The Media Paradigm Shift

Two decades earlier, media companies utilized picture quality as a content differentiator. Today, high definition video on multiple devices is a common practice. As consumers sprint through newspapers, television and now new age devices like mobile, tablets and Chromecasts, digital providers think ahead of the hyper-connected horizon, keeping step with the consumer at where they stand. A slow and gradual geographical breakdown is simultaneously emerging with the audience further breaking global barriers. As the content renaissance unfolds, context becomes key to keeping up with the generation today, and that becomes the key differentiator. Currently, media companies move from a first OTT generation, an experiment with little or no democracy and linear broadcast, to a more mature second generation OTT commissioning their own original content and module. To beat the game of digital opportunities, media players need to use data-driven insights to build their product across the full development cycle.

      OBJECTIVES:

  • ‘One-stop’ CMS solution, creating a holistic view and facilitates access and sharing of content between editorial departments
  • CMS to support multilingual system
  • Support editorial and admin related workflows and collaboration within the editorial organization
  • Develop robust scalable OTT apps
  • To build a scalable platform to handle 1 M users a day

Django-based CMS

Fundamental shifts in the media industry demand media businesses large and small to acquire a great ability to handle an extensive array of content and meta-data, streamline and automate workflows and move to new emerging platforms. When a leading South Indian news giant (one of the top 3 TV news networks) turned to Kuliza for a new age Over-the-top (OTT) digital news and entertainment platform, the need of the hour was a comprehensive integration of process and technology tuned to the specific needs of each part of their content and editorial workflow.

While off-the-shelf CMS systems like Drupal and Joomla are powerful and developer-friendly platforms, they often pose constraints in terms of architecture and stability. While the benefits include flexibility and the ease of up-front development, where they lag behind are complex templates that are difficult to work with and customize. In addition, the allowance for business logic in template, does not clearly separate data from the presentation.

New-age media companies have unique needs ranging from accommodating custom editorial workflows to integrating with advanced 3rd party analytics tools. For the digital product like our client’s, expected to evolve at a very quick pace, the best approach was to build a Python-Django based CMS to power content and workflows across devices.  What differentiated the framework is the flexibility to introduce new features and agility to quickly launch the product. In addition to this, a modular architecture allowed integrate various plug-ins easily and has the ability to scale and handle up to 1 million+ hits per day. Our CMS utilizes a service-oriented architecture (SOA). This enables features to recombine in different ways to closely match the desired workflow of our client. Tools can be added or modified to adapt to changing workflows and editor requirements.

FEATURES:
The challenge of creating a robust informational architecture for the CMS laid in meticulously defining underlying data structures and its advanced capabilities. Our integrated platform was built from ground up to support a multi-site, multi-lingual content at scale and provide the consistency and flexibility that our client demanded. Some of our stand out features include:

Easy Central Administration:  The CMS dashboard is a central location for editorial workflows and content management, providing central control and access to content from a single screen in real time. This meant

  • Defining and seamlessly managing admin roles, editors, and contributors
  • Addition of functionality through modules and plug-ins
  • Dynamic templates and navigation tailor-made to user preferences
  • Differentiated workflows for task management
  • Digital asset management enables storage and organization of graphics and multimedia searchable on assigned metatags

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The features of a central content creation give editors the appropriate access for their level of responsibility and the flexibility to create content inline, right on the platform, and leverage more robust features for workflow control, metadata management, and multi-channel page layout. Real-time delivery leveraged unlimited experience data to present the most relevant content for every unique visitor, on the fly. Text, rich media, forms, social media widgets, recommendations, and more could be personalized based on rules, workflows, or even a visitor’s device or location. Widgets such as weather and advertisement allowed us to drop functionality on to the site in a modular way.

Distinguished Publishing Tools: The robust CMS adapts to all types of content from long editorials to short listicles (short articles having lists), breaking news, photo news and live blogs and integrates ready templates for editor-friendly interfaces. The functionalities are also tuned to SEO with metatags, images, and videos. Display-agnostic functionalities manage and customize content served in formats best sized and suited for user devices including tablets and mobiles. Publish and archive dates enable control over articles published to provide a seamless experience to editors. An advanced lock-in enables editors and admins edit and publish content without duplicating it and to have immediate access to editing status. The notification functionality provides the content contributor with the approval status of his article by the editor.

