Science Friday: Sharing Science on a Scalable Platform

Summary

Science Friday is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that is dedicated to increasing the public’s access to science and scientific information. They’re best known for their weekly public radio show that airs each Friday on nearly 400 public radio stations. They chose Pantheon to future-proof their brand new WordPress website.

Serving nearly two million listeners every week, Science Friday is the source for entertaining and educational stories about science, technology, and other cool stuff. Tired of running their website on a proprietary CMS and archaic infrastructure, the SciFri team wanted a brand new look and feel that could take the brand into the future. They chose WordPress to serve their content editors and users with a new website, and Pantheon to support the effort.

We’re no longer worried about sudden spikes or poor performance. Pantheon lets us focus on what we do best.

Christian Skotte, Director of Program Strategy

Director of program strategy Christian Skotte was on a mission to upgrade the Science Friday website and wanted the best technology to help modernize the brand. No longer happy with their clunky CMS and costly hosting solution, Skotte set out to find a flexible CMS and scalable infrastructure to carry their site for years to come. They chose WordPress for its flexibility and user-friendly dashboard, and Pantheon for its support and ability to scale.

Before Pantheon: Poor Performance on an Outdated Site

Before Pantheon, the Science Friday website ran on a proprietary CMS on Amazon. This setup posed numerous challenges for Skotte and the team, and they knew it wasn’t the path to modernity for the show. They had a hard time getting insight into analytics, faced frequent issues with testing environments, and were regularly hit with additional costs from their host when traffic surpassed previously determined thresholds.

“It was the worst of both worlds,” Skotte said. “The CMS was not as custom as it should have been, and we were hit with extra cost when the traffic came in. The site represented who we were five years ago, and wasn’t making any moves towards modernizing for the future. We’re focused on growing and changing dramatically over the next few years, so we had to make a change.”

Why WordPress? Choosing a Modern CMS

Moving off of their proprietary CMS, Skotte and the team wanted to make a smart choice for the future of the site. They researched similar sites in their space and built a wishlist of what they envisioned for the rebuild. Their research led them to Bluecadet, an innovative agency out of Philadelphia, and they began discussing open source solutions.

“We trusted Bluecadet given their knowledge and experience in the space,” Skotte said. “They have experience using a variety of open source technologies, so we felt comfortable that they would help us make the right choices.”

Ultimately, the Science Friday team landed on WordPress as the CMS that could carry their brand for years to come. WordPress offered flexibility, easy updates, and could serve a variety of content editors with a world-class authoring experience.

Why Pantheon? Peace of Mind on a Scalable Platform

Now that Science Friday and Bluecadet had decided on the right CMS for the site, the teams needed to decide how to manage the site’s infrastructure. Traffic spikes were costly on their old solution, so it was important to find a platform that could grow alongside the site. The old setup was also a closed system and without full-time people to manage it, the Science Friday team had a hard time knowing what was going on. Fridays are the largest spike of the week, and the old solution routinely fell to slow response times and bad performance.

Bluecadet recommended Pantheon as the best solution to ensure scalability and future proof the site, with the added bonus of a top-notch support team. Skotte and the team evaluated all of their options and met extensively with both Pantheon and Bluecadet.

As a non-technical person, I felt comfortable that Pantheon was the right decision to empower our team.

In addition to the Pantheon platform’s impressive list of features and user-friendly dashboard, the Science Friday team was thrilled about the level of support Pantheon could provide. “We felt as though we’d truly have a partner in Pantheon,” Skotte said. “And that’s been the case from the very beginning.”

A Successful Launch

The Science Friday team received a month of onboarding from the Pantheon team and since Bluecadet had already been developing the site on Pantheon, all parties were confident come launch day. Pantheon’s support team was on-hand for the launch and quickly responded to any questions. Skotte and the team were thrilled with the level of involvement they had throughout the process, and felt confident in Pantheon’s ability to navigate them through any issues.

“We had about a day's worth of back and forth on various DNS changeover issues,” Skotte said. “But Pantheon was on standby and ready to assist. They really kept us in the loop about what they were doing and responded quickly.”

Growing for the Future

Now that ScienceFriday.com is up and running on a reliable platform, the team has been able to focus on the fruits of their labor. They’ve already seen a monthly uptick in site traffic, and aren’t worried about any sudden spikes taking the site down or affecting performance. Skotte can easily add users to Pantheon so the team can monitor and check in on site health.

It zooms. Our site is faster and happier than ever on Pantheon!

The team is also thrilled to have better insight into analytics, and loves the Pantheon workflow. Skotte has peace of mind that Pantheon can handle what may come. The small but mighty Science Friday team has grand plans for the future, and is looking forward to what they can do with WordPress on Pantheon. “We have big plans,” Skotte said. “And Pantheon fits into that. We’re looking to grow aggressively, and I’m confident Pantheon can keep up.”

Learn about scalable WordPress hosting with Pantheon, or read the Bluecadet case study.

Benefits

  • Peace of mind on a scalable platform

  • Insight into process and analytics

  • Impeccable performance

  • Top-notch support

  • Streamlined workflow

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