Provides end-to-end visibility into application performance, customer experience, and business metrics across the corporation
Reduces response time for priority 1 issues from hours to minutes
Speeds the release of new features to customers
Helps IT teams set and meet service level agreements
Hearst Headlines New Digital Content Platform With Help From New Relic
With more than 360 businesses, the Hearst Corporation is one of the largest media and communications conglomerates in the United States. Its major interests include ownership in cable television networks such as A&E, HISTORY, Lifetime, and ESPN; majority ownership of global ratings agency Fitch Group; Hearst Health, a group of medical information and services businesses; 30 television stations such as WCVB-TV in Boston and KCRA-TV in Sacramento, CA, which reach a combined 19% of U.S. viewers; newspapers such as the Houston Chronicle, San Francisco Chronicle, and Albany Times Union, more than 300 magazines around the world including Cosmopolitan, ELLE, Harper’s BAZAAR, and Car & Driver; digital services businesses such as iCrossing and KUBRA; and investments in emerging digital and video companies such as United Artists Media Group, BuzzFeed, VICE, and AwesomenessTV.
Creating a next-generation digital publishing platform
Leveraging its 128 year history as one of the world’s most admired private media and information companies, Hearst has embraced the digital revolution. At the heart of Hearst’s digital media strategy is a next-generation content management and production ecosystem called Media OS. “With Media OS, we’re investing very heavily in a tool that allows our editors to get ground-breaking data and insights,” says Allen Duan, operations manager in the office of the chief technology officer at Hearst. “We use that insight to deliver the best content experiences for our customers.”
The IT teams throughout Hearst Corporation have embraced DevOps, agile development, and microservices to support the company’s fast-paced digital innovation. “For Media OS, we’re taking technical teams from across the entire organization and building everything using a microservices architecture,” says Jim Mortko, vice president of engineering at Hearst. “This architecture, together with our agile and DevOps approaches, allows us to get more done, faster. We conduct demos every two weeks of everything we’re building so that we can course correct and steer the development process.”
However success has had its challenges for Hearst, particularly when it came to being prepared for the unexpected, such as sudden spikes in traffic volume. “We had problems with scalability and performance on some of our platforms,” says Dave Swift, vice president of engineering at Hearst Newspapers. “Trying to debug the issues we were having was incredibly inefficient because we had to rely on manual log analysis and adding debugging and tracing code to the software.” It was clear to Swift that the company needed a software analytics solution that would speed troubleshooting and help the team better anticipate and support sudden changes in web traffic.
“New Relic is easily the most straightforward and all-encompassing monitoring tool I have ever used. It not only provides insights into how the application is performing, but shows exactly where in the code, database, or caching layer, a potential bottleneck could be.”
Going “viral” with software analytics
According to Swift, within a few hours of installing New Relic APM, the IT team at Hearst Magazines had found several major issues that the team was then able to fix. “From the very beginning, we were quite impressed with New Relic,” says Swift. “It gives us much greater visibility into what is going on with our applications and servers.” Other engineering and DevOps teams at Hearst Magazines quickly adopted New Relic and now rely on New Relic APM and New Relic Browser on a daily basis for development, test, and production.
As word spread across the company about the new software analytics solution, New Relic was quickly deployed within multiple groups and teams. “New Relic had a very organic, natural adoption within the company,” says Duan. “What started out as a handful of Hearst businesses using New Relic has turned into 16 different groups that have adopted it to support a broad range of use cases.”
Those use cases include everything from better understanding the customer experience to alerting on potential performance issues. “New Relic is easily the most straightforward and all-encompassing monitoring tool I have ever used,” says Mortko. “It not only provides insights into how the application is performing, but shows exactly where in the code, database, or caching layer, a potential bottleneck could be.” New Relic helps Swift’s team gain the end-to-end visibility it needs to maintain application performance. “New Relic gives us confidence that our platforms are working well from an end user perspective,” says Swift. “If we see any performance issues in New Relic Browser, we’re able to link that with New Relic APM data to understand what the customer is experiencing.”
Mortko appreciates the real-time monitoring and flexible, granular alerting. Hearst sets alerts for metrics that reach certain thresholds such as CPU utilization, memory utilization, or the time a request takes to complete. “An alert came in that said one particular request was taking too long and New Relic showed us exactly where the problem was,” says Mortko. Hearst is also relying on New Relic to help it set and meet service level agreements. “When you’re connecting 15 to 20 different microservices together and can guarantee the performance of those services, then you can guarantee the performance of the entire system.”
“New Relic is a key partner in enabling us to try new things. As we experiment on new platforms, we can instrument and build the right experience that lets us reach our audiences as quickly as possible.”
Improving performance, time-to-market, and decision making
Hearst has seen numerous benefits from the insight New Relic provides. One result has been faster response to potential performance issues. “New Relic greatly enhances our priority 1 response process,” says Swift. “In the past it would sometimes take hours to resolve issues. Now with New Relic, we can drill right down to the issue and resolve it within minutes.”
By incorporating New Relic throughout the development and deployment process, Hearst has improved deployment frequency as well as quality. “New Relic helps us get features out faster to our customers,” says Swift. “And we reduced our rollbacks from many to almost none.” Duan believes that New Relic improves the company’s ability to experiment with new technology to deliver new customer experiences quickly. “New Relic is a key partner in enabling us to try new things,” says Duan. “As we experiment on new platforms, we can instrument and build the right experience that lets us reach our audiences as quickly as possible.”
With deep insight into the performance and usage of its applications, Hearst no longer has to rely on intuition for decisions about software development and investment. “Having great software analytics lets us make informed decisions,” says Swift. “Prior to New Relic, we were primarily guessing because we didn’t have the data we needed.”
As the digital revolution continues to make waves in the publishing industry, Hearst is using New Relic to win the battle for readership. “I think as Hearst grows in the digital space and continues to reach out to bigger customer bases, getting our content on different devices and form factors, New Relic is going to be invaluable in ensuring that we’re hitting all the marks,” says Mortko.
"New Relic greatly enhances our priority 1 response process. In the past it would sometimes take hours to resolve issues. Now with New Relic, we can drill right down to the issue and resolve it within minutes.”
Consolidating from hundreds of data centers to three
Formerly, Hearst Corporation relied on hundreds of its own data centers to run its applications. Then the company embraced cloud computing. Today, it relies on just three data centers to support primarily legacy applications that aren’t suited for the cloud. Everything else runs on Amazon Web Services.
“In addition to the cost savings of the cloud, there’s a lot of flexibility in the Amazon Web Services environment,” says Mortko. “The cloud has given us far more agility in how we develop our software.” Mortko also believes that being in the cloud helps the company attract IT talent. “Today’s jobseekers are very much used to working in the cloud,” says Mortko. “If we didn’t offer that, we would be unable to attract the talent we need.”