Remaking The New York Post For The Digital Age
New York’s iconic tabloid the New York Post called on WordPress.com VIP and partner Alley Interactive in 2013 to fulfill a digital transformation mandate that included rebuilding core publishing services from the ground up, moving to a managed hosting and development platform, and developing new workflows led by its multiplying digital channels rather than legacy print processes.
By partnering with WordPress.com VIP and Alley Interactive, the Post was able to:
- Speed up newsroom workflow and reduce staff frustration
- Support new sister sites and channels under the same infrastructure
- Rapidly deploy and iterate on new functionality in pace with the market
- Eliminate the need for a separate CDN, saving budget and gaining performance
- Realize resource savings that funded new initiatives
- Virtually eliminate downtime and increase visitor metrics
The New York Post is New York’s longest continually published newspaper and over the last few decades has become the nation’s most recognized tabloid. In 2012, the paper faced multiple challenges in a rapidly changing and extremely competitive digital news environment. It had to be able to move print content online seamlessly, while supporting new digital needs, like live sports and weather information and the dynamic interplay between the company’s own channels and social media. Having taken its existing infrastructure as far as it could go, it was time for an overhaul, inside and out. The Post was the first News Corp publication to move entirely to WordPress, and thanks to the Post’s success with WordPress.com VIP, many others have followed suit.
Chief Digital Officer Remy Stern explained the extent of the change he was looking for in his initial project design guidance:
“My instructions to them were that they had to keep the logo because we weren’t going to redesign the logo, and the color red because that was the Post color, but everything else was negotiable.”
Stern quickly settled on WordPress as his content platform of choice, for its flexibility, its reputation as the preferred platform for the enterprise newsroom, and all of the benefits that derive from open source software. From there, word of mouth in the publishing industry led him to the right combination of resources in WordPress.com VIP for its managed platform, support, and guidance, and VIP Featured Partner Alley Interactive to lead development, workflow customizations, and the migration.
Moving 13 years of legacy content out of an older, proprietary content management system, a payload of roughly one million articles, is itself a massive undertaking. Having lived in any system for that long, there are bound to be inefficiencies and overlap built up in the Post’s data. The Alley team worked with The Post to remap hundreds of thousands of old data structures into WordPress, making sure it all fit together properly and ended up in the right places on the new and redesigned platform.
Alley built a platform on VIP for The Post that serves as a single system through which all digital content flows, all managed in one place. This includes the ingestion of print content and syndicated content from dozens of sites and systems into WordPress, all of which can be converted to article content with one click. It also speaks to the vast breadth of endpoints an individual piece of content appears on.
“When you publish an article, it’s going to appear on desktop, it’s going to appear on mobile, it’s going to appear on our iOS app, it’s going to appear on our Android app, it’s going to appear as a Facebook Instant Article, it’s going appear on Apple News, it’s going to appear on AMP...”
Speeding Up Workflow
A big part of the initiative involved close observation of and discussion with the editorial teams, in order to match the WordPress back end and tools to their ideal workflow. Designers and developers went through hours of stakeholder meetings with the Post’s teams to understand their world at a deep level.
Alley then worked to streamline the system and interface to match their workflow, and shave critical hours and minutes from the time news happened to the moment it was posted. For example, they adapted the system’s handling of uploaded images to drastically reduce the work needed to meet the various art specifications. In the legacy system “they had to crop every image eight times. There was no auto-thumbnailing, and there was no intelligent cropping, so they were literally, every image that they would upload, they’d have to upload eight times and crop it into eight different sizes,” according to Stern. In the new system a gallery took five minutes, rather than two hours. “They were totally delighted to move to WordPress,” he said.
One Platform, Many Channels
With the development of a common platform, theme, and infrastructure, The Post was also able to efficiently deploy new channels, including its new PageSix.com, and later, the Decider site. Any new features and functionality developed for one channel can be easily put to use on the other channels as well.
PageSix.com and Decider deployed efficiently on common platform, theme and infrastructure.
Performance Gains Across the Board
In the period after launch, Stern saw major gains in just about every key metric he tracked, from performance improvements to uptime to significant increases in visitor traffic. In 2013 the Post reduced downtime from eleven hours in a single month to virtually zero in its first year on WordPress.com VIP. Stern was extremely satisfied with the results: “Whether you wanted to look at it from a performance standpoint or in terms of speed metrics, or you wanted to look at downtime, or the traffic pre and post launch, all the data supported the decision that we made.”
Before its transition, the Post was paying for additional CDN services on top of its hosting setup. With VIP’s own global content distribution network included at no additional cost, the Post was able to eliminate those external CDN services and realize significant savings. Additional savings came in the form of a faster and more efficient development pipeline optimized to share code across all of its sites. And the flat fee structure of WordPress.com VIP allowed the Post to think beyond its own infrastructure limitations. Stern puts it succinctly: “our hosting costs have not gone up as we’ve more than quadrupled the size of our audience.”
With all of the efficiencies associated with moving away from proprietary software and leaving the performance, scale, security, and maintenance to the VIP managed platform, the Post saved money the first year, and was able to use the money to renovate its newsroom, “a multimillion dollar project, funded entirely with what we saved,” says Stern.
Stern summed up the collaboration with WordPress.com VIP and Alley Interactive: “An entirely new design, a much easier site to navigate, a much better reading experience with performance that was mindbogglingly fantastic.”