The Guardian offers a WordPress plugin that lets bloggers republish stories. In return, a Web advertisement automatically runs at the bottom of the post, and the money from the ad goes to the Guardian. It’s an interesting way to widen the Guardian’s audience and its advertising reach, especially at a time when some news organizations are erecting pay walls around their websites.
“One of the obvious pros for us is the wider distribution and therefore the influence of our journalism,” The newspaper’s lead developer, Matt McAlister, wrote in an e-mail to me. “This tool is helping us to reach out to people around the world via the influencers who have a particular view to add and a desire to amplify the things that we publish. And if that works the way we hope it does then we will also form a high value ad network to offer commercial partners.”
One of the plugin’s nifty features is how it gives you access to the Guardian’s news feed right in your WordPress panel. It’s your own personal, searchable library of thousands of stories:
You can also browse by topic, and by the type of article, blog post, podcast, slideshow or other features.
You might notice I’m a few months behind in blogging about the plugin, which was released over the summer. That’s because until recently, it didn’t work for me. First there was a problem with my version of php. And once that got fixed, I couldn’t get access to the news feed. The Guardian’s Daniel Levitt was very responsive when I first asked for help back in July. But the mysterious problem didn’t get sorted out until recently, when a plugin update finally allowed me to use it.
Also, some stories in the news feed aren’t available. When I tried republishing a story about the WordPress plugin, I got an error message that stated: “We are very sorry, but that particular article is not available for redistribution.”
So the plugin offers cool features to share stories, but some bloggers might run into technical difficulties with it. Nonprofit news sites ProPublica and The Texas Tribune offer an easier-to-use “republish” method that allows bloggers to simply cut and paste the material. You don’t get a news feed this way, but it’s quick and painless.
“We love the ProPublica copy/paste feature and think it would make a lot of sense to offer that capability, too,” McAlister said.
The Guardian’s plugin is an interesting experiment. Instead of complaining about readers’ expectations to get news online for free, the Guardian is trying to figure out how to share free content, widen their audience, and make money, too.
Maybe it will work. Maybe the effort will fizzle. But it beats wringing our hands and yearning for the good old days.