Five Hot Free Magazine-Style Themes for WordPress

Gossip, tabloids, sound bytes, Twitter breaking news stories, paparazzi – these things seem to make the world go around.  WordPress is the ultimate tool for publishing of-the-moment stories and making them look sexy at that.  Why not give yourself a leg up (is that a pun?) with these excellent Magazine styled themes for WordPress.  Did I mention they’re totally free?

Grid Focus

Oh let’s just start off by being unconventional – after all – the stars that catch our interest are the ones doing something different.  Grid Focus doesn’t look like the typical glossy magazine layout you might have been expecting from our headline, but it has all the bones to become whatever you desire.  You just have to be ready to roll up your sleeves, open a the can and then paint the town red.  We appreciated designer Derek Punsalan’s response to those complaining about a lack of ad support within the theme :

“I often receive complaints that Grid Focus – or any of my other themes – are not “ad friendly”. Official ad support is nowhere near my list of reasons for giving back to the WordPress community. If ad support is necessary, please modify the template(s) to meet your needs.”  That’s the spirit of innovation I like to encourage.  Wake up people – the curtain is about to go up and you had better be ready to rock the crowd.

grid_focus magazine-style free theme for WordPress
A three-column theme. Convenient navigation bars can be found at the top and bottom of pages. Category archives are presented via a JavaScript shelf which can be found at the top of the page.

Download || Demo

Jello Wala Mellow

A little unusual in its grid-like design, this punchy orange and black theme offers an interesting way to organize a lot of content in an easy to browse layout.

jello-wala-mellow magazine-style free wordpress theme
Jello-Wala-Mello is a news / magazine-styled WordPress theme created for multi-media sites. It requires WordPress 2.3+ to work properly.

Download || PSD Files

Scarlett

The Scarlett theme is just plain hot.  With a sliding large-format thumbnail bar at the top, a built in custom video frame and much more this feels like the place to be when the cameras start flashing.

scarlette-theme magazine-style free theme for wordpress

Download

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|| Source || Demo

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Skyye News

Like the famous Sky Bar on the Sunset Strip, this swanky media-rich theme is like a fully stocked bar in a clean, well lighted place.  Pretty sure when this theme crosses your line of site, you will give it a second look.

skyye-news free theme for wordpress
Skyye News by developer Nomad-One / designer Nathan Rice has an advanced template system that gives you the ability to configure almost everything from the dashboard options menu. Nearly every aspect of the theme is dynamic, from the homepage, single posts, pages, archives, etc.

Download || Live Demo

Small Magazine

Just like its namesake – this handsome theme should be popular due to its familiar print magazine feel.  You may just find yourself wishing you could take it into the bath, or on a plane with you.  Well, technically, who says you can’t.  (Don’t forget to register your blogs with the Kindle marketplace at Amazon! wink)

small-magazine magazine-style free wordpress theme

Download || Source

One of the things all the starlettes, all-star quarterbacks, prom queens, screenwriters and future Spielbergs quickly learn when they arrive in the Entertainment Capital of the World is that they are no longer the only one that is special – you have got be innovative, think on your feet, emulate the ones who have been successful and then find a way to do one better.  The above themes are all great but take them as a point for departure.  You can’t afford to be just another small fish in a big pond – after all, you are here to make your dreams come true so get out there and make a statement even if it is reporting on the statements someone else is making.

Most of all – have fun – your blog is your own damn publication – revel in that fact.

About the Author:

Keram is a new media consultant, music producer, actor and writer who opines on SEO at blogging-fool.com and society at theculturepin.com

. Keram recently released a solo acoustic CD titled “Box”.

The Power of Retweets and How To Harness It In WordPress

By now you have heard the famous story of actor Ashton Kutcher challenging CNN to be the first to reach one million followers on Twitter. The very next day the great Oprah herself signed up for a Twitter account live on her television program. Two days later Barbara Walters followed suit on the View.

There is no question that Twitter has invaded the mainstream and grabbed it piece of Web history. WE have discussed the importance of integrating Twitter into your website in various articles, so today I want simply to point you to one of the hundreds of options for using Twitter within your WordPress blog but in this case, with the focus of displaying how many ReTweets any of your posts has tallied up.

Retweets are, by definition, when another Twitter user likes a link that you have “tweeted” and re-posts it by giving you, or whomever the original poster was, credit for the link.

