WordPress is a great tool for online writers. It’s simple and yet is such a pleasure to use. Yes, there are things that need to be improved but WordPress being an open source software, you can expect continuous improvements on it by the community.

The ease by which sites can be created and run through blogging software like WordPress allow writers previously without publishers to print their works online. The problem with using a blogging software to manage your website, however, is that the tool defines the character of your site.

Once in a while, I see blogs that seem better off presented as online magazines or news websites rather than as blogs.

WordPress, however, is an extensible website content management system that can be used to run magazine-type websites. Here are steps I took to turn this online magazine on Cebu from a blog into its current presentation. I’m still working on it, though, so you might encounter issues. (Update Jan. 9, 2008: I have redesigned the site. It’s now using an even better theme that I’m still working on. I will be releasing this theme soon.)

For those interested, I will be releasing this theme (based on Nautica05 of Open Source Templates) and in two flavors: one as one-click install blogging template and another as framework for a magazine-type website.

Categories as sections

Like any blog software, WordPress displays articles, regardless of categories, in reverse chronology, with the newest entries posted first. This publication format is what usually bugs site owners who want to produce a magazine website using a blogging software.

In Cebu Living‘s case, site owners wanted to publish shorter news articles without these posts pushing down feature articles they wanted to highlight. You can, of course, highlight the feature articles by listing it in the sidebar but there’s an even better way of doing this in WordPress–by using categories to manage website sections and then fetching the stories by category in the homepage. (Click on photo to view larger image of how sections are managed in the site.)

What Cebu Living did was assign the biggest story (equivalent to a newspaper’s page 1 banner article) to a Banner category and the articles they want to highlight (to serve as the site’s second, third or fourth story) to a Feature category.

wordpress as magazine cmsTechnically, the banner story should also be in the Feature category since it is a post you want to feature but to prevent it being displayed twice in the homepage (one as banner and another as part of the latest stories section), the banner story isn’t assigned to the Feature category yet. It is only assigned to that category when there is a new banner story. In effect, it becomes the site’s 2nd biggest story and goes down in the news value hierarchy as you add newer banner stories.

Index page as portal

With the stories getting their category assignments, the index.php file is then edited to display articles in blocks of categories. In Cebu Living’s case, the site uses three blocks: one to call the banner, another to display the recent feature stories and the last block to contain news and link posts to articles about Cebu.

To display articles in category blocks, do not use the WordPress loop to generate the articles. Delete The Loop in your index.php starting from: <?php if ( have_posts() ) : while ( have_posts() ) : the_post(); ?> until <?php endwhile; else: ?> <p><?php _e('Sorry, no posts matched your criteria.'); ?></p> <?php endif; ?>

Replace it with category listings using this code by Rhymed Code:

<?php $posts = get_posts( "category=12&numberposts=4" ); ?> <?php if( $posts ) : ?> <?php foreach( $posts as $post ) : setup_postdata( $post ); ?> <h2><a href="<?php the_permalink() ?>" title="Permanent Link to <?php the_title(); ?>"><?php the_title(); ?></a></h2> <?php the_content("Continue reading '" . the_title('', '', false) . "'"); ?> <?php endforeach; ?> <?php endif; ?>

What the code above does is display the four most recent posts under category 12. Change the category number to your category’s actual numerical ID (go to Manage > Categories and list the IDs of your categories). If you only want to list the headlines, take out this part of the code: <?php the_content("Continue reading '" . the_title('', '', false) . "'"); ?>

Just change the styling of the post elements to reflect your website’s style sheet.

If you change your index.php using the steps listed above, you need to have a category.php file with the WordPress loop or readers will be presented with your homepage when they try to view category pages.

Category pages

According to the WordPress Codex, when WordPress displays a category page, it looks for a category-(numericalID of category).php template file and if it can’t find one, for a category.php file, and if there isn’t one, for an archive.php file and if all these aren’t present, it will use the index.php file. The stories under the category are then listed using the WordPress loop.

This hierarchy of files to be used to display the category allows you to control the layout of your category pages to mimic the display of website sections. Say your news category ID is 6, you can control how the News category page looks by editing the category-6.php file. You can even display a different header for each category by changing the <?php get_header(); ?> code at the top of the file with <?php include(TEMPLATEPATH . '/filename of header for your category.php') ; ?> to display a different header for a particular category page. Just copy your current header.php and then edit the part that displays header elements such as logos, menu items or images.

Summary blurbs

Many magazines have one-paragraph summaries of or introductions to the article. You can do this in your WordPress-powered magazine by including a summary or introduction in the Optional Excerpt just below the Upload window in the Write Post interface. You can then display the summary by using the <?php the_excerpt(); ?> code in your single.php file.

