Fairfax Media Limited [ASX:FXJ] is an innovative and digitally progressive media company in Australia and New Zealand reaching more than 13 million Australians across digital and print; more than 2.2 million Australian radio listeners; and around 3.5 million New Zealanders. There are also more than 2.2 million people interacting with Fairfax at around 50 events.

Fairfax has a portfolio of leading digital products such as the online news sites smh.com.au in Australia and stuff.co.nz in New Zealand. The media giant’s independent journalism and quality content has been keeping people informed and connected for more than 180 years. Business divisions include: Australian Publishing Media, Domain Group, Digital Ventures, Fairfax New Zealand, and Life Media & Events.

Leading the media transformation to digital

Fairfax Media Limited is the trusted voice informing, engaging, and entertaining audiences and communities via websites and digital venues in addition to its traditional newspapers, radio stations, and events. The company has been in the forefront of the transformation of media to digital channels. “Everything is going digital, which means that we are constantly building more digital products,” says Cheesun Choong, head of product platforms at Fairfax Media. “We need to do software and technology really well to survive in the media space.”

Fairfax owns more than 300 websites which see approximately two million visitors each day. With the future riding on the success of its digital products, Fairfax understands that its websites and services must be available and performing well at all times. “Our infrastructure must be running 100% of the time,” says Michael Lorant, senior systems engineer at Fairfax Media. “There is no room for downtime in this business.”

While Lorant and the rest of his team of 20 are responsible for making sure the public websites are always available, they were hindered in the past by a lack of detailed information into website and application performance. “We had basic monitoring systems, but they didn’t tell us at a deeper level what was really going on,” says Lorant. “We knew we needed a better solution for software analytics.”

“New Relic shows us who is using the site, what they are doing, which users are the highest volume users, and more. It allows developers to really connect to customers.”

Cheesun Choong Head of Product Platforms, Fairfax Media

Supporting DevOps and microservices with detailed insight

After choosing New Relic as its software analytics solution, Fairfax quickly deployed it across its entire infrastructure. While initially used to understand whether there was an availability or performance problem, New Relic is now relied on throughout the development cycle to gain insight into everything from performance of new functionality to areas for improvement based on customer usage, to business metrics for systems such as subscriptions. Across varied use cases, Fairfax takes advantage of the entire New Relic product offering, including:

  • Alerting: Christopher van Dal, DevOps engineer at Fairfax, appreciates New Relic Alerts, which let Fairfax set triggers for certain conditions and notify the appropriate on-call engineer immediately.
  • Mapping: Dan Bridgman, database team leader at Fairfax likes the cross-transaction and end-to-end visibility provided by New Relic APM 360. “The mapping function in New Relic is absolutely brilliant,” says Bridgman. “It’s fantastic to see how all the different elements, components, and areas of architecture are all linked together.”
  • Customer experience monitoring: “With New Relic Synthetics, we can identify a user journey to simulate the user process of browsing to one of our corporate websites, navigating throughout the site, and ensuring that we get a desired result.”
  • Pre-production monitoring: Fairfax also uses New Relic Synthetics to monitor its pre-production websites, giving developers more insight into page load times and how external files are being consumed.
  • Identifying target services for converting to microservices: “We’re in a drive to decompose our services into smaller pieces,” says Choong. “New Relic Insights helps us understand which parts of the sites need to be targeted for breaking down based on which are serving really important customers, have very high volume, or have no relationship to the rest of the service.”

New Relic has become a critical component as Fairfax embraces a DevOps approach. “New Relic really supports our DevOps approach because it empowers anyone to ask the right questions,” says Lorant. “As an engineer, I’m now able to see for myself without having to ask a developer what’s happening.”

“New Relic really supports our DevOps approach because it empowers anyone to ask the right questions. As an engineer, I’m now able to see for myself without having to ask a developer what’s happening.”

Michael Lorant Senior Systems Engineer, Fairfax Media

Using software analytics to drive business success

With New Relic delivering software analytics throughout the development life cycle, Fairfax gains a whole range of benefits—from faster response when there are performance issues to cost savings on cloud resources to connecting with users. Choong sums it up by saying that “New Relic is a one-stop solution and a complete platform for deep insight.”

New Relic helps Fairfax save time and resolve issues before they impact users. “Previously we’ve had instances where it took hours to understand the source of a performance issue,” says Bridgman. “With New Relic, we’ve gone from hours of effort to a matter of minutes.” New Relic also helps Fairfax determine how to prioritize efforts for the greatest impact. “With insight into our critical customers, we can prioritize requests and understand which parts of the system are most important to improve on,” says Choong.

With Fairfax’s move to the cloud, New Relic is playing a crucial role there as well. “Because we monitored our on-premises systems with New Relic before we migrated them to Amazon Web Services, we were able to identify potential issues and fix them during the migration process,” says van Dal. After migration, New Relic helped optimize the media company’s use of cloud resources by identifying servers that didn’t have heavy workloads. “We were able to scale down several Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud instances to realize significant cost savings.”

Perhaps most importantly, New Relic gives Fairfax a view of the customer experience. “New Relic shows us who is using the site, what they are doing, which users are the highest volume users, and more,” says Choong. “It allows developers to really connect to customers.” Connecting with users is part of what helps Fairfax reach and engage millions of people as it transforms its business for the future.