How Al Jazeera Leverages Headless WordPress to Bring Its Digital Vision to Life

Webinar

When Digital CTO David “Hos” Hostetter arrived at Al Jazeera, the media giant was struggling to manage half a dozen different CMSes to bring breaking news to a global audience across channels and devices. 

Usability, training, and productivity were efficiency nightmares. Privacy and security holes were also concerns—especially for a media network “with a big bullseye” on them.

Hostetter led a push to unify everything on one secure, flexible content management platform. One that would drive toward “elegant simplicity,” seamlessness, security, and lower cost of ownership.

Key takeaways:

  • Why implementing a headless CMS architecture—which decouples the front and back ends of content delivery and management—can help an enterprise deeply personalize the content experience for a worldwide audience.
  • How unifying on a single, agile CMS platform empowered the Al Jazeera newsrooms—amplifying their content mission “to be fearless in the pursuit of truth and the voice for the voiceless.”
  • Why Al Jazeera chose WordPress VIP to bring its digital vision to life—incorporating the ubiquity of WordPress with the latest advances in technology and security innovation. 

Speakers

David “Hos” Hostetter, Digital CTO, Al Jazeera

As a mission driven technologist, Hos and his team at Al Jazeera Media Network innovate and deploy technologies that day in and day out enable a forceful and empathetic Voice for the Voiceless that simultaneously exceeds market leading privacy, usability, and revenue objectives. Hos has spent decades at the forefront of big data, digital media, and machine scalability across multiple positions with various companies, including publicly traded Hipcricket (CTO) acquired by Aurea, Loudeye (CTO and Executive Vice President) acquired by Nokia, MOD Systems (VP Engineering), and more than 11 years at Microsoft.

Jen Rockvoan, Technical Account Manager, WordPress VIP

At WordPress VIP, Jennifer drives Premier Customer Success through personalized and proactive account management. She has a wide range of experience leading technical projects for large brands such as NBCUniversal, GE Aviation, and CenturyLink. Besides supporting the technical planning and managing of high-performing customers sites, she enjoys outdoor activities, sharing great meals, and road trips with her family.

Transcript

Jennifer Rockvoan (00:00):

Thanks for joining our webinar, How Al Jazeera Leverages Headless WordPress to Bring Its Digital Vision to Life. I’m Jen, a technical account manager on the WordPress VIP team. Something we get a lot of questions about are headless or decoupled WordPress architectures, where content is created and managed on the backend in WordPress but any technology can be used on the front-end.

Jennifer Rockvoan (00:23):

Since they became a customer, Al Jazeera Media Network has been constantly innovating their headless WordPress platform to support their organizational vision. We invited David Hostetter, or Hos, the digital CTO of Al Jazeera, to share with us how they leverage headless WordPress for their digital experience. Hos, would you like to kick us off by telling us a little bit about yourself?

David Hostetter (00:49):

Sure. It’s great to be here. It’s wonderful partnering with WordPress VIP, and look forward to moving forward with that. But my background comes from originally being part of building an engineering framework for things and starting with going to work for a company, Laser Systems, in the early ’90s and then moving to a little company at the time called Microsoft and working there for many years and then going through multiple startups, working with small startup from WPP and then ultimately doing a drone startup.

David Hostetter (01:20):

And ultimately, during the drone startup, we decided to sell fun, and my one of my colleagues reached out, or was reached out by Al Jazeera and was pulled into the mix. And as he was pulled in, he decided to reach back out to me and asked me to take a look. And one of the things that was interesting was seeing the mission of Al Jazeera; that voice for the voiceless really spoke to me. This was during the 2017 election where there was a lot of the news bias and things that was going on.

David Hostetter (01:47):

And one of the things that I found amazing about Al Jazeera was one of its other pieces to the whole pie was the opinion and the other opinion. And in looking at that, it opened up some interesting avenues for me. I was used to coming into companies and helping them really consolidate and get a clearer, true picture of road maps and then go out and execute on that. And so I had an opportunity to start working with also a lot of different cultures and looking at the diversity of Al Jazeera’s newsroom and the diversity of the different people that we were looking at, and next thing you know, I was in Doha for a bit and also in DC, moving from Seattle, and got the opportunity to come in and be a part of this amazing mission.

Jennifer Rockvoan (02:27):

That sounds amazing. Can you tell me a little bit about the team that you work with at Al Jazeera?

