In 2014, Digital First Media created Project Thunderdome, with the goal of providing all of its 80 different properties with a central resource to cover common news stories, thereby aleveating the need for each individual site to do so individually.
As soon as Thunderdome was put in place, DFM realized that in order to leverage the content they were creating, all of their properties' sites needed to use a page template with the appropriate "slots" available for Thunderdome to insert its content.
Additionally, during that time, the company was also in the process of migrating from the Yahoo APT ad service to Google DFPP, so it needed to come up with a unified design to streamline production and maintainence of its entire landscape on a daily basis.
This meant standardizing, consolidating and migrating...
- 80 individual sites
- 5 different CMS platforms
- 3 seperate ad delivery vendors, and
- 6500 existing ad campaigns
- 1 standardized page design and ad template
- 1 centralized CMS
- 1 ad delivery vendor
...in a four month time frame, along with maintaining the existing infrastructure during the process.
- 67% growth in advertising sales due to the increase and inclusion of additional ad units on sites which prior could not accomodate;
- 46% increase in readership by cross-referencing other sites within the Digital First Media family;
- 23% increase in overall page views.
In the movie "Mad Max - Beyond Thunderdome", there lies a dwelling just on the edge of civilization called "Bartertown". It is here, buyers, sellers and theives haggle for goods, trying to obtain what they need while still trying to accomplish their goal and make it out alive. Hence, my development team dubbed our mandate to accomplish this, "Project Bartertown".
In order to do this, I split my development staff of 25 up into four teams:
- One to maintain the existing infrastructure
- The second to develop a migration strategy for both site content, as well as ads
- A third to build the new design and ad map template
- Finally the come up with automated processes to upload, convert and publish site content, as well as ads, into the new infrastructure
As in the movie, things didn't always go according to plan; and many times bartering needed to reached in order to keep everyone happy... let alone, peaceful!
It took roughly a month of testing before my team was able to successfully account for all of the different inconsistences across the company's existing software footprint.
The second two months were spent on the actual conversion, leaving us with the final month to perform testing and bug fixes.
The final result? We ended up "bartering" for what we needed, producing a solution within the timeframe alotted, and successfully releasing to the company on time; after which, Google published a press release stating that they:
"... have never seen a publisher move so agressively. DFM was successfully able to migrate 6500 advertising campaigns over to our DFPP system within 4 months. Other publishes such as Gannett, McClatchy and XXX took up to two years to accomplish the same thing."