A review of Bylines for multi-author and guest-author posts
There are a few use cases where WordPress's equation of users with authors can create a lot of problems. A common example is any site where multiple authors need to be credited for a single post.
Usually, authors who actually own and control posts in WordPress are not what you want for an online newspaper or magazine. Similarly, a college or university site may have content that's authored by many people and a separate group of editors and media producers who prepare and publish it.
If they are forced to generate dummy user accounts to produce a proper byline, that is a significant, time-wasting wrinkle in their workflow.
Traditionally these problems have been solved in WordPress with the ten-year-old Co-Authors Plus plugin, which was first released in 2007 by Shepherd Interactive, and later developed by Mohammad Jangda. Finally, Daniel Bachhuber brought it to its present state when he worked for Automattic, which assumed control of the plugin when he left.
As the name suggests, Co-Authors Plus was originally built to deal with the need for multi-author bylines. As of version 3.0 back in 2012 (thanks to Daniel), it also lets you create “Guest Authors” who are not users but may be mapped to a regular WordPress user account.
Co-Authors Plus has notional support from Automattic and WordPress VIP. Media brands like the New York Times‘ Wirecutter rely on it. With 30,000+ active installs, and a virtual monopoly on the multiple authors niche, you might expect CoAuthors Plus to have progressed a bit further than it has. It is a dated and difficult plugin to implement and use. Daniel — in typical Bachhuber fashion — describes Co-Authors Plus as a “dumpster fire” that needed to be rewritten from scratch.
A free plugin like Co-Authors Plus would never support the amount of work that rewriting it would require, so Bachhuber has essentially done this as his first commercial offering: Bylines. (Not to be confused with Matt Dulin's Bylines plugin, which attaches author names to posts as taxonomy terms.)
Some people at Pressnomics this year suggested to Daniel that he take this project on. Selling Bylines is a new experience and challenge he finds very different from consulting, his usual gig. For indy developers, Bachhuber says it pays long-term dividends to learn to sell your own products. Sales and marketing are new territories for him, but he is embracing this as an educational opportunity.
To ensure he can cover the labor costs of supporting Bylines for a niche market, it's priced at $79 for updates and support on one site, $249 for five sites, and $499 for unlimited support and updates. That pricing is high on purpose; he's aiming for the top of a niche market that appreciates the value of a simple but effective plugin that can be sustained long term.
I expected this market would be centered around media and publishing enterprises. Although he is probably best known in WordPress circles for WP-CLI, Daniel has a background in journalism. In the past, he interned with Grist, worked with Publish 2, CodePress, Fusion, and the CUNY graduate program in journalism. He says his target audience with Bylines is site developers who may or may not work with media publishers, and his main marketing challenge is how to sell Bylines with Co-Authors Plus still available as a free alternative.
Currently, Bylines has feature parity with Co-Authors Plus, and there is a migration tool to Bylines for existing users of Co-Authors Plus. Bylines' customers will have priority input on its future development, but right off the bat, it is a major improvement over its predecessor.
Co-Authors Plus doesn't use
term_meta, and it creates a Custom Post Type for guest authors. The queries it produces are not optimal, and the API is less than intuitive. Written from the ground up, Bylines avoids these problems. It has unit test coverage, no filtering, and prioritizes a smooth theme integration experience. Bylines will be easier for other plugin developers to integrate with their plugins via its REST endpoints.
If you're planning a new site that calls for multiple authors or simple guest author support, Bylines is probably a solid option for you. It's on the pricier end for a “simple” plugin, but this functionality is pretty important for certain publishers, and done well I think it's worth the cost.