David Hostetter (02:32):

Yeah, so the team’s comprised of a couple different areas. I’m responsible on the technology side, and that has a wide range of things, really, on the product world. But we partner really, really closely with both business development and your ad sales teams and things, and then also, obviously, with the editorial newsrooms, and then also reporting into one group within the digital umbrella. What’s amazing about that is that each one of us had an equal seat at the table and so we’re able to work really, really holistically together and really tying into some of our digital mission, which is to become the most human-centric media company on the planet. And in doing so, that means really trying to understand your audience and really digging into what actually motivates them.

David Hostetter (03:15):

But it’s not a traditional news organization where it’s really driven by either 100% on the editorial or on the ad sales side of things; it really is more about that balance. It gets back to one of the things that I mentioned earlier, which is the opinion and the other opinion. Jazeera, one of its amazing pieces of its journalism is that a lot of times they’ll go into region and they’ll stay there not just when it’s happening but years afterwards. I can point back to some of the bigger earthquakes that have happened in some countries, and that Jazeera would stick there for the duration, so you would actually see, really, and end-to-end in terms of not just when the event’s happening but the whole picture in terms of from start to hopefully the finish of something, and that’s one of the amazing pieces.

David Hostetter (03:56):

But in coming into Jazeera, one of the things that we found was that, like a lot of companies that I’ve been apart of in terms of private equity and things, is that there was a lot of organic growth. And with organic growth means chaos a lot of times, and so you had different groups spinning up that had very, very different kinds of technology. And one of the-

Jennifer Rockvoan (04:19):

It sounds-

David Hostetter (04:19):

Oh, sorry.

Jennifer Rockvoan (04:22):

I was just going to say joining a new team like that, joining a new organization like that, it sounds incredibly fulfilling but also pretty challenging. What was your initial goal when you joined Al Jazeera?

David Hostetter (04:34):

Yeah, well I split the initial goals into multiple pieces. First was really just getting an understanding of what was going on, and so part of that was also getting the right people involved. I was very, very blessed and fortunate to be able to get out and hire in some people that had had some amazing experience in the industry. My team, pulling in people from Apple, pulling in people that had Microsoft, SAP Concur experience, pulling in people that used to be very, very high up within Amazon that actually used to run the performance for the home page of Amazon. Getting these people in and then ultimately having them go off and do some exploratory work to begin with. Really understanding what was the landscape that we’re inheriting? What were the tools that were working? What were the processes that were working? What wasn’t working?

David Hostetter (05:19):

And as we dug in, one of the things that we uncovered was, like I said before, there was a lot of chaos that was going, a lot of organic growth, and so there were multiple different CMS systems that were being supported by a really, really small team, and that was Drupal systems, that was homegrown systems, that was third party systems. And all these things, there wasn’t any coordination, there wasn’t any ability to manage them holistically. And there weren’t even traditionally what I would consider really, really great engineering processes involved there as well in terms of continuous engineering and continuous development platforms that were there to ensure that you were able to launch and have a pretty high confidence level that when you launched that things weren’t going to fall apart.

David Hostetter (05:57):

Looking across this wide corpus of things, it became much, much bigger project than what I had originally anticipated coming into the company, and so you have a really… It was that first understand what was going on, next was actually just getting control of what was going on, and so that was where we implemented a lot of projects that I knew were going to be throwaway work, but ultimately it was putting in the right engineering processes so then we could actually take the next steps which was looking at what is the bigger piece, and that’s what led us down this path of what we call our unified CMS, or UCMS project.

Jennifer Rockvoan (06:30):

Can we start at the beginning a little bit and just talk a little bit about the channels and platforms that you run?

David Hostetter (06:40):

Yeah. The different channels that we support are really very, very varied in terms of the different groups. There’s our core news media platforms, and that would be the Arabic channel, the English channel, [Balkans in Mubash 00:06:53] or documentary. And they’re more, I would say, traditional news platforms. And then we also have other platforms that we support in terms of AJ+ and some other more non-linear pieces that would actually open up in terms of regional specific areas.

David Hostetter (07:10):

And one of the things that we’re looking at when we’re looking at all these different groups is that it’s challenging. You have the full end-to-end suite of tools that you traditionally look at. One of the big things that we use right now is obviously our web presence is important, so our O&O platforms and things. In looking at that, what I was saying before is that we had many, many different systems, and part of those different systems is that when we’re looking at platforms, they had to be able to support really a really very, very hard set of requirements. Arabic. Not everybody in the world supports Arabic, that [buy-die 00:07:42] mentality of things.