You can style it as a floating div if you want, with a different background color to make it stand out. For this to work, however, you need to write an excerpt for your article. If you do not specify one, WordPress will print as excerpt the first 120 words of the post-so you’ll end up with duplicate text in your article page if you use article summaries and intros using the excerpt.

Those familiar with more portal-type or publication-oriented CMS may say that you’d be better off using another package like Props or Drupal but hey, you can do it with WordPress. I can’t say how this compares with Drupal because I haven’t tried using it extensively. I’ve long been planning to experiment with it, though.

Compared with Props, however, I see the above setup as a better solution if you’re a small group that wants to put up an online publication. Props is more rigid and handles content by issue dates. Last time I checked (and it wasn’t an extensive test although I’ve also been meaning to try it for so long), you handle all stories by publication staging.

Props is a solution for more traditional publication companies with teams of editors and reporters and with specific publication cycles like daily newspapers or weekly news magazines.

(Note: I used a webzine as an example for this article. I am currently creating a news website using the techniques I listed above. When I finish it, I’ll write another blog post about it. Sign up for my e-mail alerts or RSS feed to be notified when I post it.)

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  1. This is one area I’m excited to see gain momentum. I have a site running Textpattern, primarily because it makes the distinction between section and categories, etc. really easy. The problem with Textpattern (among others) is that the development seems to have slowed, when compared to WordPress.

  2. Great post Tim!
    I run several news/portal sites that I originally started with Joomla but then ported to WordPress because I found WordPress much easier to manage.

  3. Dominic,
    You mean Max?
    I agree, content is easier to manage and produce in WordPress.

    Why not transfer to WordPress? 🙂 It has a TextPattern import script.

    Thanks for the feedback. It’s great to hear that you find it useful.

  4. Cool! Would do some tests to get the feel of it. Then, I would adopt it to be used in my organization’s site. Thanks!

  5. I’ve tried to do this on my site, somewhat in a similar manner. In the end I agree, WordPress can be more of a CMS software tool rather than just a blogging tool.

  6. Jhay,
    I’ll post the first version of the theme (for bloggers) as soon as I finish the news pages tonight. But you can preview it at http://sandbox.limpag.com/ there’s a theme switcher there if it’s not the default theme. The theme version for magazine-type sites will be released later.

  7. Oh cool, this has been the same sort of goal I have been trying to implement in a somewhat different way at one of my websites: Pop Occulture Magazine. The main page has just the synopsis of the latest articles, but you can get a whole host of other features on the “Articles” page and I pulled in RSS from other sites I run on the “Network” page. It’s great to see other people moving WordPress in this direction!

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  9. Lorelle,
    Hi. Boy is it great to see you comment here :-). Yes, custom category template is great for presenting different categories as “website sections” by changing their layouts.

    It’s ok 🙂

    Jhay, Poldo,
    The theme version for bloggers is now released. I’ll have to add the PSD of the header image as I forgot to upload it last night. I’ll be releasing the version for webzines later.

  10. This came exactly in the right time. I am thinking about news portal for one of my sites. Never thought about the WP. Thanks for a tip.

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  12. Thanks for your Post about running a magazine with WordPress. There are a view points to think about. For my magazine Mysteria3000 (www.mysteria3000.de) I use WordPress since 2005. With some tricks WordPress is a great and fast CMS. 🙂

  13. This is very cool. I have been unhappy with the design of my site The Rock and Roll Report on Typepad for some time now and I have been planning on implementing a development server with WordPress to experiment with. This gives me something cool to shoot for.

  14. Hi, great text. Can I do something similar in blogspot service? This idea to prioritize posts through the post category is clever.

  15. Nice article how to tweak WP to do the same what is possible out-of-the-box with Textpattern. For beginners setting up a new domain I would really recommend to have a look at Textpattern before hacking WP.

    In Textpattern it is possible by default to use sections. Each section can use it’s own CSS and page template. Another nice effect is that you have a new clean URL for the section which shows up as a sub-folder.

    Listing articles in separate i.e. CSS boxes is easily accomplished by the wonderful article_custom tag in Textpattern.

    And of course you can always add a new section whenever you have the desire to do so.

  16. Markus,
    Thanks for the feedback. I have been planning to try TextPattern to check its features out.

    The clean URL for the section, however, can also be implemented in WordPress by specifying that categories be included in the permalink. Sections can also be implemented in WordPress by using custom category pages and you can use a different CSS by calling a different CSS file.

  17. In answer to Marek’s question above, yeah, I believe you can pull this off in a similar way in Blogger.com, but not with category-based distinction. On the other hand, visit beta.blogger.com to see the new “labels” that Google is trying for the next version of Blogger.

    While there is an easy to used Ajaxified interface, I’ve only breezed through it, so I’m not sure if you can pull off what Max is doing above. You can, however, put emphasis on a “permanent” section at the top. This section could be manually changed to emphasize an abstract for whatever post, and link to other important posts. It’ll be similar but not precisely the same.

