GateHouse adopts uni­fied plat­form for pro­duc­ing, shar­ing con­tent

Newspapers & Technology Magazine - - Front Page - ▶ by Tara McMeekin Con­tribut­ing Writer

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 key

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.

Sin­gle in­ter­face

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

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