David Hostetter (07:43):

As we started looking at different platforms for that UCMS project, understanding what were our business needs? What were the editorial team’s needs? really became very, very paramount. And in looking at that, we’ve cast a pretty large net to begin with; I think over two dozen companies that we were looking at. And as we were going through things, it was challenging. We had a really, really thick RFI that we put out there. We brought in multiple different teams to bring in and actually do testing and things and do some prototyping.

David Hostetter (08:14):

And in the end, we didn’t find anything that really suit our needs and so we threw back… And it’s funny because originally WordPress wasn’t really on our list of things. I know we’re talking with a company that WordPress is what it eats, breathes, sleeps, drinks; it is the corpus of the company. And it’s funny that originally I ruled it out because I wasn’t a huge fan of the PHP side of things.

David Hostetter (08:37):

But what was interesting is when we got to the end of this RFI project and found that really nothing met our needs, it was funny, one of my colleagues reached out to me, they’re like, “You really should take a closer look at this thing. Obviously it has huge support in the world and everything else.” And again, every journalist on the planet has probably touched the WordPress side of things at some point in their careers, and so I reluctantly went into it.

David Hostetter (09:02):

But as we started digging in and actually understanding what was out there in the world, what we uncovered was that there was this whole new directional shift in WordPress in terms of really on the front-end moving forward with this decoupled or headless version that we talked about. What was nice about that, it was actually pushing the technology envelope, if you will. It was using technologies like GraphQL and React and JS and other technologies that I actually thought were the right ones for us to scale on the front-end from an audience perspective. But then on the backend what was amazing about it was still being able to take advantage of that tried and true WordPress experience that most people are used to using in terms of from an editing perspective and really allowing us to bring people up to speed quickly. As we really dug in, what was interesting to see was it really came to light that this was a really amazing direction to go.

David Hostetter (10:00):

In addition, we did more research. As we were looking, we saw some other very, very large news organizations that had actually made the decisions to move forward with the same architecture. And looking at TechCrunch had actually worked, I think, with WordPress VIP and had made some decisions to go forward with that decoupled and headless architecture. And then also, when we looked at one of the biggest companies in the world in terms of from a media perspective, The New York Times, seeing what they had done and really digging a little bit more there, it just really made more and more sense.

David Hostetter (10:32):

In addition to that, if you take a couple steps back, the other thing that I love was that it really was very tightly coupled from my perspective in terms of Al Jazeera’s mission with regard to… We had that voice for the voiceless and WordPress has its mission in terms of really empowering this world that we live in from an information perspective. To me, being that it’s open-source, I really love that whole concept because I think it has so many different benefits, from security to really, again, just helping the rest of the world, and so it really aligned well with, I thought Al Jazeera’s overall philosophy on things, and mine and my team’s as well.

Jennifer Rockvoan (11:11):

We’re so glad you made the decision to move to WordPress and WordPress VIP. You talked a little bit about the front-end and the ubiquity of WordPress and the familiarity that a lot of teams have. Can you talk a little bit about your journalist experience prior to the WordPress headless shift to now?

David Hostetter (11:34):

Yeah, and I think this comes from a lot of different places too, is that especially older systems generally are very a lot more clunky. And it’s not something just specific to Al Jazeera, it’s really specific to if you look around the industry is that there’s been a lot of different companies moving down these directions to really get to more simple… we call it elegant simplicity and seamlessness from a usability perspective. But what was really nice is that previously it was bad because it would take potentially weeks to months for people to come in, especially if they weren’t necessarily the technical people, and so depending on a lot of factors – where people came from, all sorts of different things – it could be really challenging to bring people up on some of these older CMS systems.

David Hostetter (12:17):

What was great about the WordPress experience is that our experience is so easy that, really, I would say it’s generally a couple hours before somebody’s able to come up. And if they’ve had experience with WordPress before, it’s almost just turnkey. We point them at it and they’re like, “Wow, so simple,” because the team has done a great job of implementing it in a fashion that really makes a lot of sense, and it’s just very, very easy just to get on there and use. That’s one of the great things about picking this technology and this platform, if you will, and really pulling that together to make it great for end users. And I think that’s not just from a journalism perspective, really across the universe of people. It’s really just about create great user experiences that are easy for people just to get in and they can generally figure things out without asking me questions.

