How to use WordPress 3.5 for news curation

WordPress has the largest installed base for blogs in the world. But it’s more than blogging software. WordPress has an enthusiastic plug-in developers community and those have been constantly building plug-ins to expand the WordPress core. Today, with a couple of plug-ins activated, WordPress is a true CMS. And with the right plug-in, it becomes a news curation resource in its own right.

If you want to display news on a page of your WordPress site, you’re stuck with RSS feeds and Twitter or Facebook feeds. Not exactly the most flexible solution, because most of these plug-ins pull in the data with no or little customisation options.

Enter the WP RSS Multi-Importer plug-in by Allen Weiss. A RSS feeds plug-in with more than a twist. Allen Weiss’s plug-in is a full RSS feed system with its own widget. Unique about it is that it allows you to set up a real news site. The plug-in is entirely free and Weiss’s support is more than prompt and to the point as I myself have experienced.

His plug-in therefore is living evidence of users capable of deploying a stable and scalable WordPress website for any type of content curation and creation. A true Web CMS, in other words.

Screenshot of feeds list

WP RSS Multi-Importer has seven tabs. The first is the Feeds tab. It does what other RSS plug-ins allow you to do: enter the feed URLs. However, Weiss’s plug-in allows you to add multiple RSS feeds and link them to a category. You can load as many feeds here as you want. In practice, as each feed URL should be added manually, you’ll be inclined to keep it manageable.

Ideally, a batch import feature for feeds would be nice. For example, the ability to import a CSV or OPML file with feed links.

Feeds are pulled in automatically, with WordPress’ built-in timing system, or via an external cron script. WP RSS Multi-Importer enables you to link feeds to categories, which you set up in this tab. These categories can be further linked to post categories using the shortcode setting. Users can assign post tags to each plugin category.

The plug-in also lets you add filter words, which block RSS articles from view on your page if any of the words included in the filter list appears in one of the feed texts. You can also connect a default category image with each category.

screenshot of Feed to post feature

Weiss has opted to give users three methods to show feeds that have been pulled in:

  • A widget — this displays RSS feeds without the ability to edit in your system, but still offers presentation customisation
  • A shortcode that you insert in posts — this also displays feeds without the ability to edit locally
  • A “Feed to Post” — this pulls in feeds as post entries, which you can automatically set to “Draft” and then edit further.

Especially the two last methods are unique to this plug-in and turn it into a powerful curation tool. Powerful, not just because of its curation capabilities, but also because it allows you to use feeds as a starting point for your own unique stories (SEO, anyone?). Another unique feature that makes this the most powerful RSS feed plug-in available, is the ability to pull in images with basic customisation options as to how they will enter your system and how you can display them.

If you want to use WordPress to curate news the way journalists (should) do, you’ll find WP RSS Multi-Importer a lonely warrior.