The Retweet button is for website and blog publishers that want to encourage their audience to Retweet their content on twitter by both offering a tweet button and a dynamically updating stat counter that shows how many times your post has been retweeted.

While implementing it is as easy as copying a small piece of javascript into your site.  Visit this page to see to code:

http://help.tweetmeme.com/2009/04/06/tweetmeme-button/

We are fortunate enough, however, as WordPress users, to have a ReTweet Button from TweetMeme as a WordPress plugin!

To find and install it, simply navigate to your plugins tab from your admin panel and click “Add New.”

In the searchline, enter “Tweetmeme Button” and it should come right up. Click install and then set the options to your liking from the settings section of your Admin panel and you are on your way!

About the Author:

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Keram is a new media consultant, music producer, actor and writer who opines on SEO at blogging-fool.com and society at theculturepin.com.

Integrating Twitter and WordPress

Twitter is quickly changing the way people market and interact with their readers. It’s important to make your blog as Twitter friendly as possible so you can take advantage of this.

Should you waste your time with Twitter? Yes. Twitter is a great way to build traffic for your blogs as well as create interesting relationships with people all over the world. It can lead to many exciting opportunities and help sustain your blog.

Set-up Twitter Account

The first step is to actually get a Twitter account. It’s free and takes minutes to set up. Once you’ve done that you can do many cool things to get it integrated into your blogging flow.

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Twitterfeed

The first step should be to link your blog RSS feed with your Twitter account. This will mean that when you publish a new post on your blog, a notice will go out across your Twitter feed. Your followers will be able to keep up when you write a new post. Doing this is a great way to increase traffic to your blog.

My favorite tool for putting an RSS feed onto Twitter is called Twitterfeed.

TwitThis


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TwitThis is a small plugin that puts a little icon at the bottom of each post. It allows people to quickly and easily post a link to your blog post on Twitter. This is a great way to generate traffic. When someone posts a Tweet, all their followers see it. And if one of those followers likes it, they’ll re-tweet it and it will get seen by their followers and on and on. It doesn’t take a lot to hit critical mass in Twitter, just a great blog post and a big enough audience to Tweet it.

Download TwitThis here

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Let your regular readers know what you’re up to on Twitter. Put your Twitter feed into your blog sidebar. It’s easy and great way to increase traffic to your Twitter profile. There are several ways to do this. You can get a WordPress Plugin that will parse the feed for you. There is also a much easier way. Your Twitter Feed has a built in RSS Feed so that you can just use the WordPress RSS Widget to put it in your sidebar.

Twitter Badge

Make is easy for your readers to find you on Twitter. Find a graphic that you like and link it to your Twitter account. For some great twitter badges, check out this post on Twitter Badges from Twitip.com. Put it in a prominent place so as many eyeballs see it as possible. Pretty soon you’ll find that you’re regular readers are following you on Twitter.

Twitter and Comments

A great way to create engagement with your readers is have them enter their Twitter username when they leave comments. The WP-Twitip Plugin will add a Twitter ID field to your comments form. The script it runs will turn that ID into a link to a user’s Twitter Profile. This will allow to find your users on Twitter and give them an extra bit of engagement with your blog.

Download WP-Twitip-ID Plugin here

Regardless of the method you choose, it can be very beneficial to integrate Twitter within your blog. Not only will you build more readers, but you will also build your following on Twitter and interact with more people that share the same interests as you.

How To Speed Up A Sluggish WordPress Site

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Too Much Stuff

For the average blogger, speeding up a typically sluggish WordPress site can seem one of the black arts. Tinkering around with your php code, optimizing CSS, re-organizing the hierarchy of your Javascript and Ajax files will likely feel like far more than you bargained for when you decided you wanted to get into publishing your ideas online.

There is a reason for thinking about speed however; the inconvenient truth about the web is that you have roughly between three to eight seconds to grab a new reader and keep them reading before they bounce off your page to somewhere else. If in that time your site is too busy loading up all sorts of flare, making too many calls back to the server and even just trying to figure out what its own messy code wants it to do – you are going to lose not just one reader but possibly hundreds.

I have discussed the basic arsenal for optimizing a site – using caching tools to transform your dynamic pages into static HTML files is one of the best ways to get started. The WP-Super Cache is one of the best at this, and the even more aggressive Hyper Cache can do the job as well. Additionally WP Widget Cache should go alongside your site caching plugins so that you can optimize those busy sidebars.

