Google Drive to WordPress (to InDesign), refined

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. We’ve been busy refining our existing systems in the newsroom and tackling inefficiencies in other departments.

At the BDN, we often try to drill down to what is really necessary and important, as opposed to what is traditional but not valuable, by boiling the task at hand down until it’s as basic as possible. We try the basic method and in the process learn what is truly necessary and what was extraneous. Along the way we also collect nice-to-haves, and if the opportunity presents itself we will include those in future development.

We boiled our editorial publishing workflow down to a very basic system that has worked very well for us (and for other papers) for more than two years. Pleased with our writing and publishing process, the next big problem was our budgeting system.

Outside of clunky CMSes, maybe the worst inefficiency in many newsrooms is the budgeting system. Many papers just use a doc for this. For a while at the BDN we used Zoho creator. But every budgeting system I’ve seen lacks the ability to properly track the status of each story, and organization is often a mess. At many larger companies, each desk has its own budgeting system, further complicating matters.

In addition to the issues with our budgeting system, we saw room for improvement with Drive. We wanted to refine and standardize our story workflow. We’d had some confusion caused by Drive’s UI — docs would get moved inadvertently or dropped out of folders altogether.

So we decided to build a new budgeting tool, and used the Drive API to integrate the writing process with the budgeting process.

Now, creating a budget line and creating a Google Doc are one and the same. As soon as a reporter budgets a story, the budget tool creates a fresh Google Doc using the Drive API and attaches that doc to the story. When the reporter writes the story, they do so right in the budget tool, which is just a slightly customized Google Docs interface. The intuitive Google Docs interface remains, as do features like collaborative editing and offline access.

The budget information and the links to the docs are stored and organized inside WordPress. We also back up the latest version of each Doc inside WordPress so that if, for whatever reason, Drive cuts out we won’t lose our work.

We’d talked about building a system like this for a while. Once we finally decided what we wanted, building the system took minimal time (I honestly don’t remember how long, but it went by pretty quickly).

So, here’s how it looks and works:

The code isn’t quite ready to be open-sourced yet, but if you’re interested in the code shoot me an email ( or leave me a comment and we’ll work something out.

Oh, and did I mention my Docs to WordPress plugin is still a great solution for papers looking to get out from under legacy CMSes?

9 thoughts on “Google Drive to WordPress (to InDesign), refined”

  1. This is absolutely phenomenal! I’m interested in the whole thing, but would love to see more info on the InDesign plugin you created that talks to WordPress. Any chance you can share more about that?

      1. Thank you for the update and the link! I can’t wait to dive in and make a really compelling case for this as part of our workflow. Thank you, thank you for open sourcing it!

  2. I’m wondering if there is anyway to only let one person in a Google Doc at a time. We have a lot of staff (mostly students), so we’re concerned about multiple people trying to edit a story at once and undoing some of the other editor’s changes. Or having reporters getting into stories while the copy desk is editing.

    1. Elizabeth,
      As far as I know, there’s no way to ensure only one person gets into a Google Doc. It hasn’t been a problem for us — our reporters know it would be a serious issue if they purposely subverted the editing process. In terms of multiple people editing at once, that’s one of the great things Google Docs allows — you can see who else is in the story and see the changes they make in real-time. We’ve not had really any problems with stepping on each others toes, and we have close to 70 people in our newsroom. If you really want a system that allows only one person to be in a post at a time, I’d recommend eschewing the Google Docs part of things and just using straight WordPress.


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