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.