In January this year I took over management of the Herald & Times Group news sites, taking resposibility for the design, technical, marketing and subscription aspects of our online platforms.
From a technical perspective the sites needed work: the core framework was relatively sound, but a number of bespoke additions had left the sites a bit unstable. In the first month the sites crashed on average once per week, with regular slowdowns at busy periods every day.
My team’s first priority was to stabilise the platform. We implemented various code changes, and introduced a new effective layer of caching across our main sites. The results proved the exercise was worthwhile — by the end we’d reduced the server response times by an average of 60% and had completely eliminated unplanned downtime.
As numerous studies from Google, Amazon and others have shown, faster sites get more traffic. Combined with some great content strategies, our technical improvements helped us deliver unprecedented traffic growth. Our ABCe audited figures showed traffic to by up 65.9% year-on-year on HeraldScotland, making it the fastest growing UK regional news site… by a considerable margin.
Traffic continues to grow across our network of sites and we’re now moving our focus onto subscriptions, with some impressive initial results there too. Thanks to a new design, new message and new technical framework for subscriptions, we’re seeing subscriptions growing at their fastest ever rate – an order of magnitude faster than before. I’ll blog more about this when we have some official figures to report.