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Sharon Waxman, a former Hollywood correspondent for The New York Times, has a new Hollywood News site called TheWrap.com. In 2008, Sharon and her team reviewed various content management platforms for the news site and after considering the various available options, decided to use Drupal as their content management platform.
In July 2008, Appnovation Technologies was chosen to develop the site. The site development went through various iterations of development cycle, and the site was completed in December 2008. The site was launched on January 19th.
In February, the site had over 130,000 visits and 650,000 page views. In just one month, it grew to over 240,000 unique visits and over 900,000 page views.
Like most news sites, TheWrap.com has article, column and blog areas. Part of the site's focus is in unifying community features with extensive site content. All site content must be categorized and easily maintainable. Publishing control is a critical feature for the newsroom team. As a result, the feature set for the site includes a ranking system for controlling the position of the articles in the listing areas.
The site includes a number of community featuers, including user profiles, private messaging and user groups. Social networking features are planned as part of phase 2.
There are over 90 modules used for the site including over 27 custom modules.
CCK and Views are used to manage and display the content types. There are 9 main content types for the site including Pages, Columns, Column Posts, Blogs, Blog Posts, Articles, Slideshows, Headline and Profile. Most of these are simple content types. Most content areas are provided by custom views, with the exception of some front-page display blocks where the editorial staff need complete control. Custom modules display information in these block areas.
FCK is used as the WYSIWYG editor, as we have found it to be more user friendly and reliable than TinyMCE.
To improve the user-friendliness of the site, the Live Search module provides instant search results.
The ThickBox module displays the slide shows, allowing visitors to view the slide shows without leaving the main page. Social links have been added to most content pages using the ShareThis module. And, as a news site, providing printer friendly pages is a critical function.
To provide editorial control over the ranking of article content, a custom module allows the editors to easily change the rankings. Most of the block areas on the front page, including the Columns, Hollyblogs and Rumor Mill, are powered by custom modules, allowing editors to control the content without using HTML.
Other custom modules provide extensive reporting functions, and allow editors to easily track the publishing status of the system.
Optional Core Modules
The aggregator, blog, blog API, contact, poll and menu modules are used.
Site Traffic Spikes
The site has experienced a number of traffic spikes. The first traffic spike occured on March 22nd when Yahoo Entertainment added a link to a blog entry on TheWrap.com. This traffic spike increased the daily site traffic to over 20,000 unique visits. There were over 2,000 users on the site at one point during that day. Another traffic spike occurred on March 30th when The Huffington Post and IMDB added two links to the site.
Handling Traffic Spikes
While extensive caching had already been implemented on TheWrap.com, including the use of APC, basic Drupal caching and Results Cache for various content listings such as the columns page, Varnish was enabled on these two days to handle the traffic spike.
The "Most Popular" box is a key feature of the site. Without caching, the queries used for this feature are quite slow even after optimization. As a solution, the site uses an automated Cron job to create an XML file that stores the results of the queries. The "Most Popular" content is then displayed using the XML information, reducing database usage.
Publishing Work Flow
As a publishing site with multiple writers and editors, TheWrap.com needed a full-featured publishing control system that allows new articles, blog posts, column posts to be created and edited in a streamlined process. The key feature of the work flow is the ability to track multiple versions of new content, allowing the company to publish content without having to move it between different media.
Using WorkFlow and the Revision Moderation modules, a system with five roles has been created. The roles include super user, writer, editor, blogger and columnist. Bloggers and columnists may only edit their own blog or column. Writers may only create, but not publish, content. Editors and super users may publish content. There is also a system that allows editors to locate all new articles to be published.
BaseCamp is used for most project management tasks while Trac provides bug tracking. WebEX is used extensively for information sharing.
The site is currently powered by Drupal 5. Back in July, 2008, the Views module was only released in stable condition for Drupal 5. This was also true for the CCK. As a news site which uses a variety of content types and needs to be deployed quickly, Views and CCK is critical to make this happen. This is the key reason why we decided to go with Drupal 5 when we started the project. Also, back in July 2008, pretty much none of the contributed modules that are used for site were available for Drupal 6.
Upgrade to Drupal 6 is on the road map. They key reason for the planned upgrade is the improved usability in Drupal 6. TheWrap.com has large team of editorial staff members but not all team members have extensive technical knowledge. As a result, usability for the content management interface is really important. Drupal 6 has drag and drop functionalities that will help the editorial team manage the menu and content blocks. Drupal 6 also has built in Actions and Triggers that will allow us to easily enhance the publishing work flow functionalities. This will allow TheWrap.com editorial team to better manage their content creation and moderation process. Finally, Drupal 6 has more optimized core modules. As a content rich site, this will allow the site to run more efficiently.
The site is hosted by RackSpace on two redundant servers, running Red Hat Linux, Apache 2 and MySQL 5. Weekly complete backups and continuous backups are implemented on the servers.
All site advertising is positioned and managed by the Burst Media network, which provides extensive analytics and impressions management tools.