Parent Automattic WordPress and Google announced to invest $1.2 million in creating a fast, secure, low-cost publishing system made to the needs of small newsrooms called Newspack. It’s explicitly targeted to smaller, local news publishers that have struggled with traffic and revenue and don’t have lots of technology resources.

The Google News Initiative (GNI) provides funding and builds new features optimized for publishers. The latest project focuses explicitly on local newsrooms.

The prime objective of Newspack is to help small local publishers achieve its aim by building best practices into the product while removing distractions that may divert scarce resources –

Automattic WordPress is summoning publishers to apply for being the initial testers of the platform and provide them with feedback. The company offers an application form at the end of its blog post saying applications are due by February 1. There will be no charge for the use of the platform through January 2020.

Local newspapers were one of the original local marketing channels. They’ve been eclipsed by big tech platforms over the past couple of decades, as they struggled to keep up with changing consumer behaviors. After being criticized for years as a destroyer of traditional news media, Google began pouring money and resources into supporting the industry. Google’s efforts might be called enlightened self-interest.

Development on Newspack will begin in the coming weeks with a global launch for publishers scheduled later this year. Early sign-ups are open now, and a beta version is expected by July.