare-based news outlet fills a longstanding gap; historically, there has not been much transparency in Zimbabwe’s economy. However, creating a new financial news service is also about the future.

Financial newswire services are big business in countries with established capital markets. As these markets develop in Africa, having Superdesk will position The Source to easily sell its content to other news outlets, as well as to individual or institutional subscribers.

“When they sign a syndication deal, their content will already be in an industry standard format,” explains Doug Arellanes. “The cool thing about Superdesk is that it supports the NewsML technical standard as well as NinJS, which is the news industry standard.” Both NewsML and NinJS are more granular in their definitions than feed formats like RSS or Atom, allowing content to be discovered more easily by potential subscribers and readers.

Additional growth and innovation prospects

Currently, The Source counts its main readership in Zimbabwe and the diaspora abroad, including other countries in Africa along with the UK, the US and Australia. It also has audiences on Facebook and WhatsApp, along with thousands of newsletter subscribers.

The Source has achieved that growth through continuous innovation and experimentation. Now with a tool like Superdesk in the newsroom, The Source’s editors are looking to expand their reach even farther.

“The built-in efficiencies of Superdesk mean that our editorial staff in Harare expect to increase daily output from the current 5-10 financial news stories per day up to 20-25 per day by the end of 2017, with further emphasis on sectoral specialization,” says Nelson Banya, editor in chief of The Source. “This also means that previously scarce editorial resources can be devoted to in-depth investigative journalism efforts and a more coordinated and visible social media presence as part of our overall sustainability strategies.”

The big picture of collaboration

Douglas Arellanes is equally enthusiastic about what the WordPress plugin can do for Sourcefabric. “This is a big step for us. In the past, we had our own CMS platforms that did not integrate well with other systems. But now, if we want to build a plugin for Drupal, or other systems, we can.”

Long-term, the Superdesk WordPress Publisher plugin also stands to benefit the news industry as a whole. Since many large media organisations using WordPress have put resources into their WordPress sites, they can use the plugin to build on their investment rather than having to redo everything themselves.

See it in action

Ready to try out the plugin for your own WordPress site? Just head over to Github and download the zip file. Upload it from the plugins section of your site, and you’re pretty much done. (For more detailed instructions, see our wiki.)

To see it in action, take a look at our video below.

Finally, if you’d like a demo of Superdesk itself, just drop us a line at contact@sourcefabric.org.