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Perfect Sense and U.S. News and World Report: A Partnership Ranked #1

Our old systems were clunky, disjointed and could not keep up with the functionality we needed. We wasted a lot of time creating workarounds.
KIM CASTRO, MANAGING EDITOR OF MONEY AND HEALTH

Karen Chevalier, Senior Vice President, Operations for U.S. News and World Report set the bar high for the new project. “The health of our web site is the health of our business. We can’t lose traffic or revenue or the ability to publish for even a short time.” U.S. News needed to replace its outdated content management system (CMS) with a new, complete solution that met their multiple and varied requirements. But they had to do it without negatively impacting their business in any way. They found their answer in Brightspot®.

US News Devices

The Challenge

“Our old system was clunky and didn’t provide the basic functionality we needed. We wasted a lot of time creating workarounds,” explained Kim Castro, Managing Editor, Money and Health. Jada Graves, Senior Editor, Careers noted that there was little room for content expansion and new features because of the time-consuming nature of their former CMS.

Project Goals

Yingjie Shu, Vice President, Information Technology at U.S. News, laid out the goals for the new project: “We needed more tools and capabilities for our editors to do their jobs, and we wanted to make our developers’ work easier and faster.” Chevalier continued, “We needed our new CMS to give us greater ease and efficiency, more flexibility, and improved functionality.” Added Graves, “We had to eliminate the substantial pain points and streamline the process. We wanted to publish more content and faster.”

Before Brightspot, our previous CMS was hard to master, had lots of quirks, and was very limiting. It was often difficult training new staff. 'Don't ask why,' I would tell them, since there was no good reason why so many workarounds were needed to do our basic jobs.
NATE HELLMAN, SENIOR EDITOR, PRODUCTION, MONEY AND HEALTH

An imperative for U.S. News editors was to have only one system to work in, and it had to handle all their syndication work seamlessly. Another requirement was to match U.S. News’ internal workflows, so that content could be smoothly handed off for approvals. Without a doubt, there could be no downtime or negative impact on the business.

A Perfect Sense Solution

The solution devised by Perfect Sense was multi-faceted and centered around the implementation of Brightspot as a new CMS for U.S. News. Brightspot provided U.S. News with exactly what they needed: streamlined workflows and notifications, custom templates, syndication tools and support, and much more.

US News Sections

Single Platform: For the News, Money, Opinion, Education, and Health sections of usnews.com, Brightspot provided U.S. News’ editors with one tool to do all their work. Management of photos, article writing and editing, and searching became much easier with Brightspot. Said Shu, “Writers and editors now work in one system only. We use it so heavily on a daily basis for our core business.”

Streamlined Workflows: Streamlining workflows and removing the need for workarounds was another important part of the project. Meredith Rodkey, Product Manager for Brightspot, explained, “U.S. News has very specific editorial workflows, and we significantly simplified those with Brightspot. We allowed different users to have access to different parts of the process, depending on what was relevant for their roles.”

US News Content

Notification System: There was also a sophisticated system built within Brightspot for notifying editors at each stage of the editorial workflow process. “This was a big improvement over our previous process of lots of emailing to track the paper trail of content before publication,” said Graves.

Custom Templates and Mobile Libraries: In addition to custom workflows for different content types, Brightspot included more than 20 custom templates for U.S. News, including templates for the home page, section fronts, articles, blog entries, photo galleries, and more. Additionally, right rail widgets and modules now have their own libraries that editors can choose from when building new content.

US News Mobile

Integration with Previous CMS: Shu explained an additional component of the project: the need for Brightspot to work with U.S. News’ homegrown data CMS for certain projects. “We produce many large ranking reports for colleges, graduate schools, hospitals, etc. We needed Brightspot to integrate with our homegrown data CMS, and the systems have to communicate with each other to be able to launch these ranking reports effectively.”

Outbound Syndication Tool: Another important part of the project was the new syndication tool for U.S. News, contained entirely within Brightspot. The tool makes it much easier for editors to aggregate and syndicate content to third-party sites. Brightspot handles the package assembly, unique encoding for each partner, and downloading for partners. This allows U.S. News to increase their syndication efforts, driving more revenue to the company.

Syndication Import Support: Just as syndicating content to third-party sites is a revenue driver for U.S. News, importing syndicated content for its own site is also critical. Brightspot's strength in importing data simplified the process of receiving and presenting syndicated content on usnews.com from multiple sources, such as the Associated Press and HealthDay news. License and expiration data are also included in Brightspot. If an image’s license expired 30 days after initial usage, Brightspot automatically removes it from the CMS, substantially reducing any unintentional usage of syndicated content.

Mobile Templates: Optimizing the site for mobile was an essential requirement. Brightspot had custom templates built for the home page, section fronts, articles, blogs, and listicles so that tablet and smartphone users could have as compelling an experience as desktop users.

Content Migration: The last part of the project was a massive content migration from U.S. News’ legacy systems onto Brightspot.

Brightspot has already substantially benefited us, and it will continue to going forward as we implement new features. It’s such an intuitive, easy-to-learn system. The bottom line is that we can publish more content and do it more quickly.
JADA GRAVES, SENIOR EDITOR CAREERS US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT

Results

“I am very happy with the solution,” said Chevalier. “Most importantly, we hit our three big benchmarks: we had no loss of revenue or traffic, and we were always able to publish during the transition. Since the launch, we have had several very large rankings reports released that have gone very well. These were like a stress test for our new system, and it passed beautifully.”

She continued, “As with every project, this one had its ups and downs. But we trusted Perfect Sense to work through them and to get us to the right place at the end. When Perfect Sense had a personnel change mid-way through, the new project manager came up to speed quickly and saw us to completion. Even with these challenges, our overall experience was definitely very positive.”

US News Rankings

Added Castro, “We are definitely creating more content now than we used to because Brightspot really saves us time. It’s easy to use and efficient, and all the content is in one place. I used to have to ask a producer to add photos or videos to an article, but now I can do it all myself.”

We have been interested in doing quizzes on our site, but we estimated it would take our developers 4 – 6 weeks to implement the feature. With Brightspot, we estimate it will take us 2 weeks. Brightspot will cut our time in half, which is great.
YINGJE SHU, VICE PRESIDENT INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT

Nate Hellman, Senior Editor, Production, Money and Health, echoed Castro’s sentiments. “Brightspot is a vast improvement for us. It’s much easier to use, it matches our workflow, and it’s more flexible. Whenever I train new people on it, they catch on very quickly. Most importantly, it saves me a lot of time, so I can try new things.”

Conclusion

In just 5 months from Proof of Concept to launch, Perfect Sense delivered a new, tailored solution for U.S. News in the Brightspot platform. Perfect Sense provided software development, software integration, architecture, back-end development, technical management, product management, and quality assurance in integrating the new CMS and migrating the main sections of the site from the legacy systems onto Brightspot.

Said Shu, “The Perfect Sense solution absolutely met our goals for the project. It definitely improves efficiency, and we produce more content. Writers and editors can do so much more themselves than they could do before, without IT involvement.”

“PSD was so on top of everything,” summed up Castro. “The PSD team was professional and fantastic; they were on point with all our requirements. Our operation is so complex, but PSD was able to figure it out really quickly. You have such a smart group of people there.”

The CMS project is monumental and we launched successfully! It was a challenging project, and the timeline was very aggressive, but we all pulled it through. Brightspot will position U.S. News in a much better place.
YINGJIE SHU, VICE PRESIDENT INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY, U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT

Download the US News & World Report Case Study.

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