Maine Today Makes Media Look Easy

How the media company migrated three WordPress sites in four months.

Summary

Maine Today Media is Maine’s largest media outlet with over 1.2 million unique visitors each month. The company hired 10up, a distributed web design and consulting agency, to redesign and migrate three high-profile media websites to WordPress. 

Maine Today Media was looking to overhaul their existing websites to make them more modern and responsive. They needed technology that would allow them to run websites as agile as their newsroom—infrastructure that could support WordPress and guarantee the performance levels needed to keep their readership numbers strong.

As Maine’s largest media outlet, Maine Today was reporting impressive reach in 2014—but internally, they were dealing with stress from website performance issues and disruptive traffic spikes. As they increased investment in their newsroom, they couldn’t afford to gamble with uptime. Each time a reader came for the news and a page didn’t load properly, their readership was put at risk.

Our owners had made the decision to invest in the newsroom and in journalism at a time when other publications were cutting back. Our website needed to be as modern, responsive, and agile as our reporting.

The company chose Pantheon and migrated all three of their sites in just four months. After the migration, Maine Today saw an immediate improvement in performance and speed. Their new WordPress sites drew in higher mobile engagement, and the team was able to focus on optimizing their content. And it all went down without a hitch—a member of the leadership team commented that it was “one of the smoothest relaunches she’d ever overseen”.

The First Step: More Streamlined, Modern, and Responsive Websites

Maine Today’s goals were laid out—a well-executed, modern site that could attract a larger mobile and tablet audience with responsive design. They wanted to focus on content, increasing engagement, and attracting more visitors without the threat of performance issues.

They chose WordPress for both its flexibility and the control it gave their web team. The company runs an agile newsroom, making dozens of content changes a day, so the combination of WordPress and a professional website platform with built-in workflows lets them manage both the front-end design and back-end administration. WordPress also enabled them to work fluidly with their print editorial system, dynamically feeding content into WordPress.

Agile in the Newsroom, Agile in Web Development

Maine Today Media was cranking out stories, staying on top of breaking news, and publishing an endless feed of content. Owners were investing more, even in the face of industry-wide declining traditional media numbers. WordPress, run on Pantheon, closed the performance gap between great content and average content delivery.

The Maine Today team now uses Pantheon’s workflow and WordPress’s user-friendly interface to continuously improve the user experience. Designers, developers, and anyone tasked with updating stories can work in identical environments, making improvements transparently and without worrying about accidentally crashing the site.

WordPress Agency 10up and a Smooth Migration to Pantheon

No one at Maine Today Media had the time nor desire to maintain hardware and respond to website emergencies. So they turned to an agency for advice on buying a platform that had robust infrastructure and support for sysadmin tasks. Matt Fulton, Director of Digital Services at Maine Today, explains, “We wanted to work with the best WordPress agency we knew, so we called 10up. When we asked for a platform that paired well with WordPress, they recommended Pantheon.”

One of the selling points for Fulton was Pantheon’s toolset—it enabled complex migrations to WordPress, supporting things like the ability to directly run WP-CLI commands. His team, side-by-side with the 10up developers, was able to be agile and iterative by developing in identical dev, test, and live environments.

This was a big migration. The 10up team was on point during the relaunch, so when things came up, we could address them quickly. We migrated three major sites in four months, right on schedule.

The 10up team helped Maine Today:

  1. Transport the content from our own CMS via various feeds and into WordPress.

  2. Create a bridge between our editorial and our proprietary system to fit our publishing-first workflow.

  3. Relaunch the PressHerald.com site  

  4. Consolidate two regional properties, onlinesentinel.com and KJOnline.com, into one new site, centralmaine.com

Traffic Spikes and Audience Growth a Piece of Cake on a Scalable Platform

In media, huge fluctuations in traffic are normal. Maine Today expected high variability, but wasn’t always ready for it. They knew Pantheon’s container-based technology could handle the spikes without making their sites vulnerable to the delays commonly associated with spinning up additional servers and services. Once outages and slow response times were no longer a concern, they were able to focus on developing features and adding news to the sites.

Creativity Reigns as Content and Analytics Drive Engagement

In media, better content means a bigger audience. It also means standing out in a sea of mediocre news sites posting much of the same daily stories. Maine Today’s team wanted to focus on what they do best: great journalism and content delivery.

Now we can react to the metrics in a way we couldn’t before. We’re incorporating video and galleries. Our focus is on how we can optimize the user experience and continue to work iteratively on the site, so people keep discovering new things.

Now Maine Today Media sees more visitors than ever accessing the site through mobile devices, especially on evenings and weekends. The company’s websites perform faster and handle traffic fluctuations without a hitch. The newsroom team has the freedom to do their jobs without worrying about security, maintenance, and site instabilities. And recently, PressHerald.com was voted the best news website in Maine.

Benefits

  • Flexible, integrated workflow to match the agile nature of the newsroom

  • Higher mobile engagement

  • Fluid integration with print editorial system

  • Ability to add new features quickly

  • Guaranteed uptime even when traffic spikes occur

  • Better user experience and site optimization