Transforming The Economist Online using Drupal, open-source and Scrum
The Economist was founded in 1843 to take part in “a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress”. In 2008 Economist.com undertook the mission to move from a traditional online magazine publishing model and build the 'foremost destination online for analysing and debating the global agenda, drawing on the intelligence of journalists, readers and guests'.
Economist.com, initially launched in 1997, was conceived largely as an online companion--offering the weekly newspaper to subscribers plus daily 'web-only' news analysis. Since the new strategy was adopted a new online debate product was launched, the ability to comment on articles was rolled out site-wide and basic reader-profiles were introduced.
In the past year European page views and unique visitors to Economist.com have mirrored worldwide growth averaging year-on-year increases of 44% and 34% respectively. In addition newspaper circulation worldwide and in Europe grew during this period. Given the successful change in strategy the decision was taken to reorganise Economist.com and replace the proprietary CMS (and other proprietary technologies) with an open publishing and community platform to enable rapid product development and foster innovation.
This case study will discuss:
- The change in strategy that necessitated technology and organisational change
- How and why The Economist chose Drupal over competing open-source and commercial software packages
- The commitment that The Economist is making to the open-source community and how this is good for business
- granting 20% of employee-time for open-source work
- commitment to release all modules back to the community
- How and why The Economist chose Scrum/Agile for software/product development and organisational change--and how this is ideal for working with Drupal
- How The Economist took a collaborative and innovative approach towards working with partners to build the new Economist Online
- employing vendors with deep roots in the Drupal community
- forming non-traditional fully-agile contractual agreements
- creating scrum teams with internal staff and external vendors
- Successes and failures to date as well as future plans for publishing and community development. These include:
- launch of drupal community features within a legacy system
- migrating user-accounts and profiles fully to Drupal
- public-beta of new article pages
Software Development Director, Economist.com
Scrum Practice Leader, Economist.com
Principal, Four Kitchens