Photography

How I Set Up A Semi-Automated Photography News Website

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For many years I have been on top of photography news through reading industry websites. However, recently I began to find them full with garbage news that was not valuable for photographers to know about. For example, useless paparazzi and celebrity drama is not useful photography news.

So after finally getting fed up with the lack of value in the niche, I decided to create my own photography news site.

I decided to take some of what I have learned int he WordPress industry. WordPress news was already a popular niche, but when WP Daily (RIP and hello Torque Mag!) took the idea to a new level it inspired many other news sites. In addition, WPMail.me provides a weekly email with the best of recent WordPress news. I decided to take both of the products and merge them into a photography news website called Phototickr.

The “tickr” part of Phototickr comes from a stocky ticker and the idea that what is displayed is constantly changing and fresh. I wanted to make sure it’s only the best news that photographers will find valuable, that anyone can contribute and there are many ways for photographers to get the news.

Here is how I went about it…

WordPress

Being a WordPress photographer I knew that I would be using the popular content management system as website system of choice. The advantage of going with WordPress is the ease to redesign the site if/when the time comes. The ease of customization, search engine optimization and of course integration with come into play right away.

To host the website, I went with WP Engine so that the speed is extremely fast, there are daily backups, high security and practically no downtime. There are many hosts that can do it, but I went with WP Engine as the WordPress host of choice due to my own experiences with them for my photography website.

Gravity Forms

To collect news from the photography community I installed Gravity Forms and a two of its add-ons. Gravity Forms is a contact form plugin that is extremely extensive with practically endless possibilities. In addition the core plugin, I added the Registration and Mailchimp add-ons.

The submit form allows for readers to submit:

  • News title
  • Relevant image
  • News blurb
  • Relevant video

User then have the option to register for an account when submitting. If selected their given options to add their website, a bio, Facebook, Google Plus and Twitter accounts. This is used in their author bio beneath each news that they submit.

Then after logging in the submit form will pre-filled with their information rather than having to enter it all again.

There is also an option to subscribe to news by email. When selected the reader is given the choice to subscribe to daily or weekly emails. Then the reader will be added to the Phototickr campaign depending on which they choose.

When the form is submitted, a post draft is created in a specific structure to match the rest of the news.

StudioPress

For the design of the website I am using a StudioPress designed Genesis child theme that was further customized by me for Phototickr. The reason I went with the theme is due to the responsive capability and design of the theme. I believe the theme design works perfect for a micro-news style website.

As you can see, the website looks great on any device. The news is the most prominent thing on all screens except the mobile phone. On a small phone like the iPhone, the reader has to scroll slightly until he or she sees the news.

On the desktop, the left and right sidebars stay in place so the reader can navigate somewhere else prior to leaving the website.

There are also call to actions for readers to search subscribe throughout the site.

WordPress SEO by Yoast

I also installed the best WordPress plugin for SEO, called WordPress SEO by Yoast. Doing so allows me to optimize the site for automated SEO and still have the ability to manually optimize certain posts and pages further if needed. I am also able to hide certain pages from search engines when needed. The plugin also included Open Graph settings which is great for when readers share content on social media.

Floating Social Bar

This new plugin is already a favorite of mine. It makes for social sharing extremely efficient and fast. Floating Social Bar is designed to float at the top of a page or post while scrolling down. This will happen on the desktop, however it is also designed to stay still when viewed on a mobile device like an iPhone, Android or iPad.

Mailchimp

This is an important part of the process because readers have the ability to subscribe to daily or weekly news. There is one Mailchimp list set up for Phototickr, but a group with two options (daily and weekly). When someone signs up through the website they are added to the appropriate group.

I created two different automated RSS campaigns. One runs every day around 8pm EST and the weekly campaign runs on Saturday afternoons. Using this methods means news will always be emailed and readers have the ability to choose how and when they want the news.

Add To Home Screen

The most recent addition to the website is a javascript which adds the Add To Home Screen bubble to the website when viewed on an iPad or iPhone. To do this, I used Add2Home and customized the message to fit with the voice of Phototickr.

The News Continues

I created Phototickr a couple of weeks ago and every day it is growing. People are seeing straight to the point news without the fluff and content that photographers want to read. In addition to social shares the site has a 24% subscribe rate and even that’s growing every day.

I look forward to sharing relevant photo news with the community and can’t wait to see what the future hold for Phototickr.

About the author:
Scott Wyden Kivowitz is the Community & Blog Wrangler at Photocrati, photographer, blogger and educator.