Newspack Plugin Update Checker Lets Users Update from GitHub

Adam Schweigert, an independent media and technology consultant, has released a plugin called Newspack Plugin Update Checker that enables self-hosted Newspack users to keep their plugins up-to-date. The Newspack project was launched in 2019 by WordPress.com, with support from the Google News Initiative, the Knight Foundation, and The Lenfest Institute. It provides local news organizations a powerful, yet cost effective publishing platform that promotes financial sustainability.

More than 200 news sites are on the hosted version of Newspack, which uses WordPress.com’s cloud platform. Organizations can also host their own Newspack installations independently, which includes a theme, collection of plugins, and blocks. KinshiPress, which publishes news and updates for WordPress publishers, has a guide to self-hosting Newspack that walks through the process of getting set up. It also mentions the drawback of the plugins being hosted on GitHub.

Schweigert’s Newspack Plugin Update Checker solves this problem by using a plugin updater library that checks for updates and lets users know when a new version is available. The notice appears in the dashboard in a similar way to how WordPress.org displays updates.

The plugin checks for updates for nine of the most commonly-used Newspack plugins, including the following:

Schweigert noted that the plugin requires the Newspack plugins be in folders named using their respective slugs. Although the plugin allows users to enable auto-updates, he recommends keeping an eye on the Newspack release notes to be prepared for any potentially breaking changes.

KinshiPress author Steve Burge recently published an article on the Newspack ecosystem, contending that Newspack has the potential to do for publishers what WooCommerce has done for e-commerce.

“There’s a big audience out for a publishing platform that is open source, highly extendable, and has the backing of a successful company and a strong community,” Burge said.” Where else can newspapers, magazines and radio stations go? They mostly go to WordPress already, but the platform we provide them could be much more targeted and helpful.”

Although Schweigert’s plugin is a good stop gap measure, Burge said he thinks putting the Newspack plugins on WordPress.org and improving the documentation would go a long way towards expanding its impact.

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