Spring Cleaning For Your WP Site

Remember when you first walked into your new WordPress home? You were so excited to furnish it with all the coolest new toys and sexy furniture so you went to the WordPress Plugin directory and found all sorts of great ideas for decorating the place? How many of those are you actually still using? Did any lead you to change your mind and deactivate them? Do you still really need that fancy AJAX sliding door thingy that displays every one of your Social Web accounts? How many different Twitter Widgets do you have to display to really feel you got the point across that you would like more followers?

Deactivate them. And then delete them. There is a theory that even deactivated plugins cause wordpress to scan over them to do a check for their activation state while loading up your page so you could be wasting precious milliseconds on an unnecessary process. Deleting the plugins won’t make your page speed up per se, but it will save you some space. You can always install them again later. If you don’t remember to, then you probably didn’t need them anyway.

Is your blog’s header an image? Is it an image with you blog’s title and byline laid over top by your theme? Consider making your blog header a static image or an image map if you need to define clickable hotspots on it, rather than having your blog have to pull the title and byline and display it. The static header with the text already built into it is straight ahead optimization.

Is All That Flare Really Making You Money?

If you run a site about high-priced ticket items like HDTV’s, DSLR cameras or yachts, then chances are those animated, rotating  flash ads that pull from a daily or weekly list of top sellers are a good idea. But if you are running a music or knitting site and selling yarn or mp3’s then those ads are likely making you pennies a month at best and at worst just a drain on your site’s load time. Consider removing them or using a static banner ad that can be cached. I found these to be one of the biggest culprits for my own sites’ load times.

Obsessive Time Sculpting

If you feel like getting under the hood and getting your hands a little dirty, going into your theme editor can reward you with some nice speed optimizations. Programmer extraordinaire Joost de Valk offers the following tips at his site for getting into the code itself.

As Joost explains:

“Because themes have to be easy to spread, they have to get almost all the blog specific info from the database. That results in a lot of queries for stuff that you could just hard-code into the theme.”

Go to your WP admin panel ->Appearance->Editor->header.php and look for the following code at the top:

<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" <?php language_attributes(); ?>>
<head profile="http://gmpg.org/xfn/11">
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="
<?php bloginfo('html_type'); ?>;
charset=<?php bloginfo('charset'); ?>" />

You could replace it with the simpler:

<html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml" dir="ltr">
<head profile="http://gmpg.org/xfn/11">
<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-8" />”

Similarly in WP admin panel ->Appearance->Editor->footer.php look for

<?php bloginfo('name'); ?>

and replace it with your Site Name

Look for:

<a href="<?php bloginfo('rss2_url'); ?>">

And replace it with your RSS2 feed. For example if you use Feedburner and your RSS2 feed is http://feeds.feedburner.com/MyAwesomeWPBlogDude, you would put:

<a href=" http://feeds.feedburner.com/MyAwesomeWPBlogDude">

The same can be done for your Comments feed.

Note: you may want to actually copy and paste the RSS and Comments RSS feeds from your site before you do this since that is the easiest way to know what your feeds actually are.

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I have also seen people suggest the CSS Compress plugin that “automatically removes comments, new lines, tabs, and gzip compresses (GZIP) any CSS file called with “<?php bloginfo(‘stylesheet_url’); ?>” – but use it with great caution. While it may help shave off some milliseconds from a rather simple theme like Kubrick, I have seen it wreak havoc on more complex themes.  It isn’t the fault of the click-and-go plugin, but the fact that sometimes one-stop solutions aren’t the same as one-size-fits-all solutions.

Which leads me to a very important point: make sure you have a database backup plugin installed – I recommend Lester Chan’s DBManager:

Not only can you backup your database in the event of a misstep, but after you have cleaned out your WP closets, as it were, you’ll want to bust out the vacuum. Click that DB Optimize button to get things sparkling again.

Speed Tests

If you want to check up on how your site is doing, consider installing Firebug for Firefox and then the YSlow plugin (Yslow needs Firebug to run).  Then when you visit your site, click the YSlow button at the bottom of your browser and check the site’s performance. You will get a report showing you where things can be improved.  If you aren’t using Firefox, you can also visit Pingdom

‘s site to check your blog’s loading time and get a detailed report about how it loads.

Thanks to WordPressGarage.com for sourcing the above.

