Harvard Business Review and WordPress – Now With Full Transcript

Kevin Newman from Harvard Business Publishing, presented “Adapting WordPress’ role within a larger content strategy” at the recent Big Media & Enterprise Meetup in Boston. We’ve shared his presentation previously, and we’re publishing it again now with full transcript below. 

View the presentation slides here:

 

I can tell a story about where, what blogging means to HBR and what role WordPress plays. A little bit of history first. HBR is a storied print publication. It’s been around for 90+ years, one of the cornerstone publications in management science and practice.

It’s a great product and I love it but right around 2007, 2006, there was a desire to push the boundaries a little bit and get out of the ivory tower, see where our new audiences could be.

This is slightly before my time, I came on board around 2008, so as I started to experiment with different content forms, namely blogging. I ended up going with Moveable Type. Moveable Type, at the time, had a feature that easily allowed for multiple authors, static publishing of an asset which was attractive.

WordPress and Moveable Type way back when, were kind of neck and neck and it was really a coin toss whether or not we were going to go either way. We ended up going with Moveable Type and that’s where myself and a couple of other people were hired to help grow the business a little bit, to help it along.

Moveable Type was not literally, but just about on somebody’s desktop computer under their desk being posted in kind of a hacky way and they wanted to make it a more sustainable business.

We’re also seeing that readers are coming to the site and some readers are getting just as much value out of a blog post or what’s now a blog post, as they are in the print article.

The point of the digital business at the time was to develop the markets in advertising and subscription and e-commerce. At the time, they were seeing some success in e-commerce.

So at the time, Harvard Business Publishing was a catalogue site, but they felt like, the board felt and a number of people felt like we can serve readers as well. So we’re looking to create that new audience, meet that new audience without sacrificing the quality and carry it forward, or so the intention was.

We went to Moveable Type, everything was going great but then we started to hit up against a couple of constraints. Long story short, editorial really wanted to go with WordPress and it ended up working out really well in the technical sense as well.

The editors love it, the ad sales folks love it, it does a great job making sure that the tags that the editors are putting in make it all the way out there.

So we ended up transitioning to WordPress last year off of Moveable Type, working with Automattic VIP to get all of this, all of our, what would it be, 4-5 years of blogging, all the meta data, all the operatives, all the work that went into getting onto WordPress.

It went very very well all the expectations, actually exceeded all the expectations. The good news is that everybody absolutely loves it, absolutely loves it. The editors love it, the ad sales folks love it, it does a great job making sure that the tags that the editors are putting in make it all the way out there. There’s nothing in between.We want to make sure everything is accurate.

The other good news is that there’s a deep community there. There’s a lot of people that use it if we go to some sort of conference, either technical or editorial, odds are if we talk to someone about the process, they’re also using WordPress.

More good news is that there’s tons of developers, tons of plugins, if you don’t know how to get it done, or you’re just lazy, you can probably do a quick search and you’ll find a plugin that will get you a good way there. So it’s been a great decision across the board, now we’re heading in a new direction.

HBR.org is in the midst of a pretty big redesign. A lot of it’s visual, there’s some underlying plumbing that’s getting changed as well and we wanted to keep WordPress.

So one of the key strategic changes that I wanted to mention is that we’re moving towards, we’re coming from a model that works very well, where there’s pretty hard lines between print content and online content, stuff that is not in the magazine.

What we’re going to do is even that balance out a little bit, where an article, is really an article. Certainly there’s a difference between a print article and an online article but we’re also seeing that readers are coming to the site and some readers are getting just as much value out of a blog post or what’s now a blog post, as they are in the print article.

With this redesign, we’re going to kind of even the playing field a little bit and everything’s going to be presented to the user as helping them solve their problem.

Less of a division between what’s in the issue versus what can you find online exclusively. So it’s just going to be content: “how can we help you solve your management problems?” “How can we make you a better manager?”.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a blog, doesn’t matter, well it matters if it’s in the print magazine of course, subscription, it matters. But readers don’t see the difference that we do, we need to make sure that we’re solving their problems.

So we look across the site…Barack Obama organizing for America 2.0. That could be almost anything, it’s not necessarily related to an issue. WordPress is a big part of that.

As we move forward, we’re taking all the entire archive of HBR and the entire archive now of all the blog posts and we’re putting them all in WordPress. We’re going to have every single piece of readable content and actually multimedia as well, in WordPress and part of that is because of technical flexibility.

It’s under the theory of let’s let the best tool do their job, in other words, we feel like we’ve found a great tool and everybody’s happy.

My job, my team’s job is to make sure we’re never painted in a corner. We can do whatever we want next year if we want to change directions. WordPress is a fantastic tool for that.

The other reason we’re doing this is because editors love it. They absolutely love going to this tool, they use it all the time. I don’t have to deal with it. I don’t have to, we built so many tools for them, and you know some of them were great, some of them weren’t, we don’t have to worry about that now. It’s under the theory of let’s let the best tool do their job, in other words, we feel like we’ve found a great tool and everybody’s happy.

So next, is a quick snapshot of our architecture. This is our current architecture, so very quickly you can see HBR.org there and that site, the core of the site is an application, a Java-based application, Jvos specific application server, and it integrates below the line.

Those are deep integrations, those are behind the scenes. In our core integrations we have databases, e-commerce, search, user services and platform Web services that we share with other units in our business.

Then we have above our application server layers, advertising discussions and recommendations. Those are page-level integrations, some of them we serve, we make sure they have whatever information. They need to be relevant, but largely, it’s that one line of javascript on a page over here, way off on the left, is blogs at HBR.org currently on VIP.

We can do whatever we want next year if we want to change directions. WordPress is a fantastic tool for that.

The integration there is Javascript, so the users credentials representation gets passed back and forth, so as you’re navigating around, it’s a seamless experience.nIt’s in fact, completely different, but to the user it doesn’t matter. So that was a step towards making sure that even though there’s a blog post versus print – that the user doesn’t care, shouldn’t care.

The big change with the redesign is that it’s gonna move WordPress into our fold. What we’re going to do is because we have the entire archive posted on the WordPress instances. We’re going to integrate with it on the application level, rather than have WordPress serve up these pages.

So now within the same mix of the database is the search, the user services, all the other integration services that we use like e-commerce etc. The whole point is that the application is matching the content with the user, we’ve been able to chip away at this for years and now I feel like we’ve got it.

So WordPress is the content and all these other services are the user. Like what is the user doing? What is the user buying? What apps are they seeing? What can we do to better serve them?

And that’s the way we’re going, so that’s it in a nutshell, how’d I do? (You have 2 minutes left) I have two minutes left? I was suppose to be here with Matt Wagner, he’s sick.

He’s the one that really owns these two slides, so I probably didn’t do the amount of work justice, but it’s incredibly important, especially on the tech side.

We’ve been able accommodate the business with this kind of strategy over the last few years, making sure that we would serve the editorial side and serve the user side and so far so good. WordPress is a big part of that.

See the presentations from previous Big Media & Enterprise WordPress Meetups. For Big Media & Enterprise WordPress Meetup groups in other cities, see the full list on VIP Events and join your local group. 

Want more information about WordPress services for media or enterprise sites? Get in touch.

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