Multisites allow you to share plugins and themes, and perform some administration tasks, but the multisite network doesn’t share content. For that you need a plugin such as Broadcast. Broadcast is a network content syndication and post sharing plugin that allows you to share content automatically between multisite blogs.
Why would you want to share content? Let’s say you have a network for a school, hospital, or large corporation and division has their own instance of WordPress on the multisite. You might need to deliver a company-wide message, post to specific sites, share templates and media with admins, etc. You can’t do this will just the Multisite alone.
With Broadcast you can post content, such as articles and attachments, to one website and it’s automatically broadcast to each website. Of course you also have control over which websites get the broadcast. This is great for anyone that uses distributed content such as stores, news, education, etc. The broadcasted posts are updated when the parent post is updated. This includes all data: content, title, attachments, tags, categories, users, slug, custom fields, templates, etc.
In this review I take a look at both the free version of Broadcast and some of the many add-ons that are available.
The plugin doesn’t require any extra setup in order to start broadcasting content, but it does have features that you can customize if you want. Let’s take a look at the features.
Settings – The settings give you a black list and a white list for custom fields. This lets you control what’s broadcasted and what isn’t. You can use wildcards to match fields, and you can choose which custom post types will broadcast. You can also perform some debugging functions, set up user roles, SEO, and some miscellaneous settings.
Maintenance – This contains some functions to help you check and repair your database.
System Info – This gives you the software version and memory information about your website and server.
Time Savings – A time savings tracker gives you an estimate of how much time you’ve saved by using Broadcast over having to create each post by hand. You can even set an hourly wage to see how much money you’ve saved.
Uninstall – this lets you remove the tables and settings from the database.
How it Works
The WordPress site that you convert to multisite will become your network publishing platform (this can be expanded with an add-on). From this site you can broadcast to all of the sites on the network.
A small box is added to the editor where you can choose how and where the post will broadcast. Your websites will be listed in the Broadcast to section and you can select the sites you want. I like this feature because you don’t always want to broadcast everything to every site and you don’t always need to set up special settings. Just click the sites you want and you’re done. An add-on will add more features to this tool.
Each of the sites received the complete post which included the title, text, an image, a featured image, category, and tag.
I tried several post types and combinations of taxonomies, etc., and it worked perfectly every time. For example, I created a new test post, set it up as a quote post type, and selected for it to broadcast to Test3. Just as expected, the post only broadcast to Test3 and had the post type of quote.
There are also options for editing the posts. I can edit the post itself, which will push the edit to each site, or I can edit which sites display the post.
By selecting one of the sites under the Broadcasted heading I can choose options for each of the sites.
I selected Delete Child for Test 2 and the post was removed from that site. I selected Edit for the post and went back into the visual editor where I could choose Test 2 and hit update if I wanted to repost the article to that site again. I hit the update button and went back to Test 2 and the post was there.
Thoughts on Using it
I was impressed at how easy it was to use. I didn’t look at the documentation in order to share posts. It was so intuitive that I just started using it.
It even broadcasts drafts if the child websites are clicked. I like this because you can create a template or broadcast a note for the individual website admins to see.
You can also unlink the content from the parent content if you want. This way you can publish an article or page and the website admins can unlink it to make their own changes, and they won’t lose their changes if you update the original on the parent site.
There are four add-on packs available that add functionality.
Add-on packs include:
- 3rd Party Pack – third-party plugins that detect features and integrate plugins.
- Control Pack – gives you extra control over what can be broadcasted and how.
- Efficiency Pack – makes broadcasting more efficient and saves time.
- Utilities Pack – semi-related to broadcasting but very useful.
You can also buy a complete pack that includes all add-ons.
For my review I installed the complete add-on pack and activated it on the network. This gave me 57 additional tools. If there’s a feature you want that’s not available in the plugin it’s probably available in the add-ons. Here’s a quick look at a few of them.
Per Blog Taxonomies
This gives you a lot more options in the editor. You can delete posts with the same title, choose the child status, update local links, lock the post, choose permalink options, select child properties to protect, determine how to sync, set child permalinks and categories independently, and more.
I modified the categories and permalinks to Test 2 and it changed instantly while Test 1 and Test 3 remained as default.
Send to Many and Queue
I created several pages but didn’t broadcast them when I published. Fortunately the add-ons added a feature to bulk actions that allowed me to select my pages and broadcast them.
I actually ran into an issue when trying to broadcast and I ended up looking at the documentation, which suggested that I use the queue feature. I selected and ran it, and all pages were posted to the child sites.
A menu copy tool lets you share your menus across the network. You can choose to ignore, overwrite, replace URL’s, etc. If you don’t select a website for the menu to be copied to you will get a popup telling you to make a selection. I like this because it guides you through and keeps you from having to troubleshoot why your websites don’t receive the new menu if you don’t select a site.
The menus still need to be assigned in the dashboard of each child website, but this keeps you from having to create the menu itself in each website.
This lets you create shortcodes with attachment and image ID’s. It modifies the post and ID’s so they’re copied correctly to the child websites.
This one lets you modify PHP and then publish the modifications to the rest of the network. This is excellent for creating theme modifications. You can use the wizard to create a starting point if you want.
The online documentation is highly detailed and divided into several sections, making it easy to navigate.
Broadcast User Manual
This section covers how to use attachments, images, media, custom fields, linking, post actions, and bulk actions.
This covers how to install the packs. It includes screenshots to help you through it.
For developers there is information on API, post actions, and actions.
The Developer Manual includes several snippets that includes:
- “Broadcast From” shortcode
- Select the Back to Parent checkbox
Support for the free plugin comes through the plugin author at the WordPress support forum. You can get support for the premium add-on pack via email.
I only had one issue that I needed support for and it had nothing to do with the plugin. I couldn’t get the multisite itself to work. I ran out of places to check and sent an email to the plugin’s support email (without telling them I was writing a review) and got a response within two minutes with advice on where I can get help troubleshooting the problem.
I ended up asking them several questions and they responded quickly with advice even though my problem had nothing to do with their plugin. This gives me full confidence that they will go the extra mile in solving issues with the plugin.
The Broadcast plugin does exactly what it promises. It’s intuitive, easy to use, and the documentation is well-written. There are four different add-on packs that give it every feature that I could think if needing. I consider Broadcast an essential tool for any WordPress multisite.