Daily Miracle 2.0: The Next Big Thing for News Media Websites

Media websites are, by necessity, complex and content-rich entities. They need to handle lots of text, images, graphics and video content. They need to allow for frequent updating and rapid searching. They must support locally authored, syndicated and user-generated content. They must cater to users who access the sites on desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile devices. They have to scale up to thousands of concurrent users.  They need to be up 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And, they absolutely must be secure.

Eight on 8

Drupal 8 is the latest release of the popular Drupal open source website development platform. In development for over four years, many say it was worth the wait. Drupal 8 comes with a large suite of built-in tools and over 200 enhancements that make it worth serious consideration as a digital content management system for the global news media industry. Here are eight reasons why publishers should take a closer look at Drupal 8 when planning Web and mobile content initiatives in 2016.

1. Writing and Editing

The Drupal 8 authoring experience looks like it was designed with the mobile journalist in mind. The new editing tool is completely WYSIWYG, and users can control things like image alignment, style changes, and caption creation with cellphone-friendly keystrokes and drag-and-drop actions. The user interface separates content from configuration, which gives authors a clean and well-ordered writing experience. Best of all, Drupal 8 ships with a new “in-place editing” feature, so page editors can manipulate content directly on the front-end of the site, without ever touching any back-end HTML forms.

2. Responsive Design
Drupal 8 supports mobile-first workflows. The entire system is responsive, so content can be published to any device. This is a big upgrade from older versions of Drupal, where images had to be resized for different screen sizes, resolutions and device orientations. In Drupal 8, users can choose different styles for individual images, which will automatically be applied when content is viewed on different mobile, tablet, laptop or desktop devices.

3. Security
Security is one of the most important attributes for publishers to evaluate in a Web content management platform. With growing attacks against WordPress-powered media sites around the globe, publishers should be especially concerned about the “hackability” of open source platforms. Drupal 8’s security features were designed—and are continually monitored—by a team of dedicated cybersecurity specialists to ensure that the platform remains stable and unbreachable. While this alone does not ensure stability, it is encouraging to note that Drupal has been chosen as the Web content management platform for organizations that require higher-than-average security, including the U.S. House of Representatives (house.gov), the Department of Homeland Security (dhs.gov), and NASA (nasa.gov).

4. Performance and Scale
Nearly as important as security, media sites need to be optimized for speed and scalability. Publishers never know when a local news site could become the “center of the universe” that has to support thousands of concurrent visitors at a moment’s notice. Drupal 8 seems ready to accept this challenge, due largely to the improved caching mechanisms added to the platform. Caching is the process of temporarily storing frequently accessed content so that future requests for that content can be served up faster to site visitors. With Drupal 8, entity caching is now done in the core software, so it is essentially baked into the platform itself. As a result, website developers don’t need to write or turn on caching features in their style sheets or JavaScript, because Drupal does it for them. This, in turn, helps to make Drupal 8 even more mobile-friendly, because caching is speedier when done in core rather than at the scripting layer.

5. Multilingual
For global publishers, Drupal 8 comes with native support for almost 100 different languages. All fields, forms and messages can be configured for localization purposes, and there is even a built-in translation interface. From Albanian to Urdu, language support is managed directly in the Drupal 8 core, which greatly simplifies the translation process for multilingual sites.

6. Integration
The developers of Drupal 8 talk about how the product ushers in a new era of “content as a service.” All content can be accessed and managed via API’s (application programming interfaces) to enable better integration with third-party systems. This is critical to news media workflows, where the Web content management system needs to exchange data constantly—and bi-directionally—with print editorial systems, digital asset management systems, social media networks, email, wire services, syndicates, and other external data sources. With four core Web services modules that come standard, Drupal 8 makes it easier for Web managers to create and deliver personalized, content-driven user experiences.

7. Customization
Publishers are always striving to increase reader engagement and grow subscriptions. At the same time, they are challenged with repurposing content for more channels than ever before. Drupal 8 provides a new level of customization capabilities to assist in this process. With Drupal 8, it is possible to automatically create listings of related content, such as events, calendar listings, news articles, and social media posts. These elements can be managed directly in core, so there is no need for an external application or widget. Views are also part of the core Drupal 8 software, which means that different visual experiences can be customized for different types of users. It’s also possible for editors to review story drafts dynamically, while maintaining a default revision for publishing as updates are being edited.

8. Flexibility
Finally, Drupal 8 supports popular client-side development frameworks like Ember.js, Angular, and Backbone, so Web developers can be highly creative in delivering the best user experiences possible. Drupal has completely transformed its website theming in Drupal 8. Although the number of themes available today is rather limited, new designs can be created using a fast, secure and flexible tagging language called Twig. Web managers can do A/B testing on different designs for different browser environments. This allows publishers to determine the most effective user experiences and site layouts that target audiences find most engaging.

According to the Drupal Association, Le Temps (letemps.ch), Switzerland’s French-language newspaper, is already live on Drupal 8 and supporting 4.2 million page views per month. With so many features designed for the multichannel, multi-content, always-on demands of the news media industry, publishers around the world should keep an eye on Drupal 8 when planning new digital projects in 2016 and beyond.

Peter Marsh is the VP Marketing, Newscycle Solutions. Daily Miracle 2.0 discusses the challenges, opportunities, trends and technologies impacting news media companies in the evolution from daily ink-on-paper products to round-the-clock digital offerings delivered in print, online, on tablets, and across mobile and emerging channels.

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