The evolution of news broadcasting -- faster, mobile and on multiple devices -- has forced one company to rearchitect its Web content management system for the cloud.
When Internet Broadcasting Systems Inc. started out in 1996, the company -- known informally as IB -- provided a Web content management system (CMS) and services for local television and radio stations. Its homespun Web CMS worked well, providing news organizations with an online presence. But in time, shortcomings appeared as larger media companies like Hearst Corp. and Turner Broadcasting System Inc. bought IB’s services. For example, IB struggled to provide quality video to a growing cadre of mobile consumers.
“The legacy platform was built to serve websites designed a decade ago, and that technology wasn’t going to work as things progressed,” said Todd Carter, the St. Paul, Minn., company’s chief technology officer. Carter added that the custom-built content management platform was tightly coupled to the way websites were displayed on desktop and laptop computers, and there was no easy way to deliver content in an easily readable way on small smartphone screens.
But it wasn’t just smartphone screens that IB’s technologists were worried about.
“We were also trying to think further into what might be the next things to come,” Carter said. The object from day one was to ensure that content would “work on whatever device was being used.”
CoreMedia in the cloud
The company spent four months evaluating technology against a carefully written set of criteria before settling on CoreMedia, based in Hamburg, Germany. CoreMedia’s ability to automatically render content correctly across multiple devices was key to IB's development of its new Software as a Service CMS, called ibPublish 2. “But so was the CoreMedia ability to deploy its architecture to a private cloud,” said Elmer Baldwin, IB’s president and CEO.
IB runs one instance of CoreMedia and deploys a cloud-based multi-tenant architecture of ibPublish to its clients. It also contracts with SoftLayer Technologies Inc., a Dallas-based provider of Infrastructure as a Service technology.
“We manage it, we maintain it, we run it, but they have the hardware and data centers on servers spread around the country,” Carter said. That gives IB the capability to provide its cloud service to its customers.
CoreMedia is only a part of ibPublish 2. The product also includes components of an open source video publishing and distribution platform from Kaltura Inc., a New York-based company whose R&D operations are located in Israel.
Kaltura makes video assets accessible in different formats while CoreMedia provides context, integration and other content management capabilities. The two enable ibPublish 2 users to handle high volumes of digital assets that are published in large-scale bursts.
The integration between CoreMedia and Kaltura means workflow on IB’s customer workstations occurs as if it all takes place on a single platform.
“We’re trying to bring that workflow all together,” Carter said. “First, to avoid re-creating content or creating multiple versions. And secondly, to provide clients with one tool to get that content to show up in many places.”
This comes in handy when big weather events occur and there’s a push to upload video and send out weather alerts to hundreds of thousands of customers who have signed up for them. It also helps prevent system crashes during elections.
Security in the cloud
More than 50 television and radio stations around the country use IB’s cloud-based Web CMS. Many of them are part of media corporations such as Hearst Television, E.W. Scripps, CNN, The Washington Post and Turner Broadcasting. As a result, there is some local competition for viewers in some locations.
Customers’ security concerns often revolve around making sure a competing news company doesn’t get hold of content assets or see a site redesign before it’s launched.
“One of our biggest investments in the early phases was to build in security and control so clients can both secure their content and remain flexible,” Carter said.
User rights and controls secure station-owned content but give producers the ability to share certain content that might have national significance to its corporate cousins.
While ibPublish 2 was launched in April, IB continues to fine-tune its integration with back-end newsroom content management systems and is working on a product that takes live video and repackages it in the format that mobile devices require as the video is streaming. IB is also researching a component that would contextualize weather information automatically using geolocating data.
“It’s all about continuing to try and finds ways to help people find the information that they are most interested in,” Carter said.