Libraries: The image and the video library is a central repository of images and videos that can be accessed by both the admins and the editors. Every image consists for 14 resolutions for the editor to pick and choose depending on his template requirements.  This ensures that the asset (image/video) maintains a standard size and quality in multiple formats required by the client. For example An editor can access images for an article pertaining to mobile and website with different dimensions, all from a single digital asset library. 

Dynamic Tagging: Search might be a great tool for content published within the portal, but occasionally it is not enough to help users find what they are looking for. Dynamic tagging allows content creators to define keywords associated with their content. Users can add keyword tags to articles, documents, tasks, assisting in quick searching of content. In addition, a unique feature includes a dynamic and a static timeline. A dynamic timeline provides a chronological order with the nucleus of a developing story whereas a static timeline is based on facts and does not necessarily hold a developing story.  An interest module has also been incorporated to assess user interests which can be utilized to identify user behavior and analytics.

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Multi-lingual: The CMS has the ability to store and provide content in multiple languages. Each language has a separate workflow and allows content from each language to be written and edited independent of other languages and has its own set of permissions. A text to speech integration enables the news to be converted to speech providing for content on the go, taking content away from the computer screen and comfortable for the user.

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Scalability: Advanced granular cache setting with the help of Postgres enable cache configuration for files and pages. This is a powerful option as it stores pages in the memory and serves them without touching the database or CMS core. A horizontally scalable structure ensures the ability to scale up to more than 1 million hits in a day and takes over the delivery of content, ensuring accessibility to users at all times.
The Django based CMS is equipped with a dynamic administrative interface that makes managing the new-age digital platform, create, control and updating its contents a breeze. Typically the dashboard supports three different types of users who possess different levels of control over the CMS.

Admin: The admin is the central node of the CMS with the ability to control complex backend editorial workflows from a central nucleus. His exclusive privileges include control over the category manager which implies that he has sole control over category, navigation, widgets and tags. The admin enjoys privileges across the entire CMS including settings, the independence to create and manage users, provide approvals and assign permissions. A customized CMS also enables him to override permissions and take a central control with a bird’s eye view of user management. The admin can also customize create the dynamic template with a simple drag and drop option without dependency on the design team.

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Editor: Vested with the power to create, post and update content, editors can also approve content to be published on the news categories they are assigned to manage. They also hold access to functionalities such as templates and timeline stories which gives them a good percentage of access and control under the wings of the Admin.

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Contributors: Contributors can create, post and update content, including words and images. Contributors do not need advanced technical skills and can only manage content on sites assigned to them. Multiple people in are designated Contributors, allowing subject matter experts to create and update content in their own areas within the digital broadcasting channel.

Integrations:

Video: Observing that more than 40% of users leave if the video takes more time to load, the challenge to solve here was to provide a consistent viewing experience across devices. This was achieved with the assistance of DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Bitrate over HTTP) which can deliver broadcast quality service—both standard and high definition—in an open Internet environment even if the broadband network is congested or unstable. Putting it simply, the system automatically adapts your bitrate in accordance to your bandwidth. This provides you with an undeterred streaming experience and video adaptability to different screening. A third party integration with Akamai provided video transcoding functions through APIs that can be customized and incorporated into our customized CMS with ease. The CMS is also enabled with uploading videos from external sources. Akamai also enables us with a video player, CDN to reduce cost and support traffic burst, and analytics for the videos.

Analytics - To understand if our objectives are being met, we have integrated with third party tools like Google analytics that gives us a reporting perspective to customer interaction and engagement. This enables us to provide our client with content recommendations. Should there be a need, the CMS is futuristic and is also capable of integrated with advanced analytical tools.

Third party applications - A customized CMS follows a service-oriented architecture that can be integrated with third-party tools like PR news wires, ad, and video servers. In this case, we have integrated our CMS with Akamai which transcodes videos from our client’s severs and provides the platform with a URL, which can be directly pinched into the content stream. Our client also provides ads from ad servers like Google and Zedo and this script is fed into the CMS.

