WordPress 5.0 and your news organization

WordPress 5.0 was released today and brings a wealth of new features, including a new post editor.

The new post editor included in WordPress 5.0 called "Gutenberg" provides a more-visual interface that is "block-based." Everything now becomes a block, including "Custom HTML" blocks and shortcodes. Your old content will remain unchanged, but your news content has many new options for customization to drive engagement and increase readers' time on your site.

Here's what you need to know:

  • Benefits of upgrading and why you should wait until January
  • Plugin compatibility
  • Known bugs in Gutenberg
  • How to test your site and safely upgrade, when you're ready

The release of Gutenberg is exciting, but you don't have to upgrade to WordPress 5.0 today, or even this month. And, if you do, you can still use the classic editor until 2021. It's good to be aware of the benefits and potential challenges of WordPress 5.0 and weigh the options for your individual site.

Benefits of upgrading to WordPress 5.0 and waiting until January to do so

One feature we think you'll love is the support for wide and full-width images and embeds. Our Pym.js Embeds plugin supports this feature, and it's a great way to embed interactive content in your stories, if your website's theme supports it. Gutenberg is all about enabling you to create rich article layouts.

INN Labs' WordPress theme, Largo, versions 0.6 and following, will support Gutenberg.

If you want to upgrade to 5.0 but keep the old-style editor, simply install the Classic Editor plugin, then go into that plugin's settings and disable Gutenberg.

For sites that want to upgrade to WordPress 5.0 but don't want the new Gutenberg editor, you can install and activate the Classic Editor plugin. Classic Editor ensures you keep the old editor interface in WordPress, even after upgrading to WordPress 5.0. This plugin will be supported by WordPress through 2021, so you have until then to adjust and adapt Gutenberg.

Some reasons you may not want to start using Gutenberg (the new editor):

  • If you use Co-Authors Plus to manage bylines on stories, there's a minor hiccup in that Co-Authors Plus can't remove the traditional author picker from the editor. This will be confusing when you edit posts. it is compatible as of release 3.3.1 on December 7, 2018.
  • If you use the Advanced Custom Fields plugin, the current version of the ACF plugin is compatible but has some visual bugs. ACF says they're working on it.
  • If you use Edit Flow or PubishPress to manage your workflow, neither plugin has been updated yet. Both depend upon custom post statuses, which Gutenberg does not support in WordPress 5.0.0. PublishPress' advice is on their blog.
  • If you frequently copy-paste text from Microsoft Word on a Mac into the post editor, you should wait until the next bugfix release of WordPress. When pasting, sometimes spaces between words are removed. There's a fix for this, but the fixed version of Gutenberg didn't make it into the 5.0 release.
  • If you're waiting for your theme to implement the "align-wide" feature for fullwidth images, you can still update to 5.0 and Gutenberg, but you won't get fullwidth blocks until your theme updates with support for them. (Largo 0.6 supports them!)
  • If you don't have time to test your site right now, because of deadline pressure or awards season or breaking news or holidays, it's okay to wait. This isn't just us speaking; the CEO of the Yoast SEO plugin that many of our members use says it's okay to wait. (The Yoast SEO plugin is compatible with WordPress 5.0, just to be clear.)
  • WordPress 5.0.1 will be coming soon with a number of small bugfixes and quality-of-life changes, and you may want to wait until those fixes are released before upgrading.

How to upgrade to WordPress 5.0

Sites using WP Engine should read WP Engine's blog post about preparing for WordPress 5.0.

Flywheel wrote about what to expect from Gutenberg.

The general steps are:

  1. Copy your site from production to staging. (Flywheel, WP Engine)
  2. On staging, upgrade your theme and all your plugins to the latest versions.
  3. Update WordPress to WordPress 5.0.
  4. Create some test posts using Gutenberg. Talk to your editors and authors and contributors to determine if you're ready to take it live on your production site.
    - You may decide to start using Gutenberg immediately.
    - You may decide to continue testing Gutenberg on staging, and activate Gutenberg on production at a later date.
    - You may decide not to activate Gutenberg at this time.
  5. To see what WordPress 5.0 is like without Gutenberg, install the Classic Editor plugin on your staging site.
  6. When you've decided what approach you want to take with WordPress 5.0, make a backup of your live site (Flywheel, WP Engine) and upgrade to WordPress 5.0. Remember to update all your plugins and themes.

You don't need to update to WordPress 5.0 today, this week, or even this month. You should take some time over the next few weeks to examine Gutenberg and decide whether it's right for your newsroom at this time. WP Engine and many other hosts will start updating sites to WordPress 5.0 in January, so you have about a month to investigate Gutenberg, try it out, and decide whether or not you want to use it.


If you have questions about the WordPress 5.0 release or the Gutenberg editor, join the INN Labs team in our weekly Open Office Hours video call this Friday from 2 to 3 p.m. Eastern. We'll be giving a tour of the new features.

Or, email us anytime. We're happy to help!

Updates to this post:

December 10, 2018
Co-Authors Plus is now compatible with Gutenberg.
Changed ACF wording to make it clearer that it's compatible, just has visual issues.
Removed configuration instructions for Classic Editor plugin; since version 1.2 the default setting for the newly-installed plugin is to not allow users to use the Gutenberg editor. This simplifies the setup process.
Added PublishPress to the list of editorial plugins affected by Gutenberg's lack of support for custom post statuses.

Announcing: Pym.js Embeds version

The INN Labs team is issuing a major, Gutenberg-friendly update to the Pym.js Embeds WordPress plugin, formerly known as the Pym Shortcode plugin, which improves presentations of data journalism.

The Pym.js Embeds plugin creates a better experience for the reader with responsive embeds that scale to fit the story, reduces workflows for data journalists, and removes the need for tricky embed workarounds.

For more details, see our latest announcement. You can also learn more about the latest release on GitHub and download the plugin from WordPress.org.