GateHouse adopts unified platform for producing, sharing content
GateHouse Media kicked off 2017 with a resolution to upgrade its Web CMS platform across more than 400 websites serving some 35 million unique users.
The move is based on a need to replace the publisher’s legacy systems, which have been in place for many years and no longer represent the most efficient news publishing technology.
“We are on a dated system that does not provide an adequate mobile platform to publish news,” Christopher Biondi, senior director of digital development for GateHouse told News & Tech. “The interface is not user-friendly and the print workflow is not as efficient as it could be for the newsrooms.”
Those inefficiencies prompted GateHouse’s search for vendors that could provide systems that were robust in mobile and print offerings as well as in security.
“We selected to upgrade to Newscycle’s new Drupal 8-based Onset platform, believing it will set us on the best path to continue to operate at scale and be as nimble as we can as we grow and the media environment changes,” Biondi said.
GateHouse was previously using the Newscycle’s Web platform the vendor acquired through its 2013 merger with Saxotech.
Security for publishers has been a key factor to Newscycle as its products evolve.
“We are so conscious of the fact that news media are a prime target for cyber attack, so we chose Drupal 8,” Pete Marsh, vice president of marketing for the vendor told N&T. “That coupled with our Web hosting gives us what we think is best practice — and GateHouse shared that belief.”
Newscycle’s Onset is designed to be simple to use and fully responsive. The vendor developed 100 modules on top of the Drupal 8 core, specifically for news media organizations. Onset will be hosted in the Newscycle Cloud, which is based on Amazon Web Services.
Newscycle said Onset will streamline content creation and publishing processes for all of GateHouse’s Web, mobile and print channels. In addition to its robust security benefits, “Drupal 8 has the potential to evolve digital storytelling in a significant way,” Bill Church, senior vice president of news for GateHouse said. “We are as intrigued with the entrepreneurial
flexibility as we are with the development opportunities.”
Targeted completion date
GateHouse set summer of 2018 as the target date for having all of its sites live, although a specific rollout schedule has not been finalized. Biondi said the publisher will likely mimic the rollout process it implemented for its CMS global template redesign in 2016. That means it will begin with beta sites on Onset and build up to larger groups for weekly go lives over the course of several months.
Once the rollout is complete, Onset will be GateHouse’s primary Web-publishing platform.
“We do use Wordpress and other platforms for niche sites, but Onset will be our primary CMS for print and digital,” Biondi said. “We innovate and support hundreds of sites at scale, we operate on a single global template we have built on a system of design ‘ blocks’ that can be inserted and deleted based on newsroom size and needs.”
Biondi said the publisher’s scale makes the project unique and, in some ways, challenging.
“Our scale adds layers of complexity to many of our projects,” he added. There are many moving parts GateHouse will need to manage throughout the project, including building out the sites in Drupal 8, and recreating many of its back-end functions and integrations for content and revenue. The publisher also faces the challenge of rolling the platform out quickly, accurately and efficiently. To that end, adequate training will be paramount. GateHouse will work with Newscycle to perfect the print workflow within Onset and will train and roll the new platform out to more than 1,000 users across the country.
“There will definitely be changes in how newsrooms produce and manage content, and in addition to the technological component, this will be a massive training effort for us,” Biondi said.
Many of GateHouse’s newspapers use Newscycle’s current print and digital CMS to push content to its central design hub in Austin, Texas, and to their own websites.
“Ultimately, Onset will provide a single interface for sites for both print and digital workflow, and this will be a nice improvement in efficiency,” Biondi said.
GateHouse’s Center for News & Design became operational in Fall 2014, several months after shuttering two separate hubs in Rockford, Illinois and Framingham, Massachusetts in favor of the single location.
GateHouse newsrooms and CND staff have worked in the same CMS for many years, enabling them to provide mutual tech support as needed.
“With the introduction of Onset, newsrooms will be in one CMS and CND staff will be in another, so the shared experience will end, so to speak,” Tom Clifford, vice president of GateHouse’s CND explained. “CND will have to train to help troubleshoot newsroom issues with Onset. We are examining different approaches to ensure both newsrooms and CND staff can get the necessary technical backup.”
In spite of the challenges associated with the rollout, the publisher is confident in its ability to execute on its forward-thinking strategy and transition to a more effective Web-publishing platform that will ultimately streamline and improve its ability to deliver news.
“We have a built a great team that knows how to operate at scale — from development and support, to product, data and site launches,” Biondi said. “It is a big project for us, but I believe the digital redesign we rolled out last year was a good warm-up and sets us up nicely for success.”
GateHouse Media will manage more than 400 of its publications’ websites with Newscycle’s Onset digital CMS platform.
Photos: Newscycle & GateHouse Center for News & Design