MOBILE APP

The increase in smart devices users is predicted to reach 6.1 billion by the year 2010. With mobile set to expand its user base by a significant margin in mere four years, it was evident that in addition to a responsive site, a mobile app was of utmost importance to our widely global news and entertainment client, To implement this it was important to understand the app’s target audience and their behaviour patterns:
UX:
The consumption patterns of digital media hold the key to understanding what the new age consumer needs and consequently providing them with information that will make them return for more. numerous user tests with high-fidelity prototypes helped to identify navigation patterns and layouts that worked best on a smartphone screen. We conducted research in the form of user observations, interviews, and group discussion. During this process, it was analysed that instinctively when it comes to the digital news consumer, the behaviour pattern is driven by the easy availability of information coupled with the fear of missing out. However, simultaneously we identified that users preferred small chunks of information as opposed to verbose news updates. A content and design strategy that allows easy division of information chunks will give users an overview of information without diving deep into particular news events. Consumers also preferred news that was of specific interest to them and here is where customization will play a great role. A significant number of participants also had the habit of catching up on the news on their mobile devices while undertaking their daily commute. This indicated that it was essential to sift information deemed unnecessary and prioritize content presented to the user in order to create value for them. Repeated notifications on news content arrivals were often seen as an annoyance. This meant that in addition to providing a positive experience to the user, it was integral to ensure annoyances were removed when the user accessed our mobile platform.

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Visual Design: Designed keeping the UX in mind, the mobile app was designed by maintaining a smart and uncluttered layout for users to focus on precise content. The app features fluid scrolling with a hamburger menu for our Android App, stripping away from a utilitarian menu and replacing it with a clean and unobstructed bar on the left. This menu essential helps with ‘decision fatigue’ and keeps the user focused on the page that he is on. On the other hand, we decided to go ahead with industry best practices and implemented the tab bar menu. This makes multiple pieces of core functionality available with one tap and allows switching between features. A flexible layout of ‘thin and thick’ strips was implemented to give the app a clean hybrid news-magazine feel. Elements were optimized with a swipe to move between stories and a double tap to read the elaborate news article. As the mobile app was regional, Karthika was the chosen font to solve readability vs legibility challenge, which was integral for a content-heavy app. Ads were only placed on the home screen and related news was minimal to keep annoyance at bay.

APP FEATURES:

Push notifications - The app is enabled with push notifications of relevant news. A quiet time feature disables this attribute at the convenience of the user

Offline Mode – articles can be saved and downloaded with the click of a button to view the story with the absence of an internet connection

Live TV: Integrated with the assistance of a youtube player

Special Modules: Specialized content relevant to seasons like election analysis and results to provide the user to follow and stay updated with relevant information

Gallery: Photo news for quick stories

Search: Find new stories with relevant keywords

Banner: Breaking news consistent and visible in the form of a flash banner

Integrations: Integration with third party tools like Google for Ads and analytics while Akhami assists with video integration

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The mobile app is powered by the CMS and is built on Java for Android and Swift for iOs. Decoupling of the presentation layer from the data and the server layer and the separation of the backend from the frontend assists with scaling each of component separately.

WEBSITE:
The front end of our is supported by Angular JS which provides superior quality of code and brings agility with changes and provides a tight workflow. The framework is supported by Jquery, which does not take away the visibility of the web page content from search engines. The code is small and clean and does not bog down the load time of the site. In terms of templating, Django templating assists with building the dynamic website in a faster and quicker manner by using same layout in more than one place.

Caching:
Leveraging multilingual and multi-site support, the digital website of our news and entertainment client is powered by a robust CMS which enables customizations and extensions with bespoke functionality to suit their need. As a digital news platform is expected to have large volumes of traffic, scalability was taken care of by two layers of caching. When there is a request to the server, the response is first composed of the Akamai CDN layer and if this is not successful, a second request is then sent out to application Redis layer. This is extremely beneficial with respect to short load time, high scalability and is capable of handling large volumes of traffic.

Features:
On the multi-lingual news website, the user is able to log in and customize news and only receive relevant information that he chooses. From the CMS, the entire template is dynamically controlled by the admin who has the full power to change the look and feel of the entire website.

TECHNOLOGY STACK
Custom CMS -Python Django
Database – RDS using Postgres
Task management – RabbitMQ with Django and celer
Frontend Server – Nginx

SYSTEM ARCHITECTURE
SYSTEM ARCHITECTURE ASIANET

 

DEPLOYMENT ARCHITECTURE
DEPLOYMENT ARCHITECTURE ASIANET

CAPABILITIES

  • Can handle traffic of more than 1M users daily
  • Ease of publishing with defined templates
  • User management suits typical news industry workflow
  • Full fledged multi-lingual supported CMS
  • Different UI representation layers