Jennifer Rockvoan (13:03):

Definitely. Thanks for that.

David Hostetter (13:05):

Well, one of the things with the headless side of things that’s really important to understand is it gives you a lot of flexibility. Part of that flexibility means that, again, using those different technologies like the GraphQL side of things, and then also using that to React side gives you a lot of flexibility with regard to what kind of solution are you going to deliver? There’s different things that we’re looking at and that we’re actually starting to really come into its fruition at this point in time, which is creating personalized experiences or being able to pull in from multiple channels.

David Hostetter (13:35):

One of the things that I’m super excited about that we’re just about ready to launch here… There’s already an alpha of it out called AJ Alpha, but the reality is that it was so successful in terms of our own internal testing is that it’s really going to become the next generation for the Al Jazeera mobile applications. What’s amazing about it is that it’s something that’s really the first of its class that I’ve seen. I haven’t seen any other news organization really have something like it where you can go in and through one app you can actually get the voice from different newsrooms. What’s great about that is that each one of our newsrooms, even though we’re all Al Jazeera, they all have a different way of looking at different events, and so what’s really exciting about this is that through one application you can actually use, you can choose to sign up for the Arabic, for the English, for the Chinese, for the [Mobashir 00:14:21], for the Balkans side of things.

David Hostetter (14:24):

And what’s great about that is then it gives you a really interesting view of the world. One of the things that I love about Jazeera, but really the rest of the world is to actually get to view these different ways of seeing a story. What’s very interesting is to see how’s English covering it? How’s Arabic covering it? And then trying to see what are the subtle differences there? And actually, there’s points of view that you get that are really interesting. And that’s one of the things that I love about this new application, like I said, it’s really the reason that we’re able to do it is we’re able to really take advantage of that graph in the background, and it makes it so simple, so seamless that one of my engineers was able to pull together the prototype super quickly and get something live on his own and get it out there. Now we’ve obviously taken more of a team approach to things, but it’s really because of the architecture that we chose initially that gave us the flexibility to go off and do this.

David Hostetter (15:15):

And what’s great is that it really opens the door for more personalization. And again, Al Jazeera’s a little bit different because most companies from a personalization perspective, a lot of it’s about really trying to build that monetization side of things. One of the things that we’ll be very, very careful about is not just trying to create echo chambers for somebody. Just because you see a story in this way doesn’t mean that’s the only way that we want you to actually see that. What we want to do is we want to be able to, again, give you some of the different opinion and maybe a slightly different opinion, so you can actually get a more balanced coverage of a different event.

David Hostetter (15:48):

And we’re looking at doing things on the backend that actually help us from machine learning in AI perspective, but then on the front-end taking advantage of that and it allowing us to actually share that information with end users. And that may not always be help be what the end user wants to see, and so that’s where it’s a little bit different from the standard personalization which is hammer stuff, only the things that you really care, so if you’re in India, maybe that’s all you want to see is coverage about India. But the reality is it’s trying to make sure that we’re being very balanced and really using that journalistic integrity in there as well, which I think is something that I’m super excited about us working on in the coming months and years.

Jennifer Rockvoan (16:32):

I’m pretty excited about it when it’s available as well. Okay, so let’s see. Talk a little bit about the tech architecture and how WordPress VIP fits in.

David Hostetter (16:45):

Yep, yep. Again, one of the great things here was pulling in different partners to help us because obviously Al Jazeera didn’t have a lot of experience on the WordPress side of things. And in terms of when we made the decision to move forward with this, one of the things I wanted to do is make sure that we weren’t in it alone, and so looking at what’s the partnerships out there that we could actually move forward with, and WordPress VIP was an obvious choice. One of the things that’s great about them was when we were first starting is that really taking advantage of the expertise and the code reviews and everything else and then also even some of their partners like rtCamp and 10up, and really looking at them as bringing in their expertise as well to help augment my team, my internal team’s desires here.

David Hostetter (17:29):

From a technical perspective, it really was this end-to-end architecture, and so we’re able to have, really, the best of all worlds. One of the things that was important to us was maintaining our control of things so that there was really no one single point of failure and that it wasn’t a dependency. What’s been awesome is that, again, VIP has been such a good partner in terms of helping us both from an internal perspective and from an operational perspective, but really been very supportive of even still giving us the ability to be very flexible in terms of if anything were to happen, have that other side of things, which I think is important for people because the best partners are the ones that have confidence in their own support and services and allow us to really be able to have that flexibility that we need being an international media company.

