The Chilean news website El Soberano relaunched today with the Newspack plugin, becoming the first live site to use the new platform designed for small and medium-sized publishers.

“Working with the Newspack development team has been a journey of discovery,” said Ana Arriagada, the co-founder and executive director of El Soberano, based in Santiago. “Obviously at the beginning we had a clear idea of ​​our needs, but we could not know how many were going to be resolved and how they were going to become a reality.” 

“And maybe, the most interesting thing is that Newspack proposed things that we hadn’t considered for our site, such as an ultra-flexible donation system. So that feedback allows us to incorporate tools based on best practices.”

El Soberano is one of a dozen sites chosen as to partner with and guide the Newspack development team since the springtime start of the project.

More pilot sites are scheduled to come relaunch in coming weeks.

El Soberano’s site now features two new revenue-generating features: the ability to accept donations from readers, and the easy integration of advertisements. Along with easing technical burdens on newsrooms, the ability to bring in more money to support news operations is a driving principle of Newspack.

The new platform gives the newsroom vastly more control over the look of its website, freeing it of any obligations to use a page template provided by a theme. Instead, the Newspack theme allows a choice from several style packs to determine typography and other stylistic choices, but leaving layout choices free.

“You start by choosing a style from the ones available and then you go forward to reach the look and feel you like,” Arriagada said. “Working with blocks of contents made it easy and fast to reach what we need and assemble our homepage and articles.”

Newspack leverages the power of WordPress’ block editor to let journalists make layout and design changes quickly and frequently, adjusting to changing situations, without the need to hire developers.

“The sexiest thing about Newspack is the possibility of putting together all these blocks of content and adapt them to your needs,” Arriagada said. “Newspack has easily configurable modules to bring the content in flexible ways, either manually, by categories, or tags, to give some examples.”

Newspack is midway through a planned yearlong development period. After the cohort of pilot newsrooms launch, developers will begin working with a second round of about 50 newsrooms, to demonstrate that the platform can quickly be adapted to different newsroom needs and deployed. Those newsrooms will be announced shortly.