  18. Hi Max,

    Just wondering if you’ve made the theme at your Sandbox site available yet? I am a re-thinking the design of Cinephile Magazine right now and the Sandbox theme you’ve ported seems right for me. It is more CMS oriented and not so much a blog.

    Thanks for any help.

    Best Regards,

  19. Here’s something I am not quite sure how to do: have an excerpt of the latest news in one category of the blog show up on the front page sidebar. In this case, I am using WordPress as a CMS in general, not really as a news portal. Maybe you have an idea? 🙂 I am fairly new into using WP as a CMS 🙂 Thanks!

  20. Clair,
    You can do it by using the code to grab posts by categories and replace the content in the WordPress loop with the excerpt. Just place the code in the sidebar. If you just want it to appear in the front page sidebar, you can just use conditional tags.

  21. Guru, you are a genius with this theme. I have worked my site around your theme and am pleased with the results. Although, I am struggling on 2 issues. 1) How are you able to place posts in other pages other than the main page? (ie. the four links under the header image) 2) How do you link the left side pics to posts? http://www.az3sixty.com. Thanks.

  22. Max, as busy as you must be, I figured I would drop you one last email summoning your powers. I remain at a stand still, struggling on the same 2 issues. 1) How are you able to place posts in other pages other than the main page? (ie. the four links under the header image) 2) How do you link the left side pics to posts? Thanks for your assistance.

  23. Mike,
    I’m sorry. I’ve been downed by flu these past couple of days. On your questions.
    1) How are you able to place posts in other pages other than the main page? (ie. the four links under the header image)
    —Use categories. In Cebu Living (living.cebunetwork.com), for example, the links under the header image are for stories on Food, Places, Events. What the site does is assign stories any of the three categories and they will be displayed there. You can then replace the link under the header image with the respective links to their categories.
    2) How do you link the left side pics to posts?
    –Just choose a post you want to highlight and and a small image to go with it and then edit the link in the thumbnail ul classes in leftbar.php thus:

    <a href="link to post you want to feature" class="thumb"><img src="url of small image" width="the width" height="the height" alt="the alt text"/><span>Label of photo</span></a>

    Lete me know if you need more help.

  24. How do I point certain articles to the pages linked below the banner? I can’t seem to figure it out!

    I know it has to do with categories, but Im not sure what I should be doing in the code versus what I should be doing in WordPress (creating pages, etc)

    Please help!


  25. Max,

    You have me holding my breath that newsportal-wp will be out soon. It fits with 2 projects already that I am planning plus a few others that are done already.

    I can’t wait to get my hands on that template.

  26. I spent a good part of the summer transforming one of my company’s websites. It’s now a wordpress-powered news/editorial and marketing/membership site. It’s still growing, but I’m impressed with WordPress’ abilities and the community that surrounds it. I use slightly different code (query posts) to generate multiple loops as needed.

  27. Hello Max!

    I think the newsportal-wp theme is very cool. I am planning to run a news site for Pinoy Music and I need a theme for it. It would be cool if I could use that one. Is it available for download?


  28. Max,
    Would you be willing to pass along the files you have and allow others to work on the theme in order to get it finished? I would dearly love to do this and share with the WP community.
    If so, you could email them to me here:
    nuclearmoose at gmail dot com.
    Much appreciated!

  29. We have used wordpress for ages now…and to be honest I do not know of another program that is as flexible as this program for building great sites. Real easy to use…wicked for adding content, effective in marketing… And great if you wanna bespoke your theme. Check out http://www.feedmecoolshit.com maybe it will give you guys some inspiration…and feel free to hit me up anytime if you have questions.

  30. Max,
    I have read through all of the comments seeing if anyone had continued with this magazine style project and made it available for the lazy. I am trying to get my school’s newspaper online, and our tv studio video content online. WP’s easy to use interface is why I want to stick with it. Is this modification going to work with WordPress 2.1? What might I need changing before I go hacking up what we already have. Love any comment/help.

  31. Is it possible to get newsportal-wp theme? I saw several people have already requested it. I was amazed to see it.

  32. Max, can you contact me via email about using the your webzine template for my website? I think your template can make the site much easier to maintain and look good too. I’m looking for some help setting it up.

  33. You are such a sanity saver, Max. I’m doing a site for my kids’ school, managed to install WordPressMU (we’re really ambitious with the project) then got stumped with the layout.

    Now if I can just manage to understand the technical details you posted… hehehe

  34. Hi Connie,
    You can do it! But there’s an even better way of doing it. I’ll blog about it in the next few days, after I finish publishing my posts on the Sweep awards. 🙂

  35. Max, I managed to install a block on the index page for a few thumbnails of the latest “photo gallery” entry and another block for a “feature”! Yippee! Waiting for your new post.