David Hostetter (18:15):

From an end-to-end perspective, when we went through our technical evaluations with VIP, was really understanding how are they built up? Getting a really, really good partner and close relationship with the technical teams there, from the lowest layers… Which I will say, the teams that we work with on a day-to-day basis are really amazing. The kinds of people that VIP brings in are the kinds of people I would bring in in my own teams as well, and so that’s what’s been really, really nice is that I know that there’s a high level of trust between both companies and, really, between the people. Because when all is said and done, it’s all about the people that run these things.

David Hostetter (18:50):

And then as you go up, VIP’s had some changes in the last year as well, which is… they’ve been very good in terms of being a good partner and sharing with us and, again, creating the right relationships at those levels too. Like I say, it’s been a good relationship. But from a technical perspective, we were, I think, the very first, or one of the very first customers going out the door with this decoupled and headless architecture, and it’s been a very, very good ride overall. We’ve had our bumps in the road like any company, but that’s something that I also say is a good thing to understand is that we don’t want to cover these things up; it’s about transparency, it’s about partnership, and really understanding how do you move forward together? And one of the things I think that’s been great for other companies that come in is that VIP’s gotten so much good experience with us, and I think we’re a very good partner in terms of helping both of us grow and seeing things rise that it ends up benefiting the whole ecosystem. And that’s, again, back to WordPress itself and that whole desire to make the community better, I feel like VIP is definitely in that we are from a partner perspective as well at Al Jazeera and seeing us both continue to become more adaptive and more responsive with regard to this new architecture.

David Hostetter (20:03):

At this point, I would say they’re becoming more and more skilled, they’re changing some of the ways that they did things initially, and we’re learning together and it’s been really a great partnership. From an architecture perspective, it really is we do most of our development in-house really up on the Amazon side of things, and then we actually share packages that go through a process that get pushed out into the VIP architecture. And then VIP manages on their side the backend in terms of the deployments from a WordPress perspective and ensuring they’re keeping WordPress up-to-date and working with us in a close… We have a canary environment as well that we can do infrastructure upgrades, and that would be everything in terms of some of the caching services and everything else, the databases and everything else, and then those things can get rolled into production. But it’s really a great partnership, and there’s a lot of… Again, these are complicated, complex systems, but what’s nice is that the teams are good in terms of working together and making things more elegantly simple; as simple as you can get, which has been great. And then moving forward, it was really trying to get WordPress, some of their skills spun up with regard to managing the GraphQL services and managing some of these other pieces.

David Hostetter (21:18):

And then it’s also tying in… WordPress VIP has a great CDN system their selves. We actually partner with other providers, the Akamais and the Fastlys, and that’s been great in terms of, again, being able to leverage the best-of-breed in all these different places and take advantage of them and make a solution that really is robust in that you can be anywhere in the world and have an amazing experience from a performance perspective, which is critical. Really, that end-to-end architecture and working very tightly with VIP and with my technical team has been just a great experience overall.

Jennifer Rockvoan (21:54):

Really great to hear that. I know that we appreciate the partnership with Al Jazeera as well. Given your experience – you’ve been working on headless architecture for awhile now on WordPress VIP – are there any key learnings that you can share?

David Hostetter (22:10):

Yeah. I think one of the biggest thing is that, again, it’s something that having the right people around you to… If you don’t have WordPress experience, for instance, is making sure that you get the right teams, but also looking at getting… When all is said and done, it’s very much about the people and the partnerships that you’re establishing, and so getting people who are able to adapt because, like anything in the technology space, these things are moving at light speed, and so you need to have your full-stack engineers that can come in and understand end-to-end what’s going on because it’s definitely not as simple as just rolling out WordPress itself. If it was just end-to-end monolithic WordPress, much, much easier. That doesn’t necessarily give you the same flexibility, the same scalability that you get rolling out this new decoupled architecture.

David Hostetter (22:56):

One of the other things that we’re looking at is trying to create working groups that can actually talk together. We’re happy to talk with people that are actually considering going down this path too to share, again, some of the pros and the cons associated with this. The cons are it’s not out-of-the-box, so it’s not the easy end-to-end support that you get, but I would say that’s changing too. As things are progressing, and again with the community and everything else, it’s becoming, I think, easier and easier to do this. And actually, as we’re seeing more and more people go down these paths, it lightens the load a little bit from when we were first doing this. Because I would say even though there are those other companies, they were all doing it siloed, and one of the things that we want to really see is taking advantage of getting more and more people going down this path because I think it has so many positives, especially on the backend.