Sitting Back

Optimizing your WordPress site is a very important but also delicate job.  Make sure to research the effects of any plugin beforehand and to backup regularly.  The list of optimizations in this article is by no means comprehensive or even right fo everyone, but I hope it serves as a fair introduction to making your site really shine.

Please share your own thoughts, tips and experiences with get your WordPress site clean and zippy.  I would love to learn about other techniques people have found useful.

About the Author:
Keram is a new media consultant, music producer, actor and writer who opines on SEO at blogging-fool.com and society at theculturepin.com. Listen to his podcast at KeramCast.com and find him on Twitter @ConstantChange.

WordPress and Twitter Make Good Buddies

Running Buddies - by OakleyOriginalsTwitter is one of the fastest growing methods for communicating or “curating” the endless stream of data being generated daily online.  For the same reason that blogging took hold at such a feverish pace – for its tendency to consistently encourage and offer fresh content and then push that content through an RSS feed – Twitter strips away all the extras and offers the distilled goods in a micro sound bite portions.

Like WordPress, a good part of Twitter’s continued growth and success can be attributed to the third party developments that allow people to customize how they serve and receive the content.  By hooking in to Twitter’s API, users can twit, retweet, update content in a wide variety of ways.

There are a number of excellent plugins and widgets for WordPress that serve different purposes.  Here are some of the most popular:

Ned Kelly trailer Top Twitter Plugins for WordPress

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Tweet This creates a conspicuous button or link at the end of a WordPress post that automatically shortens the URL to your page so that you can better decide how to phrase your tweet and fit it within the 140 character limit.  (Note: it is recommended that you do not use up the entire 140 characters available so as to leave room for those who want to retweet you)

TwitThis is similar to Tweet This in that is pre-shortens the URL of the page you are sending to Twitter.  A slightly different implementation, however.  See which of the two is better suited to your needs.  Using both would be redundant and potentially problematic and confusing for your reader.

TweetSuite is the All-In-One-SEO-Pack equivalent for implement Twitter into your blog.  Offering server-side TweetBacks, ReTweet-This buttons, a large Tweet-This Button and the option to automatically tweet new posts.  use this last option with discretion especially if you run a busy blog.  Power Tweeters recommend not posting more than once an hour.  But Twitiquette (as Caroline Middlebrook calls it) is beyond the scope of this article.

Twitter Tools is a nice two-way plugin in that links your WP-blog to your Twitter account allowing you to pull your tweets into your blog and conversely create new tweets on blog posts and from within WordPress itself.

Twitter Feed adds the nice touch of using your OpenID to login in to your twitter stream, displays the URL for your blog’s RSS feed, and the ability to tell it how often to post your updates to Twitter.

WP TwiTip ID

TwiTip.com jimmy witherspoon – spoon so easy mp3 download is the Twitter-centric blog created by Darren Rowse, founder of the extremely popular site ProBlogger.net.  This hot rod plugin encourages reader participation by adding the option to a comment form to display the user’s Twitter username along with their reply.

There are also a variety of widgets for displaying your Twitterfeed in your sidebar.  The simplest and perhaps most brutish way of handling this is to get the code from Twitter itself.  Go to your profile at Twitter.com and look for the Tools section where you can generate the code to place in a Text widget.  It may take some tweaking to get it to look right with your theme.  Alternatively you can try the Twitter WordPress Sidebar Widget. Again try out arious options and see which works best for you.

Finally, if you are just getting accquainted with the Twitterverse, take a look at Tweetdeck

– a third party standalone program for accessing and organizing all your friends, messages, replies, and tweets on Twitter.  You can set filters so that a column only displays messages by certain types of posters (for example “Music Industry” or “SEO masterminds”). There are new stand-alones coming out every day, but this should give you an idea of what an alternative interface can be.

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Get A Running Start on the Mainstream

The IT prophets are starting to mumble about ways in which Twitter might replace Facebook and even Google Search altogether.  If you aren’t hip to it yet, give it another look – you will still be far ahead of the mainstream and as you learn about the unwritten conventions for using it well, you will begin to tap into a very powerful new way to promote you precious content.

About the Author:
Keram is a new media consultant, music producer and writer who opines on SEO at blogging-fool.com

and society at theculturepin.com.  Listen to his podcast at KeramCast.com

Photo “Running Buddies” – by OakleyOriginals used under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License