“When the company started the transformation, they had two targets: 1) to be an important player in the market meant Caras needed to have a fast website and reliable infrastructure and 2) the CMS system behind it needed to integrate content and process,” he explained.
Caras, their most successful brand, is the company’s flagship title and available in five countries. Today, the company publishes 12 different magazines and 14 different online titles/brands.
In the past, Editora Caras had three or four different CMS systems for their brands in Brazil and Argentina, Serrano explained in an email conversation. “We had open CMS in Buenos Aires for Editorial Perfil, we had a lot of WordPress installations for other magazines for Perfil, we had a CMS here developed for Caras, and we had WordPress for a few specific magazines,” he said.
It was challenging to manage the different systems and processes. Serrano said the systems often required complex processes to manage, and came with high costs associated with different providers and programmers. Not to mention headaches. “When you solved a problem on one platform, you needed to solve it for the other platforms,” he explained.
Keeping the systems separate meant Editora Caras couldn’t take advantage of efficiencies and economies of scale. On top of that, one Caras their strategic partner, Universo Online (UOL), Brazil’s largest Portuguese internet portal, wanted to feature Caras content and website in a premium space, but to give them the visibility, UOL needed to know that the Caras website was reliable and stable, and could serve a million users a day.
That’s when Serrano said they started their new CMS project, focused on eliminating infrastructure bottlenecks.
The old CMS wasn’t developed for a company like Editora Caras. In contrast, their new CMS was designed to solve and address their very specific needs. The distribution process is different, and the organisation of content inside the system is different, Serrano explains. And, infrastructure costs aren’t outrageous.
In markets where Editora Caras operates, bandwidth and site stability are always considerations. It is common to see websites crash and CMS’s fail when there are spikes of high traffic that try the capacity of the software. During moments of high traffic, moments of big news, they needed to be confident that people could find the Caras site.
“Our CMS was designed to survive this kind of circumstance,” Serrano explained. “I like to say our CMS is four-wheeled. It is designed to work in normal circumstances but also to work in special circumstances of high traffic.”
The most importance difference with Editora Caras’ new CMS can be seen in the final product: the websites and mobile pages, Serrano explained.
“The new CMS not only enables the Caras site to be reliable during any moment, but also enables the website to be very fast. The system was designed to produce very robust websites, with the capacity to receive millions of visits each day, with a low infrastructure cost,” he said. “The final product produced by the new CMS equals pages with no need of databases or dynamic applications. This capability was in the core of initial CMS software design, and is responsible for a huge reduction of costs and increases our capacity to see more and more visitors.”
The new content management system uses databases in a different way. Because it is designed for newspapers and magazines per se, the CMS easily manages thousands of content pages. Another benefit is that it allows them the capability to easily re-use content across titles. “So, a piece of content produced for one title can be re-used for another title easily, including images and multimedia assets,” Serrano said.
The CMS also allows Caras to be on all platforms. “We needed to be present on the website, for desktop and mobile… [as well as] social media,” Serrano explained. “It was important to be present on almost all of the distribution platforms available.”
The new CMS creates efficiencies in terms of process in the offices. Serrano explained they could put journalists to work on the website in different ways, with no training on the technology because the CMS was the same across all of the websites. “This was very interesting in terms of convergence and the integration inside the Caras offices,” he said.
Other improvements Caras implemented included using BI in analytics. It provided important information for the content teams, Serrano explained.
He said the new CMS also allowed the Caras team to improve the production process, to share content production, and drive it based on KPIs. “They know exactly what works, what doesn’t work, what is popular, what is not popular,” he said. “This allows them to make decisions based on the audience, and they know how important social media is to improve traffic and engagement.”
The new CMS saves time for the content team, as they’re now only concerned about producing high-quality journalistic content, not about distribution details. The CMS does that for them.
A few months after launching the new CMS, Editora Caras acquired a few titles from Abril, including Contigo! (celebrities), Placar (sports), Manequim (fashion) and seven others. These additions gave the company the opportunity to manage 10 new, different titles in the same centralised CMS system. After that, Perfil, the newspaper of Editorial Perfil in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was integrated into the same CMS system. It allowed it to achieve the same economies of scale and development, those performance goals Serrano said they’d already achieved with Caras.
Along the way, through the transformation, Serrano and his team learned some interesting things about their audience.
One such area was deeper insight into mobile users (eight out of 10 users come to their web properties from mobile devices). In Brazil, people use a wide variety of mobile devices. Serrano explained that they have people using new iPhone 7s and Samsung Galaxy S8s, but they also have a lot of people using devices much less powerful. “We did an experiment, developing a responsive website that focused on users with high-powered devices. It was a failure,” Serrano said. “After the experiment, we adjusted our website to use less resources, to support users with devices with lower processing power. The audience responded immediately.”
Lessons learned on transformation
Serrano said the most important lesson the transformation taught them was that it was important to have economies of scale. Using the same CMS allowed them to recognise efficiencies across processes – from sharing content, to lower costs of production and lower costs of operation, and to integrating all of the brands with a shared infrastructure.
The other lesson they learned was about content distribution and social media.
Four years ago, the Caras website had 25 per cent of the audience it has today and approximately 80 per cent of them arrived by URL. “The most important driver for this growth was new distribution channels,” Serrano said. “We invested in a strong social media strategy, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google. Today, 80 per cent of our audience comes from social media.”
Integration between content distribution and social media was important. It would have been impossible for their audience growth to occur without a strong CMS that had those links.
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