  36. Hi,

    I was wondering if you can help me out with a website link or so, that illustrates the steps that need to be followed inorder to add an Adsense advert, alike the one you have, right at the start of any post.


  37. Well, I haven’t given WP a shot yet, but I’m thinking of adding it for the news section on my site. It has such a classy look. Thanks for the article and the info! Much appreciated.

  38. bai, nangita ko ug about wordpress as cms and stumbled upon your site. grabe, i was quite proud nga usa ka cebuano speaker ang gipanglink sa mga major pro bloggers! keep it up bai!

  39. Hey, the post and comments have been quite helpful in messing around with some other themes, but I haven’t seen anything else quite like the newsportal-wp theme in your sandbox. It looks awesome so far, I was wondering if you have any plans to release it?

  40. I found your site via StumbleUpon, ironic as I just blogged about creating magazine-style layouts for WP. Sounds like we were thinking along the same lines (though I’m twelve months behind you!).

  41. hi, Max.
    i am Mus, from Indonesia.

    Thanks for the nautical wp magazine theme.
    I’ve used it in my arsimedia testing site, with some changes and additional plugins.
    take a look at : http://www.profmustamar.com

    it will be great if you write some comments there.

    thank you.
    great theme!
    great article!
    thank you.

  42. The Cebu Living design is exactly what I have been looking for to update my website and turn it into a magazine style format. Please let me know as soon as the theme for this news style format is available! Thank you!

  43. Lori,
    I think it would be best that you subscribe to my e-mail alert or RSS feed so that you’d know as soon as I release the new theme. Thanks for the feedback.

  44. Max, I just wanted to let you know that I think your Cebu Living site looks great! It’s great to see web designers using tools like wordpress (or which I am a big fan) and creating great design. Well done. The technical notes are also helping me develop one of my own personal sites and has given me some ideas on how to improve it.

  45. Thanks Max, I have been considering using WordPress on my site but we unsure about the layouts and this whole thing of articles appearing chronologically I think that code and the web site it came from will really help me, especially the detailed explanation of the loop. Thanks m8.

  46. Hi Max,

    I am also signing up for email updates: the “Cebu Living” theme/layout will be perfect for an e-zine I plan to release later this year. I was planning to use graphic header backgrounds and borders. Will this be possible? I am *fairly* WP savvy. I am happy to have found your article because I was planning to use Drupal even though I am not as familiar with it.

    Are you available to consult on my project for a fee? Feel free to e-mail me about it, if you decide you aren’t already busy enough!

  47. What a fantastic article! I just finished a WordPress based magazine site. There are so many plugins out there that totally fit the concept of a news/magazine site.

  48. Hi Max,

    I see it’s been a while and I was wondering if that theme is ready yet. I had started building a custom CMS for my neighborhood newspaper, but now I am so glad I found this. Please let me know when the theme is ready. If you have an e-mail waiting list, please add me!

    Thanks for your great work! Cebu looks great!


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  50. Hi Max,

    I use your newspaper theme, at least I will be. and, because I’m using WordPress 2.5, I wanted to use the_tags to create subheads or subtitles for my articles. Something like this:

    This is the Article Title

    However, your loops didn’t look like loops to the_tags (it tests for “the loop”) so when I added this code:

    ;$wp_query->in_the_loop = true;

    to your code, like this:
    in_the_loop = true;

    then voila, the-tags worked perfectly

    You can see website in action and under development at

    Thanks for your theme! If you ever get around to publishing your new theme let us know!

  51. I run number of news and review websites based on excellent set of professional Revolution Themes:
    Also it is easy to build a membership site on top of it with MemberWing membership plugin: http://www.memberwing.com/

    While revolution themes (created by Brian Gardener) are commercial, MemberWing – is a free plugin. Combining them both – produces great results for any custom built news- or magazine- like site, whether membership-based or not.


  52. Hi iam too creating one community news portal and at present looking out for wordpress news portal templates…can you please give me some hint or if possible can u pass on your template which you have use on cebu living

  53. […] Als nächstes lösche ich in der page-home.php den Loop (alles von bis ). Stattdessen füge ich den folgenden Code ein, so wie Max Limpag: […]

  54. One thing I did for Pitch Black Magazine was to incorporate the concept of “Issues”.

    Basically, at the top of the header, I grab the year and month as an integer (for example, May 2009 would be “200905”). Then for each article in The Loop, I compare the date against the current date (as integers, yyyymm) and ignore everything that isn’t from the current month. In the admin area, WP is set to display 50 stories on the main page, which is more than enough to make sure that no content is missed in any given month.

    All previous stories (issues) are in the archives, since the date restriction only applies if “is_home()” is true.

  55. great post thx

    what image plug in are you using that fades a shadow background and centers a larger image view when you click?

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