David Hostetter (23:48):

Again, when we look at things like security, there are things that we know that WordPress has had a couple, let’s say, bumps in the road where because we chose this architecture, it really had almost zero impact on us from that perspective, and so another positive is that I would say the security model is, from my perspective, is better going down this path. But, like anything, security, it’s a moving target, and so the one thing I’ll say; WordPress has got so many people on it that obviously there’s probably more people looking at it than on the other side. But that being said, when we really dig into things on the technology side of this, it really ends up being something that’s pretty fabulous.

David Hostetter (24:29):

The other thing is obviously pulling in engineers. When you’re pulling in engineers, engineers, there’s different kinds of engineers and different people who come from either full-stack or maybe they’re more monolithic in their approach. One of the things that’s been great for us is that when you’re advertising that, hey, you’re not just working with PHP but you’re also working with the graph and with React JS and with React Native and some of these other pieces, it actually makes it easier from a recruiting perspective, really, to dig in and understand more in terms of what’s going on.

David Hostetter (25:04):

From an end-to-end perspective, a lot of what we look at on the front-end is that from an end user coming in from, let’s say I’m in Tunisia, and coming in it’s understanding what’s that full stack look like? Where do things come in? A lot of what we do, it gets cached, and so that caching comes from Akamai or Fastly on the front-end, and then it comes back from an origin server perspective to our services that are actually hosted from a WordPress VIP. It’s really understanding that end-to-end architecture and why we picked that up, so it’s multi-tiered.

David Hostetter (25:40):

The other thing that gives us, again, it’s that defense in depth, and so there’s multiple different layers of defense that we have that we can actually fight off because Jazeera, we’re constantly facing denial of services attacks, constantly facing other kinds of attacks across the board. What’s nice with regard to this architecture is that it really does allow us to have very varied ways of segmenting the traffic and keeping us, I think, definitely from a security perspective, it’s a good architecture.

David Hostetter (26:08):

And then on the other end of things is making sure from an end-user perspective is just making sure they have access to a lot of the features that any journalism room would want, but it also makes it easier for us from a support perspective so I don’t have teams having to support a million different platforms at the same time; it’s really supporting one core platform. Mind you, there’s different builds of these things because each one of the newsrooms does handle things differently, and some of their features are going to be different and specific to them. The other thing is obviously every release that we have we want to actually go out with both the English side of things and then let’s say the Arabic and all the other languages, and so making sure that the different newsrooms are able to get these things simultaneously if possible. Sometimes one newsroom might need something quicker and so we might do things a little bit different, but definitely from a building out teams perspective, it’s made this be much, much simpler than at least it was in the past for us.

Jennifer Rockvoan (27:06):

It sounds like headless on WordPress VIP has been a great decision for Al Jazeera. What’s next?

David Hostetter (27:13):

I think, again, it gets back to really adding some of these additional features, and so taking advantage of some of the newer technologies that are out there. Jazeera’s one that we really haven’t had a subscriber base in terms of using user accounts and things, and so I think what you’ll start seeing later in this year is that we’ll be moving more towards adding those accounts, looking at things from an integration and using best-of-breed, and so we’ll be partnering. And what’s nice about this architecture is that it gives us the ability to really pull in best-of-breed from any of the other major services. We’ll be using things from Amazon, we’ll be using AWS, we’ll be using things from Microsoft Azure, we’ll be using things from Google Cloud GCP and pulling all those things in together and actually making them look, from an end-user perspective like, wow, this is just so seamless. On the backend, there’s a lot of things that are going on, but we still, again, are trying to march towards that elegant simplicity.

David Hostetter (28:04):

But what’s good about this is, again, it allows us to move very, very quickly with trying to move on the features side of things. And again, it’s like anything; we were date driven to begin with and so we’re still… Some of the things that we had, there was a little bit of technical debt when we launched just because of the dates and things that we hit. But that being said, we’re coming to the end of a lot of our re-tooling and re-architecting of the solution and moving into that next stage, which is really about innovation. And innovation on this platform becomes really interesting, and because of the way that we architected it, it makes it very, very easy, like I said, to integrate with these other services and take full advantage of a lot of these learnings that are out there.

David Hostetter (28:44):

One of the things that I consistently talk to my team about is that I would rather buy than build in general these days. Whether you’re talking machine learning AI projects or other things, what can we do in terms of integration? The key there is it’s got to make sure that it meets our performance goals and make sure that meets, again, the supportability and maintainability of this, so it’s got to be seamless. And then last, it’s really has to be secure. Tying in all those pieces together becomes so critical, and so it’s really, really important in terms of looking at this holistically and then making sure you’ve got the right team and right processes in place, too. Because the other part of this is that underneath the covers with this is that we were also tooling everything out, and so using the Jenkins build-servers, using things like SonarQube in terms of looking at our code underneath the covers and looking for bugs, leveraging more traditional tools, the GRs of the world and product boards and all these other solutions to help us just from a bug and project management perspective. Taking advantage of even things like Slack to make sure that our teams are communicating effectively.

David Hostetter (29:47):

That’s both our internal teams at Jazeera but also working closely with VIP and making sure that the connective tissue is there that we really can work as one team versus these different companies. I don’t like that service provider relationship; I really like a partnership. It’s been a really, really positive thing in terms of looking at the relationship side of things.

David Hostetter (30:08):

Again, holistically if the architecture, when people are looking at this, they’re probably going to say, “Wow, it sounds pretty simple.” Nothing’s ever as simple as it sounds; it’s really understanding we’ve made some mistakes along the way. It’s how do you set up your code? How do you set up your repos? What are you doing? Are you using an [inaudible 00:30:26] monolithic deploy platform? And there were some decisions that we made looking back that I would’ve changed, and so moving… And right now we’re in the process of making some of those changes, moving towards more of a monolithic repo that allows us to really move a little bit faster. But again, learnings, and that’s the beautiful thing and one of the things that I encourage my teams is I’d rather us fail at something, fail fast and then learn from it and then just never let that same thing happen again, and so that’s been an important part of this process that we’ve been rolling on. And we’re still learning every day-to-day. There’s never a day that we’re not hopefully improving and, again, making the overall system even better for, really, our end-users and our audience and also for our internal partners within the newsrooms.

Jennifer Rockvoan (31:12):

Thanks, Hos. Thanks for being so open and sharing your experience with headless WordPress on VIP. We’re seeing a lot more companies that want to do just as you described at WordPress VIP. We’ve been working pretty hard to make this a lot easier. We just announced a new set of capabilities that should simplify running headless environments.

David Hostetter (31:36):

That’s fantastic. We’re excited to have been apart of helping, I think, WordPress really grow in this last couple of years with us together and launching a really, really comprehensive set of tools and services to help anybody coming into this world of headless and decoupled systems take those next big steps.

Jennifer Rockvoan (31:57):

Thanks again, Hos, for joining us today. Do you have any closing thoughts?

David Hostetter (31:58):

Yeah, one of the things, again, that I wanted to bring back up us that it’s not so much about the technology, it’s really about really empowering the journalists. One of the things that we look at across the board is the innovation side of things, is the empowerment and the amplification of this message, of this voice for the voiceless. One of the things at Jazeera that we really try and strive for is looking to create more empathy and more, as opposed to division. When I look at the decisions that we’ve made, it’s really about making the journalist’s life as easy as possible, and so that elegant simplicity, allowing them to get in, get their story published really, really rapidly and make sure that it really is meeting the needs so that because news changes so quickly and it’s happening at light speed, and making sure that the tools that we’ve selected really empower them to get this message out to such a broad and a diverse side of the world, and so taking a couple steps back, that diversity, that empowerment from a company perspective. And really, it’s about, in the end, making a difference. And not about making a difference in terms of creating the news, it’s about reporting the news and really taking it to that next level.

David Hostetter (33:13):

And I’d say these decisions that we made in this last couple years have really allowed us to make it so much easier and so much more effective from a journalistic perspective to take it to that next level. I’m really, really happy with what we’ve been able to achieve. I look forward to an even more enhanced partnership because we’re really now have turned the corner from just building out those foundational pieces to taking those next steps and really giving the journalist the tools to create more long form content, for instance, and also adding this level of personalization that’s unique to Jazeera and really allowing us to innovate in partnership with WordPress VIP to take this to another level to help really give the world this voice for the voiceless.

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