'Masthead reimagined' puts friendly face on massive WordPress switch
A new-look for the Sydney Daily Telegraph puts a more reader-focussed face on a massive technology transition at News Corp Australia.
Today's launch is the first of 11 (sometimes 15) sites redesigned to exploit News' switch from FatWire to a managed WordPress platform, a giant, world-first move many believed was impossible.
General manager of product delivery Alex Plummer told GXpress the final stage - which will take six to eight months to roll out across News' sites - delivers far more flexibility and speed-to-market for digital-first solutions.
"One of the challenges - of time and budget - was that we hadn't addressed the (reader) front end in the switch to WordPress," he says. "We enhanced some of the product delivery workflow with a content API-driven platform strategy, with journalists still writing in Méthode but WordPress as the website publishing programme.
"Now we have much more flexibility to enable us to move and be quicker to
market for product experiences."
The next few months will see the individual characteristics of the metro and regional sites - from the croc-crazed NT News in Darwin to Melbourne's relatively urbane Herald-Sun - better reflected in the storytelling tools for these digital properties.
Driving the system in a decoupled component library is a tech stack which developers have dubbed Tangram, after the Chinese puzzle. Plummer - who describes his remit as "the last mile" - says nine teams mean that in most cases News has "everyone we need" for front-end development inhouse.
"We've been doing some very exciting things with WordPress and WordPress VIP managed services," he says. "A lot of this is shared in what is a groupwide strategy."
News DNA managing director Julian Delany says the new fully responsive digital site at dailytelegraph.com.au provides a digital-first experience for users by improving content discovery and increasing viewability, localisation and personalisation.
"For advertisers, it also offers more attractive opportunities and a simplified sales experience."
Users can select their preferred region for local news content by entering their postcode to will receive the stories from their Newslocal title.
Feedback and long-standing customer pain points from a survey late last year have also been addressed, and Plummer says page-load times are being addressed.
Telegraph editor Christopher Dore says readers also asked for - and have got -
easier navigation, continuously updated news, less story repetition on pages, more subscriber exclusivity and the ability to personalise and localise content.
One of the features which has attracted industry attention is the upscaling of WordPress, which saw the re-architecture of widget storage from array to a custom post type. The News team built 45 WordPress plugins and 22 themes, and has cut the time to build a new page from hours to minutes, while 90 per cent of pages render in four seconds rather than the average 27 seconds previously. The project is also expected to deliver savings - mostly in software licensing and on-premise hardware costs - which will reportedly recoup its $5 million cost in not much more than a year.
With all of that done - and the Telegraph site live - the task moves to extending the same reimagined experience to readers of the Herald Sun, the Courier-Mail and The Advertiser as well as regional newspapers.