In 2008, we were very unhappy with the content management system (CMS) for our regional news portals, VOL.AT and VIENNA.AT. Our CMS didn’t support our technical platform, so we were stuck relying on print-focused systems. Content creation was a long and painful process that our editors hated.
Unfortunately, this is a pretty typical situation in the digital media industry.
We didn’t want to accept this frustrating situation and started looking for an alternative. There were no ready-made solutions on the market that fit our needs, so we took a brave leap away from the usual out-of-the-box media solutions and placed our bet on a rising star of open-source technology: WordPress.
By 2016, WordPress was used by 59.1% of all Web sites with known content management systems, amounting to 25.8% of all Web sites worldwide.
Some of the advantages of WordPress are obvious, so I’ll just point out what the major game-changer in our decision process was: You can build what you need on top of an existing base, enabling you to set up quickly and still enjoy the benefits provided by a continual development process.
Over the last eight years of using WordPress, here are just a few things our development team has accomplished:
- They set up a one single WordPress instance with 15 multi-sites in three countries in three different languages.
- Around that framework, they set up hundreds of WordPress pages for special interest content. One recent example is one for the European Championship in soccer.
- We’ve had three major redesigns for all 15 news portals and developed several APP generations for Android and iOS.
- At WordCamp 2013, the main WordPress developer conference, we learned that we have one of the largest frameworks worldwide and definitely in Europe.
In 2014, we saw that a lot of publishing houses were still facing the same challenges we had back in 2008. Since we had already successfully developed several solutions using WordPress, we decided to share them with others.
However, since we’re not a traditional software provider, success is dependent on us having clear guidelines to follow. Here are our five rules for ensuring success:
- Partners not customers: We offer our services and solutions to publishing houses and media companies.
- Network effect: New inputs improve the products of all partners.
- SAAS (Software as a Service): We only offer SaaS solutions that have already demonstrated success in our market.
- Full service: All solutions are delivered jointly by Russmedia IT (hosting) and the Russmedia Digital Innovation Team to ensure that innovation is a constant process.
- Project management: One point of interaction with the customer and a flat hierarchy.
We began with three products:
- Our regional news platform, including a content management system based on WordPress.
- Our APP-framework for news applications, optimised for WordPress.
- A citizen participation platform, which offers direct contact to readers across all devices, on WordPress.
For the HNA (Hessische/Niedersächsische Allgemeine), a member of Verlag Dierichs GmbH & Co KG, we developed a news app to complement their existing WordPress portal “Kassel Live.” It delivers local and hyperlocal content quickly and in a user-friendly format.
Funke Digital signed up two instances of our Citizen Forum. It was first implemented for the Braunschweiger Zeitung, where the tool is called Alarm38.de. It’s been online since the end of October 2015, and just won a prestigious German newspaper innovation award for being the most innovative and effective editorial tool, inspiring readers and enhancing the reader loyalty.
In the beginning of 2015, the NZZ Mediengruppe partnered with us to establish a network of regional news portals in Switzerland. We act as a full-service technical partner and cover all technical aspects of the CMS, including 24/7 support and the hosting of the portals.
The first news portal is FM1Today and has been live since October 2015. FM1Today is built on WordPress to ensure a streamlined editorial process on desktop and mobile devices (native apps for iOS, Android, and a Web app). The platform offers several additional information services, including weather, traffic, live radio, and live TV.
“The opportunity for an intensive exchange on technology, marketing, and sales was ultimately what convinced us,” says Caroline Thoma, executive vice president of regional media at NZZ Media Group and overseer of the project. “As a publisher itself, Russmedia offers the prospect of joint development of digital applications and brings extensive expertise based on open-source content management systems to the partnership,”.
Every successfully delivered project brings important input to the product and improves Russmedia’s own media solutions and services, as well as those of every partner we work with.
“Working with FM1Today generated a lot of inspirational ideas, and these fed directly into the continuing development of the portal family,” said Gerold Riedmann, managing director of Russmedia and editor-in-chief of Vorarlberger Nachrichten newspaper. “Being tied in such an interesting project from the beginning is a big privilege.”
Since the kick-off, we’ve successfully delivered our initial products. Now we’re taking the next step and sharing our new portal solutions: real estate and recruitment for classifieds, and our new performance marketing agency.