Delivering the news agenda

Broadcaster Al Arabiya has rolled out a new CMS for its online news site, alarabiya.net, to help it to stay ahead of the news agenda

Tags: Al Arabiya TVBroadcastContent Managment SystemsMagnolia (www.magnolia-cms.com)Tinext (www.tinext.com)United Arab Emirates
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Delivering the news agenda Karim Morgan CMS Architect and Project Leader for the Magnolia implementation at Al Arabiya. (ITP Images)
By  Mark Sutton Published  May 9, 2014

News media has evolved rapidly in recent years, driven largely by new technologies that have enabled media to move from siloed organisations each specialising in their own medium, be it print, radio or television, to become highly integrated operations operating across multi platforms. The speed with which news is gathered and disseminated has increased rapidly, as has the way the viewers not only consume content, but also interact with it and drive the news agenda. The web presence of news media today has shifted from being a complementary addition to traditional channels to become a channel in its own right.

For broadcaster Al Arabiya, part of the MBC Group, web presence is an integral part of its operations, and delivering the full spectrum of news online requires a robust content management system (CMS) to support it. The Al Arabiya online news service (alarabiya.net) was launched in 2004 initially in Arabic, and was joined by an English-language service in 2007, and Persian and Urdu services in 2008. As the broadcaster’s online operations expanded however, the CMS had not kept up.

The broadcaster’s previous CMS had been developed in house, and while it was a good fit with the original requirements, it was becoming a burden to manage code that had been developed by different people over the space of five years. As the news team expanded, the site was also struggling to scale. A further issue was the high profile of Al Arabiya — as a news organisation in the Middle East, the website had suffered sustained hacking attempts during political crises in the region, and was also under constant politically-motivated DDoS attack.

Karim Morgan CMS Architect and Project Leader for the Magnolia implementation at Al Arabiya explains: “The old CMS was completely unscalable — it was a good CMS, it was completely homegrown, we did the best we could to make sure it was scalable to an extent, but it came to a point where there was not much we could do to help. The team was growing, there was too much load on the CMS, we had to get something that was more robust.”

Al Arabiya began the search for a replacement CMS. The requirements for the new system were clear — the organisation needed a system that would scale both in terms of the number of users posting content to the system and in terms of visitor traffic, that would enable content to be posted to the web as quickly as possible, be secure and robust enough to withstand cyber attacks and would be easy to maintain and have good support.

“The main requirement for a CMS in the news business is speed of publishing. We are a news website, so we want to make sure that once we get our news, that it is published online immediately,” Morgan says.

“Traffic is another major factor — we were looking for a CMS that can handle the huge loads of traffic that we were getting on the website; and traffic in terms of safe traffic, and also attack traffic. Being a news website, we are constantly under attack, so security and robustness is definitely something that we were looking for.”

The CMS would also need to be capable of handling a wide range of content — including text, images, video, documents and so on, from a wide range of sources. The system would need the flexibility to integrate with Al Arabiya’s broadcast systems, and it would also need to be platform-independent, so that journalists could access it from any device.

A number of specialist CMS solutions were assessed, but Al Arabiya opted to go with Magnolia, an open source, Java-based solution, which was already in use by parent organisation MBC Group. Morgan had led the Magnolia project for the MBC.net deployment, and says that it made good sense to use Magnolia again.

Al Arabiya selected Swiss systems integrator Tinext to implement a custom solution built on Magnolia CMS. As an open source solution, Al-Arabiya has a licence for the CMS, along with an enterprise support agreement with Magnolia and a maintenance agreement with Tinext. Al Arabiya is able to access the open source community for updates and other support, and it also offers the flexibility for Al Arabiya to customise